Challenging the Status Quo Publication Released

Press Release

Alex Zaroulis, Director of Communications
(617) 549-0358,

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

Social Finance Releases Pay for Success Feasibility Framework for Government; Highlights Public Impact Initiative to Amplify Impact

Washington, D.C. (June 22)–Social Finance launched Challenging the Status Quo: Philadelphia’s Exploration of Pay for Success today at the Urban Institute’s Pay for Success Initiative National Symposium. The paper details Social Finance’s work with the City of Philadelphia and provides a framework for governments looking to use the tools of Pay for Success (PFS) and outcomes-based approaches to improving their communities.

  • Read Challenging the Status Quo
  • Learnings from Social Finance’s work in Philadelphia informed the creation of Social Finance’s Public Impact Initiative

“Social Finance is focused on helping governments use the elements and lessons of Pay for Success to build effective social service initiatives based on data, evidence and high-quality execution, driving impact at scale,” said Jeff Shumway, Vice President of Advisory Services at Social Finance. “We hope the questions highlighted in Challenging the Status Quo will help governments adopt an outcomes focus using the full range of tools of Pay for Success.”

The City of Philadelphia engaged Social Finance to assess the feasibility of implementing a Pay for Success project. The city was focused on using PFS to reduce recidivism rates of citizens returning from jail or prison and to limit out-of-county placements of system-involved youth. Their goal was to understand the potential for PFS financing to complement ongoing efforts by driving public resources toward evidence-based, outcomes-driven programs.

“Enhancing the well-being of residents, including our most vulnerable citizens, requires a steadfast commitment to continuously improving government services,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, City of Philadelphia (2008-2016). “In order to achieve meaningful continuous improvement, policymakers must use data and evidence to drive decision-making. As importantly, policy-makers must be open to exploring new ideas that disrupt the status quo.”

Cities, counties, and states considering PFS financing face a number of questions about how PFS works. Each of these themes is explored in Challenging the Status Quo:

  1. DEFINING VALUE: What are the societal and fiscal benefits created for the city by the proposed PFS project?
  2. UNDERSTANDING GOVERNMENT FUNDING STREAMS: Which city agencies benefit from the proposed PFS project?
  3. DATA, DATA, DATA: What information does the city need to estimate and, ultimately, evaluate the impact of the proposed PFS project?
  4. A NEW KIND OF CONTRACT: How are PFS contracts different from other social services contracts and how can the city set them up for success?
  5. BEYOND THE ECONOMICS: How will PFS fit within existing initiatives and what new resources will the city need to support a PFS project?

In Philadelphia, the funding mechanism may have been Pay for Success, but the tools themselves are useful beyond projects financed with private capital. Governments focused on outcomes are increasingly employing the tools of Pay for Success to build outcomes-oriented contracts that clearly define and measure success; build in deep, data-driven program design; and invest seriously in active performance management.


About Social Finance
Social Finance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing capital to drive social progress. Social Finance is committed to using Pay for Success to tackle complex social challenges, facilitate greater access to services for vulnerable populations, and direct capital to evidence-based social programs – all with the goal of measurably improving the lives of people most in need. Social Finance has deep experience in the design and implementation of Pay for Success projects, from early-stage feasibility assessment, to project development and capital formation, to post-launch performance management and investment support.

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