If you’re like me, you’ve sat through a number of presentations on social impact bonds (SIBs). And if you’re like me you’ve vacillated between paying close attention and head nodding. I mean no disrespect to my learned friends and colleagues who are deeply versed in the mechanics and excited by the potential of SIBs. For me — given all the attention they have received in recent years, SIBs remain mysterious, in part because most of the examples we hear about are from other places such as the US & UK.
In Canada, SIBs made their debut only a year ago in Saskatoon which you can read about in Charity Village. For Paul Brest, Dean Emeritus at Stanford Law School, impact investing and social impact bonds are in their early days. “It’s quite possible these are flash-in-the-pans and fads. But if they work there will be new ways to finance social enterprises and bring them to scale in ways that philanthropy can’t do. If they work, you’ll see governments and organizations being more attentive to outcomes.” Only time will tell. Here’s a link to a good short description of SIBs with Paul Brest.