From the Foundations for Social Change website: In 2015, then Environmental Consultant Claire Elizabeth Williams returned to Canada from a six-month trip to India seeking a new direction.
After volunteering with a non-profit organization there, she was compelled to pursue work that would make a real difference here at home, in her community.
Her next role would be as Co-Founder and CEO of Foundations for Social Change.
Williams met her soon-to-be Co-Founder Frans Tjallingii who had extensive experience helping organizations implement bold and unique ideas.
Together they discussed the provocative idea of providing direct cash transfers to people who were homeless, inspired by Rutger Bregman’s two TEDTalks:
“Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash”.
and “Why We Should Give Everyone a Basic Income”
Further research unveiled a 2010 UK program, “The Rough Sleepers Project” which provided funds to 13 individuals who were chronically homeless and the US non-profit organization “GiveDirectly,” that facilitates cash donations to the world’s poorest.
With the increasingly visible homelessness crisis they were seeing first-hand in North America, Williams was left asking,
“Why aren’t we doing something like this here?”
She embarked on an extensive consultation phase with multiple organizations in Vancouver to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise that already existed.
It was during this process that she connected with Dr. Jiaying Zhao at the University of British Columbia, and specifically her research on cognitive decline within poor populations.
Dr. Zhao had similar ambitions to launch a direct giving program with people experiencing homelessness and a partnership was established. Gaining Dr. Zhao as a research partner provided the exciting opportunity to run the project in a way it could be rigorously and credibly evaluated.
Williams and Tjallingii collaborated to earn grants, partnerships, and the funds needed to launch the New Leaf project, the world’s first direct cash transfer program and study of its size, to help those who are recently homeless.
The results are ground-breaking and are paving the way for a new approach in addressing Canada’s most pressing social issues.
In partnership with the University of British Columbia, Foundations for Social Change launched the world’s first direct cash transfer program to empower people to move beyond homelessness in Canada.
Specifically, the New Leaf project (NLP) distributed a one-time cash transfer of $7,500 to people experiencing recent homelessness in the Vancouver area.
While many would balk at the thought of disbursing large sums of cash to people living in homelessness, the approach was based upon scientific evidence and the bold action has paid off.
By preventing people from becoming entrenched as homeless, NLP helps individuals to maintain dignity and regain hope.
At the same time, community resources can be spent in other urgent areas.
Cash transfers provide choice, control and purchasing power at a critical time in people’s lives. This is not merely a gesture of help, it is a signal that society believes in them.
Project participants have seen measurable improvements in their lives after receiving the cash transfer and NLP is passionate about expanding their work.
Here are 3 articles explaining more:
Fast Company: Giving people money turns out to be an incredibly effective tool in ending homelessness – posted January 13th, 2021