In the few short years since its launch in Chicago in 2000, Cure Violence has transformed approaches to violence prevention in cities around the world. The key to the organization’s success and scalability is its theory that violence shares the same trajectory as infectious diseases. Following this logic, Cure Violence applies a public health strategy to violence prevention. The organization stops violence transmission at the source by interrupting conflict, identifying high-risk behaviors, and altering norms so that fewer people become infected by violence in the first place. In practical terms, Cure Violence achieves this goal by applying an innovative model developed over five years at the University of Illinois at Chicago by its founder, epidemiologist Gary Slutkin. The organization identifies those most at risk and “treats” this core group using a staff of highly trained violence interrupters drawn from the communities most affected by violence. These interrupters, among them former perpetrators of violence such as local gang members, disrupt conflicts before they break out and educate their communities about the consequences of violent behavior.
By reframing the problem of violence and using evidence-based methods to solve it, Cure Violence has achieved proven results, with a 16-34% reduction in shootings directly attributed to its programs. Today, Cure Violence interrupters intervene directly in a dozen countries and have provided training to representatives of many others. The organization’s approach continues to gain traction in many hotbeds of violence. Though it started as an academic project, Cure Violence exemplifies the true benefits of the nonprofit model. The organization is not only interested in efficiency and impact. It is also raising an important question: what other category of institution – governments or for-profit organizations, for instance – could do a better job?