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.

Project 3: COVID-19 & Communities

What is the project? 

As the UK battles COVID-19, the social economy is keen to help those who need it most. It is a time to share openly, partner widely, and work collaboratively, in order to support vulnerable communities and individuals.

Our first key output is an ‘economic health barometer’ where we use 4 key (leading) economic indicators, provided at ward level across the UK, to track weekly changes in local economies as COVID-19 unfolds. This relies on daily card transaction spend data from Imfoco and benefits calculator data from Turn2us. Our second output will be a longer data analysis piece where we expand on economic changes to consider the other components of community vulnerability; bringing in external datasets and subject data specialists to help us as we seek to inform the direction and design of Covid-19 emergency interventions to those most vulnerable.

What have we done so far?

Output 1: COVID-19: Vulnerability Barometer

We are developing a 4-indicator barometer which ranks the communities most vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID-19. This will be updated weekly to reflect ongoing economic vulnerability at a time of crisis. We will be able to use this barometer to see where individual communities are facing the greatest strain – and we will be able to use this data to predict where that pressure will grow next.


  • 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.

Audience and data use: 

  • Publically available, ideally on a major newsite for fuller coverage 
  • Anticipated data release date: 3rd April 2020
Output 2: Communities After COVID-19

Our main aim of this project is understanding the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on communities, so we know where to focus economic efforts after the initial shock of this crisis. Identifying that some places won’t be equipped to recover quickly and which communities in the UK will struggle to recover in the long-run.

The project is still being developed by multiple social economy data partners - updates will be provided as soon as possible.


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


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.