Social impact investing as a neoliberal construction: ego and altruism in the post-colonial space of Oaxaca, Mexico

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper examines social impact investing (SII), a growing source of investment from the Global North to the Global South celebrated as a new way of doing good in low-income countries, but bearing elements of neoliberalism that can reify post-colonial contexts. Design/methodology/approach: A microfoundational, autoethnographic approach is used based on the author’s experiences and emotional epiphanies while engaged in an activist entrepreneurial enterprise. The author’s goal was to effect positive social change with Indigenous Mexican producers of mezcal liquor. Findings: Despite the best of intentions and following best practices for SII, the expected altruistic outcomes were eclipsed by inadvertent post-colonial behaviours. Neoliberal foundations of financialization gave primacy to the perspectives and egos of the investors rather than meaningful impact for the Indigenous beneficiaries. Research limitations/implications: Based on the findings, three areas are presented for further research. First, how Global North social impact investors balance the ego of their motivations with the altruism of intended outcomes for beneficiaries. Second, what ownership structures of Global North investments allow for social benefits to flow through to intended beneficiaries. Third, how post-colonial power imbalances can be redressed to give an equal position to Global South beneficiaries as people, rather than financial metrics indicating only that they have become less poor. Originality/value: By using autoethnographic methods that expose the vulnerability of the researcher, unique insights are generated on what happens when good intentions meet with a post-colonial context. The neoliberal underbelly of SII is revealed, and ways to make improvements are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-280
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Perspectives on International Business
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb. 2022


  • Autoethnography
  • Financialization
  • Global South
  • Neoliberalism
  • Post-colonialism
  • Social impact investing


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