Report: Piloting Social Impact Bonds in Ontario

We led a pilot project to develop Social Impact Bonds in Ontario, and we received 83 ideas from 79 organizations. Read the report to find out what we learned.

An innovative social impact tool

Social Impact Bonds are an innovative social policy tool that bring together different groups — governments, corporations, private investors, foundations, service providers and social enterprises — to deliver effective and prevention-focused solutions to the toughest issues facing communities.

Private investment is used to finance interventions upfront, which are delivered by social service providers with proven track records. If agreed-upon social outcomes and cost savings are achieved then financial returns are paid to investors out of the savings realized by government.

Robust performance monitoring and an evaluation system with interim reporting will ensure that these projects will remain on track to deliver good results for Ontarians.

Social Impact Bonds do not replace current government funding or existing programs that Ontarians rely upon. Their aim is to allow the government to explore innovative policy solutions while minimizing financial risk and delivering better outcomes for people.

About the pilot program

In the context of a renewed Social Enterprise Strategy and Poverty Reduction Strategy, and as reiterated in the 2018 Ontario Budget: "The government will launch two new pay-for-success Social Impact Bond (SIB) pilot projects in the area of homelessness which will assist over a thousand at-risk youth over an eight-year period.”

In 2014, 83 individuals and organizations, such as non-profits and municipalities, submitted proposals for Social Impact Bonds to address one or more of the following high-priority social policy challenges:

  1. housing and homelessness
  2. youth at risk
  3. improving employment opportunities for persons facing barriers

Short-listed ideas

Through a rigorous evaluation process, involving input from relevant ministries, the province short-listed 4 high-potential SIB ideas that proceeded to business case development. Two of these ideas moved forward to undergo further testing and validation with potential partners to confirm their viability as SIB pilots. The two SIB pilots are:

The RAFT (Niagara)

The Social Impact Bond idea proposed by the RAFT targets over 900 at-risk young people, primarily in underserved rural areas surrounding Haldimand-Norfolk County, Niagara Region and Hamilton, to increase high school graduation rates and improvehousing stability.

With the support of community partners, the proposed program will focus on helping young people make healthy lifestyle choices, while acquiring the necessary social, emotional and educational skills they need to become independent and self-sufficient members of the community.

Anticipated social and economic benefits

  • Provide safe, stable housing to young people who are considered at-risk
  • Improve high school graduation rates (e.g.: pilot participants to achieve the provincial average high school graduation rate of 83%. The current rate is 55%)
  • Help young people develop enhanced life skills and use them to make good choices
  • Increase savings by reducing the use of emergency shelter

About the organization

Niagara Resource Service for Youth (“The RAFT”) is a non-profit agency that offers programming to help young people considered at-risk access appropriate housing and related social supports, while staying in school.

Mainstay Housing (Toronto)

The Social Impact Bond idea proposed by Mainstay Housing intends to provide stable housing and intensive support to 100 chronically homeless individuals.

The program focuses on individuals struggling with mental illness who have been homeless for five years or more. Mainstay’s SIB proposal would use best practices from the Housing First model. The model aims to improve the efficiency of the existing social-housing stock to serve homeless people who are often the most difficult to house.

To help tenants stabilize and transition from intensive site support to moderate support while retaining their tenancy rights, the proposed program would involve:

  • two years of intensive, customized, on-site support
  • a one-year period to help participants move to a more sustainable level of care within the community in the longer-term

Anticipated social and economic benefits

  • Improve housing stability and quality of life for all participants in the pilot
  • Improve access to public services and benefits (e.g.: primary healthcare provider)
  • Improve mental and physical health
  • Reduce emergency healthcare use (e.g.: Emergency Room visits, ambulance rides)
  • Reduce contact with criminal justice system (e.g.: arrests, police interactions)
  • Reduce use of emergency shelters

About the organization

Mainstay Housing is the largest non-profit organization that provides housing to survivors of mental illness and addiction, in Ontario. It has a long-standing commitment to innovative approaches that address the poverty, homelessness and stigma experienced by people living with serious mental illness and addictions issues.


Please note this program is no longer available.