Amir Rizwan

Amir Rizwan currently works at Big Society Capital as an Investor Relations Director, leading on relationships with trusts and foundations, supporting them in their work around mission-led investments as well as how impact can play a role within their endowment investments.He also co-leads the organisation’s work around partnerships and innovation, focusing on the development of early-stage impact funds to tackle UK social issues.Amir has been working in the social investment sector for over eight years and recently led on Comic Relief’s social investment strategy. Prior to that, he managed a community housing investment fund for CAF Venturesome, as well as a portfolio of social investments for a range of social purpose organisations.He is currently the co-chair of the Diversity Forum (set up to improve diversity, equality and inclusion within the social investment sector), Co-Vice Chair at the Cripplegate Foundation (Islington) and a trustee of The Clothworkers’ Foundation.He also sits on the Impact Advisory Group for the Growth Impact Fund, an impact investment fund that aims to channel investment and support to entrepreneurs to grow their impact and sales and supports organisations with diverse representation at the board and leadership level.
What got you interested in working in Barking and Dagenham?

As someone who has been raised in East London and has grown up near to borough, I have a strong emotional link to the area and its future trajectory as it looks to grow and enter a new chapter in its history. The mix of the area’s heritage and history combined with the new migrant communities that have settled into the area brings about multiple challenges and opportunities for the area. Barking and Dagenham and the challenges it has is also symptomatic of numerous areas within the UK both grappling with the opportunities of economic renewal but are also challenged by the potential negative impact that this can bring such as gentrification and pushing out traditional communities that have lived in the area for multiple generations. As a result, there will be a lot of eyes on what is happening with BD Giving within the borough and I am greatly interested in the potential learnings that can come out of this work that can be shared with other areas and stakeholders.

What challenges do you think you might face in this role?

As someone who has worked in the social investment space for over eight years, I have often been in roles that provide structured financing provisions and also are removed from the front-line community level. This will mean that I need to ensure that my approach and language with this work are not full of jargon and distant from what is required at the community level. Furthermore, I have never lived in Barking and Dagenham and will therefore need to work hard to engage with local stakeholders and communities to understand the realities of the local community. Also, this role will require a degree of imagination to look at how we can build an economic system that works for communities and challenges the conventional ways of working as well as how you can build a new system that works at the hyper-local level using a community-led approach.

What are your hopes for the borough?

My hope for the borough is that it can build an approach that works for communities that have been living in the area for decades and are at risk of being marginalised with the renewed focus on the borough and the money that is now flowing into the area. To have a diverse borough that is for everyone and can be inclusive in how it looks to distribute and use resources within the borough as well as use this approach over time to support local-led businesses and further drive impact in the borough.

How do you think the community can help achieve those goals?

The community play a vital role in developing the approach to how funding is used and distributed and brings in a strong level of local intelligence around what the need is at the local level. The community voice is also vital in how this approach is designed and delivered as well as also how decisions are made, this is important in ensuring that this approach is truly community-led. Finally, the community play an important role in ensuring that this work is held accountable to its aims and ambitions and that there is no mission drift leading to this work going for low-hanging fruit rather than delivering true impact at the local level.

BD Giving is testing a new approach to how wealth and resources are managed and distributed and taking the much-needed step to bring in the voice of communities into the design and delivery of a localised investment programme. In doing so it is setting an example for other funders in this space around how they can better bring in the voices of those they work with and to look at the power they hold. I am also excited by the journey that the organisation is going on as it learns about this approach and what it means for its overall ambitions.