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.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A radical proposition for changing the way we design SIBs – A service provider perspective

We have both written, previously, with energy and enthusiasm for SIBs; about the benefits they can bring. We still believe that to be true but we also believe that it is important not to lose sight of the potential challenges and downsides. From a service provider point of view, there is a risk that we can find ourselves in a difficult position once the SIB funding has gone. It can be difficult to sell something you have been able to deliver for free for three or four years under a SIB model. It is not impossible: you can sell to some, but not to all.

We recognize that the issue of having to charge for a previously ‘free’ service is not an issue that confronts all previously SIB-ed services. This is where the issue of ‘who has been paying’ and ‘who has been benefitting’ comes in. With SIBs being deployed across cross-cutting social issues, those who pay for outcomes are not always the only ones benefitting. At the end of a SIB, it can be challenging to persuade those other organizational beneficiaries to pay for some of the outcomes they have been enjoying over the duration of a SIB.

What that means is that the people who have been working tirelessly to get the expected results are left wondering: “What next? Another SIB? Great, if there is one on the horizon, or alternatively, look for another job.” It would be a real shame to lose good staff with all their knowledge and passion. The uncertainty towards the final phases of SIB delivery can affect the quality of delivery at a time when delivery needs to be at its best — the opportunity to ‘sell’ the product subsequently.

So what can we do? We could build in a period of adjustment, into costs, say, to cover six months of adjustment post the SIB delivery period. This would allow for the service provider to adjust to the change in a way that minimizes the impact on delivery during the final phases of the SIB.

It would allow those organizations that have benefitted from some of the outcomes from the SIB-ed service to have a period when the service is longer there. This is, of course, a contentious issue and is meant to be provocative. There is a case for arguing, nonetheless, that those organizations that have been benefitting from programmes but who have never had to pay often end up taking these programmes for granted. They do not necessarily understand the real value of things that they have been enjoying for free. Planning proactively for a period of withdrawal could prompt these other organizational beneficiaries to miss the programme and consider more clearly the case of buying in the service. All the while, the infrastructure and workforce for the intervention remain intact so that the programme can be mobilized at short notice. We all know that, sometimes, to truly appreciate something, you may have to do without it, feel the loss and take action to get it back!

So who could pay for this? Well, social investors. In the spirit of re-investing in services, this would go a long way to demonstrating their commitment to its principles. They could set an amount to support the service provider during this period of transition. This would allow the service provider to maintain good staff, engage with ‘new clients’ directly and agree costs. After all, it’s always cheaper to maintain an existing service that has been proven to work than to scrap it and rebuild it subsequently.

Indeed, true social investment is about sustainability. Under a SIB model, we continue tracking outcomes for those in direct receipt of services for a period of time after the SIB-ed programme delivery has ended. If we can do this for the direct service recipients, why would we not want to do that for delivery partners? There is growing recognition of the importance of capacity building within the voluntary and community service provider worlds to engage in outcomes contract and public service delivery more generally. There is further recognition that a healthy market for service provision should include diverse, small local players, so as to avoid larger players monopolizing the market. Changing the design of SIBs to actively promote the sustainability of such players will be transformative.

We continue to look at ways in which Social Investment can be utilized to support better outcomes for Children and Young People and are in early discussion with investors to see how Social Investment can support the growth of the newly formed Manchester Youth and Play Trust-Young Manchester

 

Michelle Farrell-Bell, Chief Executive, Young Manchester

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director of Innovation and Social Investment, OPM Group

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What’s your Corporate Responsibility value? What, how and why to measure impact

How can you know what impact your corporate responsibility activity made? Can you know what’s changed because of what you’re doing?

These questions can lead many down a rabbit hole of thinking programme evaluation and impact measurement is daunting – if not impossible.

As a research consultancy, we’ve heard many thoughts about the limitations of evaluating and measuring programmes and outcomes:

We get it. When corporate responsibility isn’t your day job, or even if it is, the process of designing research tools, talking to the right beneficiaries and analysing your data might be pushed down the long To-Do list.

But, as many participants were likely reminded of at the Heart of the City’s workshop on “Data, Information and Insight: understanding your impact” last week, measuring the value of a programme develops insights that can substantively make a case for your corporate responsibility story: to the Finance Director, the CEO and clients.

This is important. Whether we’ve come to corporate responsibility deliberately or accidentally, it’s hard to ignore the benefits a well-designed programme has on staff, communities and (eco)systems.

But what are these benefits? And, how do we know this? What can be improved?

Understanding your impact supports your organisation in demonstrating how its values and mission are being met and lets your team and organisation improve activities and programmes for the future.

