Monday, August 14, 2017

Demonstrating the impact and value of vision rehabilitation – a Report to the RNIB

Vision rehabilitation services are crucial to ensuring blind and partially sighted people remain as independent as possible. Now, new independent research commissioned by RNIB, with support from the Department of Health, has identified that the cost of providing vision rehabilitation services is dwarfed by the financial benefits.

Independent research by the Office for Public Management (OPM), based on a case study of services provided by Sight for Surrey has shown that the financial benefits of good vision rehabilitation services significantly outweigh the actual costs of delivering this service. In fact in the case study site, over £3.4 million of health and social care costs were avoided, reduced or deferred annually based on a service which cost an estimated £900,000 a year to deliver.

Building on the work of our See, Plan and Provide campaign, we are now working to ensure that commissioners or those making decisions understand the economic value of providing effective vision rehabilitation services and the long term costs avoided, reduced or deferred for the health and social care system.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Social Impact Bonds are not a magic bullet, but they can be useful

On 6 July 2017, we delivered a webinar on the Life Chances Fund (LCF) and Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) timed to raise awareness of the latest LCF call-out. As an independent public interest organisation, we are not in the market to “sell SIBs”. Instead, our mission is squarely on working with public services to enhance social impact.

The presentation begins at 5:10
Dr Pete Welsh presents at 8:23
Dr Chih-Hoong Sin presents at 24:55

 

 

Despite SIBs having been around since 2010, there is still a relatively low level of awareness. I have written elsewhere about how myths and misunderstandings abound in the context of a lack of transparency and limited, albeit improving, learning and sharing. I have also argued elsewhere that an innovation, such as SIBs, may be abandoned because of dissatisfaction with early versions of it, which may not have fulfilled the creative potential that may be on offer.

We maintain that SIBs are not a magic bullet. Nonetheless, we believe they have value particularly when considered as part of a wider suite of responses to financing and delivering public services.

Those interested in the LCF should not start with the position of: “I want to do a SIB”. If all we have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail that needs pounding. We should start with clarity over the problem we are trying to solve. Work is then needed to explore whether the potential solution is amenable to outcomes contracting. Where the issue at hand lends itself to being tackled through an outcomes-based commissioning approach, we then need to consider whether social investment adds value or whether there are other more appropriate ways of financing and delivering an outcomes contract.

While not exhaustive, we present three reasons for why and when SIBs may make sense for commissioners.

  1. The space to innovate – When budgets are tight, there can be aversion to taking risk. New, untested, interventions may be overlooked as the risk of failure is high. Commissioners do not want to be seen as ‘gambling’ on things that prove not to work. Under a SIB model, the financial risk of failure is transferred onto social investors. Commissioners only pay for outcomes, and not for failure. In this way, SIBs can be seen as one way of protecting the space to innovate.
  2. Driving efficiency – With established services, there may be less inclination to adopt a SIB approach. There is, however, emerging evidence from evaluations that SIBs can drive higher levels of outcomes even for proven interventions. Of course, it is still too early to conclude that SIBs always drive higher performance, and more evaluations are needed. Nonetheless, if this early finding is true, then SIBs can be said to drive greater efficiency in existing interventions. Process evaluations report consistently that the SIB model, by aligning incentives, encourages commissioners, providers and social investors to work together and ‘pull in the same direction’. Where they work best, SIBs have been shown to have helped join up the ‘different worlds’ by breaking down institutional and cultural barriers to effective partnership working.
  3. Availability of top-up funds – At this point in time, the £80million LCF represents a time-limited window of opportunity for commissioners to tap into additional funds to help pay for outcomes. With top-up contributions from the LCF typically around 20 per cent of the overall financial value of outcomes, commissioners stand to ‘keep more of what they save’. This top-up contribution is obviously meant as a ‘sweetener’ for more commissioners to engage with SIBs. However, just to portray it as such is to oversimplify things. SIB funds like the LCF, its predecessor the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund, and others, perform a more important function of helping to break down commissioning silos. There is clear recognition that many of the social issues that SIBs have been deployed to help solve are entrenched and cross-cutting. For example, tackling alcohol dependency not only has implications for the use of health and social care services, but also for housing, criminal justice agencies, etc. Working out ‘who pays and who saves’ can be hugely challenging, and can stand in the way of effective co-commissioning. Many have argued, nonetheless, that top-up funds like the LCF are not sustainable over the longer term. In the meantime, they do provide the opportunity for at least testing out different models of co-commissioning. It is of interest to note that there are already efforts underway to develop SIBs that do not rely on top-up funds. It will be important for learning from these efforts to be shared more widely.

