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The Social Innovation Fund: Driving Solutions and Rewarding Results

by Patrick A. Corvington

Every day, in communities across America, promising non-profit organizations direct heroic efforts to implement innovative, effective solutions to our nation’s most daunting social challenges.Tackling a wide variety of issues, from poverty to failing schools, non-profits are at the forefront of what I call the “solutions business.” The impact of their good work is only hampered by a lack of resources and insufficient capacity to gauge their programs’ impact, improve on them, and grow them to serve more people in more communities.

What if non-profit funding could be better focused on the best solutions? And what if we could share what works more broadly, so leaders in any community could tackle these challenges with ideas and approaches that have demonstrated success? The benefits would be enormous.

A new program called the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) will do just that. Run by the Corporation for National and Community Service, this fund represents an extraordinary opportunity to drive results-oriented responses to critical social challenges, stimulate innovation in the non-profit sector, and support community-led approaches.

The SIF will drive the best solutions and reward results. Instead of providing resources directly to non-profits, the SIF channels funding through foundations and other grant makers who will competitively select, fund, and support promising non-profit organizations working in low-income communities over a period of years. Through evaluation and knowledge-sharing, the SIF has the potential to transform how our nation tackles social challenges.

It’s an approach that has clear benefits.

  • The Best Ideas. The SIF provides investments to multiple non-profits in an issue area or a geographic area, allowing the best innovations to rise to the top.
  • Capacity Building. It provides non-profits with critical support for management, staffing, data collection, fundraising and other challenges that they will need to overcome as they grow.
  • Accountability. The SIF provides funding and incentives for non-profits to evaluate their effectiveness. Grant makers will be true partners in these evaluation efforts and will be jointly held accountable for results. This focus on evaluation is a critical part of expanding non-profit capabilities.
  • Matching Funds. The SIF leverages private funding from grant makers and others. Each federal dollar will be matched with private funding, enhancing the government’s investment to result in greater impact.

First Lady Michelle Obama said: "By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of public trust.”

Tomorrow at the White House, the First Lady, Melody Barnes, and I will join over 100 philanthropists, foundations, and innovators for an exciting announcement about progress on the SIF. We hope you’ll watch it live here at 11:45 AM EDT.

This post can also be found on the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation blog.

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