Skip to main content
Civil Service

Social investment and the new Government Inclusive Economy Unit

Sir Jeremy at the Civil Service Board meeting, January 2015
Sir Jeremy Heywood

New thinking is needed if we are to meet the Government’s social and economic objectives.  An important part of this is the need to promote better ways of working between the public, private and social sectors, and harness the energy of social entrepreneurs and social innovators.

One clear opportunity lies in the further expansion of social investment – that bridge between philanthropy and classic business investment. The use of social investment to further grow responsible business and social enterprise has huge potential, and is one of the most obvious ways we can bring together the interests of the public, private and social sectors. There is already over £1.5 billion of capital under management in social investment, including through Big Society Capital, established during the last Parliament as the world’s first wholesale social investment institution.

Social investment can also improve public services. The Dementia Discovery Fund, established in 2015 by the Department of Health, Alzheimer’s Research UK and several world-leading pharmaceutical companies, is a £75 million fund combining public funds and private capital that aims to speed up the discovery and development of new treatments for dementia. There are now over 30 Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) in the UK, addressing long-standing social challenges, more than the rest of the world combined. To take just one, in Greater London, an SIB has helped hundreds of rough sleepers into sustained stable accommodation, employment, or to be reconnected to their home country SIB has helped hundreds of rough sleepers.


The UK can be proud of our global leadership in this innovative field. And I am personally delighted about the role the Civil Service has played in this. But we now need to build on the progress made.

Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Department for Culture, Media & Sport

The work on social investment inside government has so far been led by the Social Investment and Finance Team in the Office for Civil Society (OCS). OCS is moving from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), bringing together in one department the Government’s work on enriching lives. To re-energise our focus on social investment and social innovation across government, DCMS are today launching the Government Inclusive Economy Unit as part of the Office for Civil Society.

The unit will develop the work of the existing Social Investment and Finance Team, focused on a number of innovative contributions to the Government’s broader agenda of creating an economy that, in the Prime Minister’s words, “works for all”. The unit will work with the private sector to increase the flows of social investment and private capital to social causes, working with departments to identify opportunities for public and private capital to be co-invested. It will contribute to the Government’s objective of increasing the diversity and innovation of public service providers by delivering the Prime Minister’s commitment to an increase in public service mutuals and the commitment to the expansion of social impact bonds. The unit will also further develop the opportunity offered by mission-led business and social enterprise.

Improved Outcomes banner

Cross-government mandate

The establishment of the Government Inclusive Economy Unit will not change any existing policy responsibilities held by government departments. However, the unit will have a cross-government mandate to work in partnership across government to drive these innovative approaches to greater scale, helping to address some of society’s toughest problems.

The UK Civil Service has a well-deserved reputation for leadership in the use of social investment and related instruments and I am confident that we can continue to build on it.

Follow Sir Jeremy on Twitter: @HeadUKCivServ

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Edward Harkins posted on

    Welcome changes in UK Government. Hopefully, lessons will have been learned over the perceived failure in the SIB model to 'take-off'. Factors in the failure included: much too high-level, top-down, driven-from-the-centre activity, coupled with a lack of fuller engagement at the discrete local level and at the practitioners' coal-face. I recall querying why the list of the good and worthy authors behind a Cabinet Office paper on the theme of social investment did not include any actual front-line deliverers of services. The reply was to the effect that, 'this is about policy, we will get the practitioners involved at the next stage'. Very telling reply, very telling indeed.

  2. Comment by J Brookes posted on

    Having worked on two SIBs with DWP I am passionate about the benefits to not only those we help but to providers and government. I would love to be more involved in this valuable area of work.