Urban Institute
Senior Research Associate
Urban Institute
Project Associate
Urban Institute
Research Associate II

The Social Innovation Fund's PFS Investment: Partnerships by the Numbers

We’ve written quite a bit about preparing for pay for success (PFS) projects; from understanding the program evidence base, to pricing outcomes, to the importance of rigorous evaluation design. But at the heart of any successful PFS planning activity are productive public-private partnerships.  These partnerships can be complicated. 

Graphics modeling the PFS process, like the one above, are often a sea of arrows showing the flow of money, services and ideas, all of which require new connections between people that work in very different sectors. 

No other federal investment has fostered more of these PFS partnerships than the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a major project of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Last week, CNCS highlighted these partnerships during SIF Week – an effort to raise awareness about the SIF and the impact its funding has had on the communities that receive SIF resources. Multiple stakeholders, including Urban, used SIF Week as an opportunity to release findings on the SIF's impact, announce new subgrantees, and show public support for organizations on the ground working to improve their communities through SIF investments.

Here we take a closer look at the over $25 million CNCS SIF investment specific to pay for success and the multiplicative effect on partnerships. These resources are used at the state and local level across the country to guide PFS planning partners through testing the feasibility of their proposed project approach, structuring the PFS transaction, or overcoming specific barriers to PFS project implementation, such as administrative data challenges.

The SIF PFS program has made investments in PFS through 12 different grantee organizations in their 2014 and 2016 funding competitions.

Each of these grantees sits at the top of their own partnership pyramid; most have partnered with other organizations to enrich the assistance they can offer PFS-planning jurisdictions. Forty-two (42) collaborative or funding partnerships add value to the PFS planning services these grantees provide.

As required by the SIF model, each grantee hosts a fair and open competition to identify promising PFS planning sites in communities across the US.  So far, these 12 grantees have selected over 90 subgrantees and subrecepients.  SIF funds help move these planning sites from asking the question, “should we do PFS?”, to structuring a transaction and actual program implementation.

The full impact of the SIF PFS investment remains to be seen. The most visible successes are in the places that have moved from PFS feasibility to transaction structuring to actual PFS launch. However, other positive outcomes may accrue to places that don’t make it that far. Those places may have learned valuable lessons about their local capacities, gaps in their existing data infrastructure or provider capacity. Others may have been so confident in the success of a proposed intervention that they decide to fund the work through their normal procurement process.

Funds like the SIF enable the sort of innovation and experimentation at the local level that can lead to projects with significant impact. These investments will remain important to the future of not only the PFS model, but of funding of what works.


Have a Pay for Success question? Ask our experts at PFSsupport@urban.org!

As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Scholars are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research. Photo via Shutterstock.