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This paper investigates how outcomes-based performance management (PM) regimes operate in the partnerships known as social impact bonds (SIBs), which bring together partners from the public, private and third sectors. The findings are analysed in the light of the different cultural world views of the partners.Design/methodology/approach – Published evaluations of 25 UK SIBs were analysed by a qualitative multiple case study approach. This study of secondary sources permitted the analysis of a wide range of SIB partnerships from near contemporary accounts.


Outcomes frameworks led to rigorous PM regimes that brought the cultural differences between partners into focus. While partnerships benefitted from the variety of viewpoints and expertise, the differences in outlook simultaneously led to strains and tensions. In order to mitigate such tensions, some stakeholders conformed to the outlooks of others.

Practical implications

The need to achieve a predefined set of payable outcomes embeds a “linear” view of intervention and effect on the SIB partners and a performance regime in which some partners dominate. In designing accountability systems for partnerships such as SIBs, commissioners should consider how the performance regime will affect the interests of all stakeholders.


This study adds to the cultural theory literature which has rarely considered three-way partnerships embodying hierarchical, individualist and egalitarian world views and how performance regimes operate in such partnerships. Three-way partnerships are thought to be rare and short-lived, but this empirical study shows that they can be successful albeit over a predefined lifespan.

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