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West London Zone, which received investment from Bridges Fund Management

Early Action

Our investments in Early Action address social problems to prevent them from escalating over time. We follow two investment approaches in this area to drive impact for people: social outcomes contracts and venture investing.

Social outcomes contracts

Social outcomes contracts link financial outcomes to social outcomes to enable innovative, preventative models of public service delivery. They provide funding for expert charities and social enterprises to deliver outcomes-based government contracts across areas such as homelessness support, health, education, family therapy and children's services. In doing so, they achieve better outcomes for vulnerable people and better value for public funds. Because these contracts were flexible, and commissioners supported flexible terms, the majority continued to help deliver vital services during Covid-19. This meant providers could adapt quickly to fast-changing circumstances – for example moving services online.

Big Issue Invest (BII) committed £403,000 to Skill Mill through the BII Outcomes Investment Fund, which we invested £10 million into. Skill Mill is a not-for-profit social enterprise established in 2013 in the North East of England. They aim to increase young ex-offenders’ employability and education across eight local authorities in the UK. They move ex-offenders closer to long-term, sustainable employment and reducing re-offending rates.

Bridges Outcomes Partnerships supported Norfolk Carers Partnership through the Bridges Social Outcomes Fund II, which we have invested £12.5 million into (£4.2 million as part of Big Society Capital proprietary portfolio and £8.3 million through the Schroder BSC Social Impact Trust plc). This service, commissioned by Norfolk County Council, delivers support services to unpaid adult carers, and is a transformation of an existing carer support service. The contract builds on the core elements of the existing service while implementing improvements based on co-production with participants’ insights. The objectives of the contract are to increase the number of known carers in Norfolk and to improve the health and wellbeing of carers that need support to sustain their caring role.

  • 4 Number of specialist outcomes funds vs 0 in 2012
  • 27706 Number of people supported by Bridges Fund Management and Big Issue Invest through outcomes contracts
  • 55 Number of outcomes contracts Big Society Capital has invested in

Venture investing

Our venture investments, complemented with impact know-how and network-building support, are intended to help nurture and scale innovative ways of tackling social problems. Technology startups have the potential to catalyse change and social impact through business models allowing them to scale rapidly and reach more people more effectively.

Despite the broader Covid-19-related challenges in 2020, the surge in demand for tech-enabled products presented a unique opportunity to accelerate growth for many of the ventures in our portfolio. Similarly, many ventures pivoted their business models to address new opportunities presented by the pandemic.

In 2020, the Fair by Design Fund, which we invested £6 million into, made a follow-on investment into Wagestream. This company is on a mission to improve the financial health of people in work, by giving them more power over their pay with a set of tools to track, access, save and manage their wages in real-time. Partnering with organisations to offer it as ‘the ultimate employee benefit’, the service breaks apart the outdated pay cycle and completely re-builds workers’ relationship with their salary, helping them avoid predatory forms of credit in the process. This is particularly important in the context of 2020 and the pandemic, where according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 9 million people had to borrow more than usual to make ends meet. According to an impact study we commissioned with 60 Decibels, 45% of Wagestream’s customers are below the UK national poverty line. Sixty-one per cent reported that Wagestream had improved their quality of life.

Togetherall, an investment by the Impact Ventures UK fund (which we invested £15 million into) is scaling its digital peer-to-peer and clinically managed community for people experiencing mild to moderate mental ill health. Like Wagestream, the pandemic increased people’s need for Togetherall’s offer – the ONS reported that depression rates have doubled since the pandemic began. It’s clear from the data that Togetherall is creating meaningful impact on people’s mental health. Since Impact Ventures UK invested, Togetherall have added over 210,000 new registered users in the UK, with 92% of members reporting improvements in their wellbeing.

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  • 125 Number of startups supported
  • 28 Number of impact venture funds vs 3 in 2012
  • 9 Number of venture funds we have invested in

Impact management and measurement practice update

A key part of our model in Early Action is enabling managers to enhance the impact they’re creating by improving how they manage it.

To do this, we created two tools, which we piloted and launched in 2020. The first, our Impact Canvas, helps managers articulate their impact and systems change goals and how they plan on achieving them. The second, our Impact Practice Roadmap, helps articulate the different steps to improving how managers assess, measure and report on impact. We believe improving impact practice is a key way to ultimately improve the impact created.