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Contested Social Impact Bonds: welfare conventions, conflicts and compromises in five European Active-Labor Market Programs

Alec Fraser, Lisa Knoll & Debra Hevenstone (2022)

International Public Management Journal, Online first

Abstract. Over the past decade Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) have attracted much public policy and management research interest and debate. This article draws on the Welfare Conventions Approach to explore the diversity of five SIB-financed Active Labor Market Programs in four European countries using comparative case study methods. We identify a tension between the requirement to align civic and financial interests in SIB-financed programs alongside a drive to reform public sector procurement in a more entrepreneurial direction. We suggest that the diversity of SIBs emanates from the political struggles in implementation processes stemming from a plurality of welfare conventions that actors need to align and compromise. SIBs are built within historically grown “institutional contexts” that are themselves on the move over decades of welfare state reform, and processes of marketization – and thus far from homogenous.

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