Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Blog

  • "You've Got to Believe" - Building the Cars of the Future in America

    Biden Fisker Three

    (Vice President Joe Biden announces that Fisker Automotive of Irvine, California will build plug-in electric sports cars at the shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann) October 27, 2009. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    The cars of the future are coming, and they will be built right here in the United States.  Vice President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment today as he announced that the former GM Boxwood Manufacturing Plant in Wilmington, Delaware was reopening for business.  With the help of the Administration, loans from the Department of Energy, commitment from the state of Delaware, and the dedication of the American workforce, Fisker Automotive will soon begin manufacturing long-range, plug-in, electric hybrid vehicles at the Boxwood Plant.  By 2014, the company plans to roll 75,000 to 100,000 plug-in, hybrid sedans off the assembly line each year.

    The excitement in the crowd today reminded us that American innovation and manufacturing built the automotive industry in the 20th century – now, we will rebuild and retool it during the 21st century in a more efficient, inventive, and environmentally friendly way.  As the Vice President said today:  “American innovators, American business, American labor has never let this country down when we've been given a fighting chance.  And today, this factory in Delaware, and the industry, are going to get back up off the mat.”

    The future is now and Americans are investing in the new automobile.  Not just the manufacturing, but all aspects of the supply chain—from engineering the battery to powering the cars, from building the materials needed for assembly to shipping the finished product all over the world.  As the Vice President said:  “Imagine an America that has freed itself from the grip of the oligarchs of oil by plugging their cars into a new electric grid of renewable energy based on wind and solar and geothermal.  Imagine a world where people pop the hood of their cars and they see stamped on the battery ‘Made in America.’"

    Soon, we won’t have to imagine. 

    Biden Fisker One

    (Vice President Joe Biden announces that Fisker Automotive of Irvine, California will build plug-in electric sports cars at the shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann) October 27, 2009. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Biden Fisker Two

    Vice President Joe Biden announces that Fisker Automotive of Irvine, California will build plug-in electric sports cars at the shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann October 27, 2009. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)


    Elizabeth Alexander is Press Secretary to the Vice President


  • Science, Math Get Honors in the Classroom

    President Obama may have been speaking metaphorically when he promised, during his inaugural address, that his administration would "restore science to its rightful place." But he was also speaking literally. And as a number of Administration initiatives have since made clear, one of the most rightful places for science today is the classroom.

    The Obama administration has pursued with real zeal an array of approaches to bolstering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education (also known as "STEM ed"). These have ranged from formal federal grant programs such as Race to the Top, which is providing competitive grants to states that pump up the innovation in their academic programs, to events such as Astronomy Night on the White House lawn—the historic educational fest earlier this month that brought 150 local middle schoolers onto the South Lawn after sunset, where NASA astronomers and others pointed dozens of telescopes at the Moon, Saturn and its moons, and the furthest reaches of the universe.

    The emphasis makes sense. Science and technology are responsible for a very large portion of this nation’s economic growth over the past 50 years. And scientists and engineers today are in the best position to solve many of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world, including energy shortages, climate change, inadequate healthcare, and poor nutrition.

    It’s wonderful that this country was home to so many Nobel Prize winners this year. But STEM education is increasingly being appreciated as the key to assuring that America cultivates a new generation of experts as well, with the skills to create the new green technologies we need to strengthen our economy in the 21st Century.

    STEM education will be a major topic at this week’s meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which will feature a STEM presentation by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. You can watch the livestream on Friday, Oct. 23, at 10:45 a.m., at or at

    What do you think is going right, or wrong, with STEM education? Send your comments during Duncan’s talk via the White House Facebook account or via Twitter (use the hash tag #STEMcomment).

  • The Open Internet Blog

    Cross-posted from

    The Internet's open architecture has enabled this network of networks to become a unparalleled platform for innovation and speech, as well as an enduring engine for economic growth. Last month, I proposed that the FCC adopt a fair and high-level framework to preserve an open Internet. While my goals are clear, the path to achieving them involves many hard questions about how best to maximize the innovation and investment necessary for a robust and thriving Internet. Getting input from all stakeholders will be important as the Commission begins to address many critical questions. That is why we launched We wanted to create a place where people could join the discussion about the open Internet. While is still in Beta, we are encouraged that thousands of visitors have already used the site to watch my speech proposing open Internet principles and more than 500 people have offered comments.

