Cuyahoga Partnering for Family Success Program: Partner Perspectives and Lessons Learned Report (Third Sector Capital Partners)

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio the nation’s first county-level Pay for Success (PFS) project is helping policymakers and government leaders measurably improve the lives of its vulnerable families. Over the 5-year duration of the PFS project known as the Cuyahoga Partnering for Family Success Program, community leaders in Cuyahoga County are using Pay for Success to improve services for vulnerable families through continuous study of critical questions:

  • Is the social safety net designed to support the unique needs of families and children, as well as individuals?
  • How can the county use data to inform policy decisions to serve the unique needs of these vulnerable families?
  • How do nonprofit service providers interact with county agencies?
  • How can funders be supportive of community efforts to best serve vulnerable families?
  • How can government, service providers, funders and evaluators collaborate with one another to best solve social problems?

Illuminating answers to these questions are crucial for leaders in Cuyahoga County. With each effort to test, refine, and retest through the PFS model, we get critical data and insights that can help us tackle our society’s most serious and endemic social issues.

This report is intended to advance the national dialogue around the opportunities and challenges related to PFS projects and to assist others interested in exploring and developing PFS. Because PFS demands collaboration across organizations and sectors, each project partner, whether government, service provider, funder, evaluator, project manager, or intermediary/transaction coordinator naturally experiences the PFS process differently. This report shares Cuyahoga Partnering for Family Success Program’s “lessons learned” through the different perspectives of each project partner.

Pursuing PFS is challenging, time and data intensive, and will almost certainly push all stakeholders out of their respective comfort zones. Having lived through this environment, the Cuyahoga Partnering for Family Success Program stakeholders maintain that the process of launching the project ultimately strengthened the relationship between government, service providers, funders and evaluators. In the end, PFS launched because stakeholders worked toward the same goal: to measurably improve the lives of the most vulnerable families in Cuyahoga County’s child welfare system.

The Cuyahoga Partnering for Family Success Program stakeholders remain committed to transparency and improvement during the project’s implementation and view this report as a way to fulfill that commitment. The stakeholders also acknowledge that this report more appropriately describes the collaboration that led to the successful launch of the project, and thus it is truly the beginning of their work and learning, rather than the end.

For more detailed background information on the project please visit:


For more information, please contact Marcia Chong.