Social Finance is a not-for-profit organisation that partners with government, the social / civic sector and impact investors to find better ways of tackling social problems.
We exist to challenge the status quo: we look at where systems are failing, where the costs of failure are high and where there is appetite for change. Our focus is to work alongside systems and communities to deliver change that improves people’s lives.
Over nearly 14 years, we have developed a compelling approach and a set of techniques and tools to help rethink the ways to tackle entrenched social problems. Our models of social change are based on developing deep partnerships across the voluntary, public and private sectors to address the underlying issues to help change people’s lives for the better. We seek transformation that aligns funding with positive social impact, is sustainable, can scale and can harness investment. One of our early and best-known innovations was the Social Impact Bond, which established our level of creativity and ambition. The approach taken in developing Social Impact Bonds – deep dive analysis, collaboration, data, measurement and adaptation – is now being applied to many more settings.
As we look to the future and explore how we can best drive social change following the coronavirus pandemic, we increasingly see the need to engage communities more extensively in change. Our track record shows we can generate insight into how to improve services through data and systems analysis or user research. But what change may then be most effective in supporting underserved communities is likely to be best understood by those with lived experience or local knowledge. We are excited at the prospect of building our model for genuinely coproducing insight and responses to challenges in public services. At the same time, we need to develop a model of financial sustainability to ensure these approaches are a success, without entrenching uncomfortable power dynamics.
There also has to be a new culture of learning and adaptation. As data becomes more readily available, it is possible to improve social provision in light of improved knowledge and it becomes possible to benefit from feedback loops. We also need to explore how we can ensure that learning from different parts of our organisation is captured and synthesised so that we develop a compelling voice on critical issues and take this into wider public policy and practice. This is likely to be an increasingly important aspect of our work in the coming years.
We typically work to a 5-step process:
- Understand the issue
- Design a proposed solution
- Finance an initial pilot
- Deliver a programme with local partners
- Ambition to scale successful programmes nationally