In this guest blog, Michelle Farrell-Bell from Teens & Toddlers talks about the benefits of using a Social Impact Bond.
I have been leading the delivery of a Social Impact Bond (SIB) since 2012. Until then, I had no idea what a SIB was. I guess I wasn’t entirely on my own on this as SIBs were just emerging as a funding stream to replace or compliment both central and local government funds. They were picking up the slack where funds had dried up but services still needed to be delivered.
Our charity, Teens and Toddlers, was supported by a SIB to deliver a programme of work to young people aged 14-15 that would improve their attendance, behaviour and attitude to learning, secure them an entry level qualification in Interpersonal Skills and give them a greater chance of securing a C grade or above in GCSE Maths and English. Our programme was delivered across 5 of the 10 Greater Manchester areas.
The attraction of a SIB to us was the fact we could continue to deliver what we had been successfully delivering since 2001 and deepen our geographical cover, with the security of a longer term investment. Three years may not seem that long to most, but when you are trying to secure business year on, year off, 3 years is long-term. With long term funding comes the opportunity to secure the best people to deliver the job, it provides a security, without complacency, to grow your model and increase your reach.
As a charity we were well placed to work within the framework of a SIB which required vigorous monitoring and evaluation. It allowed us to take big steps, to venture into new geographical areas - those with the highest need - and develop partnerships that will see us through beyond the SIB.
It’s hard work though, we had to be ready for the data demands that come weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly……… This can be tough. I report monthly to our board of investors. Every bit of data is reported on and scrutinised, and although our investors are a great bunch, I still get a tad nervous. A bit like first night nerves on a monthly basis!!
We are nearing the end of our SIB. We only have around 140 young people yet to reach, out of our target of 1,100. So what next?
The success we have had with our SIB (as evidenced by our robust data collection) has enabled us to establish our presence in areas we were not in before. This in turn has opened up funding opportunities that would not have been there had we not been able to show what we can do. We will continue our work in a number of areas that have been supported by our SIB. We won’t be able to stay in all of them as the financial climate in local authorities has got steadily worse since 2012. That said, we have positioned ourselves well within some local authorities and are securing access to decision making forums regarding funds for the future. We will also be working directly with schools, as commissioners, as schools have a direct say in how they spend their budget.
Here are my thoughts for anybody thinking about a SIB for their organisation:
- Don’t bend yourself too much out of shape and promise what you can’t deliver
- Be prepared for the volume of data you will need to share
- 3 years will go very quick; make the most of every opportunity. Start thinking about where you will be at the end, at the beginning
- Enjoy the attention – Teens and Toddlers has experienced some fantastic media coverage and this in turn has ensured our name is recognised much more widely than it would have been.