Massachusetts Launches Initiative to Reduce Recidivism Among At-Risk Youth

Along with Tracy Palandjian, I had the privilege of attending Roca’s launch event for its Massachusetts SIB last week, and came away inspired by the positive energy and dedication of the people in the room. The program was “emceed” by John Grossman of Third Sector Capital Partners, our colleagues across town who oversaw and guided the deal’s construction, and featured comments from Governor Deval Patrick; Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of Roca; and a number of funders.

Even among all of these dignitaries, a speech by Roca’s client Ralph was probably the high point of the morning – it reminded me of why all of us in the sector are toiling day after day to support wonderful organizations like Roca that serve those like Ralph. At 20 years old, Ralph has spent the past two years working with Roca to turn his life around after a stint in gang life, and he now has a job and life that he probably would never have achieved without Roca’s support. Unpolished and utterly authentic, Ralph received a lengthy and heartfelt standing ovation; I think we all sympathized with Governor Patrick, the next speaker, when he said, “I can’t believe I have to follow that!”

Molly Baldwin spoke of Roca’s work in “changing the odds” for youth like Ralph, and Governor Patrick highlighted the Commonwealth’s commitment to innovations that address social problems. Noting that Ralph’s future “matters to the folks downtown,” Governor Patrick stressed the blurring of traditional lines between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  Several funders also explained their decision to participate in the deal; Paul Grogan of The Boston Foundation described this as perhaps its “most important grant ever,” while Gerald Corrigan of Goldman Sachs cited its interest in stimulating the economy and providing government fiscal relief by investing in public-private projects like this one.

The Massachusetts SIB plus our recently-announced New York State transaction together have channeled around $30 million in new capital to the social sector over the past month. These two deals differ in their financial structures, investor base, and terms – but they share a fundamental commitment to harnessing the power of the capital markets to expand the work of high-performing nonprofit service providers. We very much look forward to sharing our learnings from these on-the-ground experiences to drive progress in the broader social innovation finance sector.

Entry by Jane Hughes, Director of Knowledge Management