In conclusion, I reiterate the importance of being clear about the rationale for developing a SIB. For commissioners, this is especially pertinent as there are a range of alternatives for raising capital, some more cheaply than others. There needs to be a clear case for using public monies under a SIB model, with effective communication around how SIBs can add value.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment

 

Additional video and interactive content is available via the Webinar Webex site here.  Note – it is best to access using Chrome or Firefox.

 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Corporate Responsibility at OPM Group: our Commitment to Communities

At OPM Group, our Corporate Responsibility work engages with 4 main areas:

We believe that for corporate responsibility work to benefit communities, it needs to be ongoing, community-driven, and transparent.

As a Living Wage Employer whose social purpose is to support and champion the delivery of social impact and help people have a say in the decisions that affect them, corporate responsibility is the fabric of our business model and activities.

Current Connections and Activities

In January 2017, we joined the Heart of the City network, a London business led-charity, to engage with other socially committed organisations in London and continue to grow our firm commitment to corporate responsibility. As part of our programme we became a Living Wage employer in April. Our activities have included research for the Migration Museum Project; community walks to identify local needs which we can contribute to and surveys to assess how we can improve our environmental sustainability.

Read more about our Corporate Responsibility work

Want to know more about our corporate responsibility process? Or, discover our top tips for engaging your colleagues on corporate responsibility activities? Read our recent blog posts.

Responsible Business Week: alternative approaches to community impact

Win the champion: how we found our Green Team on the first call out

 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Life Chances Fund Social Impact Bond – Free Webinar

6 July 2017.  11am – 12pm

OPM Group is bringing together influential people in social care and public health for a webinar to explore the opportunities of the £80m Life Chances Fund (LCF). The LCF is designed to help those people in society who face the most significant barriers to leading happy and productive lives. OPM Group’s internationally recognised Social Impact Bond (SIB) experts Dr Chih Hoong Sin and Dr Peter Welsh will help you gain a clear understanding of how to:

The current round of the LCF supports:

Who is it for?

This first in our Life Chances Fund webinar series is primarily intended for commissioners:

About the speakers

Dr Chih Hoong Sin is Director of Innovation & Social Investment at OPM Group and has been influential in leading both the development of SIBs and the thinking around their use in areas such as health and social care. Chih Hoong has worked with SIBs from Essex to Japan and has become one of the foremost experts in the field, delivering some of the most significant workshops and learning events in the UK and appearing as a keynote speaker.   Dr Peter Welsh is Head of Evaluation at OPM Group and is recognised as a SIB advisor by the Centre for SIBs following his innovative work in developing the ‘Closer to Home’ SIB for Kent County Council. Peter’s specific expertise in evaluation is essential in building the evidence base for SIBs and providing the basis for building investor confidence and impact measurement.

About OPM group

OPM Group is an independent employee-owned research and consultancy organisation. We support and champion the delivery of social impact, and help people have a say in the decisions that affect them. We work with public, private and third sector organisations – as well as service users and communities – to ensure that services are designed and implemented efficiently, effectively and in the public interest. We deliver a range of services including

Our clients mainly work in:

We were established in 1989 as the UK’s first employee-owned “public interest” company. Since then, the landscape of public service delivery has changed immensely but our commitment to social value still runs through all the work we do. We are proud of the social impact of our work and this motivates us to deliver high quality services and outcomes for our clients. Please save the date if you are interested in attending.  More details to follow W/C 26 July 2017 

