Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Blog
- Posted byon July 16, 2014 at 4:37 PM EDT
During his June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in Cannonball, North Dakota, the President re-emphasized the Administration’s focus on strengthening Native American communities through education and economic development. Thus, as part of the Obama administration’s commitment to create lasting change in Indian Country, we are pleased to announce $3 million in AmeriCorps grants to support Native American communities.
These funds will bolster President Obama’s priorities for tribal communities and increase the number of AmeriCorps members serving these communities by 41 percent. AmeriCorps members serving in these programs – most of whom will be recruited from Indian Country – will be eligible to earn $1 million in education scholarships to help pay for college or repay their student loans -- putting them on track for greater economic opportunity in the future.
Through these 17 tribal grants – the highest number approved in the past decade – the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will support more than 250 AmeriCorps members serving with tribal organizations in 13 states. AmeriCorps members will serve side-by-side with tribal elders and local leaders. They will work to tackle key issues facing Native American communities:
- Posted byon June 25, 2014 at 8:49 AM EDT
Today, at a White House roundtable on impact investing, senior Administration officials met with more than 20 private-sector investors answering the President’s call to action by announcing their new commitments to make more than $1.5 billion in investments that intentionally generate sound financial return as well as measurable social or environmental impact. New Administration actions will catalyze additional private sector impact investments and support these companies and entrepreneurs. Finally, according to a new private sector report released today, such smart policy interventions could help grow the global impact economy significantly.
President Obama has described this as an “all hands on deck” moment that requires all of us to pull together to create the change we seek. To tackle our most significant challenges, from combating childhood obesity to fighting climate change, from ensuring all hard-working Americans have the skills to get ahead to preparing American students for a 21st Century economy, to doubling access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, we need cross-sector collaboration fueled by a mix of improved regulation and public resources with private capital and philanthropic support. “Impact investing” stands out as one fast-growing model that brings together these strands. This model of investing to generate economic value as well as measurable environmental and social benefit is gaining traction across the country and around the world.
As part of today’s White House event, firms such as Prudential and the Capricorn Investment Group; foundations such as the McKnight, Ford, and MacArthur Foundations; and a wide range of family offices participated and discussed new impact investments.
Building on President Obama’s year of action using his pen and phone, the Administration will take a number of significant steps to encourage even more investors, foundations, businesses, and entrepreneurs to embrace this model. This includes announcements by SBA, USAID, and Treasury designed to facilitate the flow of private capital toward sustainable business models. These steps are just the latest in the Administration’s ongoing effort to support the growth of private sector led impact investing as a strategy to create jobs and strengthen communities in the U.S. as well as to advance the President’s global development goals.
Finally, the private sector U.S. National Advisory Board to the Social Impact Investment Task Force also released Private Capital, Public Good: How Smart Federal Policy Can Galvanize Impact Investing – and Why It’s Urgent. The Advisory Board, which participated in our White House event, includes a blue chip group of 27 leaders from across the investment, business, foundation, academic, and non-profit sectors.
For more information on all of these commitments, see the Background on the White House Roundtable on Impact Investing.
Byron Auguste is Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House National Economic Council
Tom Kalil is the Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council
- Posted byon May 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM EDT
The President launched Power Africa in Africa almost one year ago to double access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa. With a private sector orientation and transaction focus, Power Africa has already catalyzed more than 35 private sector partners to commit more than $14 billion for energy investment in Africa. Their engagement is critical and emblematic of the National Impact Initiative that seeks to spread market-based models and private investment to create jobs and economic value while solving social and environmental problems.
Recognizing that Power Africa cannot achieve its energy access goals through large generation projects alone, the Obama Administration is exploring opportunities to unlock further investment in and growth of small-scale energy systems at the household and village level. Toward that goal, the Administration hosted two events in the last week – one here at the White House and a second roundtable at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California – to engage nearly 60 impact investors and venture philanthropists interested in small-scale energy investment in Africa.
Consistent with the core modus operandi of Power Africa to date, this new effort will leverage the combined capabilities of 12 U.S. government agencies to deploy the “glue and grease” needed to assist private sector transactions to close. It will also build upon early Power Africa successes, such as:
- Off-Grid Electric – the pioneering household solar services company initially supported by early-stage grant funding from the Development Innovation Ventures and the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative, an innovative finance program developed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Trade Development Agency, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
- Kiwira River Hydro – a 10MW run-of-river hydropower project in Tanzania that received a USAID Development Credit Authority credit guarantee that reduced its financing costs and paved the way to financial close
With input from individual investors, investment funds, single family offices, and large foundations seeding and scaling innovative off-grid business models, this new effort will also develop new capabilities to strengthen the enabling environment and catalyze further private sector investment into off-grid and mini-grid energy solutions.
We know that great ideas and impactful small scale energy investments aren’t limited to the people that joined us at the recent events. Do the activities of your investment fund or foundation align with this new strategy under the President’s Power Africa initiative? Are you actively pursuing small-scale energy deals in the six Power Africa countries that could use a little glue or grease? Do you have thoughts on steps the public sector can take to further unlock investment and growth?
