Social innovation, financialisation and commodification: a critique of social impact bonds

Stephen Sinclair*, Neil McHugh, Michael J. Roy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
857 Downloads (Pure)


Despite a lack of evidence of their effectiveness there is increasing enthusiasm for Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) from diverse political perspectives across the world. This paper argues that while SIBs may potentially be applicable to some technical policy interventions which address relatively simple conditions, they are inappropriate for the complex conditions characterising wicked social problems. Enthusiasm for and over-extension of SIBs reflects a simplistic view of ‘evidence-based’ policy. More fundamentally, SIBs commodify citizens and redefine service users as problems and potential revenue sources rather than conscious agents. SIBs therefore exemplify a prevalent ideology of marketisation and financialisation in social policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-27
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Economic Policy Reform
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Structure and scope of government
  • Publicly provided goods
  • Development planning and policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business and International Management


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