We welcome any specific questions and would be delighted to receive them before the event.  Please can you email these (and any questions) to Peter Welsh: 

pwelsh@opm.co.uk  and prefix the subject line with LCFSIBWEBINAR 

If you would like to participate please contact Marcus Clissold-Lesser:

mclissold-lesser@opm.co.uk to get a Webex meeting invitation

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

OPM Group is part of an exciting three year project to develop connected driverless vehicles in the UK for an ageing society

FLOURISH is a three year government funded project which aims to advance the successful implementation of connected driverless vehicles in the UK. The project is worth 5.5 million and is being delivered by a multi-sector consortium.
 
It is anticipated that older adults with ageing-related impairments and people with mobility needs will be particular beneficiaries of such technology, supporting them to lead more active and independent lives. FLOURISH has a deliberate focus on meeting the needs of these target groups and hopes to accelerate their ability to become early adopters of connected driverless vehicles.
 
OPM Group’s role on FLOURISH is to conduct research and engagement with stakeholders and members of the public from the identified target groups to understand the pragmatic challenges and opportunities for the use of connected driverless vehicles. The findings from our research and engagement are informing the vehicle trialling and development of the technology and services that are being taken forward by FLOURISH partners.
 
For more information visit: http://www.flourishmobility.com/

Friday, May 12, 2017

Social Impact Bonds and their implications for service providers

During my recent visit to Japan, I heard about the early steps taken in the Yokohama City Social Impact Bond (SIB) pilot. I was struck by how radical the idea of outcomes-based commissioning and delivery is in Japan. The current interest in SIBs in Japan can be seen as an attempt to refocus public services on to outcomes and not simply on delivery.

At the Social Impact Forum in Yokohama City, I also listened to the experiences of colleagues from Teens and Toddlers: a non-profit organisation running programmes involving young people mentoring young children.

Comparing the two sets of presentations surfaced a number of issues relating to the implications of SIBs for service providers from the voluntary and community sector.

Grant funding v. contracting

Charities play an important role in society, and this is true internationally. In the UK, they are seen as well placed to deliver services in a more bespoke and meaningful way.

At the same time, funding for charities has changed significantly. Relationships are increasingly based on contracts and competition, and charities are challenged to prove their worth or impact. While core grant funding is still seen as playing an important role, and one that should not be neglected, charities in the UK have accepted the reality of contract funding.

In Japan, on the other hand, grant funding for charity providers is the norm. This has important implications for early attempts at SIBs. Since April 2015, some local governments and national government departments have engaged in pilot experiments in collaboration with non-profit players. The Nippon Foundation supported the ones in Yokosuka City, Fukuoka City, and Amagasaki City through grant-giving models that cannot truly be seen as SIBs.

The Yokohama City SIB pilot is the first to involve private capital through the involvement of Goldman Sachs Japan. Despite this, it is illuminating that Goldman Sachs Japan has insisted that the funds are called “donation” and not “investment”. There is resistance towards shifting the voluntary sector in the direction of contract-based and investment-driven models.

Performance monitoring

As charities in the UK engage more directly with contract funding, they have become better at measuring impact (or at least recognising that they have to demonstrate impact).

SIBs, as a form of outcomes-based commissioning, has considerable demands around measurement. After all, financial returns are linked directly to the achievement (and evidencing) of stated outcomes.

During the Yokohama City Social Impact Forum, we heard colleagues from Teens and Toddlers talk about how they already had a good system for evaluation and performance monitoring prior to their engagement in SIBs. In fact, their track record in measurement was one of the factors influencing their decision to go for (and ultimately succeed in) a SIB. We further heard how the organisation modified and expanded their measurement systems as a result of SIBs.

In contrast, Japanese colleagues have encountered significant challenges in terms of measurement. Charity sector providers there are not used to measuring impact. Measurement relates overwhelmingly to throughput (e.g. number of service users) and activities. It is challenging not only getting them to understand why different measurement is needed, but also how to do this robustly. Investors and commissioners find it difficult to assure themselves that a service provider has the requisite infrastructure and culture to make measurement work in support of a SIB.

