Paradoxes of Social Impact Bonds

Maier, Florentine ORCID: and Barbetta, Gian Paolo and Godina, Franka (2017) Paradoxes of Social Impact Bonds. Social Policy & Administration. ISSN 1467-9515


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Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) have alternatively been portrayed as a promising tool to improve the functioning of welfare systems, or as an instrument of neoliberalism that threatens to undermine them. Recently, a more nuanced understanding of the promises as well as pitfalls of SIBs has developed, as both practical experiences and published empirical evidence about implemented SIBs have increased in number. We aim to contribute to the development of such an understanding by means of a combination of qualitative and quantitative text analysis. In doing so, we analyse a comprehensive sample of 51 practitioner reports on SIBs. We identify two key paradoxes of SIBs. These paradoxes centre on statements that cannot both hold true for the very same SIB: (1) flexible but evidence-based services and (2) cost-saving risk transfer to private investors. We conclude by discussing how those paradoxes have been resolved in existing SIBs so far, which strategies of de-paradoxification may turn out paramount in future, and how positive aspects of SIBs can be preserved while defusing their more problematic ones.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Maier, Florentine, Barbetta, Gian Paolo, and Godina, Franka. 2017. "Paradoxes of Social Impact Bonds." Social Policy & Administration, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving. To see the final version of this paper please visit the publisher's website. Access to the published version requires a subscription.
Keywords: Performance measurement; Private investment; Social Impact Bonds; Social services
Version of the Document: Submitted
Depositing User: ePub Administrator
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2018 09:34
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2020 11:33
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