Social impact, the smart way

Social impact is all about improving the economic and social welfare of individuals within a local area.

Smart Social does this by:

  •   working with service providers and partners to design impact projects – this includes assessing the social and economic value in a business case that outcome payers support;

  •   bringing in commercial and social investors to focus on funding projects – this is usually for non-profit, charitable or voluntary sector organisations (working as a consortium) so they can do great, integrated work to reduce difficult social problems;

  •   developing the governance management and data collection to prove the impact and value – this demonstrates a project’s real transformational gain that is better than existing arrangements;

  •   working closely with all partners to map out the learning and best practice in the impact project – this means it can be replicated and offered to other areas, more people.

We transform local systems by investing into services that prevent and reduce problems and save resources in the long term, helping to pave the way to sustainable change.

Why we do it

Often if a social problem isn't dealt with, it will grow to an extent that it uses more and more resources in an area. For example, people end up relying on high cost public services such as A&E, social services, and the police.

Many social problems can be prevented or reduced, simply through the provision of services aimed at preventing the cause, and not simply addressing the effect.

We bring together investment from multiple sources to help local-voluntary bodies make this preventative difference. This difference is transformational, cost-effective and supports and enables local communities to deal with their own issues.

What we do

We use social impact bonds and investment products to put money to work in local prevention schemes. Our investors get their money back in the long term based upon the services success, and the local area gains sustainable change and measurable improvements, across areas such as health, justice, social care, employment and education.

All social impact services require careful monitoring of their impact and effects on an area, and investors take measured risks for any returns made.

What is a Social Impact Bond?

Social impact bonds (SIBs) are payment-by-results contracts which bring together private finance and non-profit organisations to provide services.

Social impact bonds differ from the traditional pay-for-service model where organisations are paid to provide services, but do not have to evidence impact resulting from their work.

Find out more about SIB's

Our team

Lee Whitehead

Lee is a social impact expert, with a career spanning over 25 years, Lee has worked with organisations such as NHS Trusts, Probation Services and Local Authorities on the implementation and delivery of new and improved services.

This is achieved through Lee's experience in combining commercial, public and non-profit sector organisations into planned agreements, thus maximising their ability to achieve greater successes and social value impact.

Gary Trowsdale

With a background in marketing, Gary has focussed his skills in getting people to take sit up and take note in the youth work arena.

He was previously the Managing Director of the Damilola Taylor Trust and in this role founded the Spirit of London Awards, which raised awareness of key issues affecting young people nationally, and has since led Gary onto other projects focussed on tacking youth violence including his most recent work as part of the Youth Violence Commission based in Westminster.

Martyn Oliver

Martyn is a qualified finance professional with a proven ‘hands-on’ capability at executive director level.

Martyn has been a Finance Director working for a social enterprise operating in a complex environment. He has direct experience of social investment appraisal work encompassing initial financial modelling, the raising of finance, measuring and reporting delivery, notably for multimillion pound social care schemes and youth projects.


Blog: What is the price of Hope?

In short, around about £19,000 per year. If you’re a tax-payer or a commissioner of health or social services then this is the average cost per year to give hope/to help a young person with moderate needs in a disadvantaged community. It can be ten times higher if we let that young person graduate to residential care or custody at a secure school or youth offender institution.

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Resources: Public Sector Commissioning Academy

This downloadable document starts to develop a new way for commissioners to engage the voluntary sector through the use of social impact investment. The focus is commissioning the voluntary sector as a mutual consortium in an area to address the multiplicity of clients’ needs in a coordinated way. Commissioners specify the outcomes and the consortium responds through an impact product that delivers a service that reduces future demand – an invest to save social impact scheme.

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Blog: Indexing and measuring social change impact… it’s important to (relatively) prove outcomes.

This is an important issue (especially as 2021 is the year of ‘levelling-up’ according to Government) and should directly influence all design/commissioning of social impact projects that support people to live better, healthier, productive lives. But most people will not have heard of indexation or measuring outcome success over time or against comparators (needed to prove ‘levelling-up’).

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Blog: ‘Levelling-up and Building Back Better’ - Feb 2021

It’s a positive, unintended consequence of the pandemic, - there is a mutual view that we should be there (socially distanced) for each other. I wonder if this will continue post-Covid? I hope so, because whilst we’ve all been impacted, it is poorer, disadvantaged communities/neighbourhoods that have disproportionately struggled and will do so for many years to come. This pandemic has a unique way of finding the raw nerve in those who are unemployed, emotionally fragile, already traumatised, exposed to violence, and broadly excluded. These groups, communities, neighbourhoods should be at the fore-front of the Government’s intention to ‘level-up’. It is simple public health logic (‘follow the science’ again) that the whole of society benefits when we lift-up those who need it most. A bit like the vaccine roll-out. So that’s where we should focus – on to how.

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Simplifying data, governance and outcomes in Social Impact products

I sometimes hear social impact projects are hard to understand. To be fair, I hear this mostly from Government and public sector commissioners of services. Those delivering social impact (especially the voluntary sector) completely get the value and transformation that social impact projects bring.

Of course, I don’t think social impact products are complex, and I want to dispel this notion so we can use them more coming out of the pandemic to really help those communities/groups disproportionately impacted (e.g. unemployed, struggling to get support, mentally fragile, excluded) because it makes social and economic sense (the Public Health model of earlier intervention and prevention applies). This brief document explains outcomes/indexing (reference of measures) that show social impact. Social impact is about proving a social and economic measured improvement.

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June 2021 – Approach to Social Impact for Societal Growth

Smart Social has considered carefully how individuals, groups and societies grow positively and how social impact methods can be deployed to assist through a public health approach. This document explains our approach, theory of change and how we measure/prove positive impact. It takes the view that all parts of society (businesses, public organisations, communities) should work together.

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Crisis v Earlier Prevention

This month we heard from the Government that their new lead for Civil Society (the DCMS Minister) says the Civil society is very important to ‘levelling up’. I agree – the following are thoughts on how and why the Government and associated agencies/commissioners may wish to engage in/understand better the Civil Society. Suggestions are made in terms of what that could look like practically to show broader social and economic value of prevention of future societal needs by using the available policy direction of alternate financing (social impact investing).

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Best Practice in Delivering Social Impact Bonds

In this document we look at common themes that lead to better outcomes in social impact products. How people work together, problem-solve and trust each other are crucial themes. Local ownership and co-production of the transformation model is the safest way to ensure delivery of outcomes. Social impact products can be innovative, learning concepts especially when applied to earlier intervention and changing root causes of perennial problems.

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Relationships Matter When it Comes to Social Impact

In this document we look at the behaviours and themes that deliver the best social impact products. This original research tells us that relationships, innovation vision and working with service users in a human learning system will lead to better impact projects. This has implications of why and how a social impact product should be developed. This research was presented to the Sept ’22 Government Outcomes Lab Social Outcomes Conference.

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Social Value Act – 10 Years On

This document looks at the Social Value Act 10 years on. The Act cannot be seen in isolation and has to be used strategically across the business, public and non-profit sectors. It suggests ways to work with the Act to help deliver local social impact benefit.

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Contact us

We are interested in assessing local ideas and bringing new investment to solve perennial social problems.

Contact us to start a fresh conversation.