Our 'UK regional and national spotlight' campaign focuses on ‘Place’, spotlighting the power of social investment from each and every corner of the UK. Today, we’re spotlighting Greater London...

Would you believe us if we told you that the City of London is actually the smallest in the UK, at 1.2 square miles in size with a population of just over 9,000 people? No, thought not. 

The official name for the megacity we all know and refer to is in fact ‘Greater London’, which is 606 square miles in size and somewhere that around 8.7 million people call home. Perhaps even more surprising, it’s technically classified as a forest. The number of trees per square mile in the capital qualifies it as such in line with the United Nations definition.

With so many people in one place and a city facing such unique challenges in terms of the social issues it’s trying to tackle, there’s no shortage of inspiring social investment activity in Greater London. 

In this blog, we focus on examples and stories of organisations that have used social investment in the capital that have been showcased on Good Finance over the years... 

Case Studies 

One of the best ways to learn more about social investment and how it can be used is through examples. Good Finance has 115 case studies and counting – here we spotlight just five recent stories from the London...

Café Van Gogh 

Café van Gogh is a restaurant with a social and environmental mission in Brixton. Apart from serving delicious vegan and seasonally changing food, the restaurant also provides employment and training opportunities for people additional needs, like learning disabilities and mental health challenges. They used social investment to support their cash flow. Read the full case study to learn more about their journey…

Central YMCA 

Central YMCA is the world’s first YMCA, established in 1844, and a leading UK education, health and wellbeing charity. Their work includes creating alternatives to traditional education such as apprenticeships and study programmes, training fitness professionals, developing qualifications and helping people improve their health and wellbeing through the largest gym in central London. They sought social investment to refinance an existing loan and to ensure they could continue the delivery of community services during the pandemic. Here’s how

London Early Years Foundation

LEYF runs 40 nurseries across 12 London boroughs, delivering high quality Early Years education and care to children aged from birth to five years old. Their mission is to give children the best start in life by providing access to high quality, affordable Early Years education and care within the communities they serve. Read more about how they secured social investment in the form of a charity bond to acquire and integrate new nurseries, enabling them to grow and scale the impact they have on communities in London. 

Young People Matter

Young People Matter is an award winning charity and community action group bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to nurture children’s potential, promote healthy living and develop a greater sense of social responsibility. The social investment was used to open a new income generating after school club in January 2020. Learn more about their experiences thus far, via the full case study

Old Spike Roastery 

Old Spike Roastery source, roast and pack some of the finest coffee available whilst offering meaningful employment to those affected by homelessness. They have a couple of cafes but also supply coffee to businesses. The loan was towards the refurbishment cost of a new location for Old Spike Roastery that offers commercial benefits and the opportunity for Old Spike Roastery to grow its impact. Read more about their experiences with social investment via the full case study. 

Case studies - London

Check out our Case Study Mapper and filter by the London to view all of the case studies we have from organisations that have harnessed the power of social investment in the capital and surrounding areas. 

Have you got a social investment story to tell? We’d love to spotlight more examples of social investment in action in the London to support organisations that are currently exploring repayable finance. You can submit your experiences online here, alternatively email aconstable@goodfinance.org.uk to arrange content collection.

Must-Reads: London

We also have various blogs, media and news from the London Area that help to provide a place-based perspective on the region. From guest blogs and opinion pieces to interviews with investees, here’s a couple of must-read's...

Building Back Greener: How Two Community Organisations Used Social Investment to Help The Planet

Our partners at Locality have previously explored how organisations have used social investment to build back greener, and this includes an interview with Wandsworth-based voluntary group, CREW Energy. They took raised community shares to increase community uptake on heat pumps, which help save both energy and money in comparison to has boilers. Director Toby Costin’s advice for any organisations seeking social investment? 

“Go for it. The type of funding we received was transformative and really moved us to the next level in our growth process.” 

Read the full blog. 

Using Social Investment to Scale your Organisation 

Our Marketing Partners, School for Social Entrepreneurs, have previously explored how social investment can be used effectively to scale your organisation and the impact it is able to deliver, and used Change Please as a case study for this piece. Change Please supports people experiencing homelessness, helping them secure a living wage job, housing, training and onwards opportunities. Director of Impact and Fundraising, Laurence Higgins, had this to say on the topic: 

“Social investment has been absolutely vital to the continued success and growth of Change Please, helping us to scale both commercially and socially.”

Read the full blog. 

Must Watch and Listen

Over the years, we've ran various events, both in-person and online and captured some of our amazing 'Hear From a Peer' speakers as they reflect on their experiences with social investment. We also have over 75 Podcasts, all of which are available to listen to via the streaming service of your choice. Here's our pick for the London...

Hidden Voices: In Conversation with Carl Konadu BEM Co-Founder of 2-3 Degrees

2-3 Degrees is an award-winning social enterprise that inspires and equips young people with the personal development skills they need to become the best versions of themselves. Since 2016, 2-3 Degrees has worked with over 6,000 young people across the UK in education, community and sport. In this podcast, Engagement Officer Fayyadh Shamsuddin caught up with Co Founder Carl Konadu BEM on their experiences with social investment. 