    Today, we are expanding the ways people can use to participate in this discussion by launching the site’s blog. Visitors to this blog will be able to find expert commentary from FCC staff on how best to preserve the Internet’s openness and questions that arise during this debate. Our staff hopes to use this forum not only to share ideas but also to receive them. We encourage all visitors to weigh in with their own thoughts and engage in an open dialogue.

    The blog will also offer timely information on the FCC's latest activities to preserve an open Internet. On that front, we have an important announcement to make. Next Thursday, October 22, my fellow Commissioners and I will be hosting a meeting at the FCC’s headquarters to begin the process of establishing rules to preserve the Internet's openness. These proceedings will be open to the public and streamed live on this site. Please check it out, and let us know what you think.

    This blog is just the latest piece of an agency-wide effort to engage the public. We hope you will take advantage of it and keep coming back.  Come by and let us know what you think.

    Julius Genachowski is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission


  • Replicating Success

    Speaking before a group of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders on June 30th, President Obama stated that:
    The bottom line is clear: Solutions to America's challenges are being developed every day at the grass roots – and government shouldn't be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts.  Instead of wasting taxpayer money on programs that are obsolete or ineffective, government should be seeking out creative, results-oriented programs like the ones here today and helping them replicate their efforts across America.
    The Corporation for National Community and Service (the Corporation) is taking up the President's call through the creation of the Social Innovation Fund—a fund that was authorized by the bi-partisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009. 
    The Social Innovation Fund is currently being designed, and for those interested in learning more and participating in a question and answer session, representatives of the Corporation will be hosting a conference call on October 15th (sign-up information is below).
    We know that every day innovative and effective nonprofit organizations are working to solve some of the greatest challenges facing our nation—from low high school graduation rates, to the acute job skills deficit, to a lack of access to affordable, quality health care. 
    They are driven by the passion to help others and to lead change in their communities, and these factors are an indispensible part of their success.  It is what makes the long hours bearable and what compels thousands of people to volunteer with them in the pursuit of a goal larger than themselves.  
    But their success is also a function of their drive to find the best—the most efficient and effective—ways to do their work.  By subjecting themselves to evaluation, they are able to calculate their impact and plot a new course of action if the evidence points to an approach or an idea that will allow them to make an even greater difference in people's lives.   
    Through the Social Innovation Fund, President Obama is committed to supporting the growth and replication of innovative nonprofit organizations and practices that can demonstrate their impact.  Specifically, the fund will provide on a competitive basis, multi-year federal support to promising nonprofit organizations in communities across the country. 
    The President has asked Congress for $50 million in funding, which will then be matched by investments from a network of experienced grant makers and the nonprofit organizations themselves. 
    The goal is to build a pipeline of organizations and practices with strong evidence, and the capacity to grow and increase the impact of their work.  The Social Innovation Fund will provide the support needed to help move organizations from the promising stage to the stage where they have more concrete evidence that what they do, works.
    This is a new way of doing business for government.  For that reason, the process of designing the Social Innovation Fund has been proactive, with outreach to interested individuals and communities early in the design process in order to capture their best thinking and ideas.  The Corporation and the White House have conducted over 50 meetings with stakeholders such as:
    • Nonprofit organizations addressing our nation's many challenges
    • Foundations that invest both organizational expertise and resources in nonprofit organizations
    • Community foundations with extensive experience in local communities
    • Evaluation experts with unique knowledge about how to measure impact
    • Academics and other experts with knowledge about how to support innovation, growth and expansion of high-performing nonprofit organizations
    • Organizations focused on service and volunteerism, including hundreds of participants at the National Conference on Service and Volunteering
    • Other federal agencies working to surface and fund innovative organizations, such as the Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development
    • Federal agencies with existing funding for innovation and a wealth of historical knowledge, such as the Small Business Administration and Department of Defense; and
    • Local and state government leaders
    In addition to these targeted meetings, the Corporation conducted five listening sessions around the country and phone calls open to the public on the implementation of the Serve America Act, including the Social Innovation Fund, and created a space on their Web site to solicit public feedback. 
    Over the next several months, the Corporation and the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation will be continuing this outreach with meetings in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Fe and elsewhere.
    We are seeking the best thinking and lessons learned in communities across the country, in order to improve and shape the design of the Social Innovation Fund.  We believe that the Social Innovation Fund will underscore the importance of innovation in solving our nation's most serious challenges, and the need to invest in "what works."
    While the fund alone won't solve our nation's challenges, it offers the hope of finding the next great idea or organization, and giving it the push it needs to reach more communities. 
    The federal government has often been a catalyst in spurring innovation—from the creation of the Internet to the development of community-based health centers.  Now, more than ever, we must help to find and support bold ideas and approaches that will improve the lives of millions of Americans.  The challenges we face today are simply too numerous and too complex to be tackled in isolation, community by community. 
    Again, we hope you'll join us in this effort by participating in a briefing call and question and answer session about the Social Innovation Fund hosted by the Corporation for National and Community Service from 1-2pm EST on Thursday, October 15, 2009.  To register for the call and secure call logistics, please visit  Send questions in advance to  We will address as many questions as time allows on the call.
    Nicola Goren is Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service

