Ten voices from across the social impact investment sector on ten years

Last Tuesday we hosted our anniversary event at the Guildhall, where we invited approximately 300 guests from across the social impact investment sector, all of whom have helped to shape progress over the past ten years. Here we reflect upon both the progress that has been made so far on the journey to achieving greater impact through investment, as well as the change we hope to see for the future.

In this blog we share the highlights from ten of our guests from across the sector, including social enterprises and charities, investors and intermediaries and representatives from social impact investment.


Written by

Emma Jones, Communications Director
Lydia Swift, Communications Manager

The need for social impact investment has never been greater

‘At the moment, investors who are investing for both social and environmental gains are leaning towards a bit of social gain and a lot of financial gain and until we tip that balance to be equal (or more towards social and environmental challenges), then we are not going to address the challenges that we see around social inequality and environmental degradation.’ Lucy Findlay, Social Enterprise Mark CIC

‘I think there is a lot more that social impact investment can do, over the next few years we are going to see an increasing number of challenges around energy, around food, around housing, around education and the best form of capital to back those issues in the most efficient manner has to be impact capital.’ Shamez Alibhai, Managing Director, Man Group (Community Housing Fund)

‘Social Investment can bring capital to enterprises that have a deep understanding of the challenges we face as a society and some of those are really big health challenges. Issues such as unhealthy eating environments or people living in poor quality housing, all of which affect our health and which charities and social enterprises can help to address.’ Kieron Boyle, Big Society Capital Board Member and Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation

‘Accommodation is key, because based upon our experience in the real estate sector we understand that there is a lot of mismatch in terms of supply and demand within the affordable housing sector, especially for disadvantaged or marginalised groups.’ Juan Du, Investment Director, Patron Capital

‘I work mainly with small and medium charities and social enterprises. These are the groups and organisations that held our society together during the pandemic. Many charities and social enterprises could benefit from access to fast, flexible finance to meet their particular needs. These include overdraft facilities, working capital loans, leasing and vehicle finance and mortgages.’ Niamh Goggin, Director, Small Change; an independent consultant and a social finance lifer


Together, we have learned what can work

‘There has been a strong recognition from within the social impact investment market that there is a need to serve the widest possible range of organisations and that there has been flexibility wherever possible from investors to change products and change approaches to make that happen. We as a social enterprise ourselves have received investment from a charitably focused impact fund and that has been really useful in terms of our development as an organisation.’ David Floyd, Manging Director, Social Spider CIC

‘To be perfectly honest Fusion21 wouldn’t have existed without social impact investment, we were set up with a £268,000 loan back in 2002 by seven housing associations, we got our business going, it worked and we paid back that loan in the first twelve months and have traded a profit every year since. We have managed to build a hugely profitable business, which allows us to donate our funds into our foundation and our foundation then invests into other social enterprises and social programmes all across the country.’ Dave Nielsen, Chief Executive, Fusion21

‘I think we have moved on in terms of understanding that there is a greater diversity out there, whether that is being addressed by the mainstream is another thing, but there is more awareness that there are some gaps and that we need to look at ways in which we can address them. I think when Big Society Capital was first set up it was thought that it would be the answer to everything, but actually you can see the nuances in what has been achieved and how there has needed to be other developments outside of Big Society Capital that have addressed those particular gaps.’ Lucy Findlay, Social Enterprise Mark CIC

‘When we started Big Society Capital ten years ago, we had a real ambition and we felt that there was no limit to the social issues that we could address, whether that was health or education or housing or mental health or a whole range of different social challenges. The organisation has now developed and it has learned how to become more focused. The issues which an organisation like Big Society Capital can address are often, in the first instance, areas where there is some sort of revenue/ payment model associated with them. You can see at Big Society Capital today a lot of housing within the portfolio, social housing for vulnerable individuals. And that is a very obvious use of capital, but I think also that Big Society Capital and all the intermediaries that surround it have been incredibly innovative in terms of thinking how they can tackle other challenges, whether it is through blended capital such as the Access Foundation, or whether it is through social impact bonds, how they can use their expertise and funding to address a range of issues and we have heard of many examples this evening.’ Nick O’Donohoe, co-founder of Big Society Capital and former Chief Executive


We have big ambitions for the future of the market

‘The last challenge that the industry needs to take is to really unlock the tremendous amount of capital that is in defined contribution pension schemes, I think that will unleash the practical amounts of capital that we need to tackle some of the social issues that are going to become much more prevalent.’ Shamez Alibhai, Managing Director, Man Group (Community Housing Fund)

‘As a successful social enterprise which is now investing in helping and developing other social enterprises, I would like to see greater collaboration in the sector and with Big Society Capital and the social enterprise sector. I know the challenges in terms of the fact it is a wholesale bank going through intermediaries, but we have a lot of good ideas in terms of how we can build collaborations and I am excited to see more of that happen.’ Dave Nielsen, Chief Executive, Fusion21

‘There is a cultural perception about social investment in public services, and we need to recognise that is complementary to everything we are doing, and we should not be suspicious. There isn’t a single person I have met tonight who isn’t coming in to do this for all the right reasons. Anne-Marie Carrie, Chair, Stronger Families & Forward Outcomes Partnerships & Greater Manchester Better Outcomes Partnership at Bridges Outcomes Partnerships

‘The opportunity is huge, but also needed. If we look at these interlocking crises of climate, health and income inequality, we need different business models and a different economy and social impact investment is part of the solution. Channelling capital to those organisations which have responsible business models and can really make a difference.’ Kieron Boyle, Big Society Capital Board Member and Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation

‘It was ten years ago that Sir Ronnie and I sat down and tried to design Big Society Capital, and whilst we didn’t get everything right, it is still here, and it is still active after ten years. You can see from the very broad range of social enterprises and the individuals that spoke this evening, the reach that this organisation is having and the difference it is making to so many different people’s lives. It is also great to see the ambition of the organisation to continue to grow and to continue to develop and to make a difference to people’s lives.’ Nick O’Donohoe, co-founder of Big Society Capital and former Chief Executive

‘It is hard to know where to start with that question, obviously climate is the issue of the century. However, the Impact Investing Institute feels there is a lot of emphasis on the topic already and that there are fewer people working on the social issues. We would like to see more of an emphasis on income and equality in the UK and more generally speaking financial inclusion. We would like to bring the social issues up to be on a par with the climate issues which are currently monopolising the attention.’ Jamie Broderick, Deputy Chair of the Impact Investing Institute and Director of the Schroder BSC Social Impact Trust