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Foundations Collaborate with White House to Scale Social Innovation

This past week First Lady Michelle Obama announced the commitment of $45 million from five major foundations to the administration’s Social Innovation Fund. A White House ceremony highlighted the support from the following funders:

  • The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation ($10 million over 2 years)
  • John and Ann Doerr’s Family Foundation ($5 million over 2 years)
  • Omidyar Network ($10 million over 2 years)
  • The Open Society Foundations’ Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation ($10 million over 1 year)
  • The Skoll Foundation ($10 million over 2 years)

 With $50 million appropriated by Congress and other philanthropic commitments, the Fund plans to have $100 million to begin awarding next month to innovative social initiatives with proven effectiveness, that show promise that further investment can help them scale to meet greater needs. Three areas of priority have been identified for the SIF’s primary focus: Economic Opportunity, Youth Development/School Support, and Healthy Futures.

President Obama announced the Fund last June, declaring that despite good efforts in the voluntary sector, progress on social issues was being made too slowly and was not bringing about lasting change. The SIF would seek to encourage innovative programs and enable them to be scaled up, leveraging taxpayer dollars with support from foundations and philanthropists. The aim was a 3:1 match of philanthropic investments to federal funds.

While the White House highlighted the initial round of commitments from major philanthropic foundations, it indicated that further support for this initiative was expected from a wider swath of grantmakers:

In addition, an independent coalition of more than 20 of the nation’s leading national and regional funders have created the “Scaling What Works” initiative, a complementary set of investments led by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) to extend the reach and impact of the Social Innovation Fund and similar efforts to help high-impact nonprofits succeed. The Council on Foundations also released a letter signed by more than 130 heads of community foundations from across the country that signaled their support for the Social Innovation Fund and the Administration’s agenda to investment in community solutions.

According to the  Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees SIF , some 260 organizations collaborated to submit 69 applications for the initial SIF grant competition, which closed on April 8, 2010. The selection process will involve more than 60 recognized experts in nonprofit leadership, social innovation and program evaluation to rate and provide input on applications.

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