April 09 2014

Today we have a useful story outlining moves to deliver Canadian SIB products against the broader background of the product.

SIBs: A Good Investment?
Carissa Halton – Alberta Venture

As kids in the daycare prepare for their naps, visitors at the Bissell Centre’s drop-in program, located at a building across the street, file in and out of the front door. Some grab a coffee; others grab a fresh pair of socks or ask to see a caseworker. The inner-city agency in Edmonton has been helping people since 1910, but in 2014 hopes to broaden that support and help young, single moms on social assistance find meaningful employment. If the planned program goes ahead, it may be the first of its kind in Canada, not because its aim is revolutionary but because of the way it would be funded. Instead of applying for grants or seeking out a philanthropic donor or tapping an existing government program, the Bissell Centre hopes its proposed program will be the first in Canada funded by a social impact bond.

Social impact bonds (SIBs) aren’t available in Canada yet, but Ontario and B.C. are examining their use, and in March, Premier Alison Redford announced their imminent arrival in Alberta in the form of the Social Innovation Endowment Fund. The fund will, over a number of years, draw $1 billion from the Heritage Savings Fund as seed money for SIBs. The ensuing conversations for and against SIBs have revealed both the opportunities and risks associated with a new funding instrument that has yet to definitively prove itself in the U.S. and the U.K., where it is now in limited use. Now that Redford has taken the big step and introduced the bonds in Alberta, the debate will shift to an even higher gear.