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Chair « Finance for innovation » NL #3-Research in progress

01 août 2019
A Systematic Literature Review of Literature on Social Impact Bonds by Vincenzo Buffa

In this work, which comprises part of our PhD research, we undertake a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) on Social Impact Bonds-literature. A systematic literature review is a means of identifying, evaluating and interpreting all available research relevant to a particular research question.

The research method draws on electronic source databases and a clearly-defined selection process: including inclusions and exclusion criteria are both used for being sure to only include relevant papers. Both academic and ‘grey’ literature were included since this is a novel field and it was important to synthesize as much of the available literature as possible. At the end of the selection process, we identified 96 texts, which were coded and analyzed. The review aims to answer the following questions: What do we know about SIBs? How is the intellectual field of production along SIBs structured? What concepts are primarily mobilized?

Our first results highlight the presence of a complex intellectual field evolving over time. The core of the article will be represented by a detailed description of the different ways that authors have utilized to analyze, in a theoretical or empirical paradigm, the characteristics and the effects of SIBs in the different period that we identified.

We identify two different periods: an initial period characterized by a theoretical development based on speculation around the possible advantages and dangers of the SIB model. At this moment, the results of the studies diverge between some optimistic narrations and others that are much more critical about SIBs. Nevertheless, the absence of empirical studies make it difficult to understand the concrete sense and the factual effects attached to the SIBs implementation.

A second period witnesses the emergence of several empirical studies that analyze the first SIBs that have been operationalized in the Anglo-Saxon countries. This second group of texts give us a nuanced vision of SIBs, in a context of a more cautionary narration. 

The discussion will give us the possibility to highlight the gaps that remain in the literature, proposing some research questions on the SIBs literature that are undeveloped or underdeveloped.   

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Finance Innovation Excellence