Presidential 2016: Pay for Success – A Gateway for Quality Early Childhood Care & Education (New Profit)

Thanks to the persistence of social innovators across the country, every day we see strategies that are working and delivering results in a rapidly changing world. This ongoing blog series will highlight the voices of our Coalition of 75 social innovators and their solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems, as well as examples of how this powerful work can be transformed into national change. Today we will hear from Joe Waters, Executive Vice President of the Institute for Child Success, about how Pay for Success can be leveraged to create high-quality early childhood programs and services across the United States, and around the globe.

Last month, the Institute for Child Success (ICS) hosted the Third Annual Conference of Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors with our partners ReadyNation and the Sorenson Center at the University of Utah, and many other supporting organizations. This is the only national conference focused on early childhood and Pay for Success and nearly 300 people attended the conference. This is by far the biggest attendance yet—which shows the growing interest in this field.

More importantly, the conference and the dialogue we facilitated proved that the concept of Pay for Success (PFS) is enabling more communities across the country to expand high-quality preschool, childcare, home visits by nurses and educators, and more. Our hope is the next President will support this strategy as members of both major political parties in Congress are showing support for PFS, and the current Administration has championed the cause too.

Experts and advocates alike presented the latest on their efforts to use PFS in early childhood and emerging best practices during the conference. We heard how Sonoma County, California, is expanding high-quality preschool to serve most of its needy families, and how a school district just outside Denver, Colorado plans a major preschool expansion using PFS. We also learned how PFS is helping local and state governments expect more from its early childhood programs and measuring results more carefully.

The state of South Carolina, where ICS is based, was also showcased for its development of a $30 million project to bring the valuable Nurse-Family Partnership program to many rural areas where access to health care and early education services is very limited. During the conference, Christian Soura, Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, recommended that local governments and potential funders make sure that their community or state and issue area are primed for PFS when considering and developing new projects.

Greg Williamson of Washington State remarked that a PFS effort to expand home visiting programs could result in an overhaul of how all of state government uses data and evidence to manage many different programs better. “This could change the way we do state government,” he said. “By having better data, clearer outcomes, understanding of what we’re paying for, the philanthropic community in our part of the world got interested.”

David Wilkinson, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, told the conference that PFS can help government to innovate—something that does not happen frequently. “It shifts government to an outcomes mindset,” he said. “We think Pay for Success can help drive a broader transformative effect on government.”

There is also much going on internationally and The Brookings Institution’s Emily Gustafsson-Wright detailed how PFS, development-impact bonds and similar strategies are being used to provide early childhood services around the globe. There is an education program for girls in India, an agriculture effort in Peru, expanding early childhood programs in South Africa, and programs to address low infant birth weight in Cameroon. Some of the challenges associated with PFS Gustafsson-Wright described were familiar to those of us in the U.S.: financing, capacity, lack of political will, the need for expanding access while stressing high quality, and more.

High-quality early childhood programs are critical to a strong workforce in the short-term because they can provide excellent family supports for working parents. In the long-term, quality early care and education prepares young children for school so that they can succeed in the workforce in the future

ICS’s partnership with America Forward enables us to connect with others committed to smart investments in children’s early years and unify our efforts as we engage policy makers on Capitol Hill in dialogues about leveraging PFS and early childhood care and education to improve our nation’s economic future.

As an America Forward Coalition member, we are hopeful that H.R. 5170, the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act, landmark PFS legislation recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, is the start of a new wave in which PFS is leveraged as an important tool to expand high-quality public services for children.

The next President of the United States has an opportunity to unleash the immense potential of Pay for Success, and we will continue to highlight the value and merits of Pay for Success in our advocacy efforts with America Forward. We will also continue to work to leverage the concept as we serve children and families in order to measurably improve their lives.

Read more about how social innovators in the America Forward Coalition, like ICS, are solving America’s biggest problems in communities across the country every day in our briefing book, Moving America Forward: Innovators Lead the Way to Unlocking America’s Potential, and join the conversation. Follow @Child_Success and @America_Forward, and tell us how Pay for Success has improved early childhood programs and services in your community using #AFPresidential16.