Users and Use Cases

Social investment has many stakeholders. They may have many different information and data needs, in different settings and at different times.

Use cases provide a way to identify particular users, and user stories help to describe their information and data needs.

We have drawn on use cases to:

  • Develop and check our understanding of what different stakeholders want to do with social investment information and data.
  • Identify technical, data content and data quality requirements that may be needed to meet specific use cases and user needs.
  • Explain and promote the specification to external audiences.

Use Cases

The four use cases below provide examples of how user needs can be met by the Social Economy Data Lab Specification. Not all user needs can be met by the Specification and the data itself, but by tools and processes built around the Specification.

1. Maximising the social impact of investment

The driving motivation of social investors is to see a positive social impact as a result of their investment, as well as a financial return.

For those who take on social finance, their aim is to grow their business and to deliver more social good to the communities they serve on a sustainable basis.

Linked social investment data can help investors to identify organisations that are already using social investment, and how deals have performed. It can also help to build relationships between those who do good and those who fund good, and helps to expand the market.

Data can also help to highlight local areas and services where investments have not performed well in the past, or do not exist currently, and develop innovative approaches to these problems.

For example

As a social entrepreneur, I want to point to where social investment has been used successfully before, so that I have evidence to support my application for a loan

2. Monitoring the market

Relatively little is known about the overall size, make-up and growth of the social investment market.

Comparable data can support analysis and the identification of trends in the UK’s social investment market, and provides clearer evidence for policy-making in government, and strategising within social finance intermediaries.

While there are many large institutions who provide bank lending or specialist social investment instruments, there are also many others who aren’t identified by the label of social investment but nevertheless provide repayable finance to organisations with a social purpose.

An improved understanding of the range of finance options for social enterprises and community businesses builds on the existing knowledge of the social investment market.

For example

As an analyst, I want to be able to compare the impact of social investments across a number of deals, so that I can make a judgment on what works well in a particular section of the market

3. Improving efficiency in social investment finance institutions

Many social investment finance institutions (SIFIs) have come into existence only in recent years. As they cope with the task of putting in place new systems and processes, there is a risk that a lot of trial and error, and duplication of effort, is created.

A data specification can only help to address some of these inefficiencies, but easy-to-find, standardised, and free-to-use data can help SIFIs to streamline some business processes and underpin sound business practices.

Machine-readable data can also help in the automation of many of the monitoring and reporting processes that social investment intermediaries undertake.

For example

As a fund manager, I want to be able to benchmark our investments against others using data, so that I can report the impact of our funding to the board

4. Promoting transparency and shared learning

Social investment is a very different business to traditional banking and investing.

For many social lenders, demonstrating the transparency of their decision-making is an important value. Being able to show to that they are making the best use of their endowment can be a motivation factor, especially when sums of public money are involved.

As an innovative and relatively new way of making a social impact, transparency is also an important step in sharing learning and experience between investors. A data standard allows information to be shared in non-discriminatory way.

For example

As someone working in government policy, I want to know which options for increasing the amount of social investment will work best, so I can make recommendations underpinned by evidence