Making the economic case to government


Public agencies commissioning social impact bonds or other payment by results programmes want to see some kind of cost benefit analysis. But they might not always be so willing to provide the information an external organisation needs accurately estimate the benefit side. Different commissioners also have different requirements for cashable savings – for some it’s a key driver and for others it’s not a consideration.

I suggest that collecting benefits into the following five categories makes the information for the commissioner much clearer and, for UK commissioners, also explicitly addresses the requirements of the Social Value Act. All estimated amounts should be itemised and if an external applicant is unsure of the savings or benefits to public service agencies, then they should present a best estimate that prompts the commissioner to provide a more accurate figure. The Global Value Exchange is a database of proxy values that will be helpful for this.

Estimated amount
Cashable savings to commissioner(s)
Cashable savings to other public agencies
Non-cashable benefits / efficiency savings to commissioner(s)
Non-cashable benefits / efficiency savings to other public agencies
Savings/benefit to other stakeholders (social value)
Total economic benefit  

Do Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) work?

Do Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) work?

I’ve heard this question asked (and answered) quite a lot recently.
Every time, I just think ‘work at what?’

Does a SIB work if it manages to get three parties in a room to sign a contract and agree on a price for one outcome? Therefore, can a SIB be said to have worked before it begins to operate?
Does a SIB work if outcomes are improved for the beneficiaries involved? If money flows from governments to investors?
Does a SIB work if a service provider has correctly under-estimated its ability to change an outcome?
Does a SIB work if the majority of people involved in it report a positive experience?
If governments save money?
If governments get better value for money?
If service providers feel they are better able to pursue their mission?
If we learn?
If we change?
Or perhaps SIBs work if we don’t need them anymore in 5 years!

I’ve listed below 22 reasons that have been given for SIBs as they have been announced around the world. Success could be defined by any of these points.
Better programs and better results for the people who participate in them
1. Improving results for beneficiaries by focussing on outcomes rather than outputs
2. Improve the likelihood of delivering real and sustainable solutions to important social challenges
3. Making effective interventions available to far more people in need than the number that can be reached through traditional state contracts and philanthropy
4. Harnessing the innovation capacity of both investors and service providers for publicly funded services
5. Adding discipline to measuring outcomes for government programs because there is an upfront agreement on how to measure success
6. Improving the evidence base for social services, by mandating measurement and publication of outcomes
7. Accelerating the adoption and implementation of promising programs
8. Accelerating the expansion of evidence-based programs delivered by effective nonprofits
A social finance market
9. Unlocking funds to tackle social issues
10. Growing the social finance and social business sector
11. Providing new financial instruments to harness private investment for the benefit of the community
12. Enabling investors to achieve financial returns and social impact
13. Increasing funding for prevention and early intervention programs in a sustainable manner
14. Improving accountability and transparency for publicly funded services
15. Allowing governments to accept and measure new ideas from external providers, only paying for the ones that deliver
16. Saving Government money
17. Lowering risk for government
18. Savings can be recaptured and reinvested into a permanent funding stream for the program
Service providers
19. Increasing accessibility of payment by results contracts
20. Giving nonprofit providers a committed funding stream not subject to budget cuts
21. Aligning the interests of beneficiaries, nonprofit service providers, private investors, and governments
22. Facilitated coordination with organisations working on overlapping problems

Do SIBs work? What do you mean when you say “Do SIBs work”?