Social impact bond
A Social Impact Bond, also known as a Pay for Success Bond or a Social Benefit Bond, is a contract with the public sector in which a commitment is made to pay for improved social outcomes that result in public sector savings. The first Social Impact Bond was launched by Social Finance UK in September 2010.
Advocates of these performance-based investments claim that they encourage innovation and tackle challenging social issues. According to advocates, new and innovative programs have potential for success, but often have trouble securing government funding because it can be hard to rigorously prove their effectiveness. This form of financing allows the government to partner with innovative and effective service providers and, if necessary, private foundations or other investors willing to cover the upfront costs and assume performance risk to expand promising programs, while assuring that taxpayers will not pay for the programs unless they demonstrate success in achieving the desired outcomes. The expected public sector savings are used as a basis for raising investment for prevention and early intervention services that improve social outcomes.
Critics note that because the outcomes-based payments are dependent on governmental funds which must be budgeted, Social Impact Bonds do not actually raise additional capital for social programs, but instead displace funding for other programs. Given the need to budget for a return on investment, a program evaluation, middle managers, and the expenses of designing the complex financial and contractual mechanisms, social impact bonds, according to critics, may be an expensive method of operating social programs.
Social Impact Bonds are a type of bond, but not the most common type. While they operate over a fixed period of time, they do not offer a fixed rate of return. Repayment to investors is contingent upon specified social outcomes being achieved and therefore in terms of investment risk Social Impact Bonds are more similar to that of a structured product or an equity investment.
In the US, Social Impact Bonds have been called Pay for Success Bonds. A report from the Center for American Progress (released in February 2011) analyzes their potential. State and local governments across the country have begun launching Social Impact Bond pilots.
In Australia, Social Impact Bonds have been called Social Benefit Bonds. A Request for Proposal was released by the New South Wales Treasury on 30 September 2011 asking non-government organisations to propose pilots in the areas of reoffending and children in out-of-home care. On 20 March 2012 three successful respondents were announced and entered into a joint development phase with the Government of New South Wales.
In developing countries, a Development Impact Bond (DIB) is a variation of the SIB model that would provide new sources of financing to achieve improved social outcomes in developing country contexts. As with SIBs, investors would provide external financing and only receive a return if pre-agreed outcomes are achieved. Funds to remunerate investors would come from donors, the budget of the host country, or a combination of the two. Financial returns to investors are intended to be commensurate with the level of success. DIBs have the potential to improve aid efficiency and cost-effectiveness by shifting the focus onto implementation quality and the delivery of successful results. In January 2012, the first specialized intermediary focused on DIBs and SIBs in developing countries, Instiglio, was founded out of the Harvard Kennedy School. In October 2013, Social Finance UK and the Center for Global Development released a report outlining the findings of a high level working group set up to explore the potential of this new mechanism.
- 1 History
- 2 Definitions
- 3 Benefits and Costs of social impact bonds
- 4 Pilots
- 5 Intermediaries and Technical Assistance Providers
- 6 Publications
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 References
The idea of the Social Impact Bond has been promoted and developed by a number of agencies and individuals in an attempt to address the paradox that investing in prevention of social and health problems saves the public sector money, but that it is currently difficult for public bodies to find the funds and incentives to do so. New Zealand economist Ronnie Horesh first advocated them in 1988 (pdf), calling them Social Policy Bonds. He argues that they be made tradable.
The first Social Impact Bond was announced in the UK on 18 March 2010 by then Justice Secretary Jack Straw, to finance a prisoner rehabilitation program. In the UK the Prime Minister’s Council on Social Action (a group of ‘innovators from every sector’ brought together to ‘generate ideas and initiatives through which Government and other key stakeholders can catalyse, celebrate and develop social action’) was asked in 2007 to explore alternative models for financing social action. The group began to develop the idea of a Social Impact Bond, and the work is being taken forward by a number of organisations including Social Finance, an organization committed to increasing investment in the third sector, the Young Foundation, the Center for Social Impact in Australia, and other NGOs and private firms.
