Understanding social investment policy: evidence from the evaluation of Futurebuilders in England
Wells, Peter (2012)

The concept of social investment has attracted interest from policy makers, financial markets and not-for-profit organisations. It is an emergent notion that is multifaceted and includes different market forms, policy responses and institutional configurations. There is relatively little
empirical evidence on the design, implementation and impacts of the various initiatives that have been perceived as falling within the field of social investment. This article begins to address this gap. It draws on the national evaluation of Futurebuilders in England, which was undertaken
between 2005 and 2010. At the time, Futurebuilders was one of the largest examples of a public policy initiative to support social investment; based on a policy model of government seeking to promote the use of loan funding to third sector organisations as part of a wider agenda of expanding
the sector’s role in the delivery of public services. The article explores the effects of the programme on the third sector, on public service delivery and on service users. In conclusion, the article challenges some of the assumptions of this policy model, as well as the potential for ‘impact
investing’ to become a framework for welfare provision.

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