This new program reported in the New York Times, has a promising program model, but most importantly, a rigorous evaluation model built in.
We hope to see good results in a couple of years.
Nine years ago Molly Baldwin found herself in a curious position. Roca, the teenage pregnancy and violence prevention program she’d founded in her 20s, had a multimillion-dollar budget, a two-story building in downtown Chelsea, Mass., a portfolio of programs addressing everything from poverty to immigrant rights and a measure of fame for using Native American peacemaking circles to heal gang-impacted youth. The only problem was, those cathartic conversations weren’t translating to change.
“They would come to Roca and we were all into development, growth and self esteem, and they would feel good,” said Baldwin. “Then they’d go and shoot people and deal drugs.”…
Baldwin did the unthinkable. She brought all of Roca’s programming to a halt and began an agonizing pruning process. During the dormancy, she and her team asked themselves where the program could have the greatest impact. They decided to focus Roca’s energies on tackling mass incarceration by engaging and transforming young men between ages 17 and 24 who were at the “deep end” of the criminal justice system. These young people had already demonstrated a strong propensity toward violent crime and were either aging out of juvenile justice or beginning a revolving-door relationship with adult corrections departments….
Now comes the real test. In January Roca was selected to lead the seven-year, $27 million Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Initiative, in partnership with five private foundations and Goldman Sachs’ Social Impact Fund.
This kind of Pay for Success program, also known as Social Impact Financing or Social Impact Bonds, brings together public and private funds to provide upfront money for prevention programs. The basic idea has been around since the late 1980s and in play in Britain since 2010, but first gained notice in the United States in 2012 when New York City and Goldman Sachs launched the nation’s first pay-for-success pilot to reduce recidivism among 16-to-18-year-olds on Rikers Island. Now such programs are exploding throughout Britain and the United States and in many other countries. The Massachusetts initiative is easily the largest, most ambitious and risky experiment in the United States to date.
The arrangement requires Roca to realize a 40 percent reduction in incarceration days compared to a control group among a cohort of up to 1,320 young men in Chelsea, Springfield and Boston over the next seven years. If Roca hits that target, investors will receive $22 million in success payments. If it does even better — if it reduces the days by 70 percent — investors could realize close to $27 million in payments and Massachusetts would save $45 million in taxpayer dollars. However, if the project fails, then the Goldman fund would lose its $9 million loan, as would each of the junior philanthropic lenders, including Roca, who put up 15 percent of its service fees in the deal — more than $4 million.