Leveraging technology and innovation to support financial security and long-term safety for survivors of intimate partner violence.
Pitch us on your solution
1 in 4 women in the US will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime and the number 1 reason survivors stay in and/or return to abusive situations is financial insecurity. Only if survivors can afford to get safe, heal and rebuild, can they fully participate in the economy, in their communities and as healthy and active members of our society. FreeFrom uses technology and innovation to support survivors’ financial recovery through three solutions: (1) an online self-help compensation tool that has reached over 120,000 users and connects survivors to the money they need to overcome the cost of the harm done to them; (2) an online social enterprise connecting survivor-owned businesses to a global marketplace and creating living wage employment for survivors; and (3) peer-to-peer financial support groups for survivors that simultaneously foster civic participation, community driven financial health, and women’s economic growth.
Film your elevator pitch
What is the problem you are solving?
1 in 4 women in the US have experienced intimate partner violence. 1 in 4 is an epidemic. A national crisis. We know that the number 1 reason survivors stay in abusive situations is because they cannot afford to leave and the number 1 reason they return to abusive situations is financial insecurity. Why is this? In 99% of cases of intimate partner violence, financial abuse occurs. This may look like a survivor not being allowed to work, not having access to cash or their own bank accounts, and/or experiencing fraudulent and coerced debt. This is made worse by the staggering cost of recovering from intimate partner violence, which the CDC estimates to be $104k for a female survivor. Equitable and inclusive economic growth in the US requires that we directly serve the 1 in 4 women who have experienced intimate partner violence, and support them in recovering financially and thriving as active members of the US economy. Inclusion of women in civic participation demands that we overcome the systemic barriers caused by intimate partner violence. Only if survivors can afford to get safe, heal and rebuild, can they participate as healthy and active members of our economy and society.
Who are you serving?
FreeFrom serves survivors of intimate partner violence living within the United States. 6 out of 7 of our team members are themselves survivors and we have an advisory group of survivors that supports our team in driving survivor-led responses and solutions to the problem. Everything that we build at FreeFrom is responsive to the needs of the community we serve and in collaboration with them.
What is your solution?
FreeFrom uses technology in 3 ways to support survivors’ economic growth and civic participation:
Our self-help compensation tool is an online, mobile-ready service that helps survivors to determine what avenues to compensation they have for the costs of the harm they have suffered (medical bills, property damage, etc.), which avenue is best for their circumstances and needs, and exactly how to pursue their chosen option through a step-by-step guide. In most cases, survivors do not need an attorney to pursue these claims but, when they do, FreeFrom connects them to a pro bono attorney as a next step. FreeFrom’s tool is the only central source of this information available to survivors. We launched the tool in California in January 2018 and have had over 120,000 users. This fall, we plan to launch the 2.0 version in all 50 states.
Our social enterprise, Gifted by FreeFrom, is an online store using technology to connect survivor-owned businesses to a global marketplace with two goals: (1) to foster survivor wealth; and (2) to create a model of what flexible and inclusive work could look like for survivors. Gifted by FreeFrom exclusively sells products handmade by survivors in the US, with 70% of the cost of every purchase going directly to the entrepreneur who made the product. The store offers living wage ($20/hr) flexible employment to survivors who can pick up shifts as needed that can work around childcare needs, court dates, etc. Revenue to date (14 months) is over $130k.
Our Survivor Wealth and Wellness train the trainer program uses a custom online education platform and video conferencing to provide training and technical assistance to domestic violence organizations nationally so that they are equipped to support their clients with everything from income generation to credit building to protecting their assets.
Our peer-to-peer financial support groups for survivors create spaces for community driven financial well-being. Survivors meet every 2 weeks as a group to support each other with issues such as finding employment, banking safety, and healing financial trauma. Our intention is that these groups will scale globally and became a new norm for survivor communities. We are designing an app to support this program that will allow survivors to safety stay in touch with other group members, track their progress, and provide support to each other between meetings.
