Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Blog
- Posted byon December 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This post was originally posted on the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development blog.
The spirit of innovation is spreading throughout the Federal Government, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is no exception. Greater government-wide focus on transparency, collaboration, and participation has opened new pathways for innovation and invigorated those that already exist. The government’s newest challenge is fostering cultures within individual agencies that facilitate innovation around their unique mission priorities without unnecessary rigidness.
New initiatives that support innovation, such as Data.gov, Challenge.gov, and Teach.gov must allow both internal and external users to collaborate and leverage their efforts to foster positive change. This seamless integration of different groups will allow government agencies to take advantage of the best ideas not only within government but also from private citizens. For example, the recently unveiled Apps.gov NOW combines the tools employees need to foster engagement with integrated services that will ensure compliance with Section 508 requirements while monitoring traffic and providing analytical reporting.
At HUD, we are looking to foster both inter-agency innovation as well as innovation via partnerships with external organizations and NGOs. The goal is to ensure that all good ideas receive a fair hearing. To this end, one of our Open Government flagship initiatives is the creation of an Innovation Lab that will guide new ideas from design to launch. HUD’s Innovation Lab will not only incubate technology ideas, but will also examine policy changes and process improvements. The Innovation Lab’s first two projects demonstrate the diverse paths to innovation allowed by HUD’s flexible approach. One project involves modeling and simulating prospective changes to HUD policies, while the other empowers local governments by predicting future patterns of homelessness through the use of predictive data analytics.
In my role as CIO, I have been a strong advocate for looking at innovation outside of a strict IT perspective. Good ideas don’t always require technology, and wherever technology can serve as an enabler of innovation, an agile approach to solution development should be practiced. The goal of this approach is the swift production of utility and the simultaneous minimization of security, privacy, and other risks. HUD’s approach to innovation will help the Department leverage the wealth of knowledge inside and outside its walls, and enable it to solve mission-critical challenges in new and creative ways.
Jerry Williams is the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Posted byon November 29, 2010 at 4:49 PM EDT
I recently had the opportunity to meet Jennifer Vanica, President and CEO of the Jacobs Family Foundation, and learn about their exciting and powerful work in San Diego, CA.
Seeing the opportunity to better their own community, the Jacobs Family Foundation worked with the Market Creek community of San Diego, one of the poorest areas in San Diego, to invest in developing and improving the community. In true innovative form, the Jacobs Family Foundation used a community-based IPO model, allowing over 400 community members to buy shares in their economic development. This IPO process not only served to educate residents about finance, but also taught them the value of investing in community improvements, which has led to more money being spent in the community, greater civic engagement to reduce crime, and a cleaner, better neighborhood. All of these efforts paid off in the form of over $500,000 in investment capital and a 10% return on investment every year since the close of the IPO. What’s even more inspiring is that almost half of the resident investors have put their dividends into a joint fund for investing in additional community developed ownership.
The Jacobs Family Foundation is an example of an organization looking for new philanthropic roles and relationships for strengthening under-invested neighborhoods by making grants and other investments that support innovative, practical strategies for community change. Through use of economic incentives, such as new market tax credits and CDFI’s, the Jacobs Family Foundation is able to bring innovative solutions to the table.
The changes in Market Creek and the work of the Jacobs Family Foundation are profound examples that show when we engage and work together as communities we can truly improve our quality of life and solve the problems that we face. It doesn’t take a large national campaign, just a few committed individuals that want to make things better.
The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation (JCNI) is a non-profit foundation that operates on the premise that residents must own and drive the change that takes place in their community for it to be meaningful and long-lasting. JCNI explores new pathways to change through entrepreneurial relationships, hands-on training, and the creative investment of resources.
Sonal Shah is the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
- Posted byon July 28, 2010 at 8:22 PM EDT
The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation focuses on doing business differently by promoting service as a solution and a way to develop community leadership. Solutions to America's challenges are being developed every day at the grass roots - and government should not be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts. President Barack Obama has recognized that “the challenges we face today are simply too big for government to solve alone, and we need all hands on deck”.
It is a priority of the Administration to find new ways for the government to work with individuals and organizations to solve national problems. Given the scale of challenges we face, people are increasingly looking for leadership to emerge within their communities. Innovation, service, and volunteerism are on the rise, and new resources and models of partnership are needed. The Administration recognizes that the success of our nation’s future rests in the hands of the country’s next generation of leaders, as well as their ability to successfully empower communities and create, elevate, and sustain community solutions.
In partnership with the Office of Public Engagement, this Office has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to develop collaborative responses to America's complex problems by convening a group of accomplished young leaders from across the country. The meeting was organized by young leaders, for young leaders, and featured senior administration officials who discussed innovative White House public-private partnership initiatives such as Educate to Innovate, the Recovery Act, and the Let's Move Partnership for a Healthier America.
The afternoon consisted of highly interactive working sessions covering a broad range of leadership and collaboration challenges. The structure of these discussions was built around the principles of the White House cross-sector partnerships strategy, which outlines three basic roles when organizing leadership: convening of diverse stakeholders around an issue or within a community, catalyzing action to address challenges on a local, regional, or national scale, and coordinating leaders in order to address shared objectives. Participants provided practical, substantive, and creative contributions for the group to consider, which stemmed from key challenges they themselves identified during the conference. Arranged by engagement methodology, these big pictures questions included:
--How do we re-create the public square? Or create public square 2.0?
--How do we foster impactful conversation in the era of 140 characters?
--What is the government's role in influencing the social agenda, through policy or through education?
--How do we dramatically increase capital flow to mission-driven investors, entrepreneurs, and historically marginalized communities?
