We’re delighted to share the final in-depth evaluation of our Be the Change SIB, Alex Fox, Mayday CEO, shares his thoughts below.
The National Lottery Community Fund Commissioning Better Outcomes CBO programme supports social impact bonds (SIBs) and other outcome-based commissioning models. This funded Mayday Trust’s initiative, “Be The Change,” in partnership with Bridges Fund Management and commissioned by Northants County Council to make a real difference in the lives of young adults facing homelessness and joblessness. We worked with young people aged 18 to 30 without education, training, or jobs, and who are homeless, offering them coaching, creating opportunities, and building positive networks. Some had needs deemed too high/complex to manage within a supported housing scheme such as substance misuse or significant mental health issues.
It was one of the first programmes evaluating the PTS Response where coaches and individuals form a support relationship which is shaped and led by the individual, enabling them to identify their strengths and build on their potential, including through community development work and access to personal budgets. People often say their coach is ‘the first person who has really listened to me in years’.
The strengths-based and person-led approach worked – Mayday over achieved on nearly every measure as the table below summarises. It exceeded its median targets for successful starts, and for both entry to and sustainment of accommodation, and nearly hit a high target of 105 entry-to-accommodation outcomes, achieving 103. It narrowly missed its education and employment targets but exceeded its ‘outcomes cap’ – the maximum number of outcomes by value that could be claimed under the contract. So it generated the maximum value of outcome payments that it was possible to achieve across the local commissioner and CBO, but did not stop achieving positive outcomes and achieved an extra £57k beyond the total outcomes cap of £474k.
There were challenges though, particularly in changes in commissioning bodies which limited the potential for continuing or scaling successful work. The evaluators feel that the SIB approach was only partly responsible for the success, with a lot being attributed to the drive and vision of my predecessor, Pat McArdle. Although the achievement of education/employment goals was good, it could still have been stronger and the evaluators feel that other project approaches suggested that intensive, targeted support from education, employment and training specialists would have helped. (I’m aware that Kirklees Better Outcomes Partnership (KBOP), who drew heavily on the Mayday approach in developing their highly successful support partnership, combined strengths-based working with access to values-aligned support in linking people up with employment opportunities to great effect.) Depressingly, some employers tended to dismiss agency employees before they hit a 13-week employment target, to prevent them from gaining employment rights, which undermined some of this work.
So the upshot is that this was a successful programme which demonstrates the potential of strengths-based and person-led coaching to achieve better results, but there is also a sense of frustration in the learning: while our public services are organised through a commissioning system based on short-termism and competition, with little capacity for commissioning bodies to build corporate memory, learning and deeper partnerships, great work will remain fragile and undervalued. This reflects our learning and is why we are working with partners like Human Learning Systems and Collaborate CIC to build strengths-based commissioning (see a recent video about our partnership’s work on alliance commissioning Devon) and ultimately strengths-based areas.