Can Social Impact Bonds Reinvent Government?-The Urban Institute


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This is radio show 255.

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John Roman is a Senior Fellow at the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute. John addresses the lessons of social impact bonds and more importantly, their impact on criminal justice policy and the delivery of services to underserved populations.

From John’s article in the Huffington Post: “Results from the first generation of social impact bonds (also known as pay for success deals) are starting to come in. Today, the field has learned the results of the evaluation of the first social impact bond transaction in the United States.”

“The investment by Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies in a program to serve young men at the Rikers Island jail — the main processing and housing facility in New York City — did not show a sufficiently positive effect to warrant the continuation of this intervention. The program will terminate at the end of August.”

“While the results seem to be a defeat for this approach, we see them as a partial victory for this disruptive innovation. Here’s why: The goal of pay for success deals is to encourage private investors to fund proven social programs by providing upfront support to programs that seek to improve long-term outcomes for those in need. If the programs are successful, governments pay the investors back; if they are not, then the investors absorb the cost, and governments pay nothing.”

It’s possible that the most important part of the discussion is the process where the private sector and government join forces to provide services and the implications joint operations imply. John suggests that this model could a fundemental point of change for criminal justice and government operations and deserves discussion and consideration.


The project: 

 John’s article in the Huffington Post: 

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