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.

Investing in Innovative Social Ventures

This practice guide shares Nesta’s insights and developing practice around investing for social impact in innovative new ventures.

Key findings

  • Find out about the need for social innovation, and the role that ventures and investment can play within it.
  • Read about how Nesta Impact Investments identifies social ventures for investment, how impact is created and how investment can help increase the impact of social ventures.
  • Explore reasons for becoming an investor in social ventures, the factors that might influence this decision, and what you might be able to offer investees in the way of resources and capabilities.
  • Understand some of the practicalities of being an investor, including the importance of co–investing alongside others.

Innovation is changing many aspects of our lives, but across the globe we continue to face social and environmental problems – some long–standing, some new. However, there are many passionate, creative entrepreneurs building new ways to address these challenges, and here at Nesta we want to support entrepreneurs with the finance, networks, and expertise they need to grow their organisations and reach more people. One of the ways we do this is through making social impact investments, and this guide has been created to share elements of the practice that we use to make and manage investments in innovative social ventures.

This guide has been designed for non-financial institutions who have recently started or are considering using impact investment approaches to fund the development and growth of social innovations. It draws on the practices of Nesta Impact Investments, in addition to the wide ranging activities and experience of Nesta as a whole through its Innovation Lab, Policy and Research team, and experience as a venture capitalist.

While the field of impact investing is growing, it is still in its infancy. Therefore the purpose of the guide is to share our insights rather than offer a prescribed methodology. In this way, we hope to contribute to identifying and developing good practice that will help advance impact investing as a whole.


Katie Hill and Joe Ludlow. Produced by the Nesta Innovation Skills team.