Get to know: Trishna Nath, Investment Manager for Cultural Impact Development Fund

How did you come to join Nesta Arts & Culture Finance?

Before moving to London I spent a number of years living in New York City working in the social finance sector. As a financial management consultant, I worked closely with charities to strengthen their business models and plan for change and provided small scale lending for capital projects to arts organisations across America. After about 14 years in New York City, I was ready for a change of scenery but did not want to shift my professional trajectory too much. When I learned about the growing Arts & Culture Finance team and the exciting work they were doing to address the financing needs of charities and social enterprises I thought this place might be a good fit for me. Turns out I was right!

When you arrived here, what excited you most about the arts and cultural scene in the UK?

Well, my answers will be limited to the arts and culture scene in London as I’ve only been in the UK for about 8 months, living in London during that time. But I guess one of the things that excited me most when I arrived was the ability to engage with less mainstream art and culture. I’ve had the privilege of visiting many of the large national cultural institutions and while these places have provided a rich foundation for the arts, it is not entirely representative of all the communities that make up Greater London. Having the time to explore these communities and neighbourhoods and learning about those people through art is really exciting to me!

Cultural Impact Development Fund is Nesta Arts & Culture Finance’s newest social investment fund providing small-scale lending to arts and cultural organisations with a social purpose. What’s the most challenging part of delivering CIDF?

Yes! Let’s talk about the fund! I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the most challenging part, but striking a healthy balance between potential for financial and social return on investment is a challenge I think most social investors face. Investors are skilled in assessing financial risk and have seen interesting and new ways to structure business models. But ultimately, it’s the arts and cultural practitioners that understand their communities, their artistic expression and the ins and outs of their business the best. So you’re on a constant journey of discovery, building relationships and trust but also remaining a critical friend to charities and social enterprises as they pursue growth and development through investment.

We know that CIDF had its first investment committee in January this year. Can you tell us about this?

It was an exciting moment for the fund! Having launched in October, we were thrilled to put forth four dynamic proposals each representing a different form of artistic expression. The thread connecting these organisations was their commitment to demonstrating value and impact through their work and a desire to create sustainable businesses through cross subsidy models. I’ve worked in the charity sector for many years now, but I am always struck by the can-do spirit and talent that is required for mission-driven organisation to do so much with limited resources. To make sure the decision-making process is as impartial as possible, we submit the proposals to our investment committee who ultimately determine the suitability of the proposal for our fund portfolio. They have a great breadth of expertise and base this decision on the fund’s objectives, and a host of impact and financial considerations. To have such strong candidates for our first committee meeting is encouraging for the future of the fund, but it also reminds me that that we have to keep our foot on the pedal to keep up the momentum!