The mission of the University of Virginia Pay for Success Lab (PFS Lab) is to identify and advance impactful Pay for Success (PFS) project models in localities across the nation. In addition to working directly with communities, the PFS Lab provides high-impact educational opportunities for leaders who want to learn about how to utilize Pay for Success in their own communities.
Over on February 9th & 10th, the PFS Lab hosted its second annual conference, “Pay for Success and Social Impact Finance 2.0”. The convening attracted leaders from across levels of government, the private sector, nonprofits, philanthropy, and the University to learn about Pay for Success. Several co-hosts provided support for the event, including Social Entrepreneurship @ UVa, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the Darden School of Business Institute for Business in Society, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Third Sector Capital Partners, and Quantified Ventures.
A social gathering at the Batten School on February 9th featured a keynote speaker, Nicole Truhe, who serves as the Government Affairs Director at America Forward. The PFS Lab announced that it joined the America Forward Coalition, a network of more than 70 social entrepreneur organizations that champion innovative, effective, and efficient solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems. In addition, Truhe described how the federal government has supported Pay for Success in the past and whether that is likely to continue into the Trump Administration and new Congress.
The next morning featured an opening keynote on “Why Pay for Success?” from Jen Giovannitti, the Regional Community Development Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The conference’s educational sessions focused on three underpinnings of PFS: Measuring Impact, Financial and Social Benefits, and Risk and Rewards. Leading UVa faculty members Sally Hudson, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics; Jay Shimshack, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics; and Mary Margaret Frank, Associate Professor of Business Administration, led these sessions. Andrea Barrios, Innovative Finance Analyst at the Rockefeller Foundation, presented a case study she and two of her colleagues developed when they were students at the Darden School of Business. The case proposed an intervention that would utilize a PFS framework to improve health outcomes for those infected with HIV/AIDS in Washington, DC.
Over lunch, attendees broke into small groups and dug into the case study. Each group was assigned the role of one stakeholder normally involved in a PFS project: service provider, outcome payor, investor, intermediary, or program evaluator. The groups had several prompts to consider regarding the case study. Everyone then participated in a plenary discussion facilitated by Professor Mary Margaret Frank on the risks and benefits of the case study. The conference wrapped-up with a panel discussion titled, “The Future of PFS”, with leading practitioners: Gerald Croan, Senior Fellow at Third Sector Capital Partners; Eric Letsinger, Founder of Quantified Ventures; and Kelly Walsh, Senior Research Associate and Urban Institute. Meg Massey, Pay for Success Outreach Manager at the Urban Institute, has since published an article about the convening titled, Using hypothetical projects to talk about evidence.
The vast majority of conferences are composed of panel discussions with “experts” sharing their “war stories” of working in the field. While this can be interesting, it is less clear whether this format results in attendees taking useful information back to their communities. The PFS Lab plans to replicate the success of this year’s conference by hosting future events in a similar format. In addition, the PFS Lab is building an executive education curriculum to teach stakeholders about how they can take advantage of PFS and other outcomes-based strategies.