Social investment fund announced to tackle inequality as wealth gap widens

by | May 31, 2022

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A new potential £25M social investment fund is announced today, offering flexible and patient capital for early-stage social businesses to grow their impact, ringfencing a minimum of 50% of funding for leaders from underrepresented backgrounds. Big Issue Invest, UnLtd and Shift have come together to announce the Growth Impact Fund, to level the social investment playing field.

This landmark fund is built in coalition with social investment experts, and is backed with funding from supporters including Bank of America and Access Foundation.

Big Issue Invest, UnLtd and design agency Shift have developed the fund to tackle the structural barriers of inequality within social investment, as highlighted by the Adebowale Commission. The commission ran between February 2020 and January 2022, and found that despite £600m of public investment since 2010, the social investment market remained unchanged.


The Growth Impact Fund has been developed with social entrepreneurs of diverse genders, ethnicities, ages, and those with disabilities, who have helped to design this social investment fund for organisations working to address inequalities.

The Fund, which is funded by professional investors only, will offer between £50k – £1.5 million to its investees. It has a unique approach to making social investment work better for social businesses.
The fund will:

  • Provide investees with the option of patient, flexible capital, or alternative options including 70% of funding invested through equity and quasi-equity products.
  • Provide grant funded wrap-around support across the investment process (from early-stage enterprises to established organisations, and pre-investment to post investment)
  • Commit to ensuring the team, management, and governance of the fund are representative of the entrepreneurs the fund looks to support.

Every investee on the portfolio will have access to grants and non-financial help to grow their social business and social impact. Investees can use the support for needs such as caring responsibilities, accessibility support, consultancy, or professional development.


One key eligibility criterion is that over 75% of the board and 50% of the management team of each social enterprise should identify as at least one of the inclusion groups: women, disabled people; Black, Asian, minoritised ethnicity, Gypsy, Roma, or Traveller; LGBTQIA+; have direct lived experience of the social issues the social business is focused on; have experienced socio-economic disadvantage. Organisations that don’t meet these criteria will be eligible if they can show commitment to improving their diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Complementary to the eligibility screening is a new resource being developed by Big Issue Invest, UnLtd, and Social Value UK – the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Toolkit. The fund will use the toolkit to assess potential investees’ existing commitments and plans for improving DEI and will provide support where needed. An open-source version of the toolkit will be shared in the year ahead.

Social entrepreneurs will be represented across the fund’s Advisory Board and Investment Committee, bringing their lived experience and expertise to making decisions for their peers. Their voices will hold the fund to account in being inclusive, accessible, fit for purpose, and meeting the needs of diverse founding teams.


Sara Redford, Chair of the Social Impact Investment Committee for the Growth Impact Fund, said:
“The Growth Impact Fund has been structured by listening to the sector, being open-minded and thinking differently. I have seen first-hand the frustrations that social purpose organisations and investors suffer, and believe that the flexible, patient capital and technical assistance offering will help growing businesses thrive. The Growth Impact Fund will address the bias which we know can close doors to diverse-led organisations, and share its learnings to wedge those doors open for more funds and entrepreneurs to follow.”

Danyal Sattar, Chief Executive at Big Issue Invest, adds:
“At Big Issue Invest we have a strong track record of backing social entrepreneurs. We know a large pool of talented and diverse investees exist who aren’t being served by current products. In co-creating the Growth Impact Fund with UnLtd, we are tangibly putting money to back the diverse entrepreneurs for whom current finance doesn’t quite work.  We believe in human potential and this Fund invests in it.”

Head of Investment at UnLtd, Mathu Jeyaloganathan, said:
“This is an opportunity to rethink how we support, provide investment to and work in partnership with underserved leaders and organisations. A decade of working in the sector has shown me that this is really needed. Social investment is not just investment in ‘good’ projects, it’s investing in impactful people and social businesses that disrupt the status quo in all its forms – leadership, governance, delivery, and more. That includes how organisations resource and staff the funding, not just how the investees operate.  With the Growth Impact Fund, we don’t just want to show it can be done, but influence others to change their practices, implement reform and learn from our efforts.” 

Social enterprises interested in the Growth Impact Fund can visit to learn more and register their interest. Social investment organisations are welcome to also reach out with any queries or curiosities.

Big Issue Invest and UnLtd would like to extend their thanks and gratitude to Dechert LLP and Kirkland and Ellis International LLP, who have provided invaluable expertise and support on a pro bono basis throughout the development and delivery of the Growth Impact Fund.

* Big Issue Invest Fund Management (BIIFM) is the fund manager for the Growth Impact Fund, and the fund is addressed to professional investors only. Capital at Risk. BIIFM Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) FRN 610618.

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