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New fund aims to level social investment playing field

Melanie May | 31 May 2022 | News

Two women look at documents in an office. Image by Kindel Media on Pexels

A social investment fund that will offer up to £25 million has been announced. Developed by Big Issue Invest, UnLtd and Shift, it offers ‘flexible and patient’ capital for early-stage social businesses to grow their impact. It also ringfences a minimum of 50% of funding for leaders from underrepresented backgrounds.

Big Issue InvestUnLtd and Shift have built the Growth Impact Fund in coalition with social investment experts. It is backed with funding from supporters including Bank of America and Access Foundation

Big Issue Invest, UnLtd and design agency Shift have developed the fund to tackle the structural barriers of inequality within social investment, as highlighted by the Adebowale Commission. The commission ran between February 2020 and January 2022, and found that despite £600m of public investment since 2010, the social investment market remained unchanged.  


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The Growth Impact Fund has been developed with social entrepreneurs of diverse genders, ethnicities, ages, and those with disabilities, who have helped to design this social investment fund for organisations working to address inequalities. 

The Fund, funded solely by professional investors, will offer between £50k – £1.5 million to its investees.
It will: 

Every investee on the portfolio will have access to grants and non-financial help to grow their social business and social impact. Investees can use the support for needs such as caring responsibilities, accessibility support, consultancy, or professional development. 

One key eligibility criterion is that over 75% of the board and 50% of the management team of each social enterprise should identify as at least one of the inclusion groups: women, disabled people; Black, Asian, minoritised ethnicity, Gypsy, Roma, or Traveller; LGBTQIA+; have direct lived experience of the social issues the social business is focused on; have experienced socio-economic disadvantage. Organisations that don’t meet these criteria will be eligible if they can show commitment to improving their diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

A new resource being developed by Big Issue Invest, UnLtd, and Social Value UK – the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Toolkit – will also be used to assess potential investees’ existing commitments and plans for improving DEI and provide support. An open-source version of the toolkit will be shared in the year ahead.

Sara Redford, Chair of the Social Impact Investment Committee for the Growth Impact Fund, said:

“The Growth Impact Fund has been structured by listening to the sector, being open-minded and thinking differently. I have seen first-hand the frustrations that social purpose organisations and investors suffer, and believe that the flexible, patient capital and technical assistance offering will help growing businesses thrive. The Growth Impact Fund will address the bias which we know can close doors to diverse-led organisations, and share its learnings to wedge those doors open for more funds and entrepreneurs to follow.”

Danyal Sattar, Chief Executive at Big Issue Invest, added:

“We know a large pool of talented and diverse investees exist who aren’t being served by current products. In co-creating the Growth Impact Fund with UnLtd, we are tangibly putting money to back the diverse entrepreneurs for whom current finance doesn’t quite work.  We believe in human potential and this Fund invests in it.”