Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Blog

  • Introducing Our New Social Innovation Director

    I am delighted to announce that Dave Wilkinson will step forward to serve as the new Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. Under Dave’s leadership, the Office will be focused on strengthening communities and enabling upward economic mobility by finding and growing approaches that work best for communities in need. 

    Using the tools of evidence-based policy, philanthropy, impact finance and human capital, Dave will lead an Office of Social Innovation that supports the development and launch of data-driven approaches across a range of domestic policy priorities from education and job growth to economic development and healthy communities. 

  • Operation AmeriCorps: Expanding Opportunity for All

    No child’s zip code should dictate her destiny – but for too many children, their aspirations and potential are limited by the opportunities available in the neighborhood where they grow up. And our country’s future depends on ensuring that all Americans have access to strong ladders of opportunity, no matter where they live.

    That’s why we are working in partnership with local leaders in Promise Zones across the country to spur economic growth and expand educational opportunities. That’s why we created Strong Cities, Strong Communities and worked to revitalize cities like Detroit and New Orleans.

    These initiatives provide more than access to federal expertise and funding – they also build human capital to help tribal and local leaders implement their plans. For instance, AmeriCorps members play a vital role in both Promise Zones and Strong Cities, Strong Communities where they help turn ideas into action.

    And with an exciting new initiative from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for service and volunteering that administers AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps members will expand their efforts to support tribes and localities in growing opportunity for all.

    Their Operation AmeriCorps initiative is the next phase of our efforts to focus on local needs and allow local leaders to achieve transformative change in their city or county.

  • Pay for Success: Spreading What Works and Sharing What We Know Across the U.S.

    Two years ago, President Obama prioritized Pay for Success (PFS) as one of the key strategies in his second-term social innovation agenda. PFS is a rapidly expanding approach to funding social services that is making great progress around the country.

    For those unfamiliar with PFS, it is a type of performance-based contracting for preventive social programs wherein government pays if desired set of specified outcomes are achieved. PFS often involves mission-driven investors who fund the preventive services with intent to be repaid from government savings generated when the services reduce demand for more costly safety net programs. If the services miss their targets or do not deliver, then investors absorb the loss. Thus, government only “pays for success.”

    Today, the Administration can point to federal investments of almost $40 million that have helped to jumpstart the field and established the U.S. as the largest PFS market in the world. Just today we announced the nation’s sixth PFS transaction. This new initiative aims to reduce foster care costs in Cuyahoga County, Ohio by supporting mothers with children who have lost their homes.

  • Celebrating 100 Years of Community Foundations

    America has led the world in developing a national culture of civic participation, but one of the most enduring institutions that we created has been the community foundation. Today, President Obama is proud to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the community foundation with a convening here at the White House, where we welcomed more than 100 leaders from this field. Together, we commemorated a century of achievement by community foundations and looked forward to the possibilities that lie ahead.

    In collaboration with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, we hosted Community Foundations: Vital Leadership for America’s Future, a session to celebrate the extraordinary contributions that these institutions have made to our country. The first community foundation was created in 1914 when Frederick Goff created The Cleveland Foundation to facilitate charitable giving by residents to organizations in the city and surrounding area. 

    Since that time, the community foundation has flourished as an institution. Today, there are more than 700 in the U.S. convening cross-sector stakeholders on issues of community importance and driving billions in contributions to a wide range of important nonprofit causes. They are involved in tackling systemic challenges like long-term unemployment, responding to crises like natural disasters, and creating strong, collaborative relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they protect. In these examples and many others, community foundations typically are among the first to step forward when called on to serve, and the last to leave a situation until the job is completed.

  • #GivingTuesday 2014: Individual Action, Worldwide Impact

    America has developed a wide number of social innovations that have matured from novel experiments into best practices for healthy societies.  We pioneered new approaches to charitable giving such as the community foundation.  We developed national service into a standard rite for youth development.  But in just a few short years, #GivingTuesday has emerged as a potent new model of online and offline engagement that was pioneered in our country but has taken root around the world.

    Since it launched in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a case study in community organizing in the 21st century.  It follows the consumer traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the public calendar. But, unlike these commercial counterparts, #GivingTuesday offers a moment on the calendar to encourage Americans to reflect and give back.  Some might choose to volunteer their talent, others might make charitable contributions and still others simply to connect with friends and loved ones.  Through millions of online clicks and offline acts, we expect #GivingTuesday will take many forms, but all will be energized by a common impulse to make life better, especially for those in need.

  • Investing in What Works: Federal Agency Awards Inaugural Pay for Success Grants

    This week, the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund (SIF) announced the federal government’s most robust action to date in support of Pay for Success (PFS), a promising model for expanding innovative, highly effective social programs that achieve better results and can save tax payer dollars. 

    Doubling down on its remarkable successes to date in advancing the President’s Innovation Agenda, the SIF is providing $12 million in new grants to support PFS solutions, a move that was enabled through broad, bi-partisan congressional support.

    PFS is a presidential priority that offers new ways to support social sector innovation, driving better results while conserving government resources. It is a type of performance-based contracting that allows governments to pay providers for rigorously measured outcomes, not just the promise of success, as is often the case. PFS strategies often involve PFS financing, sometimes referred to as “social impact bonds”, through which mission investors fund the cost of preventive services and can be repaid from government savings that are generated when the services reduce demand for more costly safety net programs.

    After a highly competitive process launched in June, today the SIF announced eight grantees, which will help communities develop Pay for Success transactions, while expanding diversity in the PFS field in terms of new intermediaries, geographic reach, social issue areas and approach. The inaugural cohort of SIF Pay for Success grantees is a group of high-performing organizations with experience in evidence-based policy, including: the CSH, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab, Institute For Child Success, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Nonprofit Finance Fund, Third Sector Capital Partners, and University of Utah David Eccles School of Business PFS Lab.

    Announced at an event co-hosted by the U.S. National Advisory Board on Impact Investing, SIF, and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown, the SIF’s PFS investments aim to address limited availability of funds for planning, feasibility studies, deal structuring, and pipeline development, all of which have constrained growth of the field. The investments have the potential to lead to dozens of Pay for Success transactions across the country, which can increase capital flow to solutions that work while strengthening communities and transforming lives.