Social Investment Platform

Social Enterprise Programme is a programme that supports organisations known as social enterprises. Social enterprises employ business strategies to meet social and environmental needs and make a positive impact in their communities. 

In China, where the British Council operates as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy and British Consulates-General, our programme has “played an instrumental role in fostering the emergence of China’s social enterprise sector,” according to a study, China Social Enterprise and Social Impact Investment Development Report, which was presented at the Boao Forum.

In 2013, the British Council and its partners launched a pioneering Social Investment Platform to promote social impact investment and provide training and funding opportunities to outstanding Chinese social enterprises.

In its first year, the Platform offered RMB 9 million in equity investments, bond investments, and loans with no or low interest and incubation support to 15 outstanding Chinese social enterprises selected from a pool of 268 applicants through a multi-stage competition.

In its second year (2014-15), the Social Investment Platform will bring together nine partners offering more than RMB 10 million in investment, grant funding and incubation support to social enterprises from both Mainland China and Hong Kong selected through the competition. In addition, Thomson Reuters Foundation will provide pro-bono legal services to all the winners who meet its criteria.

Our media partners are CEOCIO magazine and China Philanthropist magazine.

How to apply

The 2014-2015 application is now closed.The application for the year 2015-2016 will open in June 2015. If you are a prospective applicant, please register for  our newsletter and Sina weibo and Tencent weibo microblogs for application updates(Chinese only).

2014 Social Investment platform has received 434 online applications from mainland China and Hong Kong within two months, among which 164 have already been selected by social investors for a second interview. Please click to see the selected Hong Kong applicants for the second round interview or have a look at the full list of organisations from mainland and Hong Kong (full list in Chinese only). 

The Social Investment Platform is open to social enterprises and other social sector organisations with established business models as well as commercial businesses with clear social objectives.

Five social investors on the platform are interested in investing in Hong Kong-based projects. For more information, please visit the social investor page. If you are from Hong Kong and want to apply for their funding, you can submit application online.

For more information about the application, the selection process and other FAQs, please download the 2014 guidance in the bottom of the page.

What is Social Investment?

A social investment is an investment designed to generate both a financial return and social impact.

Social investors seek to ‘do well by doing good.’ They often accept lower returns on social investments than on other investments because these produce benefits for society as well as profits. Their investments provide capital to social enterprises that develop long term and self-sustaining solutions to social problems.

There are three main types of social investment: debt, equity and quasi-equity finance. Debt finance refers to loans made by the social investor which the borrower repays with interest. Equity funding involves the issuing of shares in exchange for capital. In quasi-equity investments, the social investor receives a fixed percentage of the social enterprise’s future income in return for the investment.

Social investment innovations in the UK

The UK is considered a global leader in developing legislation, financial products and mechanisms to support social investment.

In April 2012 the UK launched Big Society Capital, the world’s first social investment bank, with GBP 600 million (RMB 6 billion) of capital from dormant bank accounts and high street banks. Big Society Capital invests in funds that themselves invest in social enterprises, allowing them to thrive and grow.

Another UK innovation is the social impact bond. These are financial instruments that raise money from the capital markets for social enterprises and charities. Government pays interest to investors on these bonds based on the results achieved by the social enterprise. They offer an efficient means of tapping private investment to fund preventative action (e.g. immunising children against disease) or expensive social problems (e.g. addressing chronic homelessness).

As UK Prime Minister David Cameron said during the G8 Social Impact Investment Forum in June 2013, “Social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet. It can help us to build bigger and stronger societies.”