About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Twenty catalytic investments to grow the social investment market

This report recommends ways of catalysing the development of the social investment market.

This report recommends ways of catalysing the development of the social investment market.

Key findings:

  • The Big Society Finance Fund has supported the development of 20 pilot capital-raisings by social investment intermediaries. 
  • All the projects demonstrate the benefit that a catalytic, strategic investor can bring in getting new social investment products to market and in leveraging new investment from private and charitable sources.
  • Social investment is an emerging market, and this emerging market for social investment needs a ‘development bank’, one which is likely to meet challenges in meeting its needs.
  • Experience from elsewhere indicates that market development will not be fast and is likely to involve change over a decade or more.

Nesta set up the Big Society Finance Fund in August 2010 to prototype new forms of social investment. By backing innovative investment products, the Fund hopes to catalyse the social investment market, and to demonstrate the role the Government’s Big Society Bank could play in the future.


Working with Panahpur and UnLtd, two of the UK’s leading social investment charities, Nesta has constructed a portfolio of pilot investments to demonstrate the kind of products and services that a thriving social finance sector could enable.


Joe Ludlow, Jonathon Jenkins




Joe Ludlow

Joe Ludlow

Joe Ludlow

Director, Impact Investment

Joe lead Nesta Impact Investments, a £17.6m investment fund for innovative social ventures in the fields of ageing, young people and sustainability.  Joe is a board member of Bethnal G…

View profile