Our model takes inspiration from both Social Impact Bonds and the model of Personal Budgets but takes only the best from each of these and improves upon their flaws, or the challenges within them. Like Social Impact Bonds we focus on prevention but the emphasis here is on the community to lead the way, to hold the purse strings and to see financial power flow from the bottom up not the top-down.


The UK is faced with a complex array of linked social problems, from health, housing, education and employment. We are also in the middle of an unprecedented contraction in public spending, which the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast is only going to get deeper in the future. These problems are exacerbated by the changing demands of an ageing population, which continually increases the burden on the services which are designed to address these areas. These services were designed in different times and in response to different problems, meaning they have real difficulty adapting to the different needs of their users. Put simply, we have increasing demand for public services, and fewer resources to deliver them, meaning that we must find innovative ways of delivering more with less.

The challenge is not going to lessen. As an example, there are currently 11 million people in the UK over 65. By 2050, this number is projected to almost double to 19 million. 3 million people are currently aged 80 or over. This number is projected to double by 2035 and treble by 20453. The challenges in caring for an ageing population have been well ­documented, and these come with equivalent financial costs. The Age UK report previously cited shows that we spend £2bn each year on hip fractures, that one third of people who are 65+ fall each year, and that of these, 3,200 die. That’s one every three hours.

We won’t pretend that there is a simple solution, because there isn’t. Elderly fall victims are not simply at risk from falling alone, but suffer increased co-­morbidities, such as increased risk of isolation and depression. However, it is clear that we need to see a systemic shift in how we view and approach the provision of public services in order to have a chance of designing a system that works, both now and in the future. Fundamentally, this means putting the individuals and communities who are benefitting from these services at the centre of their design.

The​ C​omplication

There is an increasing recognition that new approaches need to be found across the spectrum, from funding, through service design and service delivery. Thematically, this has been seen in the development of social impact bonds, which offer payment by outcomes and new ways of attracting private investment to help solve social problems.

Geographically, there has also been an increasing move towards devolution, both in national terms with Scotland, and on a city-­specific basis, most notably the coming devolution of powers to Greater Manchester.

We have also seen the rise of user­-centred design to redefine public services, most notably Barry Quirk in the London Borough of Lewisham5, as well as the ongoing work of F​utureGov.​

The Solution

We believe that the time is right to bring these trends together to design a new approach to designing, funding and investing in public services to ensure they continue to be delivered in a way that is appropriate to the needs of their users, as well as commissioners. P​ut simply, our approach is to work with communities, investors and commissioners to co­design services and contracts which deliver sustainable social returns and a range of financial savings. In practical terms, this means working with communities and the local social economy to co­design solutions to entrenched and complex issues.
Our process is as follows:
● We work with commissioners and the local community to identify a social problem, obtain a budget to tackle it, and create a contractual framework to deliver appropriate interventions.
● Commissioners grant the budget to tackle the problem in its entirety to the community. This is then held in trust by 3Co.
● 3Co works with the community to award contracts to local social enterprises to deliver the services.
● 3Co attracts additional investment required from social investors.
● 3Co remains accountable for the ultimate delivery of the services and the ongoing measurement and evaluation of the outcomes.
● We ultimately deliver benefits, both financial and social in nature.

The unique approach is underpinned through service users, commissioners and social investors co-­designing, co­-commissioning and co-­financing service delivery that creates positive change through achieving pre­-agreed outcomes and outputs, which satisfy the aims and objectives of all stakeholders.

3Co can't do all this on its own; creating a vibrant social economy that addresses real issues within communities requires us to work alongside many partners. We have much to offer those partners and ask only three things in return. Be prepared to challenge every assumption you hold, to use the voice of the citizen to help you understand need and to prepare to be amazed by the level of benefit we can create.

Our offer to you:
● COMMUNITIES. We will listen to your everyday experience of the way your community works. We will share data openly, and work with you to interpret it so that the outcomes you want are prioritised.
● LOCAL DELIVERY PARTNERS. We are not a competitor, we need your business to be strong. We will engage you in service design and help you to develop your business within a dynamic local system to deliver more social change.
● INVESTORS. We will give you a blended return. 3Co delivers social outcomes on an unprecedented scale, and we will return your money (with interest) too.
● COMMISSIONERS. We will save you money and improve social outcomes for your communities.
● GOVERNMENT. We give you a model that can be implemented elsewhere. Starting in Greater Manchester, the lessons learned and outcomes delivered can be shared nationwide.