PAY FOR PROGRESS – Social Impact Bonds

Harvard Magazine

HOMELESSNESS is a complex social problem that societies often treat, but rarely fix.

Existing social services do little to remedy the underlying causes, and governments too often lack the resources and long-term commitment to invest in preventive approaches that could improve lives and reduce society’s burden in a lasting way. And there are many similar problems, from chronic unemployment to juvenile delinquency, that impose ongoing costs on governments and taxpayers.

But a new funding mechanism—social impact bonds (SIBs)—may offer an innovative means of harnessing private capital to achieve measurable gains on some of the most persistent social ills. Weiner professor of public policy Jeffrey Liebman is spearheading an effort at Harvard Kennedy School to accelerate their adoption.