Project 1: Data Specification
Project 2: Futurebuilders
Project 3: COVID-19 & Communities
Project 4: COVID-19 Data Collection
Project 1: Data Specification

What is the specification?

To truly use finance to create fairer communities and better understand the social investment market, social investment sector peers need to speak the same data language.

SEDL is a data specification, containing:

  • A ‘data template’ and specification guidance on 208 data variables
  • A central database 
  • Data inter-operability and compatibility with external data sets 

What have we done so far?

As well as the creation of the data specification, we have set up a prototype web-based insights platform to access aggregate SEDL data. 17 social investors have committed to sharing deal-level data through SEDL, indicating their support for better data use across social lending. From 2019 onwards, We remain focused on solidifying the data use case, so that SEDL is not seen as a reporting framework, but a data resource from which social investors can access the right information to make more effective decisions on a daily basis.

We are currently moving into SEDL Phase 2 with includes three critical streams, alongside the foundational SEDL sector governance solution currently in process: 

  1. Furthering the technical development on the current Specification, based on the learning and needs identified during the pilot phase.
  2. Establishing an interface so that social investors can easily access data and insights emerging from the SEDL data.
  3. Supporting ways to enhance data maturity and use by aligning SEDL data and insights to different social investor decision-making processes.

Who is involved?

How do I upload my data?

If you're interested in uploading data to SEDL, please contact us. Once you're ready to become a SEDL partner, you will then upload data, following the steps outlined below. This contributes more widely to the 'SEDL Cycle', as detailed in the infographic below. 

Project 2: Futurebuilders

What is the project? 

Social investment business (SIB) has been contracted by DCMS to conduct a learning review of the Futurebuilders England Fund. As the first social investment fund in the UK market, Futurebuilders England (FBE) it has been 15 years since its initial disbursement: FBE therefore has the ability to provide us with significant insight into the value and gaps in social lending.

This is an ambitious project which seeks to bring together stakeholders from across the social investment sector. Our goal is to enable better social lending based on a shared understanding of what works, and support continued and relevant dissemination of evidence and learnings.

The project is an opportunity for the social investment sector to establish an evidence base which will inform the design and development of any future social investment funds and programmes. 

Learning project approach

Our main research question is simple: what makes social investment work? 

The project has three main components:

These ensure that quantitative and qualitative data is used to build a growing social investment sector evidence base, and that we are able to describe not only the ‘what’, but the 'why' and 'how.' 

Crucial to this learning project is how our evidence base is being used to inform decision-making and future fund and programme design, either by social investors, governments, charities or other financial sector players and investors.

Who is involved?

Social Investment Business (SIB) and the Government Inclusive Economies Unit (GIEU) at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are responsible for project delivery. 

Social investors, and charities and social enterprises are critical supporters of all project data collection activities; as well as being critical users of this growing social investment evidence base. The Social Investment Forum (SIF) will be an important partner in helping to translate data into better decision-making to support more effective allocation of finite social lending resources.

What have we learnt so far? 

After a significant amount of work to clean, build, scrape, and analyse Futurebuilders data from internal and external data sources, we are able to present a number of interesting findings emerging from Component 1 - Futurebuilders Data Deepdive. Data and findings will be shared from this soon.


Component 1 - Futurebuilders Data Deepdive

1. Futurebuilders Learnings Microsite

2. Full Learnings: DCMS Data Pack and policy briefing

Project 3: COVID-19 & Communities

What is the project? 

Here at SEDL, we know that dealing with a crisis like COVID-19 requires quick decision-making; centred on effectively prioritising limited resources for those most in need. These decisions need fast, reliable and targeted data if they are to be well-informed. Our 6-week data sprint aims to strike this balance; providing practical and robust social economy data, released every week to anyone looking understanding the effects of COVID-19 in our communities.

We have been able to mobilise this quickly as SEDL has built strong data foundations over the last 2 years: collaborative and engaged social economy partners; openness, transparency and data sharing; mitigation of ‘data burdens’; and a pragmatic approach to the realities of data collection, with the sole purpose of data collection and analysis being ‘use’.

As we face a new set of COVID-19 challenges, we can rapidly step up our work and continue to build on our partnerships to ensure that the insights produced can be put to good use.

Last week we published our COVID-19 & Communities Sales Data Deep Dive to accompany the first publication with our partners Tortoise.

This week, we look ahead to the next 6 weeks, with an ambitious 6-Week Data Sprint, which will cover 3 themes per fortnight. These 3 themes build on each-other in a bid to fully understand the COVID-19 effect on local economies.

  • Pre-existing vulnerability: Who was already poorly placed to deal with a crisis like COVID-19?
  • Size of the COVID-19 effect: To what degree are local economies feeling the effect of COVID-19 (in the short, medium and longer term)?
  • Recovery ability: Where is local economy infrastructure (including social sector infrastructure) likely to survive given the current recovery support, and who needs our help?

At the end of these 6 weeks, we will use our findings to workshop solutions among our SEDL partner group and develop a data-driven social economy COVID-19 response paper.


What have we done so far?

