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Essays on the nature, purpose and measurement of social impact

Lucchino, Paolo (2017) Essays on the nature, purpose and measurement of social impact. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.uftb517awsmg


This thesis consists of a series of papers relating to the nature, purpose and measurement of social impact. Paper 1 makes an empirical contribution to the understanding of firm incentives to be perceived as social, and finds that even quite distinct variants of social enterprises can nevertheless benefit form a strategic use of social responsibility. Paper 2 relates to the theoretical prediction that non-profits will deliver higher standards of quality in markets where this quality is hard to observe, and tests this, possibly for the first time in the literature, in the case of unemployment support services. In contrast to existing literature, we do not find strong evidence of for-profit vs. non-profit differentials in product quality, be it observed or unobserved. The immediate focus of Paper 3 and Paper 4 is on the role of access to light in the socio-economic transformation and growth of rural communities in the developing world, which partly constitutes a second strand of this thesis. Using a randomised controlled trial, Paper 3 identifies strong evidence of a causal link between access to light and educational attainment. Through a further randomised controlled trial, Paper 4 finds that access to light contributes to a diversification in household livelihoods from agricultural to non-farm economic activities. To our knowledge, this constitutes the first robust evidence that small-scale lighting sources can help stimulate the very first steps in the direction of economic transformation. Importantly, Paper 3 and Paper 4 also speak to the questions of measurement of social impact evoked in Papers 1 and 2 and some of the practical challenges typically faced in this pursuit. Bringing these various threads together, these papers contribute to our understanding of contemporary social enterprise, with a particular focus on the role of information and its measurement in tightly linking social enterprise with genuine social impact.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Paolo Lucchino
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Silva, Olmo

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