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?Los Angeles, CA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
Select one of the below:New business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
The domestic violence movement is predominantly crisis focused, offering short-term safety and temporary relief through shelter housing, restraining orders and access to public assistance. Despite the fact that financial insecurity is the number one obstacle to survivors’ long-term safety, this issue has not been addressed by the movement. Moreover, asset-building organizations typically take a one-size fits all approach to financial wellness, failing to provide services and resources that account for the financial devastation that results from domestic violence.
FreeFrom’s primary innovation is to bring tailored financial capacity building services to survivors, using technology. For us, filling such a huge gap demanded that we leverage technology to solve the problem.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
FreeFrom’s self-help compensation tool is a new software created by us in partnership with developers to transmit 50 states’s worth of information about legal processes in a tailored and specific manner to survivors. Outreach for the tool is exclusively conducted online, using social media.
Our social enterprise uses existing online retail store platforms (e.g. Shopify) and transaction processing software (e.g. Square) as well as social media marketing.
Our train the trainer program utilizes a customized learning management system and video-conferencing platforms.
Our peer-to-peer financial support groups will use a customized app.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
If survivors can afford to get out of an abusive situation, stay out, rebuild their lives and heal, then they can participate actively in our economy and society. However, the barriers to them being able to do this are so significant – survivors are typically burdened with six figures in debt, no source of income, no savings and poor credit. Through our multi-pronged approach, we have already seen success in survivors getting compensation to cover the costs of the harm done to them, building income to support their long-term safety, repairing their credit and being able to successfully rent an apartment as a result, and contributing to their community as a result of the stability they have been able to create for themselves.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
One year: 1,001,000
Five years: 10,500,000
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Online self-help compensation tool
-1 year goal: Build out back end, front end and launch in 50 states to serve 1MM survivors annually
-5 year goal: Build an online community of survivors providing advice and feedback on their experiences pursuing compensation, reaching 10,000,000 survivors annually
-1 year goal: Demonstrate ability to use technology to create living wage work for survivors and connect survivor entrepreneurs to an online marketplace
-5 year goal: Support replication nationwide
Train the trainer program
-1 year goal: Train 150 advocates nationally through our virtual training program with the goal of impacting 7500 survivors annually
-5 year goal: Train more than 1000 advocates with the goal of impacting 50,000 survivors annually
Peer-to-peer financial support network
-1 year goal: Pilot peer to peer groups to determine most successful model
-5 year goal: Scale these groups to reach survivors nationally who don’t have access to traditional services
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The barriers to our success are funding, partnership development, marketing, and technology development. We need to build a large enough web of partners to support our train the trainer program. We need to market and do thorough outreach to support our self-help compensation tool in reaching 1 million survivors annually. We need to develop an app to support the peer-to-peer program in scaling that is considerate of both the need for survivor safety and the need for community interaction.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Funding: We intend to grow our earned revenue sources to account for at least 30% of our income by the end of next year.
Partnership development: We currently have a waitlist of 123 organizations across 13 states who would like to receive our training. We are conducting a research study to demonstrate the efficacy of our training and we are confident that this will support this partnership building and generate the funding necessary to grow this program.
Marketing: To ensure that our online tool is truly accessible to everyone, we will need a robust online marketing strategy that thoroughly targets individuals by region.
Technology Development: We will likely hire someone in house to manage and grow our different technology platforms in 2020.
Select an option below:Nonprofit
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Sonya Passi, the founder and CEO of FreeFrom, has been a domestic violence activist since she was 16 years old. Before founding FreeFrom, she launched theFamily Violence Appellate Projectwhile earning her law degree at UC Berkeley. For her work with in the field, Sonya was listed in Forbes' 30 Under 30 Class of 2017 For Law and Policy is an Ashoka, Fast Forward, Uncharted, Roddenberry and New America CA Fellow.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Tech volunteers through RagTag
Over 36 pro bono lawyers
More than 110 domestic violence organizations
LA City and County Entities
What is your business model?
CAPACITY BUILDING / B2B – Integrating financial capacity building services into the existing domestic violence movement
1. Train the trainer program: Through our Survivor Wealth and Wellness Certification Program, we train domestic violence organizations nationally on how to support survivors in recovering financially.
2. Survivor Wealth Summit: Our July 2019 summit will convene the asset building and gender-based violence fields to develop innovations and build cross-sector capacity.
