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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Working together for a stronger society – Our response to the Lords Select Committee of Charities Report

Charities play a vital role in the ongoing social and economic success of the UK. At the same time, funding for charities has changed significantly. Funding received as grants has decreased over time, while contract funding has been increasing dramatically.

Our response to the Charities Report shows that charities need better support to build their capacity, so they can deliver public services and access suitable finance. Commissioners also need support to develop social value for service users. OPM Group’s social finance experts Dr Chih Hoong Sin and Sheila Pardoe have summarised their experience and comment on the Charities Report.

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust

The British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) was established to increase the amount of sign-presented programming on digital terrestrial television. It commissions content made in BSL by Deaf people for Deaf people and offers an alternative for broadcasters in meeting requirements for the provision of sign language on their channels.

In November 2014 BSLBT commissioned OPM to conduct a review on the Deaf audience in the UK – people whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language. The purpose of this research was to understand more about the highly marginalised Deaf community, with regards to demographics and language use, as well as life issues such as integration into the wider world, health status and access to health services, and use and views of television and the internet. The findings will assist BSLBT in using its resources cost effectively to provide future television programming for the Deaf community. It is also hoped the report will add to the wider world’s understanding of the life experience of Deaf people and the issues Deaf people face.

You can download the executive summary, full report, and appendices on this page. You can also watch a BSL version of the executive summary on the BSLBT website.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Raising the public voice in infrastructure decision making

New policy paper proposes how best to engage concerning major infrastructure

Current decision-making and consultation processes have led to a widespread and deep-rooted lack of trust, eroding belief in the shared nature of infrastructure. The persistent absence of public acceptance is producing a planning system unable to respond coherently to the future needs of society.

‘Infrastructure and the Citizen’, a collection of four short essays by Consultation and Engagement specialists Dialogue by Design and UCL Transport Institute reveal whether depoliticising infrastructure, viewing it as a social contract, considering it as a special case for dialogue, or accepting it as shared with society would enhance or diminish the public voice in decision making.

Advancing the debate around public engagement practice that took place between participants and speakers at the ‘We Need to Talk About Infrastructure’ seminar co-hosted by the two organisations, the paper proposes:

 

 

Diane Beddoes, Chief Executive, Dialogue by Design said:

“Many of the new infrastructure projects we run consultations for are contested by individuals, communities and sometimes stakeholders. Infrastructure projects of national significance have impacts – both positive and negative – on local people and communities that need to be heard and understood.  We believe that good engagement on new infrastructure projects can help to improve the quality of decision-making, reduce risk and ensure that the views of those affected are taken into consideration. If we are serious about infrastructure investment, then we must be equally serious about effective dialogue and consultation with opponents and proponents. We hope the key recommendations in this report are taken seriously”

Ends

 

Note to Editors

The ‘We Need to Talk About Infrastructure’ seminar was held on Monday 23rd March 2015 at NCVO, Society House, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL. The debate was chaired by Jim Steer (Founder, Steer Davies Gleave), with speakers Professor Brian Collins (Professor of Engineering Policy and Director, International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF), UCL), Dr Jack Stilgoe (Lecturer in Social Studies of Science, UCL), Diane Beddoes (Chief Executive, Dialogue by Design) and Will Bridges (Lead Consents Officer, North West Coast Connections, National Grid).

 

About Dialogue by Design

Dialogue by Design designs and delivers bespoke public and stakeholder engagement and consultation services. Dialogue by Design specialises in handling consultations on contentious or technically complex issues and are experts at running consultations for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Dialogue by Design with sister company OPM comprises the OPM Group: an independent, employee-owned research organisation and consultancy.

www.dialoguebydesign.co.uk         

@DbyDteam 

 

About UCL Transport Institute

The UCL Transport Institute has been set up to foster cross-disciplinary transport research and to increase the policy impact of that research.

www.ucl.ac.uk/transport-institute        

 @UCLTI

 

For further information please contact:

Lawrence Finkle

e: lfinkle@opm.co.uk

t: 0207 239 7800

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A new partnership between OPM Group and Aleron

OPM Group and Aleron are pleased to announce a new partnership between the two organisations.