Social Impact Bonds have also generated interest in the United States. In February 2011, Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget stated that up to $100m would be freed up to run Social Impact Bond pilot schemes. In August, 2012, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to use a competitive procurement process to secure social innovation financing for social services. The state legislature authorized spending up to $50 million on the initiatives.
In Australia, the intention to trial Social Impact Bonds was announced in New South Wales in November 2010 by Premier Kristina Keneally of the Australian Labor Party. The policy direction was continued by the Coalition (Australia) after a change in Government in 2011.
In November 2012 Essex County Council became the first local authority in the UK to commission a Social Impact Bond in Children’s Services, with the aim of providing therapeutic support and improving outcomes for adolescents at risk of going into care. Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, commented: "Social impact bonds are opening up serious resources to tackle social problems in new and innovative ways. This is about communities, businesses and charities all working together to change people's lives, whilst at the same time making savings for the taxpayer."
In February 2013 Allia, a charitable social investment organisation, announced the first public opportunity in the UK to invest in a social impact bond. Although the product was later withdrawn from sale due to lack of investors, the Future for Children Bond combined a relatively low-risk ethical investment into affordable housing to provide the funds to repay capital to investors, with a higher risk investment into a social impact bond with the aim of delivering a high social impact and providing an additional variable return. It would have invested into the Social Impact Bond for Essex County Council to ‘improve the life outcomes’ of children aged 11–16 at risk of going into care.
There are a range of interpretations of what the term ‘Social Impact Bond’ means.
Social Finance US describes Social Impact Bonds as:
'A Social Impact Bond (SIB) is a specific type of social impact financing in which funds are raised from Investors to provide Social Service Provider(s) with the working capital to deliver their services. For example, a government may enter into a Pay for Success contract with an Intermediary and its Social Service Provider partners in which the government only pays if youth employment increases. The Intermediary would raise the working capital that the Social Service Providers need to operate the program from Investors. If the services are successful in improving youth employment rate, then the Government would repay Investors for the successful outcomes. If youth employment does not improve, then the Government does not pay and Investors risk losing their capital.' 
Third Sector Capital Partners describes Social Impact Bonds as:
'A social impact bond is one potential financing option available to support Pay for Success programs. Social Impact Bonds brings together government, service providers and investors/funders to implement existing and proven programs designed to accomplish clearly defined outcomes. Investors/funders provide the initial capital support and the government agrees to make payments to the program only when outcomes are achieved. So government pays for success.'
Social Finance UK describes Social Impact Bonds as:
‘Social Impact Bonds are based on a commitment from government to use a proportion of the savings that result from improved social outcomes to reward non-government investors that fund the early intervention activities.’
The Young Foundation describes Social Impact Bonds as:
‘a range of financial assets that entail raising money from third parties and making repayments according to the social impacts achieved.'
Social Finance therefore specifies that the investment is from non-government bodies, whereas the Young Foundation envisages that public bodies could be potential investors.
In many cases, Pay for Success programs can achieve positive social outcomes, may create fiscal savings for government, but also involve changes in funding arrangements that bring risks to service agencies. The assumed benefits makes Pay for Success politically attractive to governments and businesses. For example, $250 million of investments towards preventative programs that reduce recidivism might eventually make it possible to close prisons that cost taxpayers $1 billion per year to run.
The benefits of Social Impact Bonds depends on the definition being used, but the broad benefits (though not measured and verified yet) are that:
- More funds are available for prevention and early intervention services.
- The public sector only has to pay for effective services; the third party investor bears all the risk of services being potentially ineffective.
- Investors and servicers have an incentive to be as effective as possible, because the larger impact they have on the outcome, the larger the repayment they will receive.
- The Social Impact Bond approach imbeds vigorous ongoing evaluation of program impacts into program operations, accelerating the rate of learning about which approaches work and which do not.
- Government funds “what works”; thus repositioning government spending to cost-effective preventative programs.
- Attract new forms of capital to the social, educational and healthcare sectors.
- Independent evaluation creates transparency for all parties.
The Risks and Dangers in social impact bonds.
