Impact investment dream team targets new inclusive economy

The Global Social Impact Investment Steering Group (GSG) convenes in Lisbon today. It is led by Sir Ronald Cohen and brings together representatives of 13 countries, the EU and governments to promote social impact investment across the world.

The GSG is the successor to the Social Impact Investment Taskforce unveiled in 2013 by David Cameron. In the UK, the GSG is supported by a National Advisory Board and a Practitioners' Council which comprise a 'dream team' of influential senior executives both connected to and working within impact investment, including former ministers Hazel Blears and Alan Milburn, and Nick Donohue, previously head of Big Society Capital.

The vision from the UK's point of view is "to build a sustainable and inclusive economy", according to Michele Giddens, founder and partner at Bridges Ventures and chair of the UK National Advisory Board. It also aims to see "that measurable impact is regularly embraced as a deliberate driver in investment and business decisions to create better outcomes for stakeholders and wider society."

Giddens was very clear about why that needs to happen. She said: “Impact investors are increasingly proving that capital can be a powerful force for social change. 

“The UK currently faces stark challenges. Large sections of the population feel that the economic system does not work for them, crucial public services like health and education are under severe pressure and we face global environmental challenges. 

“All of this highlights the need for a more inclusive, more sustainable approach to business. Impact investment can play a vital role in addressing these and many other challenges, by delivering better, more cost-effective outcomes for the most underserved members of society.”

Also led by Sir Ronald Cohen, the Social Impact Investment Taskforce aimed to catalyse the development of the social impact investment market. It brought together government officials and senior figures from the worlds of finance, business and philanthropy from across the G8 countries.

It was instrumental in sharing approaches in the areas of impact measurement, asset allocation, international development and impact investing and ‘mission alignment’ (corporate forms, governance and legal protection).

The taskforce oversaw the preparation of a report on the global social investment market by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last year. That report identified a lack of communication about impact investing, with the market looking very different country to country.

Large sections of the population feel that the economic system does not work for them

As a result of that, the Global Impact Investment Steering Group includes more countries to share learning. The membership now consists of 14 members; the EU counts as one member, but others now include Brazil, Mexico and India.

“Every country that wants to apply to join needs to show that they have a real policy interest in expanding the impact investing sector in their country and they do that by having a national advisory board or a taskforce,” explained Giddens. 

Other members of the UK National Advisory Board are connected to the impact investing sector but not rooted within it. They include former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn, who is now the chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, and former chief executive of Big Society Capital, Nick O’Donohue.

UK National Advisory Board for the GSG
Alan Milburn Chair of Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission
David Blood Co-Founder of Generation Investment Management
Dawn Austwick CEO Big Lottery Fund
Sir Harvey McGrath Chair of Big Society Capital and Heart of the City
Hazel Blears Chair, Social Investment Business
Helia Ebrahimi Business Correspondent, Channel 4 News
Keith Smithson Managing Director in Treasury at Barclays
Laurie Spengler President of Enclude
Nick O'Donohoe Senior Advisor on Blended Finance at Gates Foundation
Sacha Romanovitch CEO of Grant Thornton
Saker Nusseibeh CEO of Hermes Investment Management
Tim Farazmand Non Executive Director of ClearlySo
Sir Tony Hawkhead CEO of Action for Children


The UK's Practitioners' Council sits alongside the National Advisory Board. It consists of 12 people that work in impact investment, including Rodney Schwartz of ClearlySo, Cliff Prior of Big Society Capital and Alastair Davis, CEO of Social Investment Scotland.

UK Practitioners' Council
Alastair Davis CEO Social Investment Scotland
Catherine Howarth CEO of ShareAction
Cliff Prior CEO of Big Society Capital
David Hutchinson CEO of Social Finance
Edward Siegel MD of Big Issue Invest
James Perry Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of UK B Lab
Jonathan Jenkins CEO of Social Investment Business
Kieron Boyle CEO of Guy's and St Thomas' Charity
Matt Robinson Director at CDC
Rod Schwartz CEO and Founder of ClearlySo
Shamez Alibhai Partner at Cheyne Capital
Whitni Thomas IR Manager at Triodos Bank



Photo credit: Simon Doggett