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Understanding social investment policy: evidence from the evaluation of Futurebuilders in England

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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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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 2012

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  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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