Announcing a new research project on social investment

The Centre for Youth Impact is happy to announce that it has been awarded funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to conduct a research project on engagement in social investment in the youth sector in 2016.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. The Foundation does this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.

One of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK, the Foundation makes grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, children and young people, the environment, social change and food. It also commits up to £35 million in social investment in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.

The research project that will be undertaken by the Centre is intended to help reach a better understanding of the current knowledge and state of social investment within the youth sector, the reach of existing capacity building initiatives, and to consider what it would look like for social investment to ‘reach its full potential’.

In 2010, the profile of social investment was high. Amongst youth organisations, there was significant hope that new sources of investment might bolster the health of a sector that was facing significant cuts to budgets. Social investment suggested the space to grow and innovate, and to focus on some of the most impactful work with young people. Six years on, the profile of social investment is even higher. There is now a large-scale infrastructure supporting access to and capacity building for social investment, and it is a clear priority for Government. There are over 30 social impact bonds operating in the UK, including a number in work with young people.

But has social investment maintained its profile in the youth sector? Research undertaken by the Young Foundation in 2010 and 2012, on behalf of the Catalyst Consortium, highlighted the appetite for and emergent knowledge of social investment, but also warned that potential would only be realised if capacity, capability and confidence were addressed alongside.

Large parts of the sector have remained untouched by developments in social investment, and there is no one source of information that pulls together existing initiatives or examples of investments into youth provision. The youth sector, whilst not unique, experiences particular challenges in accessing and benefiting from social investment, suggesting that tailored responses are needed.

The Centre hopes that this project will help to clarify the sector’s current engagement with social investment and what steps can be taken to improve this in the future.

In consultation with key stakeholders, the desk research project will produce a briefing for providers, a series of case studies, and a written report for the Foundation.

The Centre is proud to be partnering with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation on this important piece of research.

For more information, please contact the Centre for Youth Impact at

For more information on the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, please visit