The Landscape of Social Investment: A Holistic Topology of Opportunities and Challenges

Nicholls, Alex and Pharoah, Cathy (2008) The Landscape of Social Investment: A Holistic Topology of Opportunities and Challenges. Skoll Centre Working Paper.

[img] PDF
Download (761kB)


This report provides a holistic account of the state of play in the emerging field of social investment, defined as the flow of resources – either market or non-market generated – that fulfils the funding needs of organisations that primarily create social or environmental value. It also looks forward to some of the future opportunities in this space. The main conclusion is that the development of social investment is currently at a crossroads: there is enormous potential for growth, but there are also formidable institutional barriers to be overcome.

This research assesses both current research and practice across institutions in supply, intermediation and demand in order to analyse current developments and build proposals for taking advantage of future opportunities. It sets out key definitions and builds a series of analytic frameworks and applies them to the landscape of social investment. Although highly innovative, social investment institutions are still marked by traditional boundaries which actors from the private, public and third sectors find it difficult to cross. Issues of risk are seen as the main barriers, but it is suggested that discussion of risk masks deeper uncertainties about the role and value of social return. Such uncertainties are reflected in ambiguities about the extent to which social investment is non-profit or for-profit in nature, in divergent views about the role of intermediaries, and in assessments of the value of the further development of social equity finance as a way of increasing the social investment market as a whole. This paper considers macro-structural questions that require a reassessment of some of the assumptions built into current frameworks for analysing the state of social investment, which are still heavily influenced by conventional capital market models.

In addition, it outlines a number of opportunities for addressing micro-market issues that could support the further growth of social investment, particularly for social enterprises.

Item Type: Other Working Paper
Keywords: social enterprises; social investment; financial services
Subject(s): Social entrepreneurship
Centre: Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 16 May 2011 13:19
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2018 15:06
Funders: Big Lottery Fund

View statistics

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View