Social Innovation: Opportunities for all Americans


The Social Innovation Fund is investing in ideas that work. Two leading experts give us the background on President Obama’s ground-breaking initiative.

In “Equal Opportunity and Social Innovation: Obama’s Policy Agenda,” Laura D’Andrea Tyson, a professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and Jonathan Greenblatt, special assistant to President Obama and director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation at the White House, explain that the Social Innovation Fund was created as a result of President Obama seeking to expand opportunity for all Americans by addressing escalating social challenges at a time of inadequate federal financing. 

According to Tyson and Greenblatt, the administration wanted to manage fiscal pressures by reallocating funds from less-effective programs to more effective ones while requiring more evidence-based research on program performance. As a result, President Obama created the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, which, among other things, set out to bring different groups into the solutions-based policy making fold. 

Among its first efforts to invest in what works, the office created the Social Innovation Fund. To date the SIF, which makes grants to social sector intermediaries on a competitive basis, requiring a match of private money with government dollars, has awarded over $175 million in grants, catalyzing more than $420 million in additional private philanthropic capital. Similarly, the administration pioneered Pay for Success financing to promote and expand social innovation.

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