However, while most organisations are great at communicating what they want to do:

“We will reduce poverty in the local area our office operates in by December.”

“We will reduce our carbon footprint by 5% by composting tea bags over 12 months.”

From our experience, there are 3 questions many organisations could improve on asking:

  1. What will change (for the organisation or communities) by doing what you want to do?
  2. Why will that change occur?
  3. What data do we already have that can generate this insight?

But – how can organisations ask these questions differently – or better?

One way is a tool called Theory of Change. This might be the first time you’re hearing of it, or maybe your organisation is already using the tool. But, so we’re on the same page, a recap:

The tool and thinking process to develop it:

Getting started

Last week, Tarran MacMillan and I were thrilled to work with fellow Heart of the City newcomers during our workshop, “What’s your value: how to know what, how and why to measure impact.”

During the session, we led participants through a Theory of Change exercise using our experience delivering workshops with the tool and evaluating our own corporate responsibility activity that we recently completed for the Migration Museum Project, a UK-based charity.

Example questions

  1. Action: what would your organisation like to achieve with its corporate responsibility programme?
  2. Activities: what does your organisation need to meet this goal?
  3. Change: what will happen as a result of your organisation’s corporate responsibility activities?

A Theory of Change can be produced at any point, though it’s most useful when developed collaboratively at the outset of a programme and referred to and adapted throughout as the programmes or goals change.

Programme and activity measurement can feel like a task to be done later, but the Theory of Change reminds us that getting started from the beginning helps you track useful data from the beginning that you can use to prove the great work you and your corporate responsibility team are doing.

Have you tried it?

If you’re interested to learn more, contact Dr Peter Welsh.

 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Accelerated Non-Medical Endoscopist Training Programme – Year 1 Evaluation (Report to Health Education England)

The Office for Public Management (OPM) was commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) to conduct an evaluation of the Non-Medical Endoscopist (NME) accelerated training pilot. The NME training pilot aimed to recruit and successfully train 40 NMEs across two cohorts. The first cohort started the programme in late January 2016 and the second cohort started the programme in mid-April 2016.

The evaluation aimed to produce both formative and summative findings about the impact and effectiveness of the training pilot. The evaluation activities consisted of:

 

 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why, in whole systems, is it so hard to move from papers to action?

This is a shorter version – full version of the above is available here:  full version.

One of the strangest experiences in whole systems change in the public sector is observing how much energy is spent writing papers that are not acted upon, attending meetings that don’t make decisions, and holding workshops that lead to elaborate diagrams but no agreement to proceed.

Ron Heifetz [1]coined the phrase ‘work avoidance’ to describe the way leaders are distracted from the difficult conversations that need to take place if we’re to achieve ambitious outcomes in tough times. Work avoidance is quite the opposite of laziness, indeed to avoid the real leadership work we often exhaust ourselves with back-to-back meetings, and slave over hundreds of pages of data and vast action plans.

Work avoidance, says Heifetz, can take a number of different forms:

It can feel discomfiting to talk about deep feelings and intentions when we are used to an impassive managerial style in our meetings. It can seem like ‘not proper work’ to discuss fears and worries. A flurry of meetings gives a reassuring sense of activity, while difficult conversations can get stuck, or go backwards for a while. But real leadership takes time and self-conscious effort – it involves telephone calls, and meetings in coffee shops, reflection and self-examination, looking into our own hearts to find our values and priorities. It can seem destructive to challenge work avoidance activity, since people are clearly working very hard. Finding ways to do so without blaming individuals is an important part of leadership. But, just as an experiment, if you suspect your ‘system’ is locked into work avoidance, try some of the following:

This is an extract from a longer article that can be found on our website. For more information about OPM’s work on system leadership – contact Sue Goss, Principal in whole-system change and integration – sgoss@opm.co.uk, 020 7239 7800

[1] See, for example, Ron Heifetz: Leadership Without Easy Answers, Harvard University Press, 1994

 

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Unleash the creative potential of Social Impact Bonds

In a previous blog based on my latest advisory trip to Japan, I noted that Japan is currently ‘translating’ the SIB model in order for it to be implemented in a way that is appropriate to its specific social, economic, political and cultural context. I have encouraged Japanese colleagues not to simply think that SIBs are and always will be what they currently look like. Instead, they should approach it creatively, making it work better for all. There is a risk that an innovation, such as SIBs, may be abandoned because of disillusionment with early versions of it, which may not have fulfilled the creative potential that may be on offer. Here, I describe four reasons why I think current SIBs have only scratched the surface of what may be possible.