- Criteria for success – donors will seek to fund that which can be observed and measured, the outcomes (not just the outputs). This will leave agencies addressing the huge structural problems in society unable to access these funds. This is going to be particularly true for advocacy, arts and alternative organizations. It will be difficult for social coalitions to get funding as their contributions are dispersed through member organizations and the effect they have on government policies, for example.
- More donor influence – donors, or now investors, will want to make sure their money is being used according to contract, and will therefore want to be more involved in the delivery of social services. They may even want to see NGOs adopt a more business style of delivery.
- Unfair competition – among NGOs will emerge. Agencies that secure funds will be able to operate in areas where NGOs now operate, but they will have greater resources, more narrowly defined goals (and therefore successes to publicize) and will set the standard for government funded agencies and their actions.
- Reduces Public responsibility – by reducing the government’s responsibilities and accountability for delivering services. Though governments may not genuinely represent their societies, they are still the best representatives of the public will and governments play an important role in maintaining a civil society sector. Social services are a part of our national social contract and the government is devolving their responsibility to businesses though encouraging such funding when other tax and program options can be made available.
Governments across the world are currently piloting Social Impact Bond initiatives. Below are a few examples of these initiatives.
Public Safety and Recidivism
On 18 March 2010, Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw announced a six-year Social Impact Bond (SIB) pilot scheme run by Social Finance that will see around 3,000 short term prisoners from Peterborough prison, serving less than 12 months, receiving intensive interventions both in prison and in the community. Funding from investors outside government will be initially used to pay for the services, which will be delivered by Third Sector providers with a proven track record of working with offenders. If reoffending is not reduced by at least 7.5% the investors will receive no recompense. The Social Impact Bond in Peterborough was launched by Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke MP and Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt on 10 September 2010.
New York City: On February 2012, the City of New York issued a $9.6 million social bond for prisoner rehabilitation to be run by The Osborne Association with support from Friends of Island Academy. Goldman Sachs bought the bond and will profit if recidivism decreases. While the City of New York didn't actually issue bonds or put up-front capital for MDRC to run the program (this was done by Goldman Sachs directly with MDRC), the City may be liable for some amount if the program is successful, presumably to be paid with savings associated with reduced recidivism. Independent evaluation would be performed by the Vera Institute of Justice.
New York State: In mid-2012, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) selected Social Finance US as its Intermediary partner in structuring an application for federal funding for a Social Impact Bond. In 2013, New York approved $30 million in its budget to support Social Impact Bonds over the subsequent five years. In September 2013, New York State received a $12 million grant from the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) to fund a Pay for Success project designed to increase employment and reduce recidivism among 2,000 formerly incarcerated individuals in partnership with Social Finance US and the Center for Employment Opportunities. This was the largest grant awarded by USDOL for Pay for Success projects.
Massachusetts: On August 1, 2012, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced that Third Sector Capital Partners will serve as lead intermediary, in partnership with New Profit Inc., for the youth recidivism initiative. Roca, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and Youth Options Unlimited will also participate in the youth recidivism project.The program, called Social Innovation Financing, operates on a simple “pay for success” model, in which nonprofits must demonstrate that by keeping youth from being reincarcerated. According to the state’s press release, the juvenile justice contract “will be designed with the specific goal of reducing recidivism and improving education and employment outcomes over several years for a significant segment of the more than 750 youth who exit the juvenile justice system, and the several thousand who exit the probation system annually.”
Federal: The U.S. Department of Justice gave “Priority Consideration” to Fiscal Year 2012 Second Chance Act grant applications that include a Pay for Success component. The Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) authorizes federal grants to support services that help reduce recidivism. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded nearly $24 million in grants for Pay for Success projects that provide employment services to formerly-incarcerated individuals in order to increase employment and reduce recidivism.
Rough Sleeping and Chronic Homelessness
Housing Minister Grant Shapps and London Mayor Boris Johnson announced in March 2012 that a Social Impact Bond would be launched to help London's persistent rough sleepers off the streets and into secure homes. The two Social Impact Bonds under this programme were launched in December 2012.
