Institute for Social Innovation and Impact (ISII)

The Institute for Social Innovation and Impact (ISII) at the University of Northampton evaluates and measures the social impact of social innovations in the UK and around the world, as well as exploring the financing of, and policy support for, social innovation. The ISII defines social impact as ‘the economic, social and environmental benefits delivered by an organisation to society’ and the Institute views social innovation as any new structure or process that enhances a society’s resources and cohesion. Crucially, the ISII is fully self-sustaining and sources its income entirely from external contracts/grants, with no core University funding provided. In this way it operates in the same manner as a socially innovative, entrepreneurial organisation!

What does the ISII do?

  • Supports social innovators to develop their ideas and organisations through the delivery of cutting-edge academic research and consultancy services.
  • Collaborates on multi-disciplinary research projects through internal partnerships with the University’s other research institutes and centres, as well through external partnerships with other universities and organisations.
  • Evaluates the social impact of a range of initiatives and organisations, through the use of their bespoke ‘Social Impact Matrix©’ and qualitative research methods.
  • Supports the University in developing, implementing and evaluating socially innovative, high impact projects.
  • Engages in international collaborations centred on sustainable development with other universities, NGOs and international funders.


The Institute for Social Innovation and Impact (ISII) has research interests in several areas, including at national, European and international levels:

  • Social Innovation: the creation of new solutions to social problems that empowers people to improve their lives, communities and society.
  • Social Impact: the tangible impact created through innovations/projects that create tangible (and often monetary) impact for society.
  • Social Investment: investment for businesses that does not just focus on the financial returns to be generated, but also the social impact that can be produced from the investment.
  • Educational Innovation: changes to the way that children, young people and adults are educated to support their learning through non-traditional approaches that overcome traditional barriers to education (especially for the socially disadvantaged).
  • Social Enterprise: a form of social innovation that takes place through a business model whereby the primary mission is the creation of social impact, with financial sustainability funding this through trading income.
  • Public Service Reform: in particular with regards to social value procurement and the creation of public service mutuals/spin-outs from the public sector.
  • Cross-cultural research: research that explores common areas of interest across different cultures/countries, particularly in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
  • Sustainable development: we are committed to supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda across our research and impact work.

View the Centre on PURE

  • Institute for Social Innovation and Impact Leadership

    You can view our institute’s researchers on PURE.

  • Reviewing & improving identification of ex-service personnel in the Criminal Justice System in England, Wales and Scotland and their access to and take up of support

    This project is a partnership between Nacro, the Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice (IPSCJ) and the Institute of Social Innovation and Impact (ISII) at the University of Northampton. This collaboration brings together highly regarded academic expertise; working experience of every stage of the criminal justice pathway; experience of working with ex-service personnel; and a strong track record of creating policy and practice change.

    There is currently limited data on the numbers of ex-service personnel in the CJS across England, Wales and Scotland. More is known about those people who are imprisoned but the statistics across all three jurisdictions provide an incomplete picture for a number of reasons, most significantly the reliance on self-disclosure. Government statistics estimate that approximately 3.5% – 4% in custody and on community orders in England & Wales are ex-service personnel, and external estimates have reported that the proportion in the prison population ranges from 3.5% and 17%. 11% of people in prison in Scotland reported having been in the armed forces in the 2019 Scottish Prison Survey.

    Across other areas of the CJS there is a lack of reliable data, such as for those on probation (it was estimated that 3.4% of those subject to probation supervision in 2011 were ex-service personnel), and in addition there is a lack of data on those who are at risk of offending, such as those who may have been identified by social or welfare services.

    An evaluation of the Social Impact of the YMCA Under One Roof Project

    The new YMCA building in Milton Keynes (MK) provides an opportunity to build a new culture and an assets-based approach to helping people who are homeless as part of the Under One Roof (U1R) project. This project is significant for the growing numbers of young people who come to the MK YMCA with a range of complex needs.

    This research aims to provide a comprehensive evaluation framework capable of both assessing the social impact of the U1R service and seeking to measure longitudinal change, across the three years of the research, in outcomes over time (e.g. wellbeing, self-efficacy). Building on the University of Northampton’s ‘Social Impact Matrix©’ approach, the research will evaluate the short- and long-term outcomes of the services on young people, aged 18-35 years, in relation to their personalised pathway of support, across all three stages, from emergency accommodation to living independently, moving on and gaining employment.

    Building on the University of Northampton’s ‘Social Impact Matrix©’ approach, this evaluation will evaluate the short- and long-term outcomes of the services on young people, aged 18-35 years in relation to their personalised pathway of support, across its three stages:

    • Stage 1: emergency accommodation
    • Stage 2: cluster/supported living
    • Stage 3: living independently, moving on and gaining employment.

    Advancing Digital Competence in Higher Education

    ADVICE project is a joint effort of higher education institutions from four countries – Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, and Poland as coordinator – utilizing synergy between a variety of experiences.

    It is aimed at supporting higher education teachers in tackling their digital competence gaps and mismatches, by creating a Digital Competence Learning Hub – an open platform integrating a competence assessment tool and a complementary database of tools and resources available online. The project also aims at preparing a set of recommendations for stakeholders and decision-makers, which should help build the capacity of higher education systems for more inclusive online education.

    Social Innovation Linkages for Knowledge Exchange Networks (SILKEN) Vietnam

    SILKEN-VIETNAM will take the lessons learnt from the SILKEN project seeking to embed some of its initiatives at an institutional level within Vietnamese and partner UK universities. The project will establish ‘social innovation support units’ within six Vietnamese universities, partnering with similar units already operating within their UK counterpart institutions. It will support Vietnamese HEIs with curriculum development, research, knowledge exchange, internationalisation, and incubation.

    Find out more about our institute’s projects here.

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