INNOVATION / B2C – Providing financial capacity building services directly to survivors
1. Self-Help Compensation Tool: Our online compensation tool helps survivors navigate the 4 avenues to compensation to recuperate the costs of the abuse.
2. Peer-to-peer Financial Coaching: FreeFrom is piloting peer-to-peer models to support survivors in building financial confidence and power in community.
3. Social Enterprise Models: Our social enterprise, GIFTED by FreeFrom, connects survivor entrepreneurs to a global marketplace and offers living wage, flexible work to survivors.
SYSTEMS CHANGE – Removing structural obstacles to survivors’ financial security
We have a 50-state strategy to build movement power through legislation that supports economic justice for survivors. Additionally, FreeFrom is working to create a set of survivor-informed industry guidelines and best practices for banks, credit card companies and credit reporting agencies.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
FreeFrom has 3 sources of earned revenue:
- Our train the trainer program is a fee for service model. We charge $3,000 per person that we train and offer technical assistance too. We also offer the opportunity to renew technical assistance on an annual basis.
- 10% of all revenue from our social enterprise comes back to the organization to reinvest.
- We generate revenue from ticket sales to our annual Survivor Wealth Summit.
We will be adding a 4thsource of earned revenue in the fall of this year when we launch the national version of our online compensation tool. At the end of the tool, users will be given the opportunity to contribute $1 to support the maintenance of the tool. At 1MM users per year, we hope that this becomes a consistent source of revenue for us.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Our expertise is in the domestic violence space. This is a movement that has not seen much innovation in the last few decades. Through SOLVE we hope to equip ourselves with all the knowledge, expertise, mentorship and guidance of the world’s best innovators, thinkers, and problem solvers to innovate this movement and build the structural capacity to support long-term safety for survivors. We are at an inflection point at which access to the right experts, funding opportunities and media exposure will have an exponential impact.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
The types of organizations that will help us accelerate our solution are:
- Those that specialize in design-thinking
- Tech developers
- Research entities
- Banks and credit card companies
- Marketing experts
- Impact validation experts
- Media companies
If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
FreeFrom uses technology and innovation to create pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of intimate partner violence. Our self-help compensation tool is an online, mobile-ready service that helps survivors to determine what avenues to compensation they have for the costs of the harm they have suffered (medical bills, property damage, etc.), which avenue is best for their circumstances and needs, and exactly how to pursue their chosen option through a step-by-step guide. In most cases, survivors do not need an attorney to pursue these claims but, when they do, FreeFrom connects them to a pro bono attorney as a next step. FreeFrom’s tool is the only central source of this information available to survivors. We launched the tool in California in January 2018 and have had over 120,000 users. If we were fortunate enough to win the Innovation for Women Prize, we would use it to scale our tool in three ways: (1) expand the usability of the tool on the front end to allow users to stay in touch with us and get automated reminders and tips for pursuing their chosen avenue to compensation; (2) build out the back end analytics to allow us to capture more information about our user so we can better support them; and (3) expand the tool to all 50 states with the goal of serving 1MM survivors in 2020.
If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
FreeFrom uses technology and innovation to create pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of intimate partner violence. Our self-help compensation tool is an online, mobile-ready service that helps survivors to determine what avenues to compensation they have for the costs of the harm they have suffered (medical bills, property damage, etc.), which avenue is best for their circumstances and needs, and exactly how to pursue their chosen option through a step-by-step guide. In most cases, survivors do not need an attorney to pursue these claims but, when they do, FreeFrom connects them to a pro bono attorney as a next step. FreeFrom’s tool is the only central source of this information available to survivors. We launched the tool in California in January 2018 and have had over 120,000 users. If we were fortunate enough to win the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, we would use it to scale our tool in three ways: (1) expand the usability of the tool on the front end to allow users to stay in touch with us and get automated reminders and tips for pursuing their chosen avenue to compensation; (2) build out the back end analytics to allow us to capture more information about our user so we can better support them; and (3) expand the tool to all 50 states with the goal of serving 1MM survivors in 2020.
- Sonya Passi Founder and CEO, FreeFrom