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From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, a celebration of 50 years of James Bond movies as told by the ever-popular and longest-starring 007, Sir Roger Moore.

I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to a workshop on Social Investment in Essex on Monday. The event was a great example of one of our EI Places sharing their learning with other areas keen to know more about exciting new ways of financing evidence-based early intervention. They’d managed to attract some of the biggest players in the field, and to explore challenges and opportunities in depth and at a level of honesty I’ve rarely seen at previous events on social investment. It was also an energising and inspiring day for those of us excited by the possibilities of the world-leading innovation that the Essex Social Impact Bond (SIB) for MST represents.

In Essex, one of the messages that came over loud and clear to me was the benefits of the SIB model in creating flexibility to learn and adapt, as needs become more obvious, processes are honed, and lessons learned. The scope to test and develop evolving solutions that learn from trial and error about what is best at delivering outcomes, as a project or programme is delivered, rather than having to wait til the next commissioning round or strategy refresh, seems like a real benefit for innovation and learning.

But what struck me most strongly from Essex is how the process of establishing social investment mechanisms – or even simply considering their feasibility – is leading to some fantastic developments and learning that are of real interest for early intervention more broadly.

Firstly, making a good business case for social investment hinges on robust understanding of needs of the population being targeted, analysis of current costs associated with those populations’ needs, and potential savings from avoiding these, clear understanding of outcomes sought, ways to ensure robust measurement of these (including understanding how this compares to what would have happened anyway without any intervention), and a good understanding of what kind of interventions might actually work to deliver the desire outcomes.

The experience of places that have gone through the process of thinking about or setting up SIBs shines a light on some of the challenges associated with these issues – not least the limitations of data available, difficulties in accessing it, and a real need to build better understanding, capacity, and systems to be able to understand and analyse outputs and outcomes, to know how to demonstrate counterfactuals, and put in place mechanisms to see how well things are working.

Secondly, delivering an evidence-based programme funded through a SIB requires a process of implementation within an existing local system that offers much to learn from for anyone implementing new services, programmes or teams. Lessons around ensuring that referral systems are set up to channel the right referrals and that everyone in other services understands the role of the team, making sure practitioners are working coherently with other services, sharing data efficiently, and ensuring that a steady team is maintained, are relevant to anyone delivering EI.

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, a celebration of 50 years of James Bond movies as told by the ever-popular and longest-starring 007, Sir Roger Moore.