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Narratives of promise, narratives of caution: a review of the literature on social impact bonds

Fraser, Alec, Tan, Stefanie, Lagarde, Mylène ORCID: 0000-0002-5713-2659 and Mays, Nicholas (2016) Narratives of promise, narratives of caution: a review of the literature on social impact bonds. Social Policy and Administration. ISSN 0144-5596

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Identification Number: 10.1111/spol.12260


Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are a new mechanism for delivering public services. This article reviews the emerging SIB literature in high-income settings. It identifies three distinct narratives: a public sector reform narrative; a financial sector reform narrative; and a cautionary narrative. These are analyzed relative to three themes: public versus private values; outcomes contracting; and risk allocation. The first two narratives are complementary and offer a ‘win-win’ portrayal of SIBs. The third narrative challenges this dominant commentary by highlighting potential risks. There is limited empirical evidence on active SIBs to support these narratives. SIBs may have the potential to align public and private interests while improving outcomes for people affected by entrenched social problems, but this is yet to be established and appears less probable than the third more cautionary narrative. More empirical research is needed to consider the potential risks, drawbacks, benefits and alternatives of SIBs in different settings.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Wiley
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2017 17:16
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 05:12

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