In the UK we still think of social investments as quite small: some organisations will look to raise less than £100,000, and ones looking for more than £5m are still quite rare. So it's in that context that it is fascinating to look at what happened recently in the US: the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation helped fund a drugmaker, Vertex, to work on Cystic Fibrosis medication, in exchange for a share of royalties for any drugs coming out of the research. Vertex went on to develop Kalydeco, a drug that can treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis for a small number of patients - and a couple of years later, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation sold their share of the royalty rights for $3.3bn.
Now this is interesting for two reasons: firstly because it demonstrates that social investments don't have to be in charities and social enterprises – with the right financial structure they can be with a much more conventional corporate. The second reason is that we don't always have to think so small: where a compelling financial case can be made, investments can be orders of magnitude bigger than the ones we have become used to in the social investment marketplace.
This news story from Bloomberg has more details about the development of Kalydeco: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-07-07/this-medical-charity-made-3-3-billion-from-a-single-pill