There is a clear need for capacity building in the Japanese context, and we heard of how they are exploring partnerships with universities to help support this. Capacity building through collaboration is certainly worthy of further exploration both within Japan and internationally. In the UK, the Government Outcomes Lab is an example of this form of collaboration.

Conclusion

These are by no means the only implications for service providers. Our ‘Service Provider Toolkit’, for example, highlights others. Nonetheless, as international learning and sharing grow, we start to identify key themes that cross-cut national boundaries. These could focus our efforts at improving SIB design and implementation in different contexts.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bake My Day!

I recently discovered a new facilitation tool. Bread making. When in doubt, if you’ve got a tricky subject matter, or disparate group of people, bake a loaf.

As part of Marmalade 2017, Arts at the Old Fire Station, Camerados, and Mayday Trust hosted a workshop called Bread and Butter Services. This workshop intended to explore the value of relationships in addressing problems caused by isolation and loneliness. There were about 45 participants; a mixture of organisations providing services for homeless people, service commissioners, and people with lived experiences of homelessness and times of crisis.

You can watch a film about the whole day here.

OPM Group’s “Dialogue by Design” team supported the design of the event, and facilitated the day. Aside from the endless supply of fantastic(ally awful) puns that come with bread baking as a workshop activity, there are a host of reasons why it really works. Here are my top 5:

1) It gives people something to do other than talk to each other. This may seem an odd thing to say when often successful workshops are built on the quality of the conversations that take place. However, sitting across a table from someone else, aware that you need to reach some sort of outcome by a certain time of the day, can produce a very forced conversation. This is especially true when working with a group of people who may find it difficult to interact with each other. Giving people an activity to do together takes the pressure off and allows people to interact more naturally. The conversations that need to happen can still happen, but in a much more relaxed way.

2) It builds trust. Providing an activity that has nothing to do with the subject matter of the workshop encourages people to see each other as people – not as their job titles. Power dynamics and tensions in the room quickly diffuse as people come together over a simple, fun activity, in which everyone can easily participate. As a result, conversations become more human, more honest, and more productive.

3) It introduces a little chaos. Not everyone is comfortable with highly formal, organised processes. While other elements of the day were more standard design-workshop style activities, the bread-making ensured there was always an element of unpredictability running throughout. This was reassuring for those for whom a workshop or conference-style environment was new and intimidating, and conversely was stimulating for those who may have been dreading the standard flip-chart and post-it-note workshop routine.

4) It doesn’t take over the day. At first, I did think we may have bitten off more bap than we could chew by trying to get to the end of the day with solid workshop outputs AND edible bread products. However, bread baking can really be timed around the other activities, and actually doesn’t take too long. Our participants probably spent a total of an hour on bread-related activities, and the time that was spent doing that was invaluable in terms of ensuring points 1 and 2 above happened early on in the day.

5) You can eat the output of your workshop at the end. Once we had finished for the day we brought in the baked loaves, with some jam and cheese and drinks, and invited everyone to enjoy what they had made together. This provided not just a great metaphor for collaboration and building positive relationships, but also facilitated exactly that.

The event was well received by all participants. Seven subject-specific outcomes were developed during the day, as well as five key behaviours to embrace (for more information see the event report produced by the Arts at Old Fire Station and this blog post from Lankelly Chase)- so the bread was certainly not the only positive product of the event. For more information about Marmalade, please get in touch with Arts at the Old Fire Station – and check out the video wrap up for this year. For information about the process design for the workshop, (bread making and otherwise) contact anna@dialoguebydesign.co.uk

Anna McKeon
Consultant
Dialogue by Design

 

 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The impact of learning and sharing on the development of Social Impact Bonds

In this third blog of my 2017 series inspired by my advisory visit to Japan, I reflect on the importance of international learning and sharing for improving Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). While honoured to have been an expert advisor to colleagues in Japan over the past three years, helping the country take its first steps to develop SIBs; I have also benefitted hugely from the opportunity to learn from them and others.