In the spirit of transparency, we are sharing some of our focus areas and anticipated outputs per week below. We will also share a list of datasets and sources that we are using (or had investigated using) at the end of each theme.

Theme 1: Where was already vulnerable?

In these 2 weeks, we take a closer look at left behind places, high streets, and areas identified as having pre-existing COVID-19 vulnerabilities. We start by looking at the economic components, but in Week 2 specifically expand our understanding of vulnerability to include social, health and spatial elements. In order to do this, we will be drawing on the excellent work of others – including the ongoing work by British Red Cross.

Week 1: 28 April – 4 May

Focus Area: Left behind places and unhealthy high streets

Question: How are those areas which were already vulnerable, experiencing the economic effect of COVID-19?

Output released: Left behind places League Table

Week 2: 5 May – 11 May

Focus Area: Expanding our definition of pre-existing COVID-19 vulnerability to include social, health, spatial and further economic indicators.

Question: To what extent have pre-existing health, social and spatial ((infrastructure) vulnerabilities left localities more exposed to the effects of COVID-19?

Output released: Interactive COVID-19 barometer (cross-vulnerability component) – TBC


In order to remain agile to the daily changes in COVID-19 data needs, we plan the specifics of our 2-week sprint blocks on the day we begin. For now, we have an idea of what we want to cover in Theme 2 and 3, but the specific focus areas, comparators and outputs will be updated closer to the time.


Theme 2: What is the size of the COVID-19 effect?

Week 3 & 4: 11 May - 22 May 

We are interested in taking a closer look at the system effect of COVID-19 on local economies. Given the 2-week period, we are choosing to look at 4 local economies as deep-dive case studies.

In understanding the size of the effect, we will be aiming to map impact on charities and social enterprises in the 4 areas (leveraging SIB and other social investor COVID-19 internal data collection efforts), the effect on local merchants (using our sales data), the effect on the private sector (drawing on external sources), and on individuals in the community.

Theme 3: Where are the gaps in support?

Week 5 & 6:  25 May – 5 June

In our final theme of the 6-week Data Sprint, we will look to identify which types of local economies are likely to survive the short-to-medium effects of COVID-19 given the current support packages available. And which local economies, local merchants, and charities and social enterprises are not likely to survive without long-lasting and specific COVID-19 recovery support. Ultimately bringing that all together with our SEDL partners, to develop an evidence-led social economy response to COVID-19.

By setting out a call-to-action for the social economy, SEDL can evidence a policy position for Social Investment Business and others to take forward and use to influence Government to more effectively target social investment towards the areas most in need after-COVID.


  • Imfoco, with the help of Esmée Fairbairn, is providing data on merchant sales and customer wallet share at local level, so our indicators can reflect changing customer spending, merchant sales, and changing access to grocery stores in communities. 
  • Turn2us has opened their benefits calculator datasets so that we are able to track changing economic need among individuals in a community.


Institute for Government's Data Bites #9: 'Getting things done with data and Government'
Slides from this are available here

Corona Shock, Tortoise: published 21/4/20. Please note this link offers free article access. 

Corona Shock: Week II, Tortoise: published 28/4/20. Please note this link offers free article access. 

Project 4: COVID-19 Data Collection

What is the project?

Created in March 2020, this project was developed by Social Investment Business in response to COVID-19 - and the need to understand the impact of this emergency on the organisations that SIB supports.  

The aims of this project are:

  • To ensure that SIB’s data collection about the impact of COVID-19 on businesses is robust and consistent across SIB, held in a single database.
  • To integrate the continually revised data into SIB’s decision-making processes, reacting to the changing circumstances and trends for businesses as the situation develops.
  • To collaborate with SIB’s peers on a data collection template, creating comparable data across the social investment sector.

What have we done so far? 

The data will be based on the conversations had by SIB’s Relationship Managers with Customers, as well as their prior knowledge of the businesses. The conversations are focused around how COVID-19 is currently impacting a customer’s business in the following areas:

  • Staff/Volunteers
  • Finances
  • Service Delivery
  • Contingency Plans to COVID-19
  • Support Needed

The project is managed by SIB’s Learning & Influence Team, working closely with the Relationship Managers in the Investment Team.

SIB has successfully integrated this data collection process internally, now recording all information as the conversations happen daily between customers and SIB’s Relationship Managers. This internal process is:

1) Conversation between Customer and Relationship Manager

2) Relationship Manager uses an online form to input new/updated information gathered

3) Master Spreadsheet is updated, using legacy track changes to record the changes for customers already in the database.

Members of the Learning & Influence Team will meet with the Investment Team on a weekly basis to revise the current measures, modifying or creating them as the situation develops.

Next Steps:

As well as regularly reviewing the measures they are using, SIB will be refining how best to use the live database. This will take some trial and error, but their focus is integrating this data into their decision-making processes, as well as using it to match organisations with the support most suited to their needs.   

SIB is also reaching out to their peers to talk about how they can align this data collection with what others are doing. This will allow them to create a larger data set and build a greater understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting businesses in the sector. SEDL will be sharing more on this project very soon.