‘Pay for Success’ model can help improve lives (Indy Star)

Our nation has an unprecedented opportunity to unleash innovation where we need it the most: improving the lives of children and families struggling to make ends meet.

After 40 years at the helm of Emmis Communications, I’m proud to say that innovation has become our hallmark. Our ability to transform in response to radical shifts in the marketplace over the last four decades is one reason I credit for our longevity and success. This spirit of innovation is the result of a variety of factors, including the quality of our amazing Emmis employees. My own leadership was made possible by the education I received and the mentors who have guided me along the way.

Millions of people are far less fortunate, whether they’re born into poverty, afflicted with health or educational challenges, or living in communities where it’s difficult to get a hand up. While some of them may get support from faith-based and nonprofit organizations, most will continue to depend to some degree on government programs that must meet increasing demands at a time of unprecedented fiscal challenges.

That’s why I’m so passionate about legislation that will pave the way for new programs that are required to meet tangible outcomes, and that are funded in an innovative way designed to respond to changes in the marketplace.

Commonly referred to as “Pay for Success,” this bipartisan approach uses funding from the private sector, foundations and nonprofit organizations for programs designed to improve lives. Unlike most programs currently funded solely by the government, Pay for Success initiatives are required to meet measurable outcomes. If they do, the funders receive a return on their investment. The approach is innovative because it responds to an undisputed shift in the public sector, where the need for promising programs far exceeds the availability of government resources to pay for them.

Nationwide, more than 50 programs that use the Pay for Success model are either underway or under development. The model can be used to solve a wide array of challenges. It can fund preschool opportunities so more children start school ready-to-learn. It can fund job-training and transitional employment for people who have been incarcerated or who simply don’t have the workforce skills they need, thereby reducing their chances of re-incarceration and unemployment. And it can fund voluntary “home visiting” programs that enable young, inexperienced moms and dads to receive guidance from trained mentors and nurses who help them become better parents, saving taxpayer dollars on costs associated with child abuse and neglect, emergency room visits, educational underachievement and more.

In the past, these partnerships have often required legislation at the local or state levels, greatly limiting the use of the Pay for Success model. Now H.R. 1336, which was introduced in the House of Representatives by Todd Young, R-Ind., and John Delaney, D-Md., and S. 1089, introduced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., would enable the federal government to enter into contracts with state and local governments to promote a variety of Pay for Success approaches.

It probably comes as no surprise that a representative of the private sector is advocating for social programs that will lead to a return on investment for private sector funders of these programs. But the simple truth is that there isn’t and never will be enough money in public coffers to meet all of society’s needs. We all benefit when these programs achieve what they are supposed to do: giving more individuals and families the skills and opportunities to lead productive lives.

Jeff Smulyan, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Emmis Communications