Social investment data - telling the story

Transparency is a vital tool in delivering social impact. Greater transparency in the social investment market will help more social ventures get access to the capital they need to grow, and help socially minded investors deploy their funds to greatest effect. The Social Investment and Finance Team outlined a strong commitment to open data in the Open Government Partnership UK National Action Plan (2013-15) and we have worked with the Transparency Team colleagues to deliver this.

In December 2013 we worked alongside the Transparency Team release an open data resource detailing social investments made by UK charitable foundations. We supported a group of three charitable Foundations (LankellyChase, Panahpur and Barrow Cadbury) to release over 1000 data points on, using emerging industry standardsfrom Engaged Investment and further developing  the data fields using feedback from the sector. We also released an accompanying set of data visualisations to help people digest and analyse the data. The code for this work is available in an open source repository and is freely licensed, enabling replication for other data projects.

The dataset is a simple CSV file listing 65 separate investments. The data columns include information such as: Types of payments, geographic targets, charity & company numbers, payment frequencies, dates and amounts. We worked closely with the Foundations to develop standards that were both relevant and applicable to the sector; the data was then refined and aggregated into a master dataset. To investigate the data and form a broad picture, we used Python and the Pandas data analysis library to ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) the file, then built a derivative dataset of aggregates, groupings and averages which is rendered on the visualisation page. We use D3.js to render a page of graphs, exploring the different investment strategies of the three Foundations.

This month we are delighted to announce the release of two further open datasets for our Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (ICRF) and Social Incubator Fund. The data platform visualises how and where the funding has been deployed, comparing the investment strategies of the Social Incubators, and establishing the full distribution of investments made by the ICRF. We explored this data using a very similar strategy to the Foundations data work. Firstly, by downloading the raw files from every dataset, then loaded and merged with Python and Pandas to form a derivative dataset (by grouping investments by type, by incubator, by beneficiaries etc) and finally rendering the resultwith D3. 

We hope that more open data on the cost and availability of social investment will help social ventures better identify appropriate sources of financial support; and greater transparency on public service contracts, will help social ventures and investors find opportunities to deliver public services that are more effective than current provision. The Social Investment Finance Team has released a central inventory of data resources into the public domain here, including a unit cost database for Social Impact Bonds released under the Open Government License. If you have any comments or queries on the data, please contact us as

You can learn more about’s approach to transparency across government here.

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