Massachusetts: The second of two pilots launched by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2012 addresses the issue of chronic homelessness. In this Pay for Success model, Third Sector Capital Partners will partner with the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA), lead intermediary for a chronic homelessness project, as well as the Corporation for Supportive Housing and United Way. The Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance represents nonprofit housing organizations that provide housing and support services, such as medical care and vocational training. The consortium will try to raise the number of housing units it provides to around 600 from 220. Through the social innovation financing contract, MHSA and its partners plan to expand MHSA’s Home & Healthy for Good (HHG) low-threshold housing initiative. HHG has demonstrated that the often traumatic and undertreated health conditions which beset chronically homeless individuals are better treated after a person gains the basic level of stabilization that permanent housing provides. In addition to successfully housing those often considered the hardest to serve, HHG has demonstrated significant cost savings to the Commonwealth.
Fresno, CA: In April 2013 Social Finance US and Collective Health launched an asthma management demonstration project in Fresno, California. This two-year project is designed to prove the effectiveness of up-front investment in asthma management, by focusing on solid evidence and performance measurement. Fresno is one of the nation’s asthma hot spots; around 20 percent of its children have been diagnosed with the disease, which takes an especially heavy toll among poor communities. Two service providers with proven track records, Central California Asthma Collaborative and Clinica Sierra Vista, will work with the families of 200 low-income children with asthma to provide home care, education, and support in reducing environmental triggers ranging from cigarette smoke to dust mites. Social Finance expects that the program will produce meaningful cost savings and quality of life improvement for these children, and will deploy rigorous data collection and analysis techniques to prove its effectiveness. This proof-of-concept project will build a foundation for the first health-focused Social Impact Bond, and will pave the way for future SIB opportunities in the health arena.
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, announced that Social Impact Bond trials could be expanded across government departments. “The Department for Children, Schools and Families have pledged to explore the potential of SIBs to lever in additional resources to support early intervention approaches with children and young people,” he said in Parliament.“Communities and Local Government are also working with Leeds City Council and NHS Leeds to enable them to use a SIB approach to reduce health and social care costs among older people. Similarly Bradford Metropolitan District Council are considering applying this model as part of their involvement in the government’s Total Place programme.”
Federal: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in 2013 it will provide $5 billion in grant dollars to assist in the rebuilding and strengthening effort following Hurricane Sandy and encouraged the five states impacted by the storm to make use of evidence-based, Pay for Success strategies where appropriate. In 2013, the Department of the Treasury issued a Request for Information (RFI) that will help design a proposed $300 million Incentive Fund to further expand Pay for Success. The Fund is intended to empower cities, states and nonprofits to test new Pay for Success models. This same Fund was also part of the President’s commitment of nearly $500 million in this year’s Budget to expand Pay for Success strategies.
Children and Families
Social Finance worked with UK local authorities to assess the potential for social impact bonds to improve family support services. These studies assessed the potential of social impact bonds to fund preventive and early intervention services which improve outcomes for children and generate cost savings for Local Authorities.
In March 2012 Manchester City Council announced a social impact bond to fund Multi-dimensional treatment foster care.
New South Wales: The Government of New South Wales, Australia, announced on 20 March 2012 that it will develop three pilots in the area of child protection / foster care and Juvenile Justice. One of the child protection pilots is with a consortium involving the Benevolent Society, Westpac Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The other child protection pilot is led by UnitingCare Burnside, a division of UnitingCare Australia. The juvenile justice pilot is being run by a consortium of Social Finance and Mission Australia.
Utah: In August 2013, the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group (UIG) together with the United Way of Salt Lake and J.B. Pritzker formed a partnership to create the first ever Social Impact Bond designed to finance early childhood. Goldman Sachs and Pritzker jointly committed up to $7 million to finance The Utah High Quality Preschool Program, a high impact and targeted curriculum focused on increasing school readiness and academic performance among at-risk 3 and 4 year olds in Utah. As a result of entering kindergarten better prepared, it is expected that fewer children will use special education and remedial services in kindergarten through 12th grade, which results in cost savings for school districts, the State of Utah and other government entities. The first $1 million investment in this program will enable approximately 600 children to attend pre-school in the fall of 2013.
