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Learning about social investment and social enterprise
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We want to increase the involvement of the charity sector in developing enterprising behaviour and using social investment. We will explore social investment with the aim of supporting people and communities to create more sustainable social impact. For that reason we will only support social investment that creates both clear social impact and financial returns. We recognise that social investment is only one of many ways to build income, and that it isn’t appropriate for every organisation.

Below is some research and learning which has helped to shape our thinking around social investment and supporting social enterprise.

Social Impact Bonds evaluation

Commissioning Better Outcomes (CBO) supports organisations to develop and launch social impact bonds (SIBs). We want to improve the understanding of SIBs, by capturing learning at all stages of development and delivery, so we’ve commissioned an external evaluation that will evaluate CBO over its nine-year life.

Below is the series of reports from this evaluation:

Growing the Social Investment Market

We worked with Big Society Capital, City of London Corporation and Government to commission a report about the social investment landscape. ICF GHK in association with BMG Research carried out the research in 2013. The results of this work are in these reports:


In 2012 we commissioned work to help us better understand when social investment works best. The report investigated:

  • What investment-readiness means
  • The barriers to becoming investment-ready
  • The support needed to become investment-ready and how Big Lottery Fund and other funders can help.

You can read more about our findings in the following reports:

Mapping Social Enterprise in Scotland

We mapped social enterprises and their activity across Scotland, allowing us to understand their prevalence, scale, characteristics, reach, distribution and financial health. This has given us a baseline from which we can measure the difference made by our social investment-themed initiatives in Scotland.

Learning about the impact of our funding on social enterprises

In 2014, we commissioned Social Enterprise UK to evaluate the impact that our funding has had on social enterprises so we can improve our support for social enterprises in the future:

Learning about the impact of Big Lottery's funding on social enterprises (Word, 561KB)

Understanding the capacity and need to take on investment within the social sector

In 2015 the Social Investment Research Council ;– which the Fund is a member of - commissioned NCVO to use new methods of accessing and using charity sector data to build an understanding of the potential demand for social investment.