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.
To date, SIF has deployed capital through 20 intermediaries who then have invested directly in 218 nonprofits that so far have reached more than 270,000 people in 37 states and D.C. There are many success stories as SIF is making a difference in thousands of lives today just like these examples:
- Jobs for the Future is helping nearly 22,000 low-income individuals to advance their careers through activities like training to job seekers and low-wage workers so they can transition into careers in industries such as hospitality, manufacturing, health care, and green jobs.
- The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity have done important work to boost the prospects of more than 13,000 low-income adults and families, offering programming that has improved their education, employment and financial savings.
- Single Stop USA is connecting students to non-traditional aid with an average annual value of nearly $5,400 per student. When combined with the maximum Pell Grant, Single Stop has nearly doubled the amount of resources available to a low income student and has driven double digit percentage point gains in student retention.
As the 2014 SIF competition unfolds, we look forward to discovering even more effective community solutions and innovative strategies that can help us fulfill President Obama’s pledge to make this “a year of action” and expand opportunity for all Americans.
Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council.