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This is the GO Lab's monthly policy briefing. We collate and summarise all the news from across the sector and put it into this briefing. This month you'll find resources on developing impact bonds, lots of reflections on where we are at with impact bonds and discussion around collaboration and data collection. 

The GO Lab 

Opinion Beyond impact bonds – reflection on the GO Lab Social Outcomes Conference 2019 – Louise Savell, Director of Social Finance has written a reflection on the Social Outcomes Conference last month. She makes 3 main points: 1) Impact bonds are more a set of values than a specific tool, 2) Lessons can inform broader improvements in public sector practice, 3) Outcomes-based contracts may represent a pragmatic response to complexity. Social Finance

Opinion Accountability: An unhelpful concept? Matt Bell, GO Lab Fellow of Practice, and CEO of POP+ explores accountability and the challenges, as well as the concept of positive accountability and how this plays out in real life. GO Lab

Opinion Why social impact bonds need a Bill Gates moment – Ruben Koeboek, co-founder of Social Finance NL makes a plea for transparency in the world of social impact bonds. GO Lab

Opinion Why are we still talking about impact bonds? – Nigel Ball shares his first monthly blog and outlines three reasons why we are still talking about impact bonds – 1) they transfer risk, 2) they could unleash private capital to help markets meet obligations to citizens, 3) they nudge the focus of delivery towards end outcomes. GO Lab

Event recording Investing in the SDGs – Last month, Mara Airoldi, Director of the GO Lab spoke at this New York event to explore the current landscape of development financing and outcomes based funding mechanisms. The discussion looked at the successes, learnings, challenges and ways forward. You can watch the recording here. Devex

Impact bonds

Report and commentary - The National Lottery Community Fund have published an update report on the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund Evaluation. There are a range of outputs tailored to different audiences and appetites. 

Opinion Bridging the financing gap to save lives – This article looks at the high rates of maternal mortality in low and middle income countries and how development impact bonds can help. Devex  
 
Thesis Investing for impact : An evaluation of Finnish social impact bonds and their cross-border transferability– This is a thesis from the Aalto University School of Business. Success factors of Finnish SIBs included establishing activities such as collaboration, building ecosystems, use of platform knowledge dissemination, learning from experience and mindset changes. Aalto University School of Business

Documentary The Invisible Heart – The first documentary on social impact bonds is now available to stream for free if you have Amazon Prime. A few people have asked over the last few months when this would be out on general release – here you are. See the trailer here.

Resources The Urban Institute have just published a few new resources for those developing pay for success projects. 

Pay for success

Opinion The evolving promise of pay for success – This article argues that despite growing pains, the pay for success funding model is finding renewed success in communities across the US and is primed to evolve into an ever-more powerful tool for social change. Stanford Social Innovation Review

News Payment by results pilot rewards environmentally friendly farming – A PbR pilot scheme was rolled out in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, as well as Norfolk and Suffolk in the East of England in early 2016. It enable farmers to make their own decisions about the way they maximise sustainable land use to preserve the natural environment and pays them on results. Results have been positive and the government are now funding the project a further two and a half years. Government Europa

Opinion Lessons learned from US shift to outcomes – This article argues that 1) a shift to outcomes funding, whilst difficult, is a must, 2) SIBS have been a useful tool to kickstart the outcomes revolution, but are one of many, 3) organisations that build outcomes funded projects are transformed for the better, 4) government need to collaborate with providers to better procure around outcomes Pro bono Australia 

Collaboration and complexity

Opinion Researchers should collaborate with governments for both sides to be more effective – Written by a former government official and policy researcher in India, Gautam Patel argues that we need to adjust to the needs of government field staffers to succeed. Stanford Social Innovation Review

Opinion Take of the converted: how complex social problems have made me question the use of data in driving impact – John Burgoyne reflects on the Social Outcomes Conference last month. He argues that upending the primacy of data and embracing complexity can lead to a more nuanced and effective understanding of research impact. LSE Impact blog 

Opinion Addressing the challenges of drafting contracts for data collaboration – To deal with complex public challenges, organisations increasingly seek to leverage data across sectors in new and innovative ways, such as forming collaborations. This article looks at the operational challenges associated with this and how they may be overcome. Medium

Impact investing 

Opinion Betting on character – and why investment may be a means not an end – This article argues that we should ‘find entrepreneurs that are driven by values and invest in them early, help them through the journey and hold them to account, make the capital fit the problem, measure what matters and make success something that is shared’. These are the building blocks for impact at scale. Pioneers Post
 
Opinion British ignorance about Northern Ireland has a heavy economic cost – An article from the Irish Times that discusses Brexit and the strategy for Northern Ireland. Social impact investment is considered as a source of funding, ‘Northern Ireland could be a model for doing social impact investing in a meaningful way’. Irish Times
 
Opinion Putting the task in taskforce – An article with an Australian focus on the practical work that needs to be done in social impact investing. Sharing the discussion of the panel on impact investing and what difference it wants to make in 2019 and 2020.  Pro bono Australia
 
Opinion Advocates say Western Australia is ripe for impact investing - A new cross sector alliance is looking to encourage impact investing to gain traction by building Western Australia’s impact investment market from the ground up. Read more about the Impact Investment WA Alliance (IIWA). Pro bono Australia 

Opinion Three things Development Finance institutions can do to help reduce poverty – We don’t know the impact that development finance institutions (DFIs) are having on reducing poverty. Here are three ways DFIs can step up their game -  1) Increase focus on job quality, 2) Develop a clear theory of change, 3) Get better metrics and data. ODI 

The non-profit perspective 

Opinion The hidden costs of social impact bonds – This article in Non Profit Quarterly looks at risk in social impact bonds, the role of philanthropy and blurring the boundary between the public/private boundary. Non-profit quarterly 
 
News Homelessness charity Mayday Trust reveals how it completely changed its operating model – A brief article about how the May Day Trust restructured its operating model to a ‘person-led’ approach. The charity moved from being entirely public-funded to using SIBs, which the CEO describes as ‘not for the faint-hearted’ Civil Society