Early Stage Exploration
States across the country are currently exploring opportunities to use Social Impact Bonds to achieve their social goals, including:
- California: In August 2013, Santa Barbara County released a Request for Information on Social Impact Bonds and approved a feasibility study to explore the potential use of pay for success financing in reducing prisoner recidivism; Additionally, Santa Clara agreed to fund a pilot project exploring SIB feasibility.
- Colorado: In June 2013, Colorado and Denver were selected to receive support from a Harvard Kennedy School SIB Technical Assistance Lab (SIB Lab) fellow. Both jurisdictions have released a “Request for Information” (RFI) on SIBS.
- Connecticut: In 2013, the Department of Children and Families released a Request for Information to explore how Social Impact Bonds might be used to address substance abuse among families involved in the child welfare system.
- Illinois: In April 2013, Governor Quinn announced that the State would pursue a Social Impact Bond program with technical support from the Harvard SIB Lab. In September, Illinois issued a “Request for Proposal” (RFP), focused on youth engaged in the juvenile justice and/or foster care systems.
- Maryland: In 2013, Social Impact Bond legislation was introduced to the Committee on Appropriations in the Maryland House of Delegates.
- Michigan: In September 2013, Michigan was selected to receive support from the SIB Lab to develop pay for success programs funded by social impact bonds. The state initiated an RFI to obtain initial input about potential projects.
- New Jersey: In December 2012, the State Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee approved the New Jersey Social Innovation Act, which would establish a five-year pilot program to attract private funding to finance social services. The target areas are prevention and early intervention health care for low-income and uninsured people, in order to reduce government health care spending.
- North Carolina: In 2013, the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University began exploratory work around using SIBS for dissemination of a universal home visiting program known as Durham Connects found to reduce emergent care in infants.
- Ohio: In November 2012, Cuyahoga County released an RFP on funding social service programs through pay-for-success contracts. In the summer of 2013, the state of Ohio was selected to receive assistance from the SIB Lab.
- Oregon: The Governor’s 2013-2015 budget proposal included $800,000 for the Early Learning Division. The funds are intended to cover start-up costs for a “Pilot Prevention Health and Wellness Demonstration Project for Social Impact Financing.”
- South Carolina: In June 2013, South Carolina was selected to receive assistance from the SIB Lab and looks to use the support to develop a home-visiting program. In September 2012, the state issued an RFI related to Social Impact Bonds.
- Washington, D.C.: The District of Columbia initiated a Request for Qualifications in September 2013 for a feasibility study of DC Social Impact Bonds.
Intermediaries and Technical Assistance Providers
- Finance For Good
- Harvard Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab: With start-up funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Harvard Kennedy School recently established a social impact bond technical assistance lab that provides pro bono technical assistance to state and local governments that are considering the pay for success approach.
- Instiglio: Instiglio advances its mission by creating social impact bonds (SIB) and results-based financing programs in low and middle-income countries.
- Investing For Good
- Social Finance Israel: Social Finance Israel (SFI) is a financial intermediary that aims to provide both social and financial returns to investors. SFI will issue social-financial products, such as Social Impact Bonds, in order to raise new capital for the most effective not-for-profit organizations in Israel, tackling the country’s most pressing social and economic issues, while delivering monetary returns to investors.
- Social Finance UK: Social Finance is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2007 to help build a social investment market in the UK. Social Finance provides a range of financial advisory services to help build the social investment market. We are dedicated to finding ways to raise capital through robust investment propositions.
- Social Finance US: Social Finance, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing investment capital to drive social progress. It is a market intermediary that works collaboratively with public and private partners (including governments, social service organizations, investors, and intermediaries) to develop, structure, finance and manage high-quality SIBs. Its flexible approach enables services to be tailored to match a project’s specific needs.
- Social Investment Business Group
- Third Sector Capital Partners: Third Sector Capital Partners provides advisory services to government, human service providers, social investors and project intermediaries pursuing Pay for Success and Social Innovation Financing initiatives. We also help high performing nonprofit organizations secure the growth capital they need to advance their missions.
- "Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship": The Bertha Centre at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business established in 2011 as the first academic centre in Africa dedicated to research, teaching, dialogue and support of social innovations that positively change and challenge rules, policies, technologies, structures, beliefs and institutions.
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