USC Price School of Public Policy

Price School celebrates launch of Gary Painter’s book examining ‘Pay for Success’

May 17, 2018

Painter book
Sol Price Center for Social Innovation Director Gary Painter (Photo by Ruben Shaverd Yan) See more photos on Flickr »

By Matthew Kredell

The USC Price School of Public Policy celebrated Professor Gary Painter‘s first published book and commemorate what Dean Jack H. Knott called a “remarkable year” for the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation.

“The Price Center’s mission is to advance the understanding and application of new methods and approaches to social outcomes, and the Center is quickly emerging as a leader in this field,” Knott said. “Gary’s new book with his co-authors goes a long way in helping explain the effectiveness of some of these new approaches, to motivate and fund social innovation with the ultimate goal of improving social outcomes. The book is an important and needed contribution to this growing field of social innovation.”

Painter, who serves as director of the Price Center, co-authored the book Payment by Results and Social Impact Bonds: Outcome-based payment systems in the UK and US, which was published in February by the Bristol University Policy Press in the UK and in May by the University of Chicago Press.

Pay for Success is an approach to contracting that ties payment for service delivery to the achievement
of measurable outcomes. Private investors provide upfront financing for a social service and are repaid
with a return on investment by a back-end payer (usually the government) only if pre-agreed-upon
outcomes are delivered as determined by an independent evaluator. It can be a way for governments to
scale up effective programs and interventions, as well as test innovative models of service delivery

“It’s an interesting tool,” Painter said of social impact bonds. “When people first hear about it, they get super excited because they think, oh my gosh, it’s almost like free money for the government, because you get the ability to tie payment only if something’s successful if you can just get investors to put up the upfront money. This will potentially be able to fund all sorts of new services that may not have been funded otherwise. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that, and that’s why there’s a book about it.”

The idea for the book originated from a panel discussion on Social Impact Bonds at the 2016 Activating Markets for Social Change conference at USC. Professor Chris Fox from Manchester Metropolitan University approached Painter after the panel about collaborating on a book, as they both realized that there was a lack of academic literature on the topic.

“I was interested in writing the book because I thought it would be useful for the field to document what’s happening in social impact bonds and try to make some sense out of it, but it’s also useful to understand what theoretical paradigms this even fits into,’” Painter explained. “So that’s one of the things we try to do in the book is figure how this fits into the overall evolution of public management, risk management and the emerging field of social innovation – does it actually facilitate or speed up the process of social innovation or not?”

The book covers the first 32 Social Impact Bonds created in the UK since 2010 and the first 20 done in the US since 2012.

Painter book
Painter with Kimberly Bailey (Photo by Ruben Shaverd Yan)

For the chapter detailing US projects, Painter realized that the people at the Nonprofit Finance Fund had already done an admirable job documenting pay for success landscape in the United States, so rather than citing their work he asked the NFF’s Jessica Barbera, who had moderated the conference panel, to come on board, and she enlisted the help of colleague Kimberly Bailey, a 2013 Master of Public Policy graduate from USC Price.

“It’s kind of every master’s students dream to get to come back and talk about their work,” Bailey said. “My education here made such a difference in what I’ve been able to pursue at NFF. I feel lucky that I go to work every day and really leverage what I learned right here.”

Painter contended that it is also a professor’s dream to be able to collaborate with a former student.

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with you, Kimberly, to be able to work with these amazing people who come to the Price School that become the change makers, and be able to reconnect in your field of expertise,” he said.

Other accomplishments during the past academic year for which Knott lauded the Price Center for Social Innovation included the launch of the Southern California Symposium, a new executive education program that brings together diverse local leaders to learn and apply social innovation approaches to the region’s intractable problems. Additionally, the Price Center launched the Neighborhood Data for Social Change platform, a free data tool accessible by the public that provides civic actors access to neighborhood data across 10 policy areas, and launched the Homeless Policy Research Institute, which brings together more than 30 policymakers and researchers to design and coordinate actionable research to end homelessness in Los Angeles County.

“One of the things I’m most proud of as dean is the exceptional scholarly productivity and reputation of our faculty,” Knott said. “They are carrying out studies that are shaping their fields in urban economics, housing, health and other areas. They’re also producing the knowledge, data and information that really helps inform policymakers, citizens and practitioners about how to address major issues facing our society and new opportunities for us.”