Local commissioners | Big Society Capital

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Local commissioners

The design and delivery of public services is rapidly changing both at a local and national investment. Social investment has the potential to support this change and catalyse further public service reform.

Social Investment and commissioning

There are a number of ways social investment can help commissioners transform public services and local communities. It can:


  Help strengthen and grow local social enterprise and the charity sector


  Catalyse a move to outcome based commissioning and payment by results


  Grow community capacity and support a shift of services into the community


  Provide investment for local projects that are asset backed

Strengthening local charities and social enterprises

As the funding landscape has moved away from full reliance on grants and donations, charities and social enterprises have had to adapt and develop new revenue streams – via consumer markets, business-to-business sales or public sector contracts. Access to social investment can support charities and social enterprises to develop these new models and help create a diverse market in local public service delivery.

Some commissioners have set up local social investment funds or have worked with partners to do so. Big Society Capital has also recently set up Access – the Foundation for Social Investment which enables locally based funds access grants and loans to support the local voluntary sector. Some examples of that in practice are Kent Community Foundation and Somerset Social Enterprise Fund.

Commissioning for outcomes from charities and social enterprises

Public services are rapidly moving towards being commissioned on the basis of outcomes. Commissioning for outcomes can enable investment in preventative services and provide flexibility for providers to innovate to deliver results for local beneficiary groups. When payment for services is partly or fully made on the basis of outcomes, there is often a working capital gap that social investment can provide.

Large central government contracts using payment by results are one form of outcome based commissioning and our focus is ensuring charities and social enterprises are able to participate in those contracts

Growing Community Capacity and supporting a shift of services to the Community

Communities often require upfront capital before being able to develop the capacity and become involved in the delivery of public services. An example of this is Developing and Empowering Resources in Communities (DERiC), where an intermediary channels capital and support to community groups helping to improve outcomes for older people in their locality. 

Communities can also often come together to take over or buy an asset such as a theatre or pub which may need finance. They can either access that finance from a fund or raise community shares from local individuals, such as community energy initatives like Ecodynamic.

By having strong and resilient communities, local commissioners can improve the outcomes in their local areas indirectly.

Providing investment to local projects that are asset backed  

Local areas need investment in property to provide housing for local people and to move services for vulnerable people from an institutional setting into the community. Social investment can help commissioners access property directly or via working with charities and social enterprises.

For example, Croydon Council is an investor in the Real Lettings Property Fund which provides accommodation, alongside support from St Mungo's, for previously homeless people transitioning to the private rental sector. Another example is Golden Lane Housing taking debt to develop community based accommodation for people with learning disabilities.

For further examples of other areas that are using social investment, please visit our social issue or case studies pages.

Our current activities

Web resources and existing presentations

Specialist advisory services

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and other specialist advisory services may exist

Speaking to Big Society Capital

In the past we have worked with a range of commissioners to support them in considering social investment. This has included short presentations providing an overview of social investment, more focused meetings around a specific social issue or a full day workshops attended by service heads across a local authority or other public sector commissioner. These sessions provide an opportunity to brainstorm how social investment models can work in:

  • Areas that are being recommissioned and there is an opportunity to commission using a different approach

  • Areas where disproportionally high resources are being invested to meet needs that are preventable or where the impact of current spend is uncertain/unmeasured
  • Areas where there is a key challenge in terms of demand and resources available

These sessions can help commissioners get:

  1. Exposure to ideas for models that might address the issues the commissioners is tackling
  2. Confidence to progress new projects or commission services in a different way
  3. Understanding of where to go for additional support or advice