How can social investment plant the seeds for social innovation?


Written by

Joanna Heywood, Relationships Director
Camilla Parke, Managing Director, Strategy and Innovation
Anna Shiel, Chief Investment Officer

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

A quote we may have all heard before, but perhaps has never felt more apt than now. Over the last six months, we have all had to change our thinking. Across our portfolio and further afield, we’ve seen tremendous creativity as organisations tackle challenges and adapt like never before. The COVID-19 crisis has further highlighted the need to change the financial system to serve society’s needs, and to build back better by putting people first. Innovation will be crucial to the UK’s social and economic recovery. But how can social impact investment be used to innovate for social change?

We continue to test new approaches by supporting innovation in the use of investment for social impact. A few recent examples of where we have been able to unite capital, expertise and ideas in practice include:

  • Fair By Design – a venture fund and campaign developed with expert partners such as Joseph Rowntree Foundation to end the extra costs of being poor (the poverty premium) by providing capital/funding to grow new and scalable ventures (such as Wagestream) to innovate the market.
  • The Good Food Fund - a new business accelerator and venture fund backing healthier food and drink brands to help tackle childhood obesity, designed in partnership with Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity.
  • The soon to be launched Women in Safe Homes Fund (WISH) - believed to be the world’s first gender-lens property fund, is one solution to the lack of safe homes across the UK for women who are experiencing homelessness , many of whom are survivors of domestic abuse.
  • Resonance and St Mungo’s have together successfully seeded and rapidly scaled the impact of the Real Lettings Property Fund both in London and nationally, by designing a structure around a social need that also aligns with the needs of investors.

At Big Society Capital, seeding innovation is a core part of our approach – allowing us to then scale what works with partners. But we also want to deliberately open up to more ideas from outside and be directed as far as possible by where that impetus for innovation comes from. Find out more about our approach to creating new ideas.

If you have a deep understanding of a social issue or have capital that you want to use to create impact, please do get in touch.

We’ll be providing regular updates on our approach to innovation and plan to launch a call for ideas to support the COVID-19 recovery soon. Stay tuned!