An Introduction to Evaluation Designs in Pay for Success Projects

This brief provides a basic overview of evaluation designs to assist pay for success (PFS) stakeholders engaged in deal development. It focuses on comparison and its relation to various designs, and it presents key questions that PFS planners should address as they participate in evaluation design discussions. In PFS projects, strong evaluations are tasked with determining what happened, if the program caused these outcomes, and if outcome payments are triggered.


Managing Investors’ Risk in Pay for Success Projects

Pay for success (PFS) projects offer governments opportunities to invest in outcomes and employ new capital to meet the needs of their communities. But PFS projects also carry risks. For investors, the risks relate to the project failing to meet its outcomes or the government reneging on its commitment to pay. Investors’ perceptions of risk matter. Projects with high or unclear risk may discourage investors and prevent the project from launching.


Measuring Success in Pay for Success: Randomized Controlled Trials as the Starting Point

Evaluations are a key feature of pay for success (PFS) projects, and rigorous evaluation designs are important for building the evidence base of effective programs by determining whether a project’s outcomes can be attributed to the program. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the most rigorous evaluation design and give us the best approximation for what would have happened without the program. However, PFS stakeholders often don’t know about RCTs or consider them too expensive, difficult, or controversial.


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. 


Pay for Success: The Importance of Evidence

The link between pay for success and building the evidence base for social programs is not always intuitive, but it’s a critical relationship. Watch as PFSI’s Justin Milner explains how pay for success elevates evidence to innovate the way governments do business.