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New Momentum Enabling an Outcomes Mindset in Government and the Social Sector

Last week the White House hosted a meeting of outside leaders who are advancing a series of new tools that are helping government to drive better outcomes.

Last week at the White House, the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of Management, the U.S. Digital Service, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted leaders representing all levels of government as well as academics, community organizations, philanthropy, impact investors, and technologists who are advancing a series of new tools that are helping government to drive better outcomes.   

Participants discussed the progress we’ve made across a series of innovative approaches, from evidence-based policy to data science; placed-based initiatives to procurement innovations. We focused on a new framing that is the common connector among all of these approaches: a core focus, central to the DNA of each, on achieving better outcomes.

We also highlighted new momentum that can help government adopt an outcomes mindset. Below are newly announced commitments and examples of progress as the Administration works with social sector stakeholders to advance twenty-first century solutions that can transform service delivery and strengthen citizens’ connection to government.

Leaders gather at the White House
David Wilkinson addresses a group of leaders convened at the White House to discuss innovative outcomes approaches to government. 

Building Knowledge and Managing Systems Change

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Nonprofit Finance Fund are launching a two-year project to explore the potential to reorient parts of our social system around outcomes. The project kicks off this month and, through a national "knowledge campaign," will promote dialog among government, service providers, investors and philanthropists about the opportunities and threats inherent in this systemic shift. The project will publish a book in 2017 that will share insights from prominent leaders in the social sector, government, and finance and examine what this shift will mean for the future of the nonprofit sector, the impact investing field, and social policy more generally.
  • Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced that the county, along with The Sundance Film Festival, The Sorenson Center at the University of Utah, and The National Association of Counties, will host an Innovation Summit on January 27-30, 2016 in Salt Lake County. The nonpartisan event, which will include an official Sundance selection film screening, will highlight important advances in several areas of outcomes-driven social innovation.
  • Academic and Research Developments: At the meeting, participants from Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation and Accenture discussed new papers on outcomes-focused government, exploring strategies for public sector spending to pay for policies and programs that deliver increased social impact and accelerate movement toward outcomes-focused performance through outcomes-based assessments.

Data Tools to Empower Communities

  • Measure of America, with the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, launched DATA2GO.NYC, a free, easy-to-use mapping and data tool that brings together federal, state and local data vital to understanding how multiple factors combine to influence New Yorkers' well-being in every neighborhood. Containing 350 indicators for each of New York City's 59 community districts, the DATA2GO.NYC website and mobile app aim to transform isolated statistics into a powerful portrait of human needs in the region.
  • The University of Chicago's Center for Data Science and Public Policy announced it will publish a white paper examining critical data barriers and solutions for outcomes contracting by December 2015. Based on perspectives from experts in the field, the paper will articulate data challenges in launching outcomes-focused contracts, offer emerging solutions, and provide recommendations for communities to ensure they are data-ready. It will also fully fund a team of four competitively selected data scientists to support a Pay for Success project as a part of its 2016 Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellowship Program.

Advancing Outcomes through Pay for Success

  • New York State, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), and Social Finance announced a major enrollment milestone in their Pay for Success project in New York City and Rochester, aimed at reducing recidivism and increasing employment for formerly incarcerated men. One thousand clients have enrolled in CEO's life skills, transitional job, and employment services, meeting the project's first enrollment goal ten months ahead of schedule. 
  • The State of Illinois is preparing to launch the ramp-up phase of a Pay for Success project to improve outcomes for youth dually-involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The project will pilot a collaborative approach that redesigns internal systems, expands access to evidence-based programming, and increases the use of data-driven decision-making. The initiative, led by the Conscience Community Network – a network of six Illinois nonprofits – aims to reduce or prevent the time dually-involved youth spend in residential care, prevent repeat criminal behavior, and foster successful transitions to adulthood.
  • Living Cities, with Third Sector Capital Partners, today introduces a new impact investment initiative, making available Pay for Success project “construction financing” to cover the upfront costs of putting together PFS projects and help accelerate the launch of sound projects. This work can include target population selection, data gathering and analysis, economic modeling, evaluation design, and program training and scaling. The first three PFS “Construction Loans” were recently made with support from Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.

Federal Actions on Outcomes-Focused Initiatives

  • The Department of Education, in partnership with the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, announced the award of nine new Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth.  These communities will receive new flexibility and start-up grants to implement innovative programs to improve education, employment, and other key outcomes for disconnected youth.  In addition, the Department of Education released a Notice of Proposed Priorities for the upcoming and future rounds of P3 pilots, inviting critical input from the field to continue strengthening this initiative.
  • The Administration has launched an Interagency Evidence Process through which agencies are taking action that advance and institutionalize evidence-based policy and practice.  
  • In partnership with several agencies, the White House has launched a Pay for Success Interagency Learning Network to deepen and widen knowledge about how this tool can test innovative ideas, scale what’s working, and ultimately drive better outcomes for the American people. It builds on federal work to date and responds to burgeoning interest among states and communities. A recent GAO report also recognized the value in more formal interagency collaboration in this emerging field.
  • Highlighted as part of a Presidential announcement this week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice have launched an $8.7 million demonstration grant to address homelessness and reduce recidivism among the justice-involved population. The Pay for Success Permanent Supportive Housing Demonstration will test cost-effective ways to help persons cycling between the criminal justice and homeless service systems, while making new Permanent Supportive Housing available for the reentry population.

We are happy to recognize these public and private commitments and actions, which mark progress and help provide the tools necessary for government and the social sector to adopt an outcomes mindset.  The Administration will continue to build on this momentum and to work with stakeholders at all levels of government and beyond. 

Tara McGuinness is a Senior Advisor in the Office of Management and Budget