Wider SIB Applications Reflect Market Potential and Flexibility

The two pioneering SIB transactions on each side of the Atlantic – Peterborough in the UK (2010) and Rikers Island in the US (2013) –  both addressed prisoner recidivism, and for good reason, thanks to the presence of:

  • High quality service providers and promising interventions,
  • Substantial unmet demand for these interventions, and
  • Readily measurable outcomes data that would be available within a 3-5 year time frame.

But now that those projects are well underway, there is robust activity within the sector that is bringing SIBs to bear on a wider and more diverse set of applications, well beyond prisoner recidivism. It’s worth exploring these new applications, and starting to draw some conclusions from emerging trends.

UK: From homelessness to adoption

In the UK, the Greater London Authority is working with homelessness charities to help hundreds of individuals get off the streets and find work (a challenging task since nearly half are ex-offenders or have been in prison, and two-thirds or more have substance abuse and mental health issues).  Another project features a partnership between Social Finance UK and the Department of Youth and Pensions to develop two SIBs designed to fund interventions for 14-15 year olds who are disadvantaged or at risk. These programs are aimed at improving the employability of teens with family or mental health issues, young offenders, young people in foster care or recent foster care leavers, and substance abusers. Yet another UK SIB is planned to raise funds for programs that help support adoption initiatives. And in New South Wales, Australia, a SIB is underway to provide 18-month intensive parenting and therapeutic interventions to restore children to their families from out-of-home care.

US: Supporting babies and children

Here in the US, SIBs are also venturing into childhood- and youth-based programming. In Salt Lake City, Utah, philanthropist JB Pritzker is collaborating with the United Way of Salt Lake and Goldman Sachs to launch a demonstration project funding early childhood education. Social Finance has partnered with Collective Health and The California Endowment to fund a demonstration project in Fresno, CA that provides prevention and management services to families of low-income children with asthma. And South Carolina, with backing from the Harvard SIB Technical Assistance Lab, plans to expand home visiting programs in which nurses partner with low-income, first-time mothers for regular one-on-one visits that are proven to reduce infant mortality and improve children’s health.

These initiatives reflect the high level of interest in deploying SIBs to fund interventions aimed at better outcomes for children from cradle to adolescence. Since SIBs are based on the premise of directing resources to preventative programs rather than remediation, the SIB model aligns well with early childhood interventions. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Building and advancing the SIB model

All of this activity reflects the flexibility and potential of the SIB model and underpins the willingness of governments, intermediaries, and philanthropists to envision SIB applications and features far afield from the original concept. Various market participants are exploring SIBs to finance applications ranging from housing for the disabled to treatments for obesity and diabetes. Some of these applications may never get off the ground, and others may prove ultimately unsuccessful. But the market learns from each new idea and each new application, feeding off its successes and failures to facilitate ever-better programs to deepen the scope of the market and serve our most vulnerable populations.

Entry by Jane Hughes, Director of Knowledge Management

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