Outcome payers

In the UK, we have become rather lazy with our terminology. I often hear people swap ‘commissioner’ for ‘outcome payer’. In doing so, there is a real risk that we limit the way we think about who outcome payers can or should be. Apart from public bodies, who else may be interested in paying for outcomes? What types of outcomes may they be interested in paying for?

If outcome payers are ever only going to be public sector commissioners, then we need to question whether SIBs are indeed channelling ‘new’ or ‘different’ funds. After all, if all outcome payments to investors are ultimately made by public sector commissioners, then the monies will only ever come from direct taxation.

Transaction costs

Read any publication or attend any conference on SIBs, and you will head the refrain: “SIBs have high transaction costs”. Again, rather than simply accept this as an immutable fact, I challenge the market to design these costs out of future SIBs. We have good evidence that this is possible, at least for some types of transaction costs. For example, we know that vested commercial interests can cause some intermediary organisations to develop SIBs that are unnecessarily complicated. Similarly our evaluation of the Essex County Council SIB found that when the various players are more concerned about minimising risks to themselves, they can end up with a contract that is too complicated and therefore imposes ongoing costs. As our experience in Essex shows, these can be designed out of a SIB even after it has gone ‘live’.

Who bears the risks?

An attraction of SIBs is that we introduce a new group of stakeholders called ‘social investors’ into the picture, who have higher risk appetites and are socially minded. However, the fact that 7 out of the 10 SIBs in the US have over half of their values guaranteed by philanthropic organisations really causes us to question who is really bearing the risk? Are we attracting the ‘right’ types of investors into the market or are we distorting the market to suit certain types of investors? In addition, there is also evidence that some social investors can try to pass on some of the risks to service providers, for example, by providing part of the capital as a loan rather than as revenue. We must therefore be clear about who bears what risks, and whether these models are true to the ideal of the SIB aspiration.

Is it all about savings?

In a blog I wrote last year, I argued that SIBs do not have to be about savings, and showed different ways of constructing alternatives. SIBs are about social outcomes. To reduce social outcomes to only those that generate financial savings for the public purse is highly limiting. This, again, draws attention to the limitations of thinking of ‘outcome payers’ only as ‘commissioners’. Even amongst commissioners, financial savings do not have to be the only motivator. We need to ask ourselves the question: “Outcomes for whom?” when we design SIBs. If we never ask service users what success looks or feels like to them, then what message are we sending out about SIBs? Whose interests do they serve?

Conclusion

Current SIBs have barely scratched the surface of what may be possible. Rather than allowing them to ossify into what they currently look like, we should challenge ourselves to keep pushing the creative potential of the idea of a SIB. In the process of doing so, we must never lose sight of outcomes and how they can be meaningfully defined.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment

Monday, April 24, 2017

Unleash the creative potential of Social Impact Bonds

In a previous blog based on my latest advisory trip to Japan, I noted that Japan is currently ‘translating’ the SIB model in order for it to be implemented in a way that is appropriate to its specific social, economic, political and cultural context. I have encouraged Japanese colleagues not to simply think that SIBs are and always will be what they currently look like. Instead, they should approach it creatively, making it work better for all. There is a risk that an innovation, such as SIBs, may be abandoned because of disillusionment with early versions of it, which may not have fulfilled the creative potential that may be on offer. Here, I describe four reasons why I think current SIBs have only scratched the surface of what may be possible.

Outcome payers

In the UK, we have become rather lazy with our terminology. I often hear people swap ‘commissioner’ for ‘outcome payer’. In doing so, there is a real risk that we limit the way we think about who outcome payers can or should be. Apart from public bodies, who else may be interested in paying for outcomes? What types of outcomes may they be interested in paying for?

If outcome payers are ever only going to be public sector commissioners, then we need to question whether SIBs are indeed channelling ‘new’ or ‘different’ funds. After all, if all outcome payments to investors are ultimately made by public sector commissioners, then the monies will only ever come from direct taxation.

Transaction costs

Read any publication or attend any conference on SIBs, and you will head the refrain: “SIBs have high transaction costs”. Again, rather than simply accept this as an immutable fact, I challenge the market to design these costs out of future SIBs. We have good evidence that this is possible, at least for some types of transaction costs. For example, we know that vested commercial interests can cause some intermediary organisations to develop SIBs that are unnecessarily complicated. Similarly our evaluation of the Essex County Council SIB found that when the various players are more concerned about minimising risks to themselves, they can end up with a contract that is too complicated and therefore imposes ongoing costs. As our experience in Essex shows, these can be designed out of a SIB even after it has gone ‘live’.

Who bears the risks?

