Urban Wire Strengthening the role of evidence in the pay for success field
John Roman
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Today at the Salt Lake Innovation Summit, the Urban Institute’s Pay for Success Initiative (PFSI) announced the seven jurisdictions and organizations that will be receiving up to 18 months of free training and technical assistance from our experts.

All together, we will be working with our partners in 15 counties across the United States, exploring innovative public/private financial partnerships to address core challenges from education, to health care, to justice. These innovations, called social impact bonds or pay for success (PFS) projects, shift the risks associated with testing new ideas or scaling proven concepts from the public to the private and nonprofit sector, all while maximizing public interests.

Our mission at the Urban Institute has always been to “elevate the debate” with grounded-in-evidence solutions. Through PFSI, we seek to further the PFS conversation by offering tangible support to states and localities considering PFS projects that accelerate the adoption of evidence-based practices. “Evidence” can’t just be a wonky buzzword—we need to weave it into the critical work being done to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

It is our goal to leverage Urban’s deep social policy expertise to make sure projects using this cutting-edge financing mechanism are grounded in the best available evidence so PFS can realize its full potential as a vehicle for scaling what we know works and for rigorously, transparently, and objectively testing new ideas we believe have a reliable theory of change.

For communities in the early stages of reform, we offer strategic, evidence-based support that overcomes long-term barriers to effective governance. We are excited to announce our partnership with one statewide and two county agencies:

We will also deliver targeted support to four organizations and their 12 partners to help PFS projects already underway address critical questions around evidence, evaluation, and deal implementation:

Our targeted support and strategic planning offerings are not the only ways we will be supporting the field. In the coming weeks, we will be launching our web portal, which includes an online support center for practitioners and tools to help jurisdictions think through whether PFS is the right approach for them.

We look forward to working with our partners over the next several months and to engaging with those on the ground as we continue to strengthen the role of evidence in this emerging field.


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The Urban Institute podcast, Evidence in Action, inspires changemakers to lead with evidence and act with equity. Cohosted by Urban President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Executive Vice President Kimberlyn Leary, every episode features in-depth discussions with experts and leaders on topics ranging from how to advance equity, to designing innovative solutions that achieve community impact, to what it means to practice evidence-based leadership.


Tags Pay for success
Policy Centers Research to Action Lab