Big Issue Invest

Social investment needs to re-establish its true north

UnLtd, Big Issue Invest and Shift are committed to equality and human potential


Today’s Adebowale commission findings echo our own evidence that social investment does a poor job of reaching those it seeks to serve: social entrepreneurs. It demonstrates that institutional racism and other discrimination remain a critical problem for intermediaries to address. And as we have repeatedly highlighted: more flexible, patient and equity or quasiequity based finance is needed if the social economy is to regain its purpose.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Collectively, we are three organisations committed to rethinking how we invest, who we invest with, and changing the products we provide to meet the long-term, flexible support that diverse, early-stage social entrepreneurs need. Big Issue Invest has committed to invest 70% of funds in the four most deprived deciles of the index of multiple deprivation. UnLtd has committed that 50% of its early-stage funding will reach people from racialised communities, and disabled people. We have shown that it is possible to shift power to better meet the needs of entrepreneurs – and that when we do, there is no dearth of talent or lowered demand for our support. Our own commitments show how social investment can be different.

But there is much more that needs to be done, and this need change needs to happen across the sector. It requires major intermediaries, including ourselves, who represent access to the £6 Billion social investment market, to assess risk differently and embrace new ways of doing things.

Big Issue Invest, UnLtd and Shift have been working towards the kind of solution pointed to in this report. Our Growth Impact Fund, launching imminently, is unique in several ways:

  • The fund will focus on diverse social enterprises tackling inequality. We’ve worked for 18 months with social entrepreneurs to design and develop something that is inclusive, accessible and focused on the needs of diverse founding teams.
  • The fund will offer flexible, patient capital with 70% of funding invested through equity and quasi-equity products. The report highlights that this is a gaping chasm in the market that prevents many from accessing capital.
  • Support is baked into the investment fund, with financial and non-financial resources committed to making sure funding goes where it is needed.
  • An ‘of, not for’ approach to the delivery of the fund, with committee and advisory board members sought for their lived experience in the issues faced.


While we believe this fund is a step in the right direction, we recognise that there are many things we still don’t know and won’t get right. We are determined to contribute to a sector wide effort to learn and are committed to being fully transparent as to what is working and what isn’t. We want to work with others to open up, grow and diversify the social investment sector in order to help address the widening social and economic inequities we are faced with.

We desperately need the talents of Black-led and other minoritised founding teams if we are to meet the challenges of the next decade. Yet while diversity & inclusion funds remain necessary for now, we must work towards a world where inclusion is embedded in every social investor’s practice. It is now the norm to assess all investments for their potential to impact the climate crisis. Why not do the same for the ‘S’ in ESG, and ensure every entrepreneur has a fair chance of getting access to capital.

We’re all working towards the same goal – social investment meeting its promise to the next generation of social businesses. We urge intermediaries to listen and make social investment work for social entrepreneurs.

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Milton Keynes-based community interest company receives £50K in funding from Big Issue Invest to help empower disadvantaged communities
Big Issue Invest

Milton Keynes-based community interest company receives £50K in funding from Big Issue Invest to help empower disadvantaged communities

Bristol-based charity that tackles social exclusion receives £40K in funding from Big Issue Invest
Big Issue Invest

Bristol-based charity that tackles social exclusion receives £40K in funding from Big Issue Invest

Community interest company, Nickel Support, receives £35K in funding from Big Issue Invest
Big Issue Invest

Community interest company, Nickel Support, receives £35K in funding from Big Issue Invest

Big Issue Invest backs multi-million pound scheme to help refugees in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands
Big Issue Invest

Big Issue Invest backs multi-million pound scheme to help refugees in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands

Most Popular

Read All
All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays
1.

All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights
2.

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
3.

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits
4.

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.