Big Issue Invest

Social investment needs to re-establish its true north

Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, Chair of The Commission on Social Investment

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.

Support our vendors this winter and beyond

If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Social investment arm of the Big Issue Group opens up applications for second cohort of social enterprises in London  
Press Release

Social investment arm of the Big Issue Group opens up applications for second cohort of social enterprises in London  

Mark Porter is announced as new Chair of Big Issue Invest 
Big Issue Invest CEO, Danyal Sattar with Mark Porter, newly appointed Chair of Big Issue Invest
Press Release

Mark Porter is announced as new Chair of Big Issue Invest 

How a school for kids with complex educational needs is changing lives: 'These kids can thrive'
Big Issue Invest

How a school for kids with complex educational needs is changing lives: 'These kids can thrive'

Big Issue Invest calls for applications from social ventures and charities across England from its £15M Impact Loans England programme
Press Release

Big Issue Invest calls for applications from social ventures and charities across England from its £15M Impact Loans England programme

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know