Big Issue Invest – investing for the future

While business with purpose has become a buzz phrase in 2017, here is how Big Issue Invest has been well ahead of that curve

For over 10 years, The Big Issue’s social investment arm has invested in social enterprises and charities seeking to dismantle poverty and create opportunity for people across the UK. As we begin 2018, here are the incredible initiatives worth celebrating that Big Issue Invest has backed over the last 12 months.

A social network

The latest investment fund, Social Enterprise Investment Fund II, has made waves in the two years since its inception. The £23.8m fund has invested £9.3m into seven social enterprises to help them tackle homelessness, social and financial exclusion and youth employment.

Borrowers have benefited too – a £1m loan to not-for-profit ethical lender Fair For You helped to provide access to affordable credit for the 15 million Brits who are unable to access mainstream options and are forced to turn to high-cost lenders.

Cornerstone, an award-winning provider of services for people with disabilities, were given a £500,000 loan to finance a project which will implement improved business processes and systems. This will help to support self-organised teams of carers, and ensure service users remain at the centre of everything they do.

Big Creative, who offer courses in the creative industries to young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, were loaned £600,000 to fund a shared workspace for creative industry freelance and start-ups adjacent to the East London campus.


The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

The Village Underground’s pioneering plan to turn two shipping containers and four tube carriages into co-working spaces was also kept on track with a £600,000 investment to open a new venue in East London, whilst entering into a formal partnership with a local charity that engages young people, particularly those who are socially excluded or disengaged from education, through music production and learning.

More power to you

Social enterprises north of the border received a £1m boost with the launch of the Power Up Scotland programme. Born from the Corporate Social Venturing England programme devised by Big Issue Invest, up to 20 ventures will be powered up by loan funding of £50,000 or lower over the next two years.

Big Issue Invest's John Montague and Ben Macpherson MSP try out Project 42's equipment at last week's Power Up launch

Ben Macpherson MSP joined partners from Aberdeen Standard Investments, Edinburgh University and the Scottish government to give the programme a hard-hitting launch in November at Projekt 42, a not-for-profit gym that is among the first to benefit from the investment.

The new year will see CSV England continue to develop early stage social businesses through investment, business support and cross-sector partnerships with a new fund in the Midlands, following on from investments of £4m in 56 ventures to date.

Aiming high

Outcomes-based investment sounds like a mouthful, but it’s vitally important. With a proven track record in the field over recent years, Big Issue Invest launched their own dedicated Outcomes Investment Fund in May. This type of contract sees local authorities pay up if milestones are achieved while providing a service rather than dropping a lump sum to start off a project. But that leaves the organisation in a catch-22 scenario – money is needed to get the ball rolling, but there is no start-up capital if payment only comes once targets have been hit.

Invest 1288

This is where BII comes in – with the fund providing investments ranging from £250,000 up to £2m, with repayment based on flexible terms as the service provider hits the pre-agreed targets.

Changing Lives is the first organisation to receive an investment from the fund to help combat entrenched rough sleeping in Newcastle and Gateshead. The initiative will help get 150 people off the streets and into stable, long-term accommodation as part of the Department for Communities and local government’s Homelessness Prevention Programme.

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