Tackling the Big Questions in Social Impact Bond Research through Comparative Approaches

Clare FitzGerald*, Alec Fraser, Jonathan Kimmitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This special issue of theJournal of Comparative Policy Analysis brings together four cross-disciplinary articles representing the first concerted attempt to combine comparative approaches to extend theoretical and empirical understandings of Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). SIBs are investment-backed payment-by-results projects and have been subject to vigorous academic debate on their appropriateness and efficacy since the first SIB launched in 2010. This introduction to the special issue outlines the state of the academic literature on SIBs, identifying gaps and suggesting five big questions that do not yet have satisfactory answers: (1) What are the administrative or political problems to which SIBs respond? (2) Where and why do SIBs emerge in particular contexts? (3) What is the role of SIBs in the evidence-based policy movement? (4) Is delivering an intervention through a SIB more effective than other means and are associated costs justifiable? (5) Do SIBs catalyse wider organizational, system, or institutional changes? This introduction then summarizes the articles included in this special issue, discusses how they respond to these big questions, and suggests that further comparative research might best address remaining gaps in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-99
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2020


  • marketization
  • neoliberal
  • public management
  • public service contracting
  • social impact bonds


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