An Appraisal

Project reference number: GSBS-S2018-018-Roy

A Social Impact Bond (SIB) is a form of Payment by Results (PbR) where public/social services are outsourced and payments made on achievement of outcomes. In essence, the aim is to lever private investment to fund (supposed innovation in) public services (McHugh et al., 2013). It is an investment, however, and not a grant or donation. The investor receives a return and dividend if outcomes are met from putative future savings. Outcomes are different for each SIB and the rate of return varies in relation to outcomes. Investment can be lost if the outcomes are not met (Roy et al., 2017; Sinclair et al., 2014). Although ostensibly simple in theory, a SIB represents a complex form of multi-stakeholder arrangement, usually involving the government, intermediary bodies, investors and service providers (Azemati et al., 2013).

Launched in the UK in 2010, SIBs have proliferated across the world. There are now at least 32 SIBs set up in diverse areas of policy including: homelessness; mental health services; education; and unemployment. SIBs have also been recently adapted to create ‘Development Impact Bonds’ to fund social and medical programmes in the developing world. Despite these developments there is still uncertainty around what a SIB is, or is supposed to be, who they are accountable to and how different stakeholders perceive them.


The overall aim of this project is to appraise the SIB model. Specific objectives are to:

  1. Identify and describe shared views amongst different stakeholders as to what SIBs are.
  2. Explore who a SIB is accountable to.
  3. Explore SIBs within the context of the marketization of public policies.


  • McHugh N, Sinclair S, Roy MJ, Huckfield L, Donaldson C. Social Impact Bonds: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? J Poverty Soc Justice. 2013;21(3):247–57.
  • Roy MJ, McHugh N, Sinclair S. Social Impact Bonds – Evidence-Based Policy or Ideology? In: Greve B, editor. Handbook of Social Policy Evaluation. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd; 2017. p. 263–75.
  • Sinclair S, McHugh N, Huckfield L, Roy MJ, Donaldson C. Social Impact Bonds: Shifting the Boundaries of Citizenship. Soc Policy Rev 26 Anal Debate Soc Policy 2014. 2014;119–36.
  • Azemati H, Belinsky M, Gillette R, Liebman J, Sellman A, Wyse A. Social Impact Bonds: Lessons Learned So Far. Community Dev Invest Rev. 2013;9(1):23–33.

Application deadline

The application deadline for October 2018 start is 1st of July 2018.

Research supervisors

Candidates are encouraged to contact the following researchers for further details:

  • Dr Michael Roy - Senior Lecturer in Social Business, Yunus Centre for Social Business & Health and Glasgow School for Business and Society
  • Professor Stephen Sinclair, Professor of Social Policy and Glasgow School for Business and Society
  • Dr. Neil McHugh, Research Fellow, Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health

Mode of study

This project is available as a:

  • PhD: 3 years full-time 
  • 1 + 3 route to PhD: Undertaking MRes 1 year full-time + PhD as above


Applicants will normally hold a UK honours degree 2:1 (or equivalent); or a Masters degree in a subject relevant to the research project. Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered. A minimum English language level of IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) with no element below 6.0 is required. Some research disciplines may require higher levels.

Specific requirements of the project

The successful applicant will hold a minimum of a UK Honours first degree (2.1 or above) in social sciences and have a good understanding of qualitative research, an appreciation of challenges faced by people with stroke, and excellent communication skills (including experience with communicating with people who have communication difficulties, or demonstrate willingness to acquire such skills).