We know that it has been a particularly tough time for parents and children across the country. Social distancing, significant changes to teaching and schooling, and associated mental and emotional pressures caused by the pandemic have placed many Canadian youth in a vulnerable position. Therefore, we are proud to announce that the YMCAs of Québec have relaunched their Alternative Suspension Social Impact Bond (SIB) offering on the SVX platform, which was prudently delayed to a September 2021 launch given the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis on school sites. This post provides a profile of that organization and publicly shareable information on their offering.
The YMCAs of Québec is a charity organization that seeks to inspire and encourage all people to reach their full potential, thrive, and contribute to their community. As a member of the Canadian federation of YMCAs, the YMCAs of Québec is one of 45 Canadian YMCA associations that focus on youth empowerment through community-based initiatives. The Alternative Suspension Social Impact Bond (SIB) is an outcomes-based financing agreement that seeks to reduce school dropouts rates among youths aged 12–17, and act as a deterrence for repeated suspensions.
Location: Ten (10) program sites across Canada in targeted communities in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and the Atlantic region.
Target Capital Raise: $3.4M CAD
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Focus:
- Goal 4: Quality Education
- Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
- Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
School dropout is a national crisis. Many students who are suspended are early indicators of students disengaging with school and potentially failing to complete secondary education. Research shows that adults who do not have a high school diploma earn approximately 15% less income compared to those who graduate, are more likely to be unemployed, and are more likely to be arrested or incarcerated in the future.
Founded in 1999, the YMCA Alternative Suspension Program supports secondary-level students who have been temporarily dismissed from the school setting through a three (3) to five (5) day offsite program. Students receive support with schoolwork, participate in group workshops, and engage in individual counselling, building autonomy and self-esteem throughout.
The Alternative Suspension Program will enroll over 1,600 youth into the program. Over the next three (3) years, YMCAs of Québec aims to implement ten (10) program sites across Canada. The Social Impact Bond will contribute greatly to the scale up process and provide the resources needed to implement the program.
The program welcomes youth between the ages of 10 to 17, who are confronted with significant risk factors in their personal and academic lives. Program participants are referred to the program by pre-identified, participating secondary level schools in each program community.
In Canada and overseas, the YMCAs of Québec has been able to achieve the following milestones:
- Previous track record. As of 2020, the Alternative Suspension Program has been a highly successful project currently operating in 35 sites across Canada, France, and the UK.
- Impact on youth. The Alternative Suspension Program has engaged 230+ school partners and dedicated over 150,000 hours in supporting more than 3,000 youth participants each year, realizing an 85%+ rate of improved behaviour at school following participation.
Over the course of three (3) years, the YMCAs of Québec will record impact based on two specific outcome metrics:
- Change in Behaviour: The YMCAs of Québec measures the difference in the percentage of a cohort that exhibits a positive change in behaviour after participating in the Alternative Suspension program vs. the percentage of a comparison group that exhibits a positive change in behaviour without the program or from another intervention.
- Program Completion: The YMCAs of Québec will track the total number of individuals who completed the program during the duration of the SIB. The YMCAs of Québec anticipates 1,547 youth completing the program.
(The assessment of these outcome metrics will be conducted by an independent third-party evaluator)
With COVID-19 significantly affecting education systems, the team at the YMCAs of Québec made the prudent decision to delay the launch of the Social Impact Bond by one year. This change allowed the project team to use the 2020–2021 school year to identify, observe, and assess best practices in adapting the program to COVID-related constraints. The organization has also maintained its engagement with school boards and YMCAs across the country, given the pressing need for programs like Alternative Suspension to support our most vulnerable youth.
To date, the vast majority of existing Alternative Suspension sites have opened and are operating successfully, implementing COVID-19-related procedures and best practices in physical distancing and sanitary measures. Though the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, the reality is that schools from coast-to-coast continue to operate and continue to rely on services like Alternative Suspension for support towards their most vulnerable youth. With the pandemic causing mental and emotional pressure at an all time high, Canadian youth is in a more vulnerable position than ever. Continued engagement with the program from school boards and YMCAs across the country has demonstrated that the need for Alternative Suspension as a refuge and locus of change for our communities’ most vulnerable youth has never been greater.
Since the program’s inception in 1999, the Alternative Suspension project will be the YMCAs of Quebec third major dissemination project. From 2001 to 2005, the YMCAs of Québec undertook an initial five (5) site development project in Québec with funding from Public Safety Canada. Due to the program’s continued success and independent growth, implementation of an additional development phase was facilitated between 2009 to 2014. By this point, the YMCA’s of Québec implemented eighteen (18) program sites from coast-to-coast.
Beyond the development phases mentioned, new sites have also opened on an ongoing basis outside of specific projects (e.g. since 2015 three sites have opened in Calgary, three in northern Quebec, and one each in Coquitlam BC, and Cambridge ON, etc.). The total number of sites developed (62) includes the four (4) sites in Europe. There are currently 35 Alternative Suspension program sites operational in Canada, three (3) in France and one (1) in the UK.
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