A core part of Big Society Capital’s role as an investor is to source and develop new investment proposals, as well as assessing applications we receive. We actively seek partners to co-design solutions which address specific social issues and fill gaps where social investment could have a role to play.
Big Society Capital’s Issue Based Groups – helping us know what’s what
We start from analysis of social issues, and our approach is founded on relationships with the charities, social enterprises and other organisations that tackle these problems. We don’t think for an instant we are the experts. By working with them, we can bring the piece we do well, which is understanding how to invest.
We prioritise investment ideas that are based on innovative and replicable approaches to societal problems, where social investment could have the potential to unlock additional outcomes. We do this through our “issue based groups”, which pull together our understanding of social issues and solutions. Understanding what you are investing in is not a bad thing, whether you are a social investor or not.
We publish findings in our market insights pieces which also form the basis for our biannual induction days. On our new website, you can find out about who leads on each social issue and some of the projects they are working on.
Ideas and partners
We also generate a list of investment ideas that we are interested in developing further, if we can find a suitable partner. These range from early stage concepts to a smaller number we are actively working on.
Some are interventions that could deliver better social outcomes through more integrated and preventative approaches (for example, in health and employment or in children’s services). Others are based around social sector business models (such as early years’ education and supported living for people with learning disabilities and older people) that have high impact and the potential to scale sustainably with support from social investment.
We also identify opportunities for thematic funds which focus on particular social issues that are aligned with the objectives and expertise of co-investors. We have invested in the Care & Wellbeing Fund with Macmillan, and are interested in exploring how this approach could be replicated with other charities. With Joseph Rowntree Foundation, we are exploring a fund to invest in social enterprises that tackle the poverty premium. We have been a frequent co-investor alongside other trusts and foundations – Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Barrow Cadbury Trust to name a few – who were making social investments before we even came into existence.
If you would like to talk about any of these ideas, please contact the relevant team lead.
How we work with partners
We know that we will only succeed in putting money to work by working with partners who have the expertise and understanding of the issue as well as the networks to bring initial ideas to fruition. These can be foundations or other grant makers as well as charities looking to scale up impactful interventions. They can also be financial investors and corporates who are considering how they can integrate social impact better into their normal activities. We have a range of tools we can use to support out partners.
Further plans for 2016
We are working with Cabinet Office to enhance awareness of social investment within central government departments and local government. We are also considering how we can define impact best practice in social issues and explore the ‘theory of change’ for social investment in each.
Focus on the social issues – and the people who address them - will continue to be a guiding principle for much of our work. It informs our work as a champion for social investment where we will be prioritising specific issues during 2016, and it allows us to better identify the social business models that can use social investment to make the greatest positive change in our society.
Finally, tell me how we can do this better. There is nothing that gives our team greater joy than seeing our funds reach charities and social enterprises that are supporting people in difficult circumstances and helping people to solve the problems they face. Help us do it better.