Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Social innovation comes to Washington

It looks like Obama means innovation -- social innovation, anyway. The US Congress has approved the creation of a Social Innovation Fund under the Corporation for National and Community Service with a seed fund of USD 50 million. Says the NYT,

The plan recognizes a hard reality of the nonprofit world: It is a lot easier to secure foundation grants and other short-term financing to develop a model program than it is to come up with the capital to expand successful programs and their potential for systemic change.

The fund is supposed to address that problem by identifying successful high-impact programs prime for further development and expansion and then using government dollars as a catalyst to raise sustainable financing from foundations, businesses and individual donors.
While it has a sexy name -- anything with 'innovation' in its name is, in my book, sexy -- my fear is that just about any program can be presented as if it is innovative, thereby diluting the concept of innovation. So this fund is supposed to identify 'successful high-impact programs' -- if it's already successful, where is the innovation? Innovation is about taking risks with unproven ideas.

Stay tuned.

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