12 August 2013

Social Impact Bonds: not very exciting

Toby Eccles earlier this year asked why uptake of Social Impact Bonds hasn't been spectacular. SIBs, you may recall, are similar to Social Policy Bonds, but they aren't tradeable.

And because SIBs are not tradeable, objectives have to be narrow, and so will fail to capture the public imagination. Also Mr Eccles says, '[g]overnment likes to know who it’s dealing with' and this, to me, is another problem with SIBs: they take current institutions, with their agendas, hidden or otherwise, as a given.

Tradeability makes Social Policy Bonds wholly different. With tradeability people can make a profit without holding the bonds until the targeted goal has been reached. So with Social Policy Bonds we can target broad, long-term goals that:
  • appeal more to the public. With Social Policy Bonds goals such as universal literacy or world peace can be targeted. But with SIBs they are as unimaginably unrealistic policy goals as they are they are under the current system; and 

  • therefore are far more likely to be be issued and backed by bodies other than government, including the public. 

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