Networks of knowledge production and mobility in the world of social impact bonds

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Social impact bonds (SIBs) are a social policy model for privately financing social programs on an outcomes basis. Like other social and development policy trends of the last decade, the construction of SIBs has been characterised by a global circulatory infrastructure that has seen them emerge in upwards of 30 countries. In this article, we interrogate the dynamics of the SIB ‘policy world’ that has enabled that mobility. We build a novel dialogue between the theoretical frameworks of ‘policy mobilities’ and ‘policy knowledge networks’. We argue that the lack of engagement with the internal dynamics of networks is a missed opportunity for political economy and policy mobilities approaches. As such, we employ a novel form of social network analysis, examining the ties of collaboration and advice between the authors of SIB policy texts and the organisations that they are embedded in. We find that SIB texts were authored by a disconnected community that rarely collaborated across organisational or jurisdictional borders. Knowledge production in the SIB world was uneven, as places and actors with ‘good knowledge’ were repeatedly engaged. We conclude that the financialisation of global social policy that SIBs impel is constructed through hierarchies of space and place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1045
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number6
Early online date27 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • impact investing
  • networks
  • policy knowledge
  • policy mobilities
  • Social impact bonds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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