Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab Awards Technical Assistance to Three States

Contact: Gloria Gong
Phone: 617-495-8272
Contact Organization: HKS Government Performance Lab
Date: February 23, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Government Performance Lab (GPL) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) announced today that it has selected California, Connecticut and Illinois to receive technical assistance developing performance improvement projects that apply Pay for Success (PFS) principles to core agency services. The GPL, a grantee of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Social Innovation Fund (SIF), received applications from more than a dozen state and local governments, demonstrating the growing interest in new approaches to the way governments address stubborn social challenges.

Over the past three years, the GPL has provided pro bono government-side technical assistance to 32 jurisdictions in 22 states and has helped state and local governments develop 9 of the 15 launched Pay for Success projects in the country. By connecting payment to the achievement of rigorously measured outcomes, these PFS projects allow innovative leaders to invest in preventative services, generate evidence about what works, and collaborate with service providers to catalyze systems change.

Many government leaders exposed to the PFS model have asked the GPL for assistance in applying PFS principles more broadly in order to improve the quality of their social service delivery. While traditional PFS transactions are often only a small fraction of an agency’s overall spending, performance improvement projects can apply PFS tools—such as using data to identify individuals with the greatest need and matching them to the right services, applying active contract management to core agency contracts, and implementing rigorous evaluation—to an agency’s core spending.

“Our experience with Pay for Success over the past five years has shown that it can be a powerful tool for transforming government’s ability to provide services effectively and improve outcomes in areas of pressing social need,” said Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at HKS and GPL director. “We are excited to collaborate with innovative government leaders in California, Connecticut, and Illinois on projects aiming to alleviate poverty, increase family stability, combat recidivism, and improve higher education.”

The GPL evaluated project proposals based on the project’s potential to advance the PFS field by applying the model in new ways, the level of commitment demonstrated by government leaders, the scale of potential impact of the project, and the readiness of the applicant to engage in project activities. Based on this process, the GPL selected California, Connecticut and Illinois as the winners of the GPL 2016 competition.

California: The State of California is working to improve and expand its SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) program, which provides low-income adults with job training, adult education, work experience, and supportive services to overcome significant employment barriers. The GPL will provide technical assistance to the California Department of Social Services in expanding the E&T program through federal matching dollars for third-party contracts to better support effective, sustainable, high-quality job training and opportunities for the individuals served.

“This technical assistance will allow California to refresh the focus of our employment and training programs to better serve hard working families,” said Kim McCoy Wade, California Department of Social Services CalFresh Chief. “The Government Performance Lab has proven the value of the Pay for Success model, and we are eager to bring those insights to CalFresh, the nation’s largest Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”

Connecticut: The GPL will assist the Connecticut Department of Children and Families in improving the Department’s ability to serve the children and families in its care, creating performance metrics, developing short- and long-term strategies for service allocation, and aligning the service array around the core needs of children and families served by DCF.

"Connecticut has made tremendous strides in improving our system by reducing the number of children in state care, increasing the use of family and relative placements, and reducing our reliance on institutional settings," said Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. "As part of the Department of Children and Families' strategic planning, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab will help identify key indicators to monitor performance, develop strategies to match the right families to the right services, and align services with the needs of children and families. This technical assistance will further enhance the Department's efforts to end more than 25 years of federal court oversight as we continue to make improvements for Connecticut's most vulnerable children and families."

Illinois: Building on the PFS project launched with the State of Illinois, the GPL will extend its work with the Governor’s Office to address some of the state’s most difficult social problems. The GPL will provide technical assistance on three potential performance improvement projects: reducing recidivism, improving permanency for foster youth, and developing strategies for outcomes-based funding of higher education.

“The Government Performance Lab is creating innovation and measureable achievements in the child welfare system of Illinois,” said George Sheldon, Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “Our Pay for Success project has already created an innovative relationship with the private sector and a strategic approach to serving high-risk populations. This new initiative will be an even bigger step, one focused on meaningful metrics and performance improvements that will ensure that a larger segment of foster youth are able to find permanent families in a timely manner.”

“As part of the Social Innovation Fund’s commitment to find and expand programs that work, we are proud to support state and local governments using innovative tools to increase accountability and evidence in social services,” said Lois Nembhard, acting director of the Social Innovation Fund. “This work will be a catalyst for Pay for Success in these states and will strengthen solutions for some of our country’s toughest problems.”

The GPL pioneered its performance improvement model in Rhode Island, where it currently has six fellows working with multiple state human services agencies to identify opportunities for re-engineering systems to achieve better outcomes. Efforts have included helping the child welfare agency develop a more robust service provider performance management strategy, assisting the corrections agency to build capacity to monitor impacts of a new re-entry initiative for ex-offenders, and supporting the workforce agency in using data to improve job-training program performance in real time.

The GPL will provide intensive technical assistance to the three selected jurisdictions, assisting them in improving the results they achieve with their core human services spending. Jurisdictions will receive fellows who will help agency staff identify key outcomes and metrics, use data to match the right individuals to the right services, develop performance management strategies that include real-time response to performance metrics, align government-provider incentives through performance payments, and set up rigorous evaluations of program impacts. In addition to full-time assistance from GPL fellows, jurisdictions will receive frequent direct support from the Cambridge-based staff including GPL director Jeffrey Liebman, experienced assistant directors, research assistants, data analysts, and senior technical advisors. This is the first round of awards to be made funded by a $2.16M grant to the Government Performance Lab by the Social Innovation Fund and matched by philanthropic donors. The GPL is currently accepting applications for a second round of awards to be made in April 2017.

The GPL’s 2016 technical assistance competition was funded in part by the Corporation for National Service Social Innovation Fund. The Social Innovation Fund is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the nation’s volunteer and service efforts. SIF positions the federal government to be a catalyst for impact—using public and private resources to find and grow community-based nonprofits with evidence of results. The Social Innovation Fund focuses on overcoming challenges confronting low-income Americans in three areas of priority need: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.

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