20 December 2011

Half full

It's nearly the end of the year, so time to sum up my view of where policymaking in general and Social Policy Bonds in particular are headed. The latter is easy to summarise: I have had a few expressions of intellectual interest in Social Policy Bonds, but the bond concept remains untested. More generally though, I think the concept of payment for results is gradually gaining ground in government circles. This is generally a positive trend, though I have reservations. Chief amongst these is that the 'results' targeted are rarely outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people. More often they are outputs of existing organisations, as measured by criteria intrinsic to that organisation. So results targeted include things like 'savings made' or (increasingly) number of employees sacked. In recent history it has usually been the case that well-meaning intentions to improve social and environmental outcomes founder on the solid, immovable rocks of existing institutions and their ways of doing things.

But I remain optimistic that something like Social Policy Bonds will eventually be issued. One reason is that society and the environment are becoming increasingly complex, so that existing methods are becoming useless. We only need to look at climate change for a spectacular and costly example of failure to manage human affairs. The other reason is that the existing system's failings are becoming obvious to all. Our economic system has been gamed to benefit the one percent - or 0.1 percent - and our political systems throw up uninspiring candidates for whom the concerns of most of us and the environment appear well down the list of things to worry about. It's clear that the current system cannot continue. I remain hopeful that someone, somewhere, in the public or private sector, will issue Social Policy Bonds for a worthwhile goal, and enable the concept to be tested, discussed, refined and eventually deployed to solve some of the world's urgent social and environmental problems.


ZenTiger said...

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And if you don't succeed then, try a very different approach to promoting the idea.

Is there a charity organisation trying to generate funds that would be able to consider this idea?

A TED style talk to work through a change of perspective?

Ronnie Horesh said...

Hi Zen Tiger and thanks for your comment.

I've tried to interest NGOs and philanthropists in the idea. Unfortunately they are not very interested, or even responsive to my approaches. Philanthropists and their organizations, in particular, just do not reply to my emails; not even an acknowledgement, not once, not ever.

I did email TED offering to speak on Social Policy Bonds, but they didn't respond. I also emailed the speakers at TED on "the Death of Environmentalism". Again, no response.

I will continue to try such approaches from time to time, but my ambition at this stage is the relatively modest one of maintaining my websites and continuing to make my book and papers available as a resource to anyone who is interested. Also, to be available to advise anyone who does take up the idea in my lifetime.