Oxford Impact Finance Initiative

Woman at a boardroom desk

What is impact finance?

Intentional use of financial capital to bring about a measurable and positive social and/or environmental change.

It includes a spectrum of capital, ranging from foundation grants to ‘finance first’ investments that seek a market-rate financial return alongside a social/environmental impact.

The defining features are:

  1. The impact is intentional
  2. The impact is measured and managed
  3. The impact is positive
  4. The impact is additional

Impact is ‘additional’ if it creates change beyond what would have happened anyway.

The problem

The need for impact finance is great.

There is an estimated $2.6 trillion annual funding gap to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50/day, and climate change threatens to have catastrophic and irreversible consequences for our planet.

At the same time, with new technologies and global connectivity, there has never been so much potential to find world-changing solutions at scale. However, it is clear that creative impact investment models and innovative government policies will also be central to paving pathways to scale.

The impact finance market is growing rapidly but remains a small fraction of total global assets under management – less than 1%. In order to grow this market to the scale necessary to address today’s global ‘wicked problems,’ a step change is required.

The growth of the impact finance sector has been hindered by a lack of robust data around return expectations and standards for impact measurement. We need academic research, teaching, and knowledge-exchange to remove these barriers to growth.

The Oxford Impact Finance project will work on key issues that will drive the exponential growth of the field, including: building public data sets; conducting rigorous data analyses of risk, return and impact; exploiting new technologies; and enhancing public policy.

What is the initiative?


The initiative is comprised of a group of researchers who believe impact finance is a powerful force for good. We envision a world where impact finance is the status quo: where investments generate impact beyond financial profits, improve the lives of all people and protect and maintain our planet. In some contexts, such finance can also generate attractive financial returns.

We aim to be the premier research, teaching and practice hub on impact finance in the world. By continuing to be a leader in the space, we will fuel the impact finance movement and shape the development of the field to create prosperity for all, forever.


Impact finance papers

Find academic articles and working papers written by University of Oxford researchers.


Programmes available to anyone interested in learning the tools and frameworks in the field of impact finance.



The thought-leaders and course developers in the area of impact finance.