Social Impact Bonds: are they effective?

James Ronicle 6th October 2016

Pioneers Post

In September, 40 researchers gathered to discuss the merits of social impact bonds. In the second of two articles, James Ronicle examines their effectiveness.

In the first of these two articles we looked at the reach of social impact bonds (SIBs) across the world and highlighted that some researchers are concerned about whether they are ethical or not.

Later on in the conference which took place on 12 and 13 September, the focus moved to the performance of SIBs. Some presenters speculated that SIBs would not increase outcomes, highlighting the dangers previously evident in other forms of Payment by Results (PbR) contracts. We were reminded of how PbR contracts might increase the measurement of outcomes, but this doesn’t necessarily mean more outcomes are achieved – as instead people game the system.

Dr Toby Lowe of Newcastle University Business School also argued, by showing us his ‘favourite diagram’ (see ‘The Obesity System map below), that some social systems are highly complex – there are so many parts to them you can never be sure what impact any intervention has actually had, so you certainly shouldn’t be tying payments to them.  Read the full  Pioneers Post article  here.

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