Big Society Capital and the wider field of social investors in the UK are at a key point in our journeys. Today we publish our 2018 stakeholder survey.
We now have £1.7bn in funds signed with matched co-investors, through 85 investments into intermediaries, financing over 850 social enterprises and charities. The wider UK social investment field has reached £2.5bn with over £750m annual flow and 4,000 organisations – plus the commercial mortgages for charities and social enterprises from mainstream banks, and the much larger funds raised by housing associations. We are seeing substantial impact from these investments, addressing important social issues, and developing the capability of both the social investment sector and of the charities and social enterprises to do more.
Meanwhile, impact investment is becoming more mainstream, with several commercial asset managers opening impact funds in the last couple of years. These funds offer breadth of impact at or around market rate financial returns, in contrast to the depth of impact offered by social investors.
Yet despite this progress, there are many areas where social investment needs to develop and improve.
So as we progress as an organisation in this rapidly evolving scene, it is time to reflect on how our relationships have progressed and how key people and organisations see the improvements and challenges, since our stakeholder 2016 survey.
In our latest survey conducted in 2018, we received more than 230 responses from our closest stakeholders. The great majority of these responses came from people who know us, and 68% know us very well: so this was a well-informed survey group.
There are some strong positives: for example 89% felt confident or very confident about their level of understanding about social investment. This is a major improvement over recent years, and shows how social investment has become part of the scene for social enterprises and charities, and also for some sectors of co-investors.
But there are also some clear challenges: 51% believe our impact to be positive, but there is a high degree of ambivalence, and 12% think it is negative.
We are considering the survey results in depth. We are grateful that many respondents invited further dialogue, which will enable us to engage and understand how we can continue to improve in our work. In the coming months, we will look carefully at what we do and how we do it, to address issues around clarity of our purpose. Furthermore, we will assess the status of our current impact practice and evidence, to improve and further develop our approach to impact measurement and reporting. This will help us address the ambivalence some people feel about our impact.
Our job is to improve people’s lives by connecting investment to the social enterprises and charities that make change happen. We seek to find the highest points of value, between raising co-investment and deploying it usefully through intermediary investors to organisations at the front line of social impact. We will continue to build, alongside with you, a better and more useful sector of social finance to achieve these goals.