Social impact bonds and the question of evidence & attribution…

If anyone is still following the debate about Social Impact Bonds and especially the Peterborough CJS one, you may be surprised to see the coverage it and SIBs generally are getting in the US. (We’ve covered the Peterborough SIB here and SIBs generally here.)

I found this article (by Caroline Fiennes) on the Stanford Social Innovation blog fascinating.

It contains a link to a Ministry of Justice paper (May 2012) which explains the complexities and limits of the evaluation methodology developed for assessing the social impact of the Peterborough bond. Have a glance at it — it really does make rather terrifying reading.

You can understand why no one seems very interested in discussing the ‘transaction costs’ of the Peterborough bond and others. They must be astronomical.

And in the case of the Peterborough SIB, even the methodology that has been designed may — according to some — fail to determine whether the SIB has achieved its desired social outcomes… The Stanford blog quotes Professor Sheila Bird of Cambridge University and the UK Medical Research Council as saying, “[It] might well be a brilliant success; it might achieve little. But we aren’t going to know either way.”

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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