Does impact hold the keys to change?
Social Impact Bond (SIB) brings together the public sector (local or central government), private investors, a measurable social problem and service providers with solutions. Investors’ return is tied to measurable social outcomes.
According to municipalities’ experiences, SIB processes are not easy, but they open up many opportunities to insight, learning and change.
SIB reveals obstacles in our administrative system that can be overcome:
1. Are municipalities thinking first of people or of the legislation?
The primary focus of municipal modes of operation is on the legislation. This does not always serve individuals or families. The SIB model tackles this issue by focusing on the needs and everyday life of clients and by always asking how a specific measure can help this child or this family.
2. Is preventive action based on overall budgeting or silo budgeting?
The SIB model is not about silo budgeting. The absence of overall budgeting in SIB would lead to such questions as whose budget will cover the preventive action expenditure and whose budget will benefit from positive outcomes.
3. Is it the clients’ or the professionals’ perspective that decides?
Professionals tend to view client-orientation through their occupational lenses, often overlooking the perspective of individuals. The SIB model tackles processes and discussions that traditionally are limited to specific sectors. This is done with the help of multidisciplinary expert groups that always consider the effectiveness of measures from the perspective of individual clients.
4. Continuity and support in everyday life or occasional visits to services?
There is a people-centred perspective at the heart of SIB: it is essential that individuals cope in their everyday life and, sometimes, they may need people to stand by them and support them. SIB practices arrange that children and families have people who stand by them on a long-term basis so that they can get help through chains of support instead of occasional visits to services.
5. Long-term change or old practices?
The SIB model demonstrates the need to accept that progress in solving complicated problems can be slow. It takes time to realise that impact forms the basis for preventive action. With SIB, there are many years to amend practices and create a new people-centred approach.
Versatile learning experience
Our study shows that municipalities have learned to view their practices and the needs of their clients from new perspectives. With the SIB model, municipalities can learn more about outcomes contracting, knowledge-based management, overcoming silos and possibilities to systemic change. It is not an easy model for municipalities to implement. However, it opens up possibilities to change service orientation and to achieve genuine meetings with families in their daily lives.
We hope that our report will be read even outside municipalities, because we believe that similar problems, either manifest or latent, exist elsewhere in our system and even in central government. We summarise our study as follows: let’s take impact, genuine meetings, individuals and their everyday lives as the starting points for improving our fabulous, but slow and rigid, welfare system.
Jenni Airaksinen, University Lecturer, Faculty of Management and Business, Tampere University, jenni.airaksinen(at)tuni.fi
Anni Kyösti, Researcher, Tampere University, anni.kyosti(at)tuni.fi