  • "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

    (President Barack Obama applauds recipients after presenting 2008 Medals of Science and Medals of Technology and Innovation during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
    This afternoon the President presented recipients of this year's National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology with their awards.  A humbling moment to be amongst some of the brightest and most pioneering minds in the world, he spoke about the importance of science and exploration—and expounded upon the necessity of creative and virtuous individuals to our country and to humanity:
    At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we can't afford to invest in science, that it's a luxury at a moment defined by necessities.  I could not disagree more.  Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, and our health, and our way of life than it has ever been.  And the winners we are recognizing only underscore that point, with achievements in physics and medicine, computer science and cognitive science, energy technology and biotechnology.  We need to ensure that we are encouraging the next generation of discoveries -- and the next generation of discoverers. 
    That's why my administration has set this goal:  by investing in education, funding basic and applied research, and spurring private innovation, we will devote 3 percent of our gross domestic product to research and development.  That's more than at any point in recent history.  (Applause.)
    And as part of this effort, we're putting in place policies that will move us from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science education over the next decade.  We are challenging states to dramatically improve achievement by raising standards, by improving the use of technology, and by making it possible for professionals like our honorees to bring a lifetime of experience and enthusiasm into the classroom.  And we've also launched a Race to the Top fund to encourage states to compete for the most innovative programs in math and science, as part of a broader effort to foster new ways of engaging young people in these fields. 
    Later, he expressed excitement over tonight's South Lawn astronomy event, which will include a live chat at 7 PM/6 CT with NASA astronaut, first woman in space, Sally Ride.
    (President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Science to Dr. JoAnne Stubbe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009.  Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    (President Barack Obama congratulates Charles Geschke, left, and John Warnock, center, of Adobe Systems after presenting them with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation during an awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House, October 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • Streaming at 1:30: National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

    From his first days in office the President made clear that science, technology, and innovation would be elevated to core values in his Administration. But the awards being given today are evidence of how deeply rooted these things are in the American tradition. 

    [UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]

    The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation in recognition of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.
    The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has its roots in a 1980 statute and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes individuals or companies for their outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental, or social well-being of the United States.
    Here's the list of 2008 Recipients:
    National Medal of Science
    Dr. Berni Alder, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA
    Dr. Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health, MD
    Dr. Joanna Fowler, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY
    Dr. Elaine Fuchs, The Rockefeller University, NY
    Dr. James Gunn, Princeton University, NJ
    Dr. Rudolf Kalman, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
    Dr. Michael Posner, University of Oregon, OR
    Dr. JoAnne Stubbe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
    Dr. J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute, MD & CA
    National Medal of Technology and Innovation
    Dr. Forrest M. Bird, Percussionaire Corp., ID
    Dr. Esther Sans Takeuchi, University at Buffalo, SUNY, NY
    Team: Dr. John E. Warnock and Dr. Charles M. Geschke (Adobe Systems Inc., CA)
    Company: IBM Corporation, NY