Hidden Voices: Bees and Refugees 

Bees & Refugees was founded in 2020 by Ali Alzein, to support newly settled refugees in London. Learn more about his journey so far and what’s next for the organisation via this podcast. 

A Changing World: Caramel Rock 

Caramel Rock is a fashion and creative arts education charity based in Newham, London, providing training and opportunities, supporting young people to achieve both short-term and long-term goals. Read the full case study and listen to this podcast, where we caught up with Founder, Faith Johnson, to get her perspectives and reflections from the ever-changing global circumstances in 2020.  

Addressing Imbalance Live

Addressing Imbalance Live took place on 13 September 2022 in Coin Street Waterloo, London, and online as 1-day event for leaders of charities, social enterprises and community groups which are traditionally underrepresented or marginalised. The event showcased the role of social investment in diverse communities, offered real life insights facilitated conversations, connections and discussions around how social investment can be made more accessible. You can catch-up on on all the sessions of the day, on demand here

Second Shot Coffee: Using Coffee and SITR to Tackle Homelessness

After exploring different avenues for funding, Julius Ibrahim, Founder of Second Shot Coffee used SITR to raise £75k. With this, he was able to get Second Shot Coffee off the ground and support the first few months of cash flow. Learn more about their social enterprise via the full case study and watch the video below. 

Together TV 

Chief executive of Together TV Alex Kann explains how they raised social investment through community shares and Social Investment Tax Relief to become the UK's first people-owned TV channel for social impact – dedicated to turn viewing into doing with 4 million viewers a month, 15-20 unique viewers annually, plus 2 million per month engaging via social media. Read the case study and watch the video below to learn more. 

Spotlight on: Whitni Thomas, Head of Corporate Finance, Triodos Bank UK

The corporate finance team at Triodos Bank helps social businesses and charities connect directly with investors to raise finance.

They provided social investment for London Early Years Foundation, featured in the case study section above. 

We caught up with Head of Corporate Finance, Whitni Thomas, on her thoughts and reflections from 2023 along with hopes for 2024 and beyond....

What has been your highlight for 2023? 

The courage shown by organisations in this sector in the face of a tough economic climate has been impressive and humbling. We know that charities and social enterprises have been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis and it’s heartening to see their determination to continue to do what they can to increase their positive impact.

Do you have any standout social investment deals that you think demonstrate the resilience of the charity / social enterprise sector? 

Organisations we’ve worked with in recent years, such as the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), remain willing to take risks to be able to grow. Our £1.5m bond has supported LEYF in expanding its portfolio of nurseries as part of its ambition to provide 10,000 children across Greater London with access to high-quality and affordable Early Years education. Especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Standout social investment deals from this year in particular include a £2.2m loan from Triodos Bank that will help Gympanzees to create a purpose-built leisure centre for disabled children, young people and their families. Until now, the charity has been running events in the school holidays in special schools.

We recently launched a charity bond for Thera Trust, which provides care, support and services for people with a learning disability. The charity is seeking to raise £5m to support its continued growth, providing more care and housing for people with a learning disability.

From our point of view, it’s very encouraging that investors are still willing to back such projects despite the challenges posed by the current economic climate.  

What would be your #1 tip for a charity or social enterprise at the very start of their journey with social investment? 

It’s best to take a holistic approach to capital raising and to have a three-year plan in place – or, ideally, a five-year plan if at all possible. That way, the organisation can really understand where social investment might be able to fulfil their needs and where they might need to focus on other forms of funding.

What are your key objectives and goals for 2024? 

Much like the charities we work with, we aim to help create a society that protects and promotes the quality of life for all. Supporting charities is intrinsic to our mission, rather than simply a product or service that we offer. 

We will continue to enable social enterprises and charities to grow their impact by providing them with the finance they need, while helping them to think through what they need to do to adapt to the requirements of a net zero transition.  

What do you think will be your biggest challenge(s) for 2024 and beyond?

While we’re in a challenging financial climate, there remains a growing awareness that everything you do with your money has an impact and more and more people are willing to invest for social change. This is something to feel positive about despite the economic backdrop as we head into 2024.

That’s a wrap for today! We are delighted to celebrate the social investment space in the London, and we know there is so much more to tell. 

If we’ve missed anything or you’d like to chat to us about featuring more content based in London on Good Finance, please email aconstable@goodfinance.org.uk and we’d love to chat further! 

Have a browse off various regional and national spotlight's across the UK!

- Spotlight series: West Midlands 

- Spotlight series: East Midlands

- Spotlight series: South West

- Spotlight series: South East

- Spotlight series: North West

- Spotlight series: Scotland

- Spotlight series: Yorkshire and Humber

- Spotlight series: East England 

- Spotlight series: North East

- Spotlight series: Northern Ireland 

- Spotlight series: Wales