Text network analysis on impact investment to promote social economy in developing countries

Text network analysis on impact investment to promote social economy in developing countries
Jimin Jeon

ESCP-7EMES-09 | Jimin Jeon 2019


Traditional businesses and philanthropy, which once considered as the opposite ends of investment spectrum, started to be blended for more development resources. Impact investment is one of the new types of investment to mobilize more capital. Since the emergence of the concept in 2007, interest and research on impact investment has growing rapidly as it can be analyzed with triple bottom line framework; financial, social and environmental. In particular, as impact investment drew attention as a way to establish social economy in developing countries, most research is studying on the relationship of social enterprises and impact investment.

To review the level of academic development and suggest new areas to research, this paper provides a microscopic review of current studies on impact investment, using text network analysis. Through the study, it was found that the research on impact investment is still mainly focusing on its economic value, but started to consider social value. Moreover, the study on environmental value of impact investment is in shortage. The trend of research was also analyzed through keyword network and keyword trend. Text network analysis on impact investment provides scholars with an overview of research trend and suggestions to advance their studies on impact investment.


  • Impact investment
  • Text network analysis
  • Topic modeling
  • Triple bottom line


Impact investment has become an important issue after the global economic crisis in 2008. The term, impact investment was first introduced in 2007 to indicate an active investment on organizations that aim to create a positive impact on society. It was differentiated with other types of investments as it is targeting broader range of institutions, such as private companies, non-profit organizations and social enterprises. Since 2008, this new type of investment has drawn attention in that it creates social and environmental impacts while alleviating financial deficit.

The importance of impact investment has been growing in the field of international development. Impact investment is known as a new development resource that attracts private capital and enhance private sector of developing countries. It is also noted in that it can achieve a social economy in developing countries by allowing early-stage entities, such as social enterprises and cooperatives, to gain access to the market. Moreover, impact investment is started to generate environmental values, focusing on the issues like climate change and biodiversity.

Since it has been ten years after beginning of the study on impact investment, the need to examine the previous research has been increased. Analyzing key research topics or areas of research helps to identify the level or characteristics of academic development for impact investment. By investigating research trends, researchers can avoid unnecessary repetitive studies and discover new areas of research due to the trend of social change (Lee et al. 2017: 102). In addition, analyzing research trends can provide ideas to improve or establish policies for the practitioners who are actually handling impact investment. Although there have been few studies which investigated research trends of impact investment, they only analyzed studies with categories like research type or nationality of the authors, using content analysis. However, content analysis has a limit that it can’t analyze research trends in a microscopic level, using keywords. Text network analysis is therefore meaningful in that it’s not just examining the frequency of words’ occurrence, but the relationship between words by adopting a way of analyzing the correlations of words (Choi and Park 2011: 126).

This paper aims to investigate the research trends of impact investment through text network analysis. For the research, this paper collected 142 journal articles about impact investment, and used text network analysis to understand the main keywords within an impact investment and relationship of those keywords. In addition, this paper analyzed the research trends with changes in research topics of collected articles. Since the concept of impact investment was introduced in 2007, all articles were published from 2007 to 2019.

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