Grace Thomas

Thesis title:

Challenges of accessing mainstream capital for impact investment


Grace’s project explores the structural and semiotic aspects of investment in the impact investment market, with a particular focus on the challenges and barriers to making such practices mainstream, both culturally and structurally. Impact investing can be broadly defined as investing not just for financial return, but also to achieve a positive social and/or environmental impact. The industry faces a number of hurdles on its path to growth and scale, each one a potential barrier to access mainstream capital. Barriers include: how to define ‘impact’, how this is measured, the legal framework for the market, how investments are structured, how investments are packaged, communicated and perceived. These barriers in turn relate to a much broader societal and cultural understanding of the perception of financial markets, and the potential and limitations capital has to effect positive change in society.The potential for impact investing to have positive social and environmental effect is considerable, and Grace’s research could contribute towards a greater understanding of how the impact investing model and approach could become more widely dispersed. Grace proposes to develop a research framework that will further demonstrate the utility of ‘new economics’ and contribute to the evolutionary economics discourse – which draws on a broad range of theories, frameworks and methods, and is highly interdisciplinary – involving economist, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and biologists. The concept of “Generalized Darwinism” refers to the sociocultural application of the three Darwinian principles of variation, selection and retention. Generalized Darwinism argues that if this metatheory can be used for complex, evolving biology, it can also be applied to other complex, evolving systems.

First supervisor:

Mike Tennant


4 – Economics, Finance & the World Economy