Justin Milner
Urban Institute
Senior Research Associate
Urban Institute
Research Product Manager

From Evidence to Outcomes: Using Evidence to Inform Pay for Success Project Design

The question at the heart of all PFS projects is whether a social program can measurably improve outcomes for a specific group of people. If the program works—as measured by a rigorous evaluation—investors get their money back, the government realizes cost savings, families and society benefit from better outcomes, and social service providers strengthen the case for funding their model. 

With the results of these projects determined by the performance of the chosen program, a fundamental question comes to the fore: how do we know what will work? While there is no simple answer, a growing body of social science research points to one critical element: strong evidence. For public and private leaders interested in PFS, consulting the evidence base for compelling social programs is essential for developing a strong project.

In this brief, we offer policymakers and PFS stakeholders principles to help them understand and interpret evidence and lay the groundwork for incorporating evidence into broader public decisionmaking.

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