“Billion Dollar Bets” to Improve the Performance of Social Service Programs
Many of today’s public and nonprofit social-service interventions are ineffective and cost-prohibitive. Furthermore, they provide incremental improvements in outcomes for low-income and marginalized populations. Few incentives exist to encourage social service programs to understand more deeply the problems they aim to solve, experiment with solutions, track data, and refine their approaches over time. However, momentum is building around adopting data and evidence of effectiveness to sharpen decision-making and delivery of services.
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This concept paper, a result of Bridgespan’s recent research, “Billion Dollar Bets” to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American, explores potential solutions to the underperformance of social service programs. It focuses on ways to increase government use of data to improve their efficacy and proposes eight potential investments philanthropists can make to:
- Build effective systems to collect, utilize, and link data within a region
- Ensure that frontline practitioners and policymakers have the ability to collect, analyze, and use that data to improve social services
- Establish the appropriate incentives to support the continued use of data and evidence to improve social services
Lastly, it quantifies the projected impact with estimates of the potential return on investment individuals and families would experience if a big bet were to be made to improve program performance.