SHE Level 5
SCQF Credit Points 15.00
ECTS Credit Points 7.50
Module Code MMN326526
Module Leader Neil McHugh
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Finance and Accounting
  • A (September start)
  • B (January start)
  • C (May start)

Summary of Content

Social Finance is concerned with generating social returns alongside more typical economic returns and has developed into a multi-billion-pound market. This term encompasses a wide variety of forms delivered throughout the world, including microfinance and social impact bonds. These cutting-edge forms of finance raise questions in relation to evaluation and have implications for policy. This unique module critically introduces the student to the concepts of social finance. The module aims to equip students with a general overview as to how global and local circumstances have shaped how social finance is practiced and understood, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills to determine what factors they should take into account when critically evaluating the concept of social finance, or when creating an enabling environment for different models of social finance to thrive. The module aims to develop critical awareness of social finance in both developing and advanced economies. This includes the theoretical underpinnings and origins of social finance, different types of social finance, and organisation and operation of social finance. The role of funding sources in relation to social finance will also be discussed. Attention will be paid to controversies in social finance, and the subsequent recent and future developments in social finance. Summary of how PRME-related issues / topics are covered in this module.


The origins of social finance Forms of social finance The geography of social finance Funding social finance Controversies in social finance Contemporary issues in social finance The future of social finance

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:1. Identify different forms of social finance and when and how they are used.2. Appraise and critically assess the concept of social finance.3. Identify how different political, economic and cultural circumstances have shaped how different models of social finance are practiced and understood.4. Move beyond a 'one size fits all' model of developing and evaluating social finance initiatives.5. Consider the kind of world they would like to co-create and understanding the challenges to making this happen.6. Develop and apply critical thinking skills.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The module will be delivered in 36 lectures and seminars. In addition, 8 hours of tutor-led activities will be delivered using applied learning strategies. Overview: Learning and teaching will be carried out through lectures and guest lectures. Guest speakers will provide examples of different approaches to social finance. Case studies, journal articles and book chapters will be used as a basis for discussion and debate. Use will be made of GCU Learn to provide additional module material. Lectures: Lectures will be designed around the latest research findings. Key concepts will be introduced alongside theories purporting to explain their evolution. Where appropriate lectures will be given by research and practice leaders. Academics and PhD students from the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health will play a key role in delivering lectures on social finance and assisting with tutorials. Seminars: Contact based seminars delivered in partnership with the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health. The seminars will be structured around key articles in the research literature related to the lecture topics. GSBS will continue to use the advancement of GCU Learn as a blended learning tool through its teaching and learning as well as through engagement with students. GSBS will ensure that all modules are GCU Learn enabled and with the support of the Learning Technologists, at the cutting edge of development of online materials. Academic staff and the Learning Technologists will continue to work together to develop and operate all modules on GCU Learn to ensure student support and information sharing. Students are provided with formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms. Feedback on coursework is provided within three working weeks of submission.

Indicative Reading

Core Reading Nicholls, A., Paton, R. and Emerson, J. (2015) Social Finance, Oxford Scholarship Armendariz, B. and Morduch, J. (2010). The Economics of Microfinance (2nd Edition). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Additional Reading Wilson, R., Fraser, A., Kimmitt, J., Tan, S., McHugh, N., Lowe, T., Warner, M., Baines, S. & Carter E. (2020): Editorial: Whither Social Impact Bonds (SIBs): the future of social investment?, Public Money & Management4. Tan, S., Fraser, A., McHugh, N. and Warner, M. (2019) Widening perspectives on social impact bonds, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, 1-10 McHugh, N., Baker, R. and Donaldson, C. (2019) Microcredit for enterprise in the UK as an 'alternative' economic space, Geoforum, 100, 80-88 Sinclair, S., McHugh, N. and Roy, M. (2019) Social innovation, financialisation and commodification: a critique of social impact bonds, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, 1-17 Roy, M., McHugh, N. and S. Sinclair (2018) A Critical Reflection on Social Impact Bonds, Stanford Social Innovation Review Agier I and Szafarz A (2013) Microfinance and Gender: Is There a Glass Ceiling on Loan Size? World Development, 42, 165-181. Akerlof GA (1970) The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84(3), 488-500. Sinclair, S., McHugh, N., Roy, M. J., Huckfield, L., and Donaldson, C. (2014). Social Impact Bonds: Shifting the boundaries of citizenship Social Policy Review26: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy Bateman, M. (2010) Why Doesn't Microfinance Work? London: Zed Books. McHugh, N., Sinclair, S., Roy, M.J., Huckfield, L., and Donaldson, C. (2013) Social Impact Bonds: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Journal of Poverty and Social Justice 21 (3), 247-257. Biosca O, Lenton P and Mosley P (2014a) Microfinance Non-Financial Services as a Competitive Advantage: The Mexican Case. Strategic Change, 23(7-8), 507-516. Biosca O, Lenton P and Mosley P (2014b) Where is the 'Plus' in 'Credit-Plus'? The Case of Chiapas, Mexico. The Journal of Development Studies, 1-17. Conning, J and Morduch, J (2011) Microfinance and Social Investment. Annual Review of Financial Economics 3: 407-434 Cull R, Demirgfce7-Kunt A and Morduch J (2009) Microfinance Meets the Market. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 23(Winter), 167-192. D'Espallier B, Hudon M and Szafarz A (2013) Unsubsidized Microfinance Institutions. Economics Letters, 120(2), 174-176.

Transferrable Skills

By the end of this module students will have gained competence in the following key areas: Understanding of the rapidly developing field of social finance Critical thinking and analysis The ability to communicate clearly The ability to work independently Understanding of complex problems and ability to negotiate them

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Seminars (FT) 12.00
Assessment (FT) 40.00
Lectures (FT) 24.00
Independent Learning (FT) 74.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 n/a 100.00 45% Individual essay (3,000 words)