We researched the demand for social finance to inform the design and development of BSC and later developed a set of outcomes maps for social investment.
Big Society Capital
The Big Society Bank (now Big Society Capital) aims to aid the growth of the UK’s social investment market, playing a central role in government plans for the voluntary sector. In 2011 NPC carried out research to inform the design of the bank.
NPC was asked by NESTA—an independent organisation working to make the UK more innovative—to investigate the demand for social finance, helping to understand the mix of financing the bank will need to support. Prior to this research much had been written about the social finance market, but research into the demand for capital was lacking. NPC considered this demand in three markets: social finance, financial inclusion, and social housing. We interviewed intermediaries and umbrella bodies to provide insights into the demand, and looked at published accounts to quantify the scale of the demand.
We found that the bank could make a difference in the social finance and financial inclusion markets, where there is a demand for capital and there are organisations capable of using that capital effectively. But the bank needs to provide the right type of capital. Our research found most demand is for soft capital, which means the bank should not expect to achieve commercial returns on many of its investments.
Big Society Capital launched in April 2012, capitalised with around £400m from dormant bank accounts, and an additional £200 million from the four largest UK high street banks.
In 2012, NPC was tasked with managing the production of a set of outcomes maps covering the whole area of social welfare and the environment – from mental health, to conservation, to housing. Working with the SROI Network, Investing for Good, and Big Society Capital, NPC segmented outcomes within this sector into 13 areas, developing a detailed outcomes map with overviews of key outcomes, indicators and data sources in each. These pioneering maps are designed to be living documents to support investors and investees in thinking through the structure of their impact approach.