In Israel, a world first is occurring. An Israeli social enterprise has taken to crowdfunding a new initiative aimed at helping tackle loneliness and isolation among older people.
Traditionally, social impact bonds are funded by one or two big financial backers, investing the money to ensure the rollout of the project to make the biggest impact on society. But this latest bond is believed to be the first to get funding from the general public through crowdfunding.
While the bond has already received financial contributions from investors and philanthropic funds of around AU$653,000, they have turned to crowdfunding in the hopes of raising another AU$285,000.
Social Finance Israel, the organisation behind the social impact bond, says the money will go towards easing the effects of loneliness and isolation of around 200 older people in Tel Aviv over the next two years.
The program will see social workers and volunteers visit older people, offer group activities, teach them how to use technology to keep in touch with family and friends, and will check in on their mental health using cognitive behavioural tools.
During the coronavirus pandemic, an Israeli survey found 47% of older respondents were in a poor mental state, experiencing feelings of depression, loneliness and that “in the current situation, life has no meaning”.
It was during this time that the social impact bond was launched to help ease some of these feelings and improve the wellbeing of older Israelis during COVID-19.
Social Finance Israel’s CEO, Yaron Neudorfor, told Pro Bono Australia that involving the community in crowdfunding has been an essential part of making the social impact bond a reality.
“I am excited to enable everyone to invest in a social impact bond to reduce elderly loneliness and thus, address not only a difficult problem which has intensified recently but also, get a return on the investment subject to the project’s success,” Neudorfor said.
“Impact investments around the globe are continuing to grow since we are witnessing a new generation of investors that want more than a return; they want their investments to be meaningful according to their values.”
The social impact bond, which is still in the “development” stage, poses the question: should the public and communities have a larger hand in improving the lives of our older community, instead of leaving the task solely to the government, peak bodies or private investors?