Tracy Palandjian: Changing How Change Happens, With Pay for Success

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Tracy Palandjian has the kind of background that sets a person up for a lucrative career in business or finance. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with an economics degree, and then graduated with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar, an honor given to the top five percent of the graduating class.

But after some distinguished private sector experience, she chose a different path: using the power of money and her financial skills to help solve big social problems.

Tracy Palandjian is the co-founder and CEO of Social Finance, a nonprofit dedicated to using capital to drive social progress. So far, it has helped direct more than $100 million toward challenges in criminal justice, early childhood education, workforce development, health, and homelessness.

Social Finance uses the Pay for Success model. At its most basic, that means funding promising social good projects with money from investors, who only get paid pack if the project succeeds. But it also involves a lot more than money: clearly defined outcomes, data-driven decisions, cross-sector partnerships, and strong governance and accountability.

Social Finance also provides expert consulting on the planning and execution of these projects.

It’s a creative way to bring the private sector together with the public sector, for everyone’s benefit. And it’s an exciting story, as you’ll hear in this episode.


Social Finance

“Moneyball for Government,” by Jim Nussell and Peter Orszag

About Tracy Pandjian

Tracy Palandjian is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Social Finance, an impact investing nonprofit which is leading the development of Pay for Success financing and Social Impact Bonds, an innovative public-private partnership that mobilizes capital to deliver measurable and lasting impact on our communities.

For more than a decade, Tracy has committed to re-imagining the role of the capital markets in enabling social progress. Inspired by Social Finance UK, Tracy co-founded Social Finance in Boston in 2011 to build the Social Impact Bond field in the United States. The firm’s innovative financing approach has catalyzed over $100M to address a range of social challenges in criminal justice, early childhood, education, workforce development, health and homelessness.

Prior to Social Finance, Tracy was a Managing Director for 11 years at The Parthenon Group where she established and led the Nonprofit Practice and worked with foundations and NGOs to accomplish their missions in the US and globally. Tracy also worked at Wellington Management Co. and McKinsey & Co.

Tracy is co-author of Investing for Impact: Case Studies Across Asset Classes, and serves as vice chair of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance. She is a trustee at the Surdna Foundation (where she chairs the Investment Committee), and a Director of Affiliated Managers Group. She is a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Community Development Advisory Council. Previously, Tracy also served as Board Chair of Facing History and Ourselves, co-Chair of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, and Trustee of Milton Academy. A former Vice Chair of the Harvard Board of Overseers and a 2019 recipient of the HBS Alumni Achievement Award, Tracy continues to serve on various Standing and Visiting Committees at Harvard University.

Tracy is a frequent speaker and writer on impact investing, social innovation and results-oriented policy making, having been covered in The Wall Street Journal, Atlantic, Economist, TIME, Forbes, and New York Times. A native of Hong Kong, Tracy is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. She graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. magna cum laude in Economics, and holds an M.B.A. with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar.

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