An attraction of SIBs is that we introduce a new group of stakeholders called ‘social investors’ into the picture, who have higher risk appetites and are socially minded. However, the fact that 7 out of the 10 SIBs in the US have over half of their values guaranteed by philanthropic organisations really causes us to question who is really bearing the risk? Are we attracting the ‘right’ types of investors into the market or are we distorting the market to suit certain types of investors? In addition, there is also evidence that some social investors can try to pass on some of the risks to service providers, for example, by providing part of the capital as a loan rather than as revenue. We must therefore be clear about who bears what risks, and whether these models are true to the ideal of the SIB aspiration.

Is it all about savings?

In a blog I wrote last year, I argued that SIBs do not have to be about savings, and showed different ways of constructing alternatives. SIBs are about social outcomes. To reduce social outcomes to only those that generate financial savings for the public purse is highly limiting. This, again, draws attention to the limitations of thinking of ‘outcome payers’ only as ‘commissioners’. Even amongst commissioners, financial savings do not have to be the only motivator. We need to ask ourselves the question: “Outcomes for whom?” when we design SIBs. If we never ask service users what success looks or feels like to them, then what message are we sending out about SIBs? Whose interests do they serve?

Conclusion

Current SIBs have barely scratched the surface of what may be possible. Rather than allowing them to ossify into what they currently look like, we should challenge ourselves to keep pushing the creative potential of the idea of a SIB. In the process of doing so, we must never lose sight of outcomes and how they can be meaningfully defined.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Japan’s first steps in developing Social Impact Bonds

Dr Chih Hoong Sin is in Tokyo for a third year running, this time to find out about the experiences of the Yokohama City Social Impact Bond (SIB) pilot. It has been a real privilege working with a diverse group of stakeholders from the outset as they initially learned about the UK experience in implementing SIBs, and then took steps to develop and test a model for Japan. I have written previously about specific learning shared with Japanese colleagues. In this blog, I make further comparisons between the Japanese and UK experiences.

Travelling well?

SIBs originated in the UK and have since spread to many other countries. It is easy to understand why the idea of a SIB is so attractive to governments internationally. It purports to only ‘pay for success’ and holds the promise of helping governments save money.

Japan contributed to the OECD’s Social Impact Investment Taskforce’s work to better harness the power of entrepreneurship, innovation and capital for public good. The Japanese Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has been funding a five-year study by a consortium led by Meiji University, while three other Central Government departments have expressed interests in developing SIBs. The Nippon Foundation has also played an intermediary role in coordinating three small-scale early pilots in 2015.

It is fair to say that as SIBs developed within and beyond the UK, there has been a constant process of adaptation. Each country has had to do a considerable amount of ‘translation’ to enable the model to be implemented in its particular national, regional and local context.

Japan, similarly, is trying to figure out an appropriate form of SIB that suits its unique socio-political, economic, and cultural milieu. For example, voluntary sector organisations tend to be small and hyper-local; there is a lack of participative governance in terms of the structure of central and local government relationships; and despite the huge national debt the government has no problems accessing cheap capital.

It is therefore naïve, and frankly wrong, to think that there is a singular SIB model that can be transposed with ease.

What might help?

Japan, drawing lessons from the UK, recognised the importance of stimulating the development of a social investment market. Taking a lead from the model set by the UK in creating Big Society Capital (BSC), Japan recently passed the Dormant Bank Account Act whereby a portion of the money will be transferred to a foundation independent from government who will act as a wholesaler (like BSC) in which money is lent or invested in social investment intermediary institutions who go on to invest in frontline social sector organisations. There is also interest in setting up impact bond funds, akin to the ones in the UK.

However, it is not sufficient if governments only see their role in terms of providing the money either to pay for outcomes or to grow the social investment market. In Japan, we hear that the pilots have struggled with being able to identify the right outcome metrics and being able to conduct measurement consistently and robustly. This area seems under-developed in comparison with the UK where the government has invested significantly in developing the evidence base for outcome measurement and for pricing outcomes.

The UK government has also set up the Government Outcomes Lab: a partnership with the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, to support commissioners to better engage with outcomes contracting.

There has been legislative change that support development in this area. For example, the social investment tax relief aims to attract individual social investors, complementing Big Society Capital’s effort at growing the market of institutional investors. The Public Services (Social Value) Act additionally requires public bodies in England and Wales to give due consideration to improving local economic, social and environmental outcomes through commissioning.

I will be encouraging participants at the Social Impact Forum at Yokohama City on 22 April 2017 to consider the specific forms of support that should be put in place, and who might be responsible for doing what, to enable SIBs and social investment more generally to flourish in Japan, and in ways that truly bring about social outcomes.

Dr Chih Hoong Sin, Director, Innovation and Social Investment