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Challenging the Status Quo: Philadelphia’s Exploration of Pay for Success

Anna Fogel, Jeff Shumway, and Anant Udpa

Public Sector Solutions, Public Safety & Reentry, Results-Based Funding

Key Takeaway

Pay for Success can be a powerful tool for jurisdictions to use in addressing entrenched social issues. But PFS itself requires a shift from the status quo in how services are funded, delivered and evaluated, and often brings up challenging questions across the jurisdiction. While the answers to these questions vary by community, this report describes our approach in Philadelphia which we hope will serve as a helpful roadmap for jurisdictions considering PFS.


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Many cities and states have begun to explore how Pay for Success (PFS) projects can improve outcomes. This report details Social Finance’s strategy in assessing the feasibility of the implementation of PFS in Philadelphia. The authors describe the analysis, research, and collaboration efforts required to inform a successful PFS project. The report also includes Philadelphia’s recommendations for other PFS initiatives focused on reducing recidivism rates of citizens returning from jail or prison and limiting out-of-county placements of system-involved youth.

Enhancing the well-being of residents, including our most vulnerable citizens, requires a steadfast commitment to continuously improving government services. In order to achieve meaningful continuous improvement, policymakers must use data and evidence to drive decision-making.–Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia (2008-2016)

Related Insight

Roadmap for Pay for Success in Philadelphia
Philadelphia downtown

Roadmap for Pay for Success in Philadelphia

Working with the office of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Social Finance explored the feasibility of improving recidivism and child welfare outcomes through a Pay for Success transaction.

Anna Fogel, Jeff Shumway, Anant Udpa