Shared Stakes, Distributed Investment: Socially Engaged Art and the Financialization of Social Impact

Rosamond, Emily. 2016. Shared Stakes, Distributed Investment: Socially Engaged Art and the Financialization of Social Impact. Finance and Society, 2(2), pp. 111-126. ISSN 2059-5999 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines the implications of the financialization of social impact and the emerging social impact bonds (SIBs) market for socially engaged art practices. How do SIBs, which allow for investment in social impact metrics, shift the broader contexts through which the value of social impact is understood in art discourses? In the British context, recent projects by Assemble, Open School East and others do important social work, yet echo the logic of the social investment market by outsourcing social impact. Rather than dismissing socially engaged art initiatives as having been recuperated by financialized capitalism, I suggest the need to develop new ways of achieving a double reading of these works as they relate to – and upset the distinctions between – stakeholder and bondholder valuation.

This article explores how new developments in social impact investing – even those seemingly unrelated to contemporary art – might change the background conditions through which socially engaged art practices’ claims to ‘impact’ take shape. Connecting two disparate fields of study – the rise of SIBs since 2010, and contemporary art discourses on socially engaged art – it devises means to analyze the (perhaps uncomfortable) resonances between SIBs and socially engaged art projects, by considering the relationships between ‘shared stakes’ (between various stakeholders and investors in a project) and ‘distributed investments’ (the dispersal of interests by those who invest in a project financially, those who invest attention and time) in each. This pursuit seeks to complicate accounts of financialization in contemporary art, which often focus on art markets and projects directly engaged with finance. Counter to this, I seek an indirect approach to art and financialization, analysing unexpected parallels between the financialization of social impact in social impact investing, and the operationalization of social impact in socially engaged art projects and alternative art institutions.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Socially engaged art, social impact bonds, social impact investing, financialization

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


1 September 2016Accepted
19 December 2016Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Sep 2017 10:37

Last Modified:

07 Jan 2021 15:11

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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