Our first ever online learning course, Social Investment Unpicked, launched one year ago, and we wanted to explore and share some of our key learnings!
What Is Social Investment Unpicked?
We appreciate there may be some of our users that haven’t heard of Social Investment Unpicked, let alone taken part, so a bit of context before we start.
Social Investment Unpicked is a free online interactive course for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of social investment.
Who is it for?
Specifically, it’s designed so that, by the end of the course, participants will be able to explain social investment to others and answer questions about it, ideal for infrastructure organisations, membership bodies and capacity building organisations. Since then, the course has seen more and more users who are ‘doing the doing’, running frontline organisations and would like to understand more about diversifying revenue streams.
The course explores the history, role and context of social investment in the UK and does so via interactive online learning resources including quizzes, readings, videos, case studies and assignments. There are also four office hours and two webinars held via Zoom to encourage cohort learning.
Why was it needed?
There is so much narrative about the complexity, jargon and inaccessibility of information on social investment. We had been approached many times to help individuals and organisations navigate their way through the maze of information available. Delivering easy to understand, engaging and practically useful content was an absolute must. They say ‘knowledge is power’ after all.
Here’s four quick learnings we’ve taken from 12 months of facilitating this course.
There is a phenomenal appetite for users to expand their knowledge on social investment…
We’ve now had 60 users successfully complete the course, and each cohort has been full, a trend that shows no sign of slowing, with the next two cohorts already at maximum capacity.
The past 12 months have been a turbulent time for many of the users we serve, with frontline organisations navigating lockdowns, ever-changing regulations and, in many cases, a significant increase in demand for services.
Naturally, people were – and are still - looking for ways of which to diversify and protect their income, which could be one of the reasons we’ve seen such a positive uptake on this course.
Here’s what some participants from previous cohorts had to say about the course....
"I felt privileged to be part of the Social Investment Unpicked cohort. I especially enjoyed virtually meeting so many inspirational forces for good- which was a tonic during the lockdowns. As a personal nugget, since attending the training, I feel much more confident in my professional practice. So thank you for all of this - and for making the learning & sharing so enjoyable"
“This course allowed me to consolidate and reinforce my knowledge of social investment tools and when best to apply them. I feel better equipped to advise community groups on the options available to them on their social investment journeys. I would very much recommend this course as an introduction to the essentials of social investment to anyone.”
- Alex Picot, Dorset Community Action
“Although my focus was on creative initiatives, I can attest that a program is an excellent tool for social entrepreneurs and organizations in general.
The course addresses the different types of financial instruments available to institutions and details the path to follow once you opt for social investment.
So, I recommend to everyone who has the opportunity, enroll in the next Social Investment Unpicked learning cohorts! An absolutely well-invested time that can bring enormous advantages for your social organization!”
The importance of being flexible
One of the best things about social investment for us is that each cohort is different and each learner brings something new to the table. That means that what works for one group of learners may not work for another.
We soon realised we’d need to adjust each session to suit the learning styles and preferences of individuals. For example, some cohorts really enjoy the social networking side of things and are more than happy to share their own personal experiences. Others might be less experienced, or are just more of a ‘listening’ cohort whereby active conversation and debate aren’t the most comfortable form of participation.
The beauty of it all is that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ style of cohort here and we now have various options up our sleeve if we feel one of our approaches needs to flex to respond to the needs of our learners.
Cohorts have reiterated what’s at the core of our mission; being user-led
Social Investment Unpicked is a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with some of the user groups we serve and understand more about what’s important to them.
There are lots of FAQs that come up from cohort to cohort and thankfully we’ve built up a handy bank of resources – from Good Finance and other organisations in the sector – to point our learners in the right direction.
That said, every now and again we get a request about a topic that hasn’t been updated for a while or something relatively new that now needs addressing. This enables us to continue our core mission of, first and foremost, being user-led and providing the resources and tools that actually help.
The power of case studies
One thing that has been consistent throughout the 12 months of the course is the power of the case studies. Each and every cohort has shared feedback on their experiences and it’s a resounding thumbs up to case studies.
Learners have told us that they find it useful to read real life examples of social investment in action, and the diverse range available on the Good Finance website provides the many ways it can be used to deliver impact.
What’s next for social investment unpicked?
Good question. We are in a very rare position at the moment where we have more people interested in the course than we are able to cater for – a good problem to have, granted, but a problem nonetheless!
Whilst nothing is perfect, we think we’re pretty close to the winning formula, after all it’s a formula not designed by us but by our users. We review the content of the course formally on an annual basis but also more regularly based on feedback from our learners. We are keen to ensure any changes to the format of the course are not at the risk of diminishing the quality of learning.
That said, we’ll be exploring ways we can continue to offer this fantastic course at a higher capacity in the coming months and will look into different courses that may also be of interest to our users – watch this space!
We’d like to do at least 6 cohorts in 2022 and explore introducing deep dive sessions on specific topics, exclusively for Social Investment Unpicked graduates. Alumni from previous cohorts can keep in touch with one another, sharing opportunities and networking via the LinkedIn Group.
For now, if you haven’t already, you can register your interest in the social investment unpicked course here.