Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
CAMBRIDGE, MA—Roca, the organization focused on significantly reducing incarceration rates among high-risk young men as part of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Project, has retained Abt Associates to build a new needs assessment tool to help it measure performance and intermediate outcomes. “The new tool will provide a soup-to-nuts portrait of the clients Roca targets and the services it provides as well as define what Roca can expect from implementing its theory of change and how to measure outcomes,” said Abt Senior Associate Sarah Jalbert who leads the project.
Since its founding in 1988, Roca has been dedicated to transforming the lives of the Commonwealth’s most high-risk young people ages 17-24, including those who are drop-outs, young parents, refugees, immigrants and have been in the justice system and/or involved in gangs. Jalbert explained that Abt’s partnership with Roca is supporting creation of “an efficient internal operating system” for the organization. “This involves documenting the components of Roca’s intervention model and data systems so it can be more effective in reaching, screening, treating, and tracking the interactions and progress of clients,” she said. With Pay for Success or Social Impact Bond programs, the government does not fund social programs but rather pays for success, reimbursing the service provider if and when better outcomes are achieved. Investors handle the risk, financing the individual programs and reaping profits if they are successful.
In January, Roca and the Commonwealth launched the $27 million Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Initiative—designed to improve the lives of hundreds of high-risk young men while reducing recidivism, conserving taxpayer dollars, and fostering safer, stronger communities. Third Sector Capital Partners was chosen by the Commonwealth as the financial intermediary for the project, charged with raising the funds needed for front-end service implementation. Now other private investors, along with the Goldman Sachs’ Social Impact Fund, are supporting the initiative.
In the case of the Massachusetts initiative, Roca must 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 is successful, investors will receive $22 million in success payments. If Roca enjoys even greater success—reducing the number of days by 70 percent — investors could receive close to $27 million in payments and Massachusetts would save $45 million in taxpayer dollars. But if the project fails to reduce recidivism, then the Goldman fund would lose its $9 million loan, as would each of the other lenders, including Roca, which applied more than $4 million in service fees to the effort. “Pay for Success is an unprecedented innovation in state government and criminal justice reform,” said Dr. Christopher Spera, vice president of Abt’s U.S. Health Division, which is building the assessment and data tool for Roca. “This creative financing removes the financial burden from the public and generates long-term cost savings. It’s genuinely a win-win situation for both government and the private sector while generating the opportunity for real social change.”
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries. www.abtassociates.com
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.