Lecturer in accounting, LSE

Having qualified as a chartered accountant and worked in both public and private sector organisations, I began to question the social and business practices I had taken for granted for years.  For example, how are we to understand the notion of "value" as it is used in representing the financial position of companies? What do we mean by "accounting income" and how does it relate to economic theory?  And how and why do norms of best practice emerge in accounting and business?  The search for answers to these questions led me to complete a PhD in Accounting at LSE.  I came to think of accounting, broadly conceived, as a topic for social scientific research.  

My work focuses on the emergence of norms in performance measurement, such as 'fair value accounting' in corporate financial reporting and 'social impact measurement' in the social sector.  In investigating these social phenomena, I draw on work from sociology, social psychology and philosophy.  I situate my work within the political economy and genealogical tradition but view this approach as being broadly compatible with certain elements of economic and functional analysis. My research is primarily qualitative, using interview and documentary evidence but I also do social network and statistical analysis.  This methodological pluralism enables me to work effectively at the boundaries of disciplines and to to address a varied audience, whether examining social psychology in accounting standard setting or the role of social impact bonds in shifting the discourse in the social sector.

In my doctoral research, I examined the influence of financial economic theory on accounting practice, primarily with respect to issues of accounting standard setting. In particular, I analysed the increasing use of methods such as ‘fair value accounting’ which are based on financial economic theory.  The novel contribution of this work is its use of a sequential analysis of regulatory outcomes across jurisdictions and technical areas of financial reporting.  

In more recent work, I analyse the emergence, persistence and diffusion of a new language and practice of social impact measurement by social purpose organisations.  Highlighting structural features of a new community of social investment professionals, I identify threshold issues and community structure as key factors that enabled business and investment language to enter the charitable sector.  I also engage in practice-facing activities and was recently a commissioner on the Alternative Commission on Social Investment.