Public Sector News

 

Report shows UK leading the way in social investment

A new report on best practice in social investment has been published by SaÑ—d Business School, University of Oxford and the Cabinet Office.

A new report that presents perspectives on best practice in social investment is being launched today. It arises from a symposium set up last year by SaÑ—d Business School and the Cabinet Office’s Centre for Social Impact Bonds.

The report suggests the UK is leading the way in effective policy around social enterprise and social investment, which has informed the debate in other countries.

Drawing together the insights of senior policy-makers, investors, advisors, academics and analysts from over ten countries, the report provides a valuable snap-shot of the status of social investment innovation and highlights a range of issues in the development of the social investment market. Key observations relate to emerging public-private partnership structures, new social finance instruments, the experience of implementing Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) and recently launched government initiatives to tackle social problems through payment by results.

 

Key discussion themes of the report include:

 

  • emerging social investment products and opportunities
  • the challenges of the cultural shift to pay for performance and new types of service provision external to government
  • the balance of risk and return that makes SIBs attractive to investors and the importance of identifying the nature and degree of risk held by different parties
  • the need for clear and accurate information including data on the costs of government services, to allow investors to make decisions on SIBs.
  • the measurement of results and benefits is critical but markets may be distorted by the limitations of what is easily measurable to exclude more complicated interventions or difficult cost models.
  • clearer evidence on the likelihood of certain outcomes being achievable is critical to investors.
  • the full economic and social costs and benefits of a programme should be considered
  • cashable savings have been a key justification of most SIBs to date, yet SIBs may be beneficial in areas where few savings exist or may cost more overall, as additional services are accessed by the target group.
  • we are holding SIBs to higher standards of evidence than other public spending.
  • SIB transaction costs have been high and time to market lengthy. Simplicity in construction, the development of templates and the sharing of best practice can address this.

The UK is leading the world in the development of SIBs and the government has launched a series of initiatives to accelerate the market further, through initiatives such as Big Society Capital, the world’s first wholesale social investment bank, the creation of the £20m Social Outcomes Fund, and the Centre for Social Impact Bonds based in the Cabinet Office.

The Social Outcomes Fund helps tackle the problem of costs for an intervention borne by one part of government reaping benefits across other government agencies, which has previously inhibited the use of SIBs. The Centre for Social Impact Bonds is concerned with disseminating information on SIBs to assist in their successful development; creating template legal contracts to reduce transaction costs; providing better data on public service costs; and providing light-touch support to individual SIB developers.

Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said,

This was the first time international governments have come together to talk about social investment and a fantastic opportunity to showcase the innovative products and organisations developed in the UK.

Social impact bonds are a UK innovation that is being applied by governments all over the world, as they strive to procure services in a way that aligns financial and social incentives for governments, service deliverers and private investors.

We remain committed to sharing the fantastic work developed through on-going collaboration between the government, social purpose organisations and the social investment community and look forward to progressing this through the UK’s presidency of the G8.

Sir Ronald Cohen Chairman of The Portland Trust and Bridges Ventures and a Director of Social Finance said:

The Social Investment Symposium was a landmark in the progress of this new, vitally important market. It has set the scene for greater international collaboration. The inclusion of social impact investment on this summer’s G8 agenda will build on the Symposium’s valuable work. It will be a major opportunity for governments of some of the world’s largest economies to commit to bring impact investment to the fore in tackling social issues effectively.

Dr Alex Nicholls, University Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, commented:

The discussions we began at the symposium have been instrumental in drawing together those involved in social investing and promoting the sharing of best practice. Of particular importance has been our discussion of the new contracts and structures that help to align the incentives of all stakeholders to scale-up welfare interventions, focused on early intervention and prevention. There is increasing momentum in the sector as new coalitions are forming across civil society delivery partners, and new thinking is emerging, both of which will drive growth and development in the sector.

The report also features the Future for Children Bond, recently released by Allia. The Future for Children bond will invest 20% of its capital in Essex’s social impact bond for children on the edge of care. This is the first time that retail investors can invest in a social impact bond.

The Essex social impact bond is summarised in the report, along with other social impact bonds in the UK.