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Pay for Success Issue Brief Series

Jake Segal and Narni Summerall

Public Sector Solutions, Children & Families, Public Safety & Reentry, Education, Workforce & Economic Mobility, Strategic Program Design & Management, Results-Based Funding, Data Solutions

Key Takeaway

Pay for Success strategies build stronger contractual relationships between funding and results—paying for important, policy-relevant outcomes achieved, rather than for uncertain programs. At times, Pay for Success leverages private investors to support the working capital needs of programs by providing them with expansion capital to serve more people and taking on the risk and potential reward of getting better results.

This series of 10 issue briefs on Pay for Success (PFS) is intended to provide practical guidance and examples for government officials interested in pursuing PFS within their agencies or jurisdictions.

The briefs serve as introductions to different elements of PFS, from understanding whether it’s a good fit for the problem at hand, to selecting project outcomes to managing performance post launch. We created this series to help address common questions about PFS and highlight our lessons learned at Social Finance after a decade of working to pioneer PFS in the United States.

A woman holds two smiling babies wearing yellow jumpsuits in a classroom.


This subset of briefs provides essential background information on PFS and the tools associated with the strategy, along with a framework for assessing PFS project fit.

  • Brief 1: Introduction to Pay for Success
    Pay for Success as a mechanism for directing funding toward outcomes.
  • Brief 2: The Pay for Success Toolkit
    An overview of Social Impact Bonds, Outcomes Rate Cards, and Career Impact Bonds.
  • Brief 3: Assessing Pay for Success Project Fit
    Criteria to help decide if PFS is the right tool for the problem at hand.
A man and woman discuss the JVS launch issue briefs.


This subset of briefs centers on PFS launch best practices and includes tools and strategies needed for designing and rolling out PFS initiatives.

  • Brief 4: Getting Started on Pay for Success
    Initial actions outcomes payers can take to build strong project foundations.
  • Brief 5: Defining Success in Pay for Success
    Identifying and selecting meaningful outcomes for PFS projects.
  • Brief 6: Measuring Success in Pay for Success
    Choosing the right evaluation methodology for PFS projects.
  • Brief 7: Is the Price Right?
    Strategies for valuing project outcomes.
  • Brief 8: Pay for Success Contracting
    Creating legal agreements for PFS projects.
A son hugs his father around the neck, both wearing white shirts outside.


This subset of briefs offers insight into PFS project management, covering key topics like active performance management and governance, which are key to achieving maximum impact.

  • Brief 9: Active Performance Management
    Ongoing monitoring and course-correction to ensure project success.
  • Brief 10: Pay for Success Governance
    Moving from compliance to collaboration.

Produced with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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