If you have such thoughts, please email us at email@example.com. Working together, we can increase access to energy, eradicate extreme poverty, and achieve sustained, inclusive economic growth.
- Posted byon February 25, 2014 at 1:42 PM EDT
In 2009, when President Obama signed legislation that created the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), we intended to invest in what works and catalyze innovative strategies to help tackle some of our nation’s greatest challenges.
Today, the Social Innovation Fund announced its fourth open competition. The Administration is making available $65.8 million in grant funding for intermediary organizations that want to accelerate the growth of effective, evidence-based community solutions. This is the largest grant pool in the history of the program.
Intermediaries can apply for grants that range from $1 million to $10 million. Such funds are to be used to expand the efforts of high-impact nonprofits focused on some of our toughest challenges, specifically expanding economic opportunity, building healthy futures, and improving youth development. As a public-private partnership, applicants also can use the prospect of SIF dollars to attract new non-governmental investors to amplify the public funds.
The 2014 competition has some special features that distinguish it from prior years. It prioritizes applications with strong plans to support Opportunity Youth and that endeavor to leverage the Collective Impact model of community organizing to create social change. The competition also will seek to support key Presidential priorities, particularly those designed to expand opportunity for low income individuals and distressed communities, such as the Promise Zones initiative.
- Posted byon February 17, 2014 at 8:01 PM EDT
Iowa can add another “first-in-the-nation” jewel to its crown with today’s announcement by Governor Terry Branstad of the creation of the Governor’s Council on National Service in Iowa.
Led by the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, and developed in partnership with the Franklin Project, the Governor’s Council will engage leaders from state agencies, higher education, and the private sector to make recommendations on how to expand national service and volunteer opportunities in Iowa.
The Council’s goals mirror those of the Task Force on Expanding National Service created by President Obama last summer: identifying policies, developing partnerships, and using technology to expand opportunities for citizens to meet critical needs through service.
I salute Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds for their leadership in establishing this Council, which builds on our work on the national level and is an example we hope other states will follow.
Governor Branstad has been a longtime champion of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps as a cost-effective community solution. In a recent Huffington Post column, “National Service is a No-Brainer,” the Governor highlighted AmeriCorps’ key role in meeting local needs and in mobilizing other volunteers, noting that each Iowa AmeriCorps member manages an average of 40 other volunteers. “Volunteers need to be recruited, scheduled, and have their activities planned; national service is making that happen and has fueled Iowa's growth in volunteerism over the last 20 years,” the Governor said.
One of the key goals of the Iowa Governor’s Council -- and of the President’s Task Force -- is to launch new public-private partnerships to engage citizens in national service, building on the strong foundation created over decades through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and other CNCS programs.
That spirit was on full display this morning at the Iowa Capitol. Col. Robert King, Executive Director of Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke of his interest in developing an AmeriCorps VISTA project to help returning veterans find employment. Tina Yoder, a senior executive from MidAmerican Energy, highlighted her company’s investment in Green Iowa AmeriCorps, whose members increase energy efficiency through home weatherization, energy education, and community outreach. And Shannon Cofield from Drake University announced a project to match Drake mentors with low income students to spur interest in STEM careers using AmeriCorps VISTA and Iowa College AmeriCorps. Drake is also developing a post-graduate national service experience in partnership with Des Moines area nonprofits.
Today’s announcement reminds us of another key player in America’s service and volunteering infrastructure: State Service Commissions. Whether managing AmeriCorps programs, coordinating volunteers after natural disasters, leading days of service, or serving as laboratories of innovation, these Governor-appointed State Commissions play an indispensable role in fostering service and community solutions in our nation.
From the halls of Congress to state capitols to city halls across the country, elected leaders from all backgrounds are recognizing that national service is a smart investment. As Governor Branstad said, “Service is an issue that Republicans and Democrats should both wholeheartedly embrace, especially during times of austere budgets.” We applaud the Governor and all those who are working to expand opportunities for Americans to make our nation stronger through service.
Wendy Spencer is the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service and serves as co-chair of the Task Force on Expanding National Service.
- Posted byon January 24, 2014 at 3:02 PM EDT
President Obama long has said that, as Americans, we must look out for each other and exemplify the values expressed in the adage – I am my brother’s keeper.
That is why Vice President Biden announced last December that the Administration is undertaking a targeted effort to support the needs of Holocaust survivors living in the United States.
This is a community of elderly Americans who are seeking to live their lives with the comfort and dignity that they deserve, but they face significant struggles. They are disproportionally likely to be living in poverty: 25 percent of Holocaust survivors residing in the United States live at or below the Federal poverty line, compared to nine percent of the overall population of individuals 65 and older.
Part of the Administration’s targeted effort to support the community is the creation of a new position at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assist victims of Nazi persecution living in the United States.
Today, we are announcing that Aviva Sufian, who serves in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) at HHS, will serve as the first “Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services.” As the Director of Regional Operations at ACL, Aviva is focused on helping to maximize the independence, well-being and health of older adults, people with disabilities and their families and caregivers. In her role as Special Envoy, Aviva will also act as an advocate for the specific needs of Holocaust survivors.
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