New Policy Innovation Lab at the University of Utah to Host White House Event

The White House has invited government, business, nonprofit organizations and academics from around the country to gather at the University of Utah’s Policy Innovation Lab to discover how Pay for Success initiatives can benefit their communities.

The Jan. 21 Western Regional Summit is one of a series of Pay for Success events hosted by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, in partnership with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and Nonprofit Finance Fund.

During the conference, the newly formed Lab will issue a call for proposals from executive and agency offices within state, county, city and tribal governments in the following 10 states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

The Lab will select three to five governments in the region to receive technical support and funding in order to build capacity for implementing Pay for Success (PFS) initiatives in their jurisdictions in areas like criminal justice, education and homelessness. Pay for Success is an innovative funding mechanism that drives government resources toward social programs that deliver proven results. Private funders cover the up-front costs of the program and are repaid by the government only if the programs achieve predetermined goals (e.g., 10% reduction in recidivism). The model provides a risk-free way for state and local governments to address persistent problems since taxpayer money is directed to programs that are proven to work. In addition to supporting governments around the region, the Lab will provide in-depth technical assistance to nonprofits and rigorous, independent evaluations of specific programs in conjunction with subject matter experts around the University of Utah and beyond.

“The Policy Innovation Lab works closely with the public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop innovative and data-driven approaches to difficult social problems. In this era of ‘big data,’ we can reliably measure the effectiveness of policies and programs — we can actually tell what’s working and act on it,” said Executive Director Jeremy Keele, who was appointed Jan. 1. “The overarching goal of the Lab is to use these tools to help improve the lives of vulnerable members of the communities we serve.”

Prior to directing the Lab, Keele served as Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams’ senior adviser from 2013 to 2015, executing McAdams’ key policy initiatives.

“As the director of the Policy Innovation Lab, Jeremy will take the lead in advising policymakers and nonprofit service providers in the state and region on tackling challenges such as homelessness, recidivism and behavioral health through partnerships formed around ‘what works’ and data, rather than maintaining the status quo,” McAdams said.

The Lab, housed at the Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center at the David Eccles School of Business, will apply the principles taught every day at the David Eccles School of Business to make real-world changes.

“The Policy Innovation Lab will allow us to apply business principles to government. It will incorporate the substantial expertise on campus and at other institutions of higher learning to help with policy interventions that improve public sector outcomes,” said Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business.

A $1.15 million grant from the Social Innovation Fund, a White House initiative and program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, allowed the Lab to open its doors and begin hiring staff.