Young offenders institution in the UK Andrew Aitchison/Getty Images

Social Impact Investment Just Paid Off

Big ideas are few and far between, and social progress usually occurs incrementally, bit by bit. But sometimes a big idea – even one that starts modestly – can thoroughly transform our view of what is possible.

LONDON – Big ideas are few and far between. Progress usually occurs incrementally, bit by bit. But sometimes a big idea – even one that starts modestly – can thoroughly transform our view of what is possible.

Last week, a small social experiment conceived ten years ago to help 2,000 young delinquents in Peterborough, in eastern England, paid off – literally. More important, the Peterborough experiment has become the guiding light for hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in social reform.

During the last Labour government, I worked with one of Britain’s greatest entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Sir Ronald Cohen, to create what became the world’s first Social Impact Bond (SIB). Concerned about the rate of youth reoffending, Sir Ronald and his colleagues persuaded a group of investors to back an innovative program of personal mentoring and support, individually tailored to young people leaving their cells.

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