Applications are now open for Thrive, a new accelerator supporting social ventures in the UK that are providing employability solutions for those facing barriers when trying to get in and stay in work. It was launched last week by UnLtd, the UK’s foundation for social entrepreneurs, and offers six-months of intensive support, with the potential to apply for funding through the Thrive Investment Fund.




The unique combination of in-depth, bespoke support and access to affordable finance will give ambitious social ventures the chance to grow their business and their impact rapidly. Thrive is built on the success and learning from UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge programme, which supported 120 social ventures to help more than 1.24 million people, grow revenue by 166% over a two-year period and raise over £13m in debt and equity capital.


Thrive launches with a focus on improving access to employment for those distant from the labour market, unlocking the potential of 20 social ventures per year.


“Access to meaningful employment is a vital part of our society becoming fairer and more dynamic,” says Mark Norbury, UnLtd CEO. “Social ventures have shown that they are ideally placed to offer innovative and effective employment solutions.” Thrive’s distinctive blend of tailored expertise and affordable finance will help these ventures maximise their potential social impact. “We will combine this impact with our partners’ expertise and influence, research, policy work and campaigns to bring about systemic change,” he added.


Thrive is being co-funded by three expert partners who will each help develop a cohort of social ventures:

  • Building on the impact of Hackney Connect, UBS, the global financial services firm, are funding four social ventures hoping to improve access to employment in East London as part of East End Connect
  • Scope, are funding eight ventures to improve employment opportunities for disabled people as part of their ambitious and innovative new strategy to tackle the disability employment gap;
  • A further eight ventures are being funded by a private family foundation.


All three partners share UnLtd’s belief that social ventures can offer effective solutions to improving employment opportunities for those with complex lives or additional support needs.


Each social venture on Thrive will be connected to support that is best suited to their purpose, business model, needs and ambitions for social impact. This might include business planning, financial modelling, governance and access to board members, mentoring and leadership support, peer-to-peer support, building routes to market, and raising investment.


Previous social ventures supported by UnLtd have delivered outstanding results in creating employment opportunities for people distant from the labour market. Success stories include:

  • Goodwill Solutions, founded by Mike Britton, provides third party logistics services, bringing together overseas produced manufacturers and web-based retailers. The venture predicts it will help secure 130 jobs for people over the next two-years
  • Harry Specters, founded by Mona Shah, to produce award-winning craft chocolates while offering employment opportunities to young people with autism. The venture’s growth plan sees Harry Specters employing 20 people with autism in full-time work within the next five-years


“For early stage social enterprises securing financial investment can be a barrier to growth and achieving scale. Through holistic accelerator programmes such as these that incorporate training, mentorship and funding support provided by UnLtd these ventures are given the opportunity to thrive and ultimately deliver greater impact,” offers Nick Wright, head of community affairs, EMEA at UBS.


“Finding new innovative ways to get things done is at the heart of Scope’s radical new strategy,” explains Mark Atkinson, chief executive of Scope. “The fact that there are still one million disabled people in Britain who can and want to work but who are being shut out of the workplace because of barriers in the workplace and negative attitudes shows that old approaches to employment just aren’t working. That’s why we’re delighted to support new approaches to tackle the issue and ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else”.


More detailed information on the support available and upcoming deadlines at:


About Thrive

Thrive is UnLtd’s new social accelerator and will offer ambitious social ventures six-months of intensive support. Thrive – Access to Employment is initially open to ventures with the potential. UnLtd is working with a variety of partners, to deliver maximum social impact. Built on the success of UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge, Thrive’s accelerator support will involve a specialist Venture Manager working directly with ventures to cover business and financial modelling, operations; governance and impact measurement.


About the Thrive Investment Fund

The fund will offer repayable finance which will be relatively flexible and based upon the needs and plans of each social venture to facilitate growth. Investment will be offered directly after six months of in-depth accelerator support when the ventures have built up their financial health and operational capacity.

The decision on who to fund, how much and what terms will be made by the investment panel and ventures team. The investment panel will include partners, funders and other key stakeholders. The amount will vary between £25,000 and £50,000. Where possible, this capital will be used to leverage in further external investment.  UnLtd plans to establish this an evergreen fund to deliver on-going capital for social ventures delivering impact.

About UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs

UnLtd funds and supports passionate and committed social entrepreneurs who are determined to tackle the key issues facing society. UnLtd began in 2002 and since then has given out over 13,000 awards of support and funding, direct and through partners, to social entrepreneurs to start up and scale their impact. It supports individuals running ventures firmly rooted in delivering positive social change.

For more information about the support offered by UnLtd go to

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