Many stakeholders of the social economy that are involved in territorial development and economic and social inclusion seek funding, whether it is to initiate innovative projects or “scale-up” their ongoing projects. At the same time, elected officials and decision-makers are eager to support these initiatives whilst being more sensitive to the cost/effectiveness ratio of their interventions: indeed, providing the means for uncertain results is often difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, private investors are looking for projects that can guarantee a reasonable return whilst making a significant and measurable contribution to economic and social progress- what is commonly referred to as “impact investments”. There is a tool that can meet these expectations and bring together these various interests: the Social Impact Bond (SIB). The operator from the Social Economy finances its project with investors that public authorities (“third party payers”) will only reimburse according to the obtained results that are objectively evaluated by an external party. The private or parapublic investor pre-finances the project and takes the risk of partial or total failure, in exchange for a pre-determined remuneration in case of success.
Since its creation in 2016, FAIR is implicated in the experimentation of Social Impact Bonds in France. Historically, FAIR has contributed to the development of Social Impact Bonds in three different ways:
- By informing and training new interested stakeholders on the subject of SIB
- By conducting feasibility studies
- By financing the engineering of Social Impact Bonds
Therefore, in the spirit of building a prosperous ecosystem for Social Impact Bonds, FAIR closely collaborates since December 2020 with the French General Directorate of the Treasury, a department of the French central public administration attached to the Ministry of the Economy and Finances.
In France, investment in social impact bonds currently represents €15.76 million, for 10 signed contracts, and 13 currently being structured for a total of €40 million. The Secretary of State for the Social, Solidarity and Responsible Economy (SE ESSR) launched on September 23rd 2020 a round of calls for interest for SIB projects.
Through a subsidy system, FAIR plays the role of a center of expertise for the French General Directorate of the Treasury, by providing technical and advisory support to the juries and third-party payers for:
- The application phase: FAIR identifies as a priority contact for questions from SIB applicants
- The selection phase by operators which is carried out in two stages:
- Examination of all applications: defining criterias for capital repayment in collaboration with the Treasury Department, presentation of projects to the Treasury Department and the third-party payers,
- Detailed analysis of the pre-selected applications: exchange of questions with the project managers, analysis of their answers, revision of the presentation submitted to the jury, selection of projects, drafting the reasons for validation or refusal.
- The structuring and contractualization phase: FAIR is responsible for supporting the GD of Treasury in all actions leading to the final contractualization of projects.
Concerning the first call for interest (led by the ADEME), the structuration phase is coming to an end, the bonds are being reviewed by the engagement committee and should be contractualised by March 2022.
Insights / Advice to Peers
The collaboration is very successful thanks to a clear framework for the project selection and a fluid communication process. The principal challenge could be the difficulty to comply with deadlines, due to the many exchanges that are necessary to define the capital repayment indicators. There needs to be an equilibrium between the complexity of the timely structuration of the projects and defined deadlines. Nevertheless, there is a calendar in place that is specific to each project which has allowed to not lag behind most of the defined deadlines.
Our three pieces of advice would be:
- The center of expertise must really play the role of an intermediary and be reactive to the questions asked by project managers, so that they can enter the phase of contractualisation as fast and efficiently as possible.
- The criterias of selection of the projects need to be clearly defined and have a specific framework so that they are generally accepted and not constantly reassessed.
- Define a clear communication strategy with one single contact point for project managers so they don’t need to go an ask questions to other ministries: the communication must be fluid and easy.
Clémence Vaugelade, Advocacy and international network Manager, FAIR, email@example.com
Marianne Cosquer, In charge of Advocacy work, FAIR, firstname.lastname@example.org