If I won the lottery, I’d socially invest

Published: 6 October 2022

An older woman smiles as she is shown something on a phone by a younger individual, who is wearing a surgical mask.
Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash.
Social investment unites social purpose with a robust investment case. 

Yes, I’d do all the obvious, sensible things like paying off the mortgage, going on holiday and going on another holiday, but I’d also do something to benefit my community, for example through social investment. 

I spent a decade working in finance, in an evidence-based, data-driven environment, followed by over a decade working in charity, where the focus was using our funds to improve people’s lives by driving personalised care. 

In the charity world, although qualitative and quantitative reporting and evidence were used, the investment case behind whatever programme we were delivering wasn’t always as robust as my banking background had accustomed me to. Social investment brings both these areas together: social purpose with a robust investment case.

Now I work for Social Finance, leading the Macmillan End of Life Care Investment Programme, with the aim of building on the learning of the Care and Wellbeing Fund – set up to test whether social investment could be deployed to support improved health outcomes – and bringing the social investment approach back into Macmillan. The best of both words, but naturally I’m biased.

What exactly is social investment?

Social investment describes the use of repayable finance to achieve social as well as financial improvements.

In 2015, Social Finance, Macmillan Cancer Support and Big Society Capital set out to test whether social investment could improve outcomes. But what does it all really mean?

Social: The social investor provides upfront funding to pay for a new or enhanced service that will improve people’s experience through better health and social care support. My focus is end-of-life care, which often means we work with palliative care services that offer physical, emotional and practical support to people at the end of their life.

Financial: The cost of delivering the new or enhanced service is better value for the health and social care system than the cost of not doing it. For example, by setting up a new out-of-hours palliative care service, the patient has a preferable alternative service (that is also better value per person) than going to A&E. Without the option of the new out-of-hours palliative care service, the patient would have to go to A&E.

Innovation: The social investor funds the new service. About 18 months into the contract, the investment starts to be paid back, but only for success. So only the value of those successful outcomes is paid back. For our current programme and based on our learning from the Care and Wellbeing Fund, these repayments’ are capped at the total cost of the service investment. The aim is to demonstrate that the service is sustainable.

Investing in health and social care is complicated, involves multiple organisations and requires determination and patience to navigate. But everyone shares a common focus on improving care. This is especially true in areas where the cost to the individual and the system from poor outcomes are particularly high, and therefore the incentives for everyone to work together and test new approaches to improve outcomes are particularly strong.

So, even if I don’t win the lottery, we’ll keep going.

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