By combining our expertise and capabilities in social impact, we are able to offer a unique end-to-end support to organisations seeking to deliver impact in a demonstrable, scalable, and effective way.

 

For further information, please contact:

Lawrence Finkle, Marketing and Communications Officer, OPM Group
lfinkle@opm.co.uk

Stephanie van de Werve, Marketing and Communications Manager, Aleron
stephanie.vandewerve@alerongroup.com

 

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We Need to Talk About Infrastructure

Consultation and Engagement specialists Dialogue by Design and UCL’s respected Transport Institute bring together experts from a range of fields on 23 March 2015 to debate the role of public engagement in delivering major infrastructure projects

Approaching what is widely understood to be the most uncertain General Election in post-war Britain, one outcome can be guaranteed: considerable consensus across the political spectrum on the importance of significant Government investment in infrastructure projects will remain.

Plans detailed in the National Infrastructure Plan to invest £375 billion up to 2020 and beyond cannot be delivered without strong and enduring political will – an admission that the short term nature of our electoral cycle has obstructed investment in UK infrastructure in the past.

It is also generally accepted that within the legislative framework of the Planning Act, consent for all significant infrastructure projects relies on developers engaging with local communities. Sustained, high profile campaigns of local opposition to schemes such as HS2 and wind energy installations have threatened to fracture the very political consensus that delivery of major infrastructure relies upon.

Successful engagement is now more important than ever before.

But how can this need to renew infrastructure building on a scale necessary be reconciled with taking into account the views of an increasingly informed and motivated citizenry? Is engagement with the public just a resource-intensive chore that achieves little other than slowing essential developments to a snail’s pace? Can sceptical project sponsors be convinced that engagement is more than a means of managing dissent? Is it an effective way of improving project developments, ensuring that the public has the opportunity to shape proposals? And can we improve on the way we use engagement so that it leads to better outcomes?

Co-hosts Dialogue by Design and UCL Transport Institute will bring together engagement practitioners, developers and academics in this afternoon seminar at the NCVO’s headquarters in London to provide valuable insights into the role of public engagement and debate the challenges and opportunities for engagement in delivering major infrastructure projects.

Announcement of the event was welcomed by the expert speakers:

Dr Jack Stilgoe, Lecturer in Social Studies of Science, UCL said: “Public debates about infrastructure often get stuck in what is sometimes called NIMBYism. As public engagement with science and technology moves upstream, perhaps there is the possibility of a more constructive conversation.”

Diane Beddoes, Chief Executive, Dialogue by Design said: “Many of the new infrastructure projects we run consultations for at Dialogue by Design are contested by individuals, communities and sometimes stakeholders. Infrastructure projects of national significance have impacts – both positive and negative – on local people and communities that need to be heard and understood.  We believe that good engagement on new infrastructure projects can help to improve the quality of decision-making, reduce risk and ensure that the views of those affected are taken into consideration. If we are serious about infrastructure investment, then we must be equally serious about effective dialogue and consultation with opponents and proponents.”

 

Ends

 

Note to Editors

The ‘We Need to Talk About Infrastructure’ seminar will take place between 14:00 – 18:00 on Monday 23rd March 2015 at NCVO, Society House, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL. The debate will be chaired by Jim Steer (Founder, Steer Davies Gleave), with speakers Professor Brian Collins (Professor of Engineering Policy and Director, International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF), UCL), Dr Jack Stilgoe (Lecturer in Social Studies of Science, UCL), Diane Beddoes (Chief Executive, Dialogue by Design) and Will Bridges (Lead Consents Officer, North West Coast Connections, National Grid).

