Metrics Millennium: Social Impact Investment & the Measurement of Value

Mitchell, K. (2016). Metrics millennium: Social impact investment and the measurement of value. Comparative European Politics, 15(5), 751-770.

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The narratives and practices of measuring social value in the arena of social impact investment are investigated. Assumptions about the neutrality and transparency of metrics,

translated through popular terms such as ‘‘best practices’’ and ‘‘evidence-based policy,’’

give legitimacy to new forms of governance, such as are manifested in contemporary

instruments of social finance now emerging in Europe. Many of these terms and

practices are derived from influential philanthropic actors such as the US-based Bill and

Melinda Gates Foundation; they are further disseminated globally by celebrity

humanitarians like Bono, who connects policy-makers, financiers, and philanthropists in

a rapidly widening network of social impact investment stakeholders. These now global

webs of belief about efficiency and modern forms of measurement in philanthropic

practices are mobilised by political elites in Europe, who draw on the scientific

rationalities of expertise to nudge governments toward market-oriented solutions to

contemporary social problems.


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