Paradoxes of Social Impact Bonds

Florentine Maier, Gian Paolo Barbetta, Franka Godina

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1332 - 1353
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502025 Econometrics
  • 506009 Organisation theory
  • 502023 NPO research

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