In this talk, I present findings from my dissertation in which I studied the implementation of a social policy tool called the Social Impact Bond (SIB), which was implemented in youth homelessness projects in the UK. SIBs are payment-by-results-based financial instruments that aim to render the financing and implementation of socially-oriented projects more efficient by connecting them to the financial sector. In this presentation, I focus on the ambivalent and contradictory ways in which this financial instrument shaped relationships, behaviours and practices on the ground. The SIB did not turn everything into a cash-nexus but also prompted emotional work and trustful relationships. I argue that the tool stands as exemplarily for a poverty politics that blends financial logics, emotive practices and insights from behavioural sciences into novel forms of capitalist accumulation under the aegis of social finance. In a second part, I present future research ideas focusing on the recent drive towards the digitalization of development policy interventions in the global South, mobilized around buzzwords such as digital identities, smart contracts and the blockchain.
Speaker: Manuel Wirth, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Manuel Wirth is a lecturer in Economic Geography at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In 2020, he finished his PhD thesis entitled “Doing good with finance?”, where he studied the implementation of Social Impact Bonds in youth homelessness projects in the United Kingdom. Working at the crossroads of cultural and political economy approaches, he is interested in the growing role of finance and behavioural economics in social policymaking in the global North and South. He is currently mapping out future research ideas for a post-doc project that focuses on digital innovations in the field of impact investing and development finance in India.