Here I reflect on the impact of international learning and sharing on two specific areas, based on my Japanese experience.

Role of government

In a previous blog, I argued that governments have key roles to play in supporting the growth of SIBs (and social investment more widely). As I shared the UK lessons during the Social Impact Forum at Yokohama City, I also heard from Australian colleagues who put forward a similar view. What was notable was the fact the New South Wales Government in Australia has actually issued a social investment policy committing to two SIB transactions per year. While the UK Government has been hugely supportive of SIBs, the support has been enacted in different ways. We do not have a specific policy committing us to a specific number of SIBs per year. As Australian colleagues noted, this policy really focusses minds and has mobilised everyone to work together. The machinery of government has been aligned to support this, for example by building in evaluation; by developing policy reviews and analyses; by assessing the effectiveness of known interventions in priority policy areas, etc.

Japanese colleagues, reflecting on their (still very recent) experience, observed that while the Japanese government has made certain overtures indicating interest in SIBs, they have been far less proactive and engaged in stimulating growth, compared with Australia and the UK. It has been very challenging to engage with central government, leaving local governments and their non-profit organisation partners to try lobbying for change while attempting to make things happen on a very small scale.

This comparative approach enabled us to work closely with Japanese colleagues to share specific recommendations for engaging with central government, while also drawing in lessons from related developments and how these have successfully captured the imagine of governments, such as Climate Bonds.

The purpose of SIBs

Another area where the comparative approach surfaced important issues for scrutiny is the motivation behind SIBs. While much of the discourse in the UK, US and Australia is underpinned by a strong ‘savings’ narrative, Japan seems to be more minded to develop SIBs that are focussed squarely on improving wellbeing even when this may not lead to any discernible savings for the public purse.

In challenging the dominant discourse around SIBs, Japanese colleagues tapped into a creative seam of thinking around constructing SIBs on a very different foundation. We were able to share specific models of how this may be done, proceeding to advise Japanese colleagues about the implications for outcome metric selection and outcome modelling. At the same time, this re-focussing enabled us to build a stronger narrative and practice around more meaningful user-defined outcomes in the UK, counter-balancing the more dominant system-defined outcomes approach. I have certainly woven this into my work with Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group on their SIB to tackle alcohol dependency.

Conclusion

One of the downsides of working in the SIB field is that although we all assert that “things change very quickly”, we have yet to demonstrate willingness to share experiences, learning and data. Indeed, I have often encountered strong opposition towards sharing, under the guise of “commercial and/or political sensitivity”.

At the same time, we all call for transaction costs to be reduced as the current high costs make it difficult for SIBs to be sustainable. Surely one of the ways to bring down transaction costs is for better sharing of information and experiences so that others do not have to reinvent the wheel every time a new SIB is being developed. This glaring contradiction does not escape me and many others. It is time that we have the courage and humility to learn and share more widely.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The impact of learning and sharing on the development of Social Impact Bonds

In this third blog of my 2017 series inspired by my advisory visit to Japan, I reflect on the importance of international learning and sharing for improving Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). While honoured to have been an expert advisor to colleagues in Japan over the past three years, helping the country take its first steps to develop SIBs; I have also benefitted hugely from the opportunity to learn from them and others.

Here I reflect on the impact of international learning and sharing on two specific areas, based on my Japanese experience.

Role of government

In a previous blog, I argued that governments have key roles to play in supporting the growth of SIBs (and social investment more widely). As I shared the UK lessons during the Social Impact Forum at Yokohama City, I also heard from Australian colleagues who put forward a similar view. What was notable was the fact the New South Wales Government in Australia has actually issued a social investment policy committing to two SIB transactions per year. While the UK Government has been hugely supportive of SIBs, the support has been enacted in different ways. We do not have a specific policy committing us to a specific number of SIBs per year. As Australian colleagues noted, this policy really focusses minds and has mobilised everyone to work together. The machinery of government has been aligned to support this, for example by building in evaluation; by developing policy reviews and analyses; by assessing the effectiveness of known interventions in priority policy areas, etc.

