Founded in 2008, Genio is working to achieve a vision where all people are valued and supported as equal members of society. We do this by bringing together government and philanthropy to scale cost-effective, personalised ways of supporting people who are disadvantaged to live full lives in their communities. So far we are working in three fields improving the lives of people with disabilities, mental health difficulties and dementia. We are currently exploring other fields, as our experience is that the more fields we operate in, the more we are in a position to help, as the challenges faced in different fields are similar.
A deep divide exists between those who are disadvantaged and the rest of society. The numbers of people left stranded at the margins continues to outstrip the pace and scale of our attempts to close this chasm. For example, over 1 million Europeans with disabilities continue to live in institutions, and many of our senior citizens, as they become old and frail, end up leaving their communities to live in ‘nursing homes’. In addition, demographic trends indicate growing numbers of people in need. We believe that everyone should be able to access supports, if they need them, to participate in communities that value their contributions, regardless of age, disability or other perceived disadvantage.
Genio has developed a model that uses philanthropy to harness the interest of key stakeholders, including government, to achieve system-wide change. We work with government because they have an elected mandate to develop and implement policy. Their control of public funds means that they are best placed to sustain and scale improvements. Philanthropy can act as a catalyst to demonstrate how resources already invested by government can be re-focused more cost-effectively to bring about improvements to large numbers of people in need for generations to come.
In Ireland, by combining funding secured from government and the Atlantic Philanthropies (a limited-life foundation), Genio has reached over 17,500 people to date. Since 2010 Genio has awarded over 15.9 million in grants to 153 projects. These performance-managed grants are being used to foster innovative projects which demonstrate how public resources can be reconfigured to ensure that cost-effective services are available to those who need them to live as included and participating members of their communities. We provide learning and leadership opportunities to key stakeholders equipping them with the necessary skills to affect system-wide change. We also measure impact and costs to provide the necessary evidence base to support scaling.
Until 2010 Rachel, who is in her late forties and has an intellectual disability, lived at home with her elderly mother. Concerns mounted about how Rachel would manage after her mother’s time. Going into an institution was the last thing Rachel wanted. Her personal goal for a number of years was to move out of the family home and live independently. With the right kind of individualised support, Rachel was able to make a choice to share a house with two other people (who do not have a disability). She works in a local supermarket four days a week and enjoys socialising. They support her with everyday living skills, paying bills and running the house which they rent and split all costs equally. Rachel says “I am independent now, happy and content; where I am living is my home now. Without the help of my two best friends I wouldn’t be as happy!” Rachel’s mother is also happy and content now and is proud of her daughter and what she has achieved.
Looking to the future
In Ireland the divide between those who are disadvantaged and the rest of society deepened during a period of economic boom. As we struggle out of recession there is an opportunity to join together to create a fairer and more inclusive society. Having steered a successful public-private social partnership, Genio is keen to fulfil its potential and extend to other areas where it can make a significant and sustainable difference, such as disadvantaged children and people who are unemployed. The Genio model is transferable to other countries, notably where there is an interface between the state and the citizen with a significant – especially an enduring – vulnerability.