Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

About SICP - The Community Solutions Agenda

Our Approach

In creating the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP) in the Domestic Policy Council, President Obama recognized that the best solutions to our challenges can be found in communities across the country. He tasked SICP with engaging the social sector - individuals, non-profits, foundations – as well as business and government - to find new ways to solve old problems and drive collaboration to make greater and more lasting progress in meeting the challenges our Nation faces. SICP currently is focused on strengthening and supporting the social sector by developing policies and programs that can accelerate economic recovery and create stronger communities.

What is social innovation and why is it part of the White House?

Conventional innovation is focused on the creation of better or more effective products, processes or services.  In contrast, social innovation is focused on finding new ways to solve old problems and doing so in the public interest. 

The President has said that our most significant national challenges cannot be solved by any single organization or sector. President Obama created the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in early 2009 based on a simple idea: we cannot drive lasting change by creating new top-down programs from Washington.  Instead we need to cultivate bottom up practices in cities and towns across the country where ordinary people already are coming together to solve tough problems.  SICP serves as a hub for these activities.

We work across the Administration to enlist the full capabilities of the federal government to drive progress.  At times, this mission might lead us to seed a pilot and test an approach with promising results; to provide more support to expand a proven program with a strong evidence base; or to spotlight a case study where attention is appropriate.  But whatever the scenario, we concentrate on cross-sector models that use evidence and evaluation to drive impact and create resultant scale.

Who are we working with?

SICP works with every member of the community – including nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises, businesses as well as faith-based and other community organizations – to meet the challenges facing our communities. These organizations offer a safety net for those most in need.  They serve as an economic engine for job creation in communities across America.  They also serve as an incubator of innovation and foster solutions to some of our toughest challenges.

General Principles

Our Office is founded on simple but enduring principles about how a society can effectively grapple with its greatest challenges. We believe in:

  • Focusing on Results. Strong programs and organizations measure and evaluate what works and why, continuously improve when presented with new information, and invest in the most effective solutions.
  • Bottom-up solutions. The best ideas do not always come from Washington. Every day, individuals and communities across the country are developing solutions to our toughest challenges and achieving great results. Government should support – not supplant – bottom-up solutions that are having an impact.
  • Broadening Participation. The next generation of leaders and ideas must be drawn from communities across America. Service and social innovation can act as an onramp to a new generation of leadership and help reinvigorate a sense of responsibility to community for all Americans.
  • Shared Responsibility. We know that government cannot and should not do everything on its own, and President Obama has described this as an all-hands-on-deck moment. We know that each sector plays a needed and distinct role that is often dependent on the roles of the other sectors.