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Measuring impact: critical overview of concepts and practice

Reeder, Neil and Colantonio, Andrea (2013) Measuring impact: critical overview of concepts and practice. EIBURS Working Paper (2013/01). LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Impact Investing is a form of investment that has risen to prominence in recent years. Compared to other forms of socially responsible investment, the most prominent feature of impact investing is its focus on measuring the social and environmental return that it generates. In response, much effort has been undertaken to develop effective measurement systems, but confusion remains around the notions of ‘non-financial return’ and ‘impact’, and their assessment in practice. Thus this paper provides a preliminary overview of those underlying concepts, drawing especially on the perspective of impact investing literature. Further, it begins to cast a critical eye on the roles and responsibilities within measurement, making more explicit the subjective interpretation of social and environmental return (SER) by investors, and the clash of concepts taken from other older measurement traditions. In doing so, the paper investigates some of the tensions around breadth of coverage; participation and objectivity; attribution of impact; rigour and flexibility, and the very concept of ‘a return’ itself. Within this context, the paper shows that the sector does not yet appear to have found a pragmatic, participative, systematic way forward, and concludes with the identification of key research areas that need to be addressed to advance knowledge. Further empirical data collection and analysis will be undertaken for papers to be published in a subsequent series.

Item Type: Monograph (Report)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 The Authors
Divisions: LSE Cities
Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Research centres and groups > LSE Cities (Cities Programme)
Research centres and groups > Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE)
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2014 14:11
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2021 23:23
Funders: European Investment Bank Institute

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