This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Social Impact Bonds and the Urban Transformation.
This article currently has free access and is available to read and download.
Social impact bonds (SIBs) were recently introduced in France as a result of the creation of a state label. A set of promises were associated with the bonds allowing experimental projects to test new methods in dealing with social risk. Social entrepreneurs offered to pioneer them and engage in social innovation. Yet the device immediately triggered questions about the benefits of this type of public−private partnership and the compatibility of the welfare system with social finance. Empirically, it had already been tested abroad, with mixed results. Theoretically, some assumptions to help modelize social risk proved debatable. This paper documents key actors’ views on SIBs in terms of their present and foreseeable effects. Its specific subfield is that of children’s services. Its main contribution is dual. It first consists of identifying what type of arguments and positions work better to promote SIBs in France. Secondly, it points to several forms of decoupling between discourse and practices caused by the superior success of moderate and relatively vague descriptions of SIBs as a set of promises, prefigurative of a major restructuration of the field.