 

About Dialogue by Design

Dialogue by Design designs and delivers bespoke public and stakeholder engagement and consultation services. Dialogue by Design specialises in handling consultations on contentious or technically complex issues and are experts at running consultations for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Dialogue by Design with sister company OPM comprises the OPM Group: an independent, employee-owned research organisation and consultancy.

www.dialoguebydesign.co.uk         

@DbyDteam 

 

About UCL Transport Institute

The UCL Transport Institute has been set up to foster cross-disciplinary transport research and to increase the policy impact of that research.

www.ucl.ac.uk/transport-institute

 @UCLTI

 

For further information please contact

e: lfinkle@opm.co.uk

t: 0207 239 7800

 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

OPM Group announces new Chief Executive

The OPM Group has today announced the appointment of Peter Holland as Chief Executive.

Peter joins the Group from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) where he has held the position of Group Head of Strategy and Performance since 2013. With over 25 years of diplomatic, civil service, public health and third sector experience, Peter brings with him a wealth of expertise in OPM Group’s main markets. He has extensive knowledge of leading in complex organisations such as HMRC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a proven track record of delivery evidenced by the implementation of major counter narcotics programmes in Afghanistan. In addition to gaining an in depth knowledge of policy and community engagement as a Harkness fellow in health services at the University of Washington, he has built partnership relations with the voluntary sector for RNIB and applied customer insight to long-term strategy for HMRC.

Peter will take up his appointment at the beginning of April 2015.

Barbara Moorhouse, Chair of the OPM Group, said:

“OPM Group is a unique organisation. Over 25 years, the group has built expertise in health, research and evaluation, change leadership and, with the acquisition of Dialogue by Design, expanded its public and stakeholder engagement capabilities. Peter brings an excellent mix of sector experience and strong customer focus, well suited to OPM Group’s commitment to close working with clients to achieve successful project delivery.”

Barbara Moorhouse also took the opportunity to thank outgoing Chief Executive Hilary Thompson, who retires from OPM Group at the end of February after leading the organisation since 2006:

“On behalf of OPM Group, I would like to thank Hilary for her significant contribution to the organisation. Her leadership has been invaluable in reshaping the group in recent years in response to changing markets.”

Commenting on his new role, Peter Holland said:

“I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead the OPM Group. I have long admired their combination of passionate commitment to social results and a strongly commercial approach. I am hugely motivated by their ambition to help organisations deliver high quality services while tackling the challenges of the next few years. I am particularly excited at the prospect of joining an employee owned business with such a shared sense of purpose.”

For further information please contact:

OPM Group’s Communications department:

e: lfinkle@opm.co.uk

t: 0207 239 7800

Biographical details

Peter Holland joined RNIB as Group Head of Strategy and Performance in 2013 from HMRC where he was Director of Customer and Strategy for Personal Tax. Between 1999–2011 he held a number of different positions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ranging from Director of International Policy at the Intellectual Property Office to heading the Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit. Peter was also posted to New Delhi between 2001-2004, his brief covering Indian domestic politics and human rights issues.

Peter began his career as a health services manager, and spent most of his 11 years developing primary and community health services in south London. In the early 1990s he set up one of the first Consumer Affairs departments in the NHS responsible for bringing customer understanding into the planning and management of local health services.

About OPM Group

OPM Group is an independent, employee-owned research organisation and consultancy. The group consists of two divisions: OPM and Dialogue by Design.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, OPM helps public services across all sectors to improve outcomes, performance and standards through high quality evaluation, research, engagement, and people and organisational development. OPM works with clients who have a strong commitment to improving outcomes for organisations, communities and people who use their services.

Founded in 1999 and acquired by OPM Group in 2012, Dialogue by Design designs and delivers bespoke public and stakeholder engagement and consultation services. Dialogue by Design specialises in handling consultations on contentious or technically complex issues and are expert at running consultations for nationally significant infrastructure projects.