The Denver Basic Income Project (DBIC) is the first major effort in the United States to study the impact of providing guaranteed income to individuals who are unhoused, as a means of accelerating the path toward stability. It was founded by Denver Colorado businessman and philanthropist Mark Donovan and seeded with $500,000 capital gains he made by selling his Tesla stock. DBIC has already raised an additional $3.3M on top of this to provide unconditional basic income to people experiencing homelessness in Denver, accompanied by a rigorous randomized control trial run by Denver University’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research.
Donovan believes it is not necessary to wait for the government to come in and fix things, as Tesla has shown in the automotive industry. What is needed is to offer better solutions. Direct cash is increasingly seen as one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and economic inequality. DBIP plans to replicate its program in 20 more cities in 2022 and 200 in 2023.
Donovan recounts that by 2020 he was already familiar with the powerful efficacy of guaranteed income. Then he started to do a deeper dive into the literature and found astounding results like those of the New Leaf Project in Vancouver and the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. He believes the current social safety net in the United States is not only highly inefficient and ineffective, it is also demeaning and disrespectful to those it seeks to serve. The number of people who are unhoused is growing despite the enormous resources dedicated to this challenge. The concept of basic income appealed to him, as it acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inequalities built into our economic systems while also making a powerful statement of trust and respect to individuals it serves. It is a direct investment in people that has the power to not only alleviate enormous human suffering but also unleash massive amounts of latent potential. It also has the potential to be an enormous stimulus to the economy.