--How do we measure and encourage risk-taking among foundations?
--What are the best metrics of impact, how do we measure engagement, and how do we know when we are done?
The conference concluded with participants announcing that they had begun planning subsequent convenings in their respective regions in order to galvanize support, build momentum, and address local challenges based on the engagement models developed during the day. They determined that only through collaborative leadership could communities across the country empower themselves by unlocking the energy, ingenuity, and skills of the next generation in order to discover new solutions to old problems.
- Posted byon July 28, 2010 at 12:35 PM EDT
Never underestimate the power of a community. Communities all across America are coming together to solve their own issues. One community led by Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., Pastor and CEO of St. Andrew AME Church Enterprise, roughly 22 South Memphis organizations, business and religious institutions worked together for 18 months to take action and create a revitalization plan composed of over 60 community projects.
In alignment with the First Lady’s Let’s Move Initiative, focusing on access to healthy and affordable food, and with United We Serve: Let’s Read, Let’s Move, the City of Memphis, Tennessee has demonstrated the power of a community solution. As our country recovers from economic crisis, the ability for a community to empower its neighbors and organizations is vital to their success. As President Obama has stated many times “government cannot do this alone” and “good ideas do not come from Washington.” The new Farmers Market in Memphis is our proof, along with many other successful community solutions across the nation.
The Farmers Market is a piece of a larger plan for the revitalization of South Memphis. More than 400 neighbors came together and decided what the future of South Memphis could be. For more information about the New Farmers Market or the community’s planning process. Please visit the Corporation for National and Community Service Blog or the South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan.
Sonal Shah, Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
- Posted byon July 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM EDT
This summer, the President and First Lady launched United We Serve: Let’s Read, Let’s Move – a national call to use service as a tool to promote physical activity, healthy eating and to prevent the loss of academic learning during the summer months. This call to service encourages Americans to help fight something called the “summer reading gap” - where kids who don’t read during the summer can lose months of educational progress. And in her remarks, the First Lady emphasized the need for collaboration to make this summer a success:
“We’ll be asking individuals and community organizations, corporations, foundations and government to come together and devote their time and energy to helping folks in need… The idea here is very simple: and that’s to do everything we can to help our kids stay active and healthy – and to keep them learning – all summer long.”- First Lady Michelle Obama.
Government is also doing its part of United We Serve. Under the leadership of Secretary Arne Duncan, the Department of Education has successfully answered the President and First Lady’s call. In doing their part, the Department of Education has invited cabinet members, senior administration officials, and other public figures to their 2010 Summer Enrichment Series to read children’s books, promote healthy lifestyles, and participate in games and fitness activities with children in pre-kindergarten through third grade.
As part of the 2010 Summer Enrichment Series and in participation with United We Serve, Secretary Duncan has hosted a number of summer reading events with special guests Karen Duncan, Secretary Ray LaHood, from the Department of Transportation, Chris Draft, from the Washington Redskins and Mrs. Marian Robinson.
We are excited to see the Department of Education taking a lead on service and so glad that so many other individuals, organizations, and federal agencies participating in United We Serve: Lets Read, Lets Move. For more information about United We Serve or the Department of Education, please see Serve.gov or the Department of Education’s Blog.
Sonal Shah is the Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
- Posted byon July 23, 2010 at 11:04 AM EDT
Every day, nonprofit organizations are banding together to strengthen their communities through innovative ideas – and they are producing remarkable results. We need to support and grow these efforts. Today, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is excited to announce its first-ever Social Innovation Fund (SIF) awards designed to support community-driven efforts to improve the economic, health and education prospects of low-income families.
The SIF identifies “what works” in communities and flows public and private resources to those promising community solutions, enabling them to expand their impact and reach more communities across the country. It is central to CNCS’ mission to invest in models that work, find new ways of doing business, and serve as a source of ideas for local communities.
The 11 grantees are the best in the business of growing community solutions. Their track records of success at identifying and growing high-performing nonprofit organizations are unmatched. They are all driven by the search for bold solutions and recognize that we must use evidence to target limited resources where they will have the greatest impact on national problems. In selecting this distinguished group, we used the same evidence-based rigor that we expect from them as they collaborate with results-driven nonprofits in their communities to solve problems.
As a result of their work:
- More than 23,000 low income individuals in high-need cities across the country will receive job training and education through workforce partnerships with more than 1,000 employers.
- Residents of Kentucky and Missouri will gain access to needed health services as well as improvements in nutrition and physical activity and reductions in smoking, obesity and preventable disease rates.
- 20,000 low-income and vulnerable young people in Washington, DC will benefit from a new collaboration of nonprofit organizations working together to improve education and employment outcomes.
- A host of successful anti-poverty programs that started in New York City will be replicated in eight new urban areas: Kansas City, Memphis, Newark, San Antonio, Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, and Tulsa.
These tough times demand that we do business differently. The SIF portfolio offers a collection of extraordinarily innovative ideas and compelling approaches that recognize this imperative and maximizes taxpayer dollars by generating a private match that will result in $123 million being targeted across more than 20 states.
CNCS is pleased to partner with the White House on the Administration's broader agenda – led by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation – to redefine how evidence, innovation, service and public-private cooperation can be used to tackle urgent social challenges. It represents a new era of public-private partnerships that encourages innovation and rewards results in the social service sector by funding the expansion of successful programs more broadly.
This new initiative has the potential to transform millions of lives in hundreds of communities by identifying new ways to prepare youth for school and employment, connect job seekers to employers hungry for skilled labor, and improve access to critical health services.
Patrick Corvington is the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service
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