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Danielle Cerny

2011 Public Policy Summer Fellow

May 1, 2011
Danielle Cerny

Graduate School: Harvard Kennedy School/Georgetown Law School
Undergraduate School: Brown University
Areas of interest: Social Services Initiatives
Mentor: David Friedman, Senior Vice President/Special Counsel, Boston Red Sox
Placement: Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance
Supervisors: Greg Mennis, Assistant Secretary for Finance and Infrastructure and Tina Brooks, Undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development
Project description: This summer I worked in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance to help Massachusetts become the first state in the country to formally pursue a comprehensive social innovation financing program. Social innovation financing, which includes social impact bonds and pay-for-success contracts, is a creative approach to supporting innovative service delivery programs. Such innovative, or potentially “high risk,” programs often have difficulty securing government funding because of the lengthy time needed to demonstrate outcomes. At the same time, tight budgets can make state governments weary of spending money on untested programs. Social innovation financing helps counteract these hurdles by typing payments to performance metrics, thereby allowing states to pay only for proven, rather than promised, results. Given the length of time often required to accurately measure outcomes, pay-for-success contracts will sometimes be coupled with social impact bonds. In such an arrangement, social investors provide the upfront capital to finance non-profits’ expenses and absorb most, if not all, of the associated financial risk.

To help the State implement its first social innovation financing arrangements, I worked with Agency heads and non-profit leaders to identify the most promising early applications of social impact bonds, and ultimately drafted the Request for Response that will be used to procure vendors and investors for these projects.

The Rappaport Fellowship program offers students a unique opportunity to learn about Massachusetts state and local government. Thanks to the strong and wide-reaching network the Rappaport program has developed throughout the state, fellows have access to almost any aspect of Massachusetts government they can imagine, and even some they had never before considered. As someone who worked in the Massachusetts Senate before attending the Kennedy School, I was used to a very reactive form of policy making in which you often have only just began to wrap your head around a particular issue when a front page story in the Boston Globe completely diverts the attention and energies of the Legislature. I therefore applied for a Rappaport fellowship in hopes of finding a pro-active project that would let me get into the nitty-gritty details of implementation – I just had no idea what that would be. Thanks to the knowledge and connections of those who run the Rappaport Program, I was placed in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance and learned how to turn a somewhat abstract, untested concept into a tangible product. This experience was enriched by the Fellowship’s weekly seminars, which not only exposed me to new areas of Boston, but also allowed me to learn from the other fellows, who added incredible value to my overall internship experience.

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2011 Public Policy Summer Fellows