1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: NISH
NISH is a national nonprofit agency whose mission is to create employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities by securing federal contracts through the AbilityOne' Program for its network of community-based nonprofit agencies.
Providing employment opportunities to more than 47,000 people, the AbilityOne' Program is the largest single source of employment for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities in the United States. More than 600 participating nonprofit organizations employ these individuals and provide quality goods and services to the federal government at a fair price.
The AbilityOne' Program is a coordinated effort by the U.S. AbilityOne' Commission, National Industries for the Blind, and NISH to create employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. This effort has allowed people who are blind or who have other significant disabilities to acquire job skills and training, receive wages and benefits, and improve their quality of life.
NISH offers its network of nonprofit agencies regulatory assistance; information technology support; rehabilitative engineering, financial and technical assistance including grants; legislative and workforce development assistance; communications and public relations expertise; and an extensive training program. NISH's commitment to providing support to nonprofits developing employment opportunities across the U.S. makes it an ideal candidate for consideration as an intermediary under the Social Innovation Fund.
NISH will operate as an issue-based intermediary of the Social Innovation Fund. Priority will be given to the issue area of Economic Opportunity as it relates to the creation of jobs in low-income, philanthropically underserved locations across the United States where serious mental illness serves as an indicator of economic status. Placements in new jobs created through this initiative will be targeted but not limited to people with mental health disabilities. Investments in eligible nonprofits are expected to result in the creation of approximately 80 new jobs in low-income communities.
NISH will work with DOMA Technologies (a secure document management provider), Net New Growth, (a strategic marketing and business development firm), and Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) (an evaluator) for the development of this project. NISH will select, support, monitor and evaluate subgrantees. Selection criteria and support plans will be developed in partnership with these collaborators. Evaluation criteria will be developed by MPR.
A total of $1 million is requested for the first project year. NISH will match 100 percent of the requested amount from its annual operating budget. The program will generate significant, measurable improvements in the economic well-being of individuals and families served by subgrantees through the creation of 80 new jobs.
NISH will partner with DOMA Technologies to introduce the secure document management line of business to a number of nonprofits that assist underserved populations through employment as a major part of their mission. DOMA's franchise model will be adapted to the needs of rural nonprofits looking to expand employment opportunities through new business services. This strategy will address the issue area of Economic Opportunity through the creation of approximately 8--10 jobs per site, with approximately 10 sites to be selected.
The project's simplified theory of change is that capital investments into nonprofit agencies in rural areas where mental illness is strongly tied to joblessness can reinvigorate these economies and lead to greater quality of life through enhanced income potential and professional development. A therapeutic work environment can also contribute to a greater quality of life for all employees, especially those with persistent mental illness.
Subgrant sites will be selected on the basis of location within a rural area as designated within the 2003 Rural-Urban Continuum Code of four or higher, and on the basis of recruiting and hiring a substantial proportion of people with mental illness in the workforce. Strategies for growth will include specialized training and marketing provided by all collaborators. Subgrant sites will have the guidance of NISH staff and resources at their disposal at each step of the process.