Our members and partners are blending and applying three strategies that we believe are core to achieving dramatically better results for low-income people: Public Sector Innovation, Capital Innovation and Collective Impact.

To create enduring change, we must all work together to build a new type of urban practice aimed at getting dramatically better results for low-income people, faster. At Living Cities, we’re testing three strategies towards this end: Public Sector Innovation, Capital Innovation and Collective Impact.

These are not siloed approaches, but levers that we believe are necessary to move the needle on issues facing low-income people. In this week’s round-up of #GoodReads, our staff reflect on how they’re seeing these levers applied, connected and tested in the field:


First, two long-term partners of Living Cities, StriveTogether and Social Finance, have brought together their seemingly unique areas of focus, collective impact and Pay for Success (PFS), respectively, in an thought-provoking paper:

Collective Impact + Pay for Success: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts - StriveTogether and Social Finance

Our Director of Capital Innovation, Eileen Neely, reflects:

About a year ago I asked “Is Pay for Success Collective Impact?” in a blog on the Living Cities’ website. I opined that applying the principles of collective impact was a critical first component of PFS. Jeff Edmonson and Jeff Shumway think more broadly about both topics. They suggest that communities who are already undertaking collective impact efforts, like those in the StriveTogether cradle to career network, are uniquely positioned to realize the promise of PFS financing. The difference from the one-issue, one-provider PFS transactions we’ve seen in the U.S. to date, collective impact could inspire the next generation of PFS to scale effective practices that improve outcomes across a community. Cradle to career partnerships often have multiple providers working together, all providing similar services and seeking similar outcomes for a target population. Collective Impact could help the PFS model evolve beyond scaling evidence-based programs towards a more sustainable systems-change approach to tackling the tough social problems we face.

We’re optimistic about the possibilities of blending these two promising approaches, especially as a recent poll by the Collective Impact Forum surface new data on the challenges faced by collective impact initiatives.

Quick Poll results: Your Most Challenging Issues for Your Collective Impact Work - The Collective Impact Forum

Recommended by Jeff Raderstrong, Program Associate, Collective Impact.

‘Aligning Initiatives’ and ‘Community Engagement’ rose to the top as the two most common challenges. The results resonated with what we’re seeing in the field. Earlier this year, Living Cities released an E-Course to help educate collective impact partners on the why and how of doing community engagement work, which attracted close to 3,000 participants. We’re hopeful that collective efforts will realize new opportunities to test a PFS approach in their work.

We’re also seeing that PFS has continued support in the private sector. A Reuters report this week finds that ‘Wall Street’ is not giving up on Social Impact Bonds (SIB) yet, even after the first project funded by a SIB at New York Riker’s Island jail ended because performance outcomes were not achieved.

Wall Street Not Giving Up on Social Impact Bonds - By Jessica Toonkel, Reuters

The article highlights the continued work of two of our member institutions, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank, in the realm of pay for success. Ellen Ward, Senior Investment Associate for Capital Innovation at Living Cities notes:

To me, this speaks volumes about the willingness of the cross-sector partners in these transactions, and in the field, to learn from failure and use it to improve the way we work. Status quo would say “oh the project didn’t work, we’ll go back to the same old programs that result in an unacceptable level of recidivism”. The new way of working, and learning from failure, says “we didn’t hit our goal, what can we do differently, from structuring transactions to implementing programs, to improve our likelihood of reducing recidivism rates and breaking the cycle of incarceration”. I am encouraged by the commitment to learn from failure and hope this results in better projects and ultimately better outcomes.

We’re encouraged by the commitment to cross-sector collaboration and reflection in PFS projects and beyond. In a recent article, Gina Nisbeth, Director, Citi Community Capital, astutely observes that, “Being able to pull all the right levers and bring the right partners together to arrange a complex financing package is always something to be celebrated.”

Creating a New Home for History - By Gina Nisbeth, Director, Citi Community Capital

Citi’s story is a great example of an organization innovating with capital to deliver dramatically better results for low-income people.

Tiffany Ferguson a Living Cities Program Associate, Public Sector Innovation, reflects:

I thought this was a great quick story of one of our members, Citi, ‘doing’ capital innovation. Not only did they pull together a complicated financing deal for a public cultural institution, it was the banker’s commitment to preserving the institution’s legacy and relevance to the community that probably helped ensure it would close. In addition to vehicles like Pay For Success, this is an example of other ways financial institutions can partner with the public sector to creatively finance municipal projects that ultimately have an impact on people’s lives.

Have you seen other encouraging examples? Share them with us at hub@livingcities.org or on social media with #NewUrbanPractice!