On Tuesday, February 2 the American Enterprise Institute and Save the Children cosponsored an event, “Pay for Success: A New Approach to Finding Social Welfare Programs.”

The Capitol Hill discussion provided a forum to discuss new strategies to address intractable social problems. Pay for Success or what others call Social Impact Bonds are relatively new strategies that try and bring together local communities, non-profits and private investment communities to address serious challenges or social problems. Some of the examples include US and foreign projects that target a reduction in recidivism rates for adults reentering society from prison. Other projects seek to improve early childhood education, reduce child maltreatment or reduce the use of residential/group foster care.

Under this approach private investment funds are used with a combination of groups developing strategies with specific goals, for example reduced re-entries into prison by a specific mark or target over a certain number of years. If the result is realized over several years the investor gets their money back plus some profit.

Federal legislation is being cosponsored by partisan basis by Congressman John Delaney (D-MA) and Congressmen Todd Young (R-IN). Their bill HR 1336 would provide some federal seed money to encourage the state and local efforts. At the forum Congressman Delaney and Congressman Young both offered remarks expressing a desire to get beyond what some of the current limitations are on federal projects.  They offered examples including limited rigorous evaluation and research, lack of flexibility in spending and the inability to adapt to changing results.  Congressman Young emphasize his belief that too much of the current debated is framed by one side measuring increases in funding as a way to measure progress while the other side measures it in an opposite way with not enough attention focused on the desired outcome and solutions.

Their remarks were followed by a panel that included Tracy Palandjian, Social Finance, George Overholser, Third Sector Capital Partners, Jeremy Keele, Policy Innovation Lab-University of Utah, and Jon Barron, Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Generally discussion was less about the actual results and more about the potential for success or the social impact for these various projects. According to … {For more information see your weekly CWLA Member Children’s Monitor E-mail}