Social impact bonds: the securitization of the homeless

Christine Cooper, Cameron Graham, Darlene Hinick

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper examines the recent phenomenon of social impact bonds (SIBs). Social impact bonds are an attempt to marketize/financialize to some contemporary, intractable “social problems” (for example, homelessness and criminal recidivism). SIBs rely on a vast array of accounting technologies including budgets, future cash flows, discounting, performance measurement and auditing. As such, they represent a potentially powerful and problematic use of accounting to enact government policy. This paper contains a case study of the most recent in a series of SIBs, the London Homelessness SIB and St Mungo’s, a London-based charitable foundation. The case is designed to enable a critical reflection on the rationalities which underpin the SIB. For this, the paper draws upon Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics and neo-liberalism. The SIB is thoroughly neoliberal in that it is constructed upon an assumption that there is no such thing as a social problem -- only individuals who fail; it transforms all participants in the bond, except the homeless themselves, into entrepreneurs. The homeless are securitised into the potential future cash flows of investors.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2015
Event11th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference 2015 - Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 8 Jul 201510 Jul 2015


Conference11th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference 2015


  • homelessness
  • social programmes
  • not-for-profit sector
  • biopolitics
  • Foucault


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