Japanese colleagues, reflecting on their (still very recent) experience, observed that while the Japanese government has made certain overtures indicating interest in SIBs, they have been far less proactive and engaged in stimulating growth, compared with Australia and the UK. It has been very challenging to engage with central government, leaving local governments and their non-profit organisation partners to try lobbying for change while attempting to make things happen on a very small scale.

This comparative approach enabled us to work closely with Japanese colleagues to share specific recommendations for engaging with central government, while also drawing in lessons from related developments and how these have successfully captured the imagine of governments, such as Climate Bonds.

The purpose of SIBs

Another area where the comparative approach surfaced important issues for scrutiny is the motivation behind SIBs. While much of the discourse in the UK, US and Australia is underpinned by a strong ‘savings’ narrative, Japan seems to be more minded to develop SIBs that are focussed squarely on improving wellbeing even when this may not lead to any discernible savings for the public purse.

In challenging the dominant discourse around SIBs, Japanese colleagues tapped into a creative seam of thinking around constructing SIBs on a very different foundation. We were able to share specific models of how this may be done, proceeding to advise Japanese colleagues about the implications for outcome metric selection and outcome modelling. At the same time, this re-focussing enabled us to build a stronger narrative and practice around more meaningful user-defined outcomes in the UK, counter-balancing the more dominant system-defined outcomes approach. I have certainly woven this into my work with Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group on their SIB to tackle alcohol dependency.

Conclusion

One of the downsides of working in the SIB field is that although we all assert that “things change very quickly”, we have yet to demonstrate willingness to share experiences, learning and data. Indeed, I have often encountered strong opposition towards sharing, under the guise of “commercial and/or political sensitivity”.

At the same time, we all call for transaction costs to be reduced as the current high costs make it difficult for SIBs to be sustainable. Surely one of the ways to bring down transaction costs is for better sharing of information and experiences so that others do not have to reinvent the wheel every time a new SIB is being developed. This glaring contradiction does not escape me and many others. It is time that we have the courage and humility to learn and share more widely.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Responsible Business Week: alternative approaches to community impact

Ahead of Responsible Business Week, we at OPM Group have been busy re-thinking our responsible business priorities, strategy, and policy. We’ve also been identifying local community needs as potential opportunities to contribute our time and skills and a group of us have been offering our research and insight to a growing charity, the Migration Museum Project.

In a time of growth in our organisation, our internal responsible business team – and the wider organisation – have had the opportunity to reimagine our purpose. As part of this process, we’ve joined a dynamic network of London businesses developing their responsible business activities through The Heart of the City and participating in workshops and mentoring events.

Sounding familiar? Identifying a responsible business team, engaging champions at all levels, sketching out time and resources, and measuring your activities is all critical to making it work. We’re proud that we can already tick many of these boxes. But, is this all? What does it mean for a responsible business plan to work?

We’re an employee owned business that provides research, evaluation, consultation and engagement services for public, private, and charities, as well as change and transformation and social investment expertise.  We work for the public interest and aim to improve social outcomes across our work and for our clients. So, we believe that being responsible looks a little different. Why?

For us, whilst ticking the critical boxes is necessary, we believe in a unique foundation for our responsible business work. We strive for social impact and giving people a say in decisions that affect them so our work with charities, the public sector, and other clients is the starting point. It means that rather than our responsible business work being a way to impress potential clients, or simply a mechanism for the Board to meet its soft objectives, it’s part of the ethos of our organisation. It means that considering our community impact is the fabric of our organisation.

It’s part of the projects we’re working on and where we share our learning with the clients and participants. Not only is it a source of constant inspiration, we’re confident it means quality time and skills spent on the greatest social impact for communities.

By: Sheila Pardoe, Anne Schuetz, Amélie Trepass, Beth Peach, Anna McKeon and Tim Bidey