JVS Project Named Ash Award Finalist

Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project named Harvard Innovations in American Government Award Finalist

Cambridge, MA – March 5, 2020 the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Pathways to Economic Advancement Project has been named a finalist for its 2020 Harvard Innovations in American Government Award.

For over thirty years, the Innovations Award has recognized public-sector programs that make American government, at all levels, more efficient, creative, and effective at addressing social problems and providing services to the public. This year the award program, which is devoted to recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector across the United States, specifically sought out exemplary models of government innovation addressing and promoting economic opportunity for all.

Developed through a partnership of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Jewish Vocational Service (JVS Boston); and Social Finance, a Boston-based nonprofit; Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project is a Pay for Success (PFS) initiative that aims to increase employment opportunities for limited-English speakers. Vocational English language classes, integrated with job search assistance and coaching, assist participants in making successful transitions to employment, higher-wage jobs, and higher education. The project is the first PFS project in the United States to focus exclusively on workforce development.

Selected by a team of policy experts, researchers, and practitioners, Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project was chosen in part for its novelty, effectiveness, significance, and transferability, as well as its impact on issues of economic and social mobility, inequity, and stratification. “The project is truly an innovative approach to workforce and vocational training,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of Practice in Government at Harvard Kennedy School and the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “By actually measuring success and compensating service providers based on those results, Pathways to Economic Advancement has shown that you can successfully apply proven private sector accountability mechanisms to mission driven human service programming.”  

Launched in 2016, the Pathways to Economic Advancement project has scaled to five sites throughout Greater Boston. “We’re thrilled the Ash Center is recognizing JVS and the Pathways project, a Pay for Success program that’s advancing almost 2,000 immigrants and refugees into well-paying jobs,” noted Tracy Palandjian, Social Finance co-founder and CEO. “We’re also excited the Ash Center is shining a light on our close partnership with JVS and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which demonstrates how new models like Pay for Success can unite uncommon partners to achieve measurable outcomes for our communities.” 

“The Pathways project set out to demonstrate that high quality adult education services can increase earnings and economic mobility for English language learners,” says Jerry Rubin, President and CEO of JVS Boston. “What we found is that the impact of these services extends from our students, to their families and communities. The leadership of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has made this innovation possible and created a model that is replicable across the country.”


About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu.

About JVS Boston

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonsectarian organization founded in 1938. JVS serves more than 16,000 individuals annually, and is one of the largest community-based providers of adult education and workforce development services in Greater Boston. JVS’s mission is to empower individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers to hire, develop, and retain productive workforces. In support of this mission, JVS provides a wide range of adult education, vocational training, job readiness, career counseling, and job placement services, as well as related supportive services.

 About Social Finance

Social Finance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing capital to drive social progress. Social Finance is committed to using Pay for Success to tackle complex social challenges, facilitate greater access to services for vulnerable populations, and direct capital to evidence-based social programs – all with the goal of measurably improving the lives of people most in need. Social Finance has deep experience in the design and implementation of Pay for Success projects, from early-stage feasibility assessment, to project development and capital formation, to post-launch performance management and investment support. Social Finance’s sister organization, Social Finance UK, pioneered the first social impact bond in the world.


This article was originally published on the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center website.

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