Crowdfunding the First Social Impact Bond for Violence Prevention | infinite 8 institute / by Ean Garrett

On the morning of September 25th, 2014 I walked into our office to find a letter waiting on my desk. It was from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. We had been waiting along with our coalition of over 20 local and national organizations for some months now. It was a response to our grant application for $1.5M to fund a violence prevention program in Omaha, NE, a place that at the time was leading America in Black homicides per capita. After penning the eighty page grant myself, I too was eager to discover the results. I tore open the letter and was confronted with mixed news. We had been recommended to receive the $1.5M, but due to budget shortfalls we would not receive funding. What a grim letter I thought at the time. But if it hadn't been for that letter, we would have never been forced to innovate; and there would be no Social Impact Bond.

With $2.4M in outcome payments already solidified, the Omaha SIB for Violence Prevention ( will serve a total of 80 residents annually for three-years in the target area, northeast Omaha, Nebraska (OMNE). The target area was chosen because of its immense need and opportunity to yield substantial results. After completion of the development program, participants will demonstrate proficiency in a set of non-cognitive or intrinsic skill sets and 21st Century Competencies, preparing them adequately to compete in modern global human capital pools. Participants will also gain access to behavior health resources to address instances of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Cost-savings to the local and state government are estimated to be $8M over the life of the SIB. Infinite 8 Institute will partner with local community organizations and institutions creating the Non-cognitive Development Institute-Alliance (NDIA). Infinite 8 Institute and the NDIA will specifically accomplish the following: 1) Prevent minority youth from entering special education, 2) prevent youth from entering/re-entering the criminal justice system, and 3) Decreasing or preventing cases of MDD. Through a combination of strategic and coordinated efforts, seeking not only to decrease incidents of violence, but to increase opportunities for long-term competitiveness among the target population in the new global economy.

With extreme poverty, and high unemployment rates, northeast Omaha is a community that is ripe for an SIB. Omaha was recently designated as “The Most Dangerous Place to be Black in America,” by the Huffington Post. Nebraska took the top spot recently for having the highest Black homicide rate per capita out of any state in America in a study conducted by the Violence Prevention Center. According to the article, 90% of homicides in Nebraska occurred in Omaha, half of which were gang-related, and the majority of which occur in the Omaha’s predominantly Black Northeast Omaha community. According to the Northeast Omaha Industrial Park Analysis prepared by the City of Omaha and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, portions of northeast OMNE also suffer from poverty rates as high as 49.5% and unemployment rates reaching 31.7%, some of the highest in the nation. In comparison, the average unemployment rate for the country Mali in West Africa is 30%, according to the CIA World Factbook. In spite of the violence and bleak socioeconomic conditions plaguing OMNE, there is much opportunity for progress.

The Greater Omaha Metro Area was the recipient of the 2013 Governor’s Cup, ranking first out of America’s top metropolitan areas with populations from 200,000 to one million, and a result of the creation of business climates to attract investment and create jobs. The 2012 unemployment rate for Greater Omaha was 4.4 percent respectively. As recent as May 21, 2012, Fortune Magazine identified five of the largest 500 companies in America as residing in the Omaha area. In July, 2012, CNBC ranked the State of Nebraska as #6 on its “Top States for Business” list. Omaha has received such national recognition for its technology sector, telecommunications, and power infrastructures, with favorable cost-environments and a highly skilled workforce. Considering the economic deprivation so close to opportunities for prosperity, it is our vision to address MDD stemming from causes associated with poverty and unemployment. Organizations implementing non-cognitive developmental curriculum will utilize it as a tool to consistently create a highly skilled and competitive workforce, to improve the behavioral health of local populations, and to create a common language and consistent human development theoretical framework across organizations.

The SIB will provide training and supplementary programming to 80 youth at the intermediate, middle, and secondary levels of education (ages 10-18), as well as creating consistency among curriculum with early childhood and post-secondary educational partners. The SIB also will be supported by trained staff and consulted by a network of youth, parents, service providers, and high skilled professionals. Additionally, eight trained and well-educated, competitively compensated, part-time staff, as well as independent contractors delivering specialized curriculum, will visit NDIA partner organizations to deliver curriculum, provide programmatic consulting, provide resources and training, and serve as role-models and mentors to the target population.

Crowdfunding is a great tool to match investors, and bring something monetarily tangible to the table. We chose to crowdfund for the flexibility and freedom. We do not believe the at-risk youth of Omaha deserve to wait any longer. And so we open up the cause to the world and for all of mankind to collectively decide the urgency or validity. It also is a conservative approach to give supporters something of value in return for their monetary support. We have gone further by offering the philanthropic and private sector tax-deductible work-related training on the following topics: Emerging Technologies (Digital Currency, Drone Technology, Mobile Technology, Green Technologies, and 3D Printing), Corporate Social Responsibility, Non-cognitive Development, Mindfulness Meditation, Corporate Crowdfunding, and Social Impact Financing. Organizations can choose one or multiple trainings, customizing their experience. There are also plenty of rewards for individual contributions. It is our hope that by creating successful outcomes on such a difficult issue that similarly situated organizations around the world will become empowered likewise to do so. If you’d like to help us create history by supporting our crowdfunded SIB today, visit our project website by clicking here!

·         Stage: Design

·         Social Issue: Violence Prevention

·         Up-front Costs: $1.5 million

·         Duration: 3 years

·         Outcome Payments: $2.5 million

·         Metrics: Reduced episodes of Major Depressive Disorder; preventing participants from entering the special education system; and preventing participants from entering or reentering the criminal justice system.

Ean Garrett, J.D., is the author of two books, "Rebirth of a Dream" and creator of the Micro-Social Impact Bondas well as the Chief Innovation Officer of the consulting firm, Infinite 8 Institute, L3C, specializing in education and social innovation. Follow him on Twitter & IG: @eangarrett