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When the third sector went to market: the problematic use of market failure to justify social investment policy

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This article explores the use of market failure by the coalition government in the United Kingdom to redress the under-capitalisation of the third sector. Drawing on evidence gathered in the evaluation of Futurebuilders in England, an initiative of the previous New Labour government, the article considers five market failures used by the coalition government to justify its policies towards social investment. These are: imperfect information; imperfect competition; externalities; absence of public goods; and cultural and behavioural barriers. The evidence shows that policy makers should be cautious in the use of market failure, suggests alternative approaches that may be of use, and in relation to social investment outlines how the concept has taken on a discursive power to justify actions to expose the third sector to financial markets.
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Keywords: FINANCIAL MARKETS; MARKET FAILURE; SOCIAL INVESTMENT POLICY; THIRD SECTOR

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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