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Learning about social investment and social enterprise
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We want to increase the involvement of the charity sector in developing enterprising behaviour and using social investment. We will explore social investment with the aim of supporting people and communities to create more sustainable social impact. For that reason we will only support social investment that creates both clear social impact and financial returns. We recognise that social investment is only one of many ways to build income, and that it isn’t appropriate for every organisation.

Below is some research and learning which has helped to shape our thinking around social investment and supporting social enterprise.

Social Impact Bonds evaluation

Commissioning Better Outcomes (CBO) supports organisations to develop and launch social impact bonds (SIBs). We want to improve the understanding of SIBs, by capturing learning at all stages of development and delivery, so we’ve commissioned an external evaluation that will evaluate CBO over its nine-year life.

Below are details and links to the reports published from the CBO evaluation.

Title: Summary of the Commissioning Better Outcomes Evaluation (PDF, 368KB)
About: In January 2014 the Big Lottery Fund commissioned Ecorys UK, in partnership with ATQ Consultants, to evaluate the Commissioning Better Outcomes (CBO) Fund over its nine-year life. This report provides a summary of the CBO evaluation aims, objectives and methodology.

Programme Reports

Title: Social Impact Bonds: the State of Play
Published: November 2014
About: This is the first report for the CBO evaluation. It provides an overview of the SIB landscape in 2014, including the type of SIBs that existed and their strengths and challenges. The report draws on evidence from surveys with service providers, commissioners and investors, and a literature review.

Title: Commissioning Better Outcomes: Update report
Published: December 2016
About: This is the second report written for the CBO evaluation. It draws on the evidence to date to describe early experiences of those developing SIBs; as well as the immediate, and potential future, advantages and disadvantages of the approach. Where possible, the report also makes comparisons between the SIB approach and alternative commissioning models. There are three additional versions of this report, which are purposively targeted at investors, commissioners and service providers.

Thematic Reports

The aim of the Thematic Reports is to explore different elements of the SIB approach in detail.

Title: Developing Social Impact Bonds: A Commissioner’s Perspective
Published: December 2015
About: This case study draws on reported experiences of commissioners at North Somerset Council, who at the time of writing were setting up a Social Impact Bond aiming to reduce the number of looked after children aged between 10 and 17.

Title: The LOUD SIB Model: Four factors that determine whether a social impact bond is launched.
Published: October 2017
About: This report describe the factors necessary in launching a social impact bond (SIB). It combines the findings from separate research undertaken by Ecorys UK and the Policy Innovation Research Unit (PIRU) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.


In-depth Review Reports

The aim of In-depth Review reports is to capture in detail learning from commissioners, investors and service providers involved in specific SIBs funded by CBO. Each review is comprised of three waves of research, which are then incorporated into one report for the selected SIB projects. The first wave of research draws on stakeholder experiences up to the SIB contracts being signed. The second report draws on experiences up to mid-way in the SIB project. The third report draws on experience at the end of the SIB project. The evaluation plans to conduct reviews with ten SIB projects during the CBO project lifetime.

Title: Ways to Wellness Social Impact Bond: The UK’s first health SIB (launched 2015)

Title: Reconnections Social Impact Bond: Reducing Loneliness in Worcestershire (launched 2015)

Title: Mental Health and Employment Partnerships Social Impact Bond (launched 2016)

Title: West London Zone Collective Impact Bond

Title: HCT Independent Travel Training Social Impact Bond


Growing the Social Investment Market

We worked with Big Society Capital, City of London Corporation and Government to commission a report about the social investment landscape. ICF GHK in association with BMG Research carried out the research in 2013. The results of this work are in these reports:



In 2012 we commissioned work to help us better understand when social investment works best. The report investigated:

  • What investment-readiness means
  • The barriers to becoming investment-ready
  • The support needed to become investment-ready and how Big Lottery Fund and other funders can help.

You can read more about our findings in the following reports:


Mapping Social Enterprise in Scotland

We mapped social enterprises and their activity across Scotland, allowing us to understand their prevalence, scale, characteristics, reach, distribution and financial health. This has given us a baseline from which we can measure the difference made by our social investment-themed initiatives in Scotland.


Learning about the impact of our funding on social enterprises

In 2014, we commissioned Social Enterprise UK to evaluate the impact that our funding has had on social enterprises so we can improve our support for social enterprises in the future:


Understanding the capacity and need to take on investment within the social sector

In 2015 the Social Investment Research Council ;– which the Fund is a member of - commissioned NCVO to use new methods of accessing and using charity sector data to build an understanding of the potential demand for social investment.