By Nadia Ahmed and Melissa Penney
From September 7th to 9th, Third Sector joined other grantees for the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) Convening hosted by the Corporation for National & Community Service in Washington, DC. The event gathered government leaders, funders, service providers, and consultants to share their successes and lessons learned in implementing and expanding evidence-based services. The theme of this year’s convening was Risk, Agility, and Resilience, reflected in the many conference sessions on field disruption, course correction, and scaling change.
Throughout the convening, themes of equity and engagement drove conversations about innovation. The opening plenary set the tone with a panel discussion on identifying interventions and strategies that seek to redress structural inequalities in communities, from rooting evaluation approaches in equity to authentically engaging communities. The sessions that followed over the next two days emphasized the importance of consumer-oriented services and community-driven solutions, underlying SIF’s ultimate goal of transforming lives and communities through evidence-based solutions.
Additionally, Third Sector led a panel titled “Advancing Evidence-Based Policy Through Pay for Success” (PFS) to shine light on the challenges that are experienced when exploring PFS and the pathways that may be considered to overcome them. With over 30 attendees, we introduced PFS as a key form of evidence-based policy – one that connects data to outcomes, outcomes to contracts, and contracts to performance. We also showcased examples of how PFS can lead to key policy recommendations geared towards improving the lives of our communities.
We were honored to have Elizabeth Whalley Buono, Co-Founder of the Virginia Pay for Success Council, and Joshua Ogburn, Director of the University of Virginia Pay for Success Lab, discuss their own PFS experiences on this panel. Buono and Ogburn led a feasibility study in Virginia in the home visitation space in a project that brought together government, nonprofits, home visitation providers, individuals with legal expertise, funders, and more. In a productive one-and-a-half hours session, they dove into the specific challenges around measuring outcomes, accessing data, and engaging or managing stakeholders. They painted a picture of PFS that demonstrated that while this work is not easy, it is certainly still valuable.
Third Sector staff also attended sessions to learn from other SIF grantees and their partners as they evaluate and scale their programs. Sessions covered multiple topics, including using technology service design in financial empowerment service models, PFS for housing initiatives, sustaining innovation in integrated behavioral health care, and policy implications of recent workforce development evaluations. The diverse and evidence-focused content highlighted the far-reaching impact of SIF and PFS, both for the organizations engaged in the work and the individuals and communities served.
The SIF convening allowed people from many sectors to exchange ideas, share best practices, and learn from others advancing evidence-based policy. It highlighted how jurisdictions all over the country have shifted their mindsets to becoming more outcomes-oriented. PFS, as one of the key tools in this movement, is recognized as a model that involves constant course correction. As showcased in our panel and multiple other sessions, even if a PFS project did not launch, governments have been able to improve their data infrastructures, collaborate with other sectors, and test out new and innovative approaches to improving the lives of their communities.
We are certainly grateful to both SIF and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) for the opportunity to test our own approaches to driving America towards a performance-based social sector.