Social Innovation Fund

Summary of this weekend's Social Innovation Fund posts

Apparently, the Social Innovation Fund writing community does not rest on weekends. Nor do the folks at the Corporation for National and Community Service. As I was writing this post, the Corporation released most of the proposal narratives, application materials and review comments; this tremendous level of information is available here.  I also have to acknowledge the Corporation's willingness to post the information.

Below are links to this weekend’s posts and articles, most of which came out on Sunday:

What Should the Social Innovation Fund Do Next?

The attention lavished on the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) this week has been far from positive. Building on posts by the Nonprofit Quarterly and Paul Light, Stephanie Strom’s New York Times article in today’s edition cites possible conflicts of interest by SIF Director Paul Carttar and Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Patrick Corvington and calls into question whether these pre-existing relationships affected the selection process.

In actuality, I believe that these possible conflict of interest issues are matters of perception instead of reality. As noted by Marta Urquilla, a senior adviser for the SIF, in the New York Times article, these conflicts of interests were anticipated and addressed in advance. For example, Steve Goldberg well-researched letter to the Nonprofit Quarterly, meticulously documents how the Corporation made sure to avoid any conflicts of interest. I can understand why people are fixated on these conflict of interest possibilities, but I think that's somewhat misguided and potentially harmful.

Why Do We Care About the Social Innovation Fund?

I’m still processing Paul Light’s post yesterday about the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The implications in his post are damning. If true – that a proposal ranked weak and nonresponsive (the lowest possible score)in a first-phase review – ended up being funded through a process full of questions about “fairness, conflicts of interest, and undue pressure”, then we’re looking at a possible failure of leadership and management within the Corporation for National and Community Service. And the only way to start resolving that would be for the agency to immediately address these allegations and to embrace full transparency on how the grant review was conducted and the proposals it received. Already, people on Twitter are speculating on the name of the intermediary left unnamed in the post. The Corporation needs to step ahead of the wave.

How will the $45M matching funds for the Social Innovation Funds be distributed?

Last week’s a group of five philanthropic institutions – the Skoll Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Omidyar Network, Open Social Foundation's Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation, and John and Ann Doerr's Family Foundation – announced that they will provide an additional $45 million in matching funds to support the Social Innovation Fund.

Analysis of Social Innovation Fund Update

On Thursday, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation) held a media advisory conference call to provide details about the Social Innovation Fund. Paul Carttar, Director of the Social Innovation Fund, and Marta Urquilla, Senior Advisor for Social Innovation, framed the conference call as an opportunity to provide details about grant application process and next steps. Following the call, the Corporation released a press release on the SIF process and a link to the conference call audio (which will be up for about 30 days).

Breaking Social Innovation Fund News - Summary of Applications Received

The Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation) held a media advisory conference call today to provide details about the Social Innovation Fund. At the April 8 deadline, the Corporation received 69 proposals representing more than 260 collaborations of foundations, private investors, businesses, higher education institutions, nonprofits, and local government.

Can Paul Carttar Reclaim Missed Opportunities with the Social Innovation Fund?

Just ahead of its deadline for Social Innovation Fund applications, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation) announced that Paul Carttar will serve as director of the Social Innovation Fund.

Highlights from a Funders Call on the Social Innovation Fund

Last month, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation), the federal agency that manages AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, and Senior Corps, released its draft Notice on Funds Available (NOFA) for the $50M the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The Corporation is accepting comments until January 15.

Earlier this week, three affinity groups of the Council on Foundations – Grantmakers Income Security Taskforce, Grantmakers In Health, and Grantmakers for Children, Youth & Families – hosted a funders discussion on the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).* The call included Steve Gunderson, President and CEO, Council on Foundations, Michele Jolin, Senior Advisor, Social Innovation, Domestic Policy Council at the White House, and Marta Urquilla, Senior Advisor for Social Innovation, Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation). The audio of the conference call will be posted, although I have yet to see it on the Corporation’s website. Until then, and with the hopes that it might generate additional comments on the draft Notice of Funds Available for the SIF, here are a few points from the call.

A Communitiy Foundation Perspective on the Social Innovation Fund

Last month, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation), the federal agency that manages AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, and Senior Corps, released its draft Notice on Funds Available (NOFA) for the $50M the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The Corporation is accepting comments until January 15.

In my most recent post about the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), I commented that the cash match requirement at the minimum grant award level might prevent most community foundations from participating in the program. Today’s guest post on the Tactical Philanthropy blog by Eileen Ellsworth, president of the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia, greatly expands on this issue and illustrates how the new minimum grant award level and one-to-one cash match requirement will prevent her community foundation from participating. Specifically, she writes, "the increase in the minimum grant level from $1 million to $5 million now constitutes an insurmountable barrier for our SIF application....raising the minimum grant level to $5 million will prevent all but a tiny handful of very large foundations from applying." This issue is further reinforced by the Council on Foundation in a short commentary published today.  The Council notes that some foundations “have expressed concerns about the match requirements for the minimum grant threshold of $5 million…and the difficulty that small communities may experience in trying to take advantage of this program.”

Could the Social Innovation Fund Generate More Foundation Transparency?

Happy New Year everyone! We are one step closer to the release of the official guidelines for the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). On December 18, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation) released its draft Notice on Funds Available (NOFA) for the $50M SIF; the comment period is open until January 15. Several people who have carefully followed the developments related to the SIF will engage in a conversation on the subject on Sean Stannard-Stockton’s Tactical Philanthropy blog. I’ll post comments there as well on Twitter using the #SIF hashtag. To start my part of the conversation, I’ll use this space to follow-up on my original post on the SIF and outline both the issues I identified in my review of the NOFA and questions I’ll submit to the Corporation.