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Measuring the Social, Making Markets: Imagining and Constructing Global markets for Social Investment




The project will analyse the (international) creation of social investment (SI) markets, addressing the following research objectives:

  • What ideas and discourses support the different models of an SI market?
  • How do different understandings translate into market practice?
  • How do market practices travel across space and place?


The concept of Social Investment has also been globalized through major reports by the European Commission, OECD and G8, which herald it an example of inclusive capitalism. In 2012, the UK government established the world’s first SI bank, Big Society Capital, to create a ‘thriving social investment market’, understood as a ‘new asset class’. The stated vision of UK SI stakeholders is to create an export market of innovative services and intellectual capital, which would turn the City of London into a global hub for SI. This would, presumably, imply that the UK’s vision of SI as an asset class would be promoted in export markets. However, there are competing views of SI.

This project analyses how the different imaginings of Social Investment are performed in practice. It will address three key research aims:

  • To identify the core principles of different understandings of SI;
  • To distinguish the backgrounds of different understandings of SI;
  • To analyse the implementations of different models of SI.

By analysing the processes by which these markets are ‘being made’ and the challenges and opportunities they face in travelling across ventures, project types and geographies, this research will provide highly relevant outcomes for theory and policy, including

  • development on the understanding of processes of market creation;
  • understanding of the mechanisms for the measurement of social value;
  • insight in to ‘market-making’ including progress and barriers and opening the way for reporting, briefing and roundtable activity, on an international scale.
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