Historical Social Research

Davide Caselli: Did You Say “Social Impact”? Welfare Transformations, Networks of Expertise, and the Financialization of Italian Welfare. [Abstract]

The article contributes to research on the role of expertise in shaping the transformations of welfare states. Looking at the Italian welfare state as a case study, it analyses the different networks of expertise that have developed along the transformations of Italian welfare in the last 30 years: from the rise of Welfare Mix (a combination of quasi-market of social services and participatory social planning at the local scale) in the 1990s, up to its crisis, and through the current tendency toward its financialization. The article analyses the diffusion of the discourse and practice of Social Impact Investing (SII) in Italy and, in particular, it focuses on the elaboration of a new measurement tool aimed at measuring the “social impact” of non-profit organizations. In doing so, the article shows that different networks of expertise, developed in different phases of welfare transformations, co-exist and converge on the idea that “social impact matters,” but differ and conflict around how “social impact” should be defined and measured. The prevailing of a network rooted in the Welfare Mix has slowed the penetration of SII, but also reinforced the fragmentation of the field.

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