Impact investments: a literature review

This paper reviews literature on the evaluation of impact investments. Various tools and approaches for assessing social value are identified and theoretical considerations are discussed.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Kaye Stevens.


Authors and their affiliation

Justin Flynn, Jeremy Young and Chris Barnett

Centre for Development Impact

Year of publication


Type of resource

  • Discussion paper

Key features

A wide range of tools and approaches to assessing social impact are classified and discussed. The section on theoretical considerations identifies a consensus around the use of theories of change; arguments for multiple methods rather than reliance on widely used metrics; the importance of avoiding the pitfall of trying to cover too much and careful selection of methodologies; and the need to focus evaluations on improving outcomes for beneficiaries.

Issues in the evaluation of social impact or development impact bonds and the monitoring and evaluation of corporate social performance/responsibility are identified. The paper concludes by identifying areas for more research, development and learning from evaluation practice. 

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Commissioners/managers of evaluation;
  • Evaluators;

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

 This article provides information that is helpful for planning and implementing systems for monitoring and evaluating impact investments.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The paper provides an overview of tools and approaches as well as commentary on pitfalls to avoid and areas for further development in evaluating impact investments.


Paper produced for the ‘New Frontiers for evaluation in an era of market-oriented development’ conference, 20-23 July 2015.

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