First Social Innovation Fund Grants Announced

The national Social Innovation Fund announced its first list of grantmaking partners today, a group of 11 nonprofit organizations and social enterprises that will help distribute some $123 million in public and private dollars to catalyze social innovation.

Overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the SIF and its choice of grantees clearly reflects a preference for experience over experimentation. The grantmakers chosen as recipients of the Fund's first outlay are predominantly those with extensive track records in moving the needle on social problems, measuring results and proving what works. The grantees -- described in an SIF press release as being "experienced innovators" -- will help distribute their grant awards to programs aimed at improving public health, lifting people out of poverty and closing the youth achievement gap in low-income rural and urban communities.

Today's announcement had been anticipated for months amid speculation over the direction of the new national fund. Would it favor front-line grantees running experimental programs in the social innovation space, or would it prefer tried-and-true organizations that would help to scale existing nonprofits and proven social enterprises? The SIF's choice of the latter, safer route was explained by SIF Director Paul Carttar as being part of a longer-term strategy to establish a new layer of smaller grant-makers across the country.

"Over the long-term, the SIF will contribute to the development of the grant-making infrastructure that supports the work of high-impact nonprofit organizations and will inform other federal, state and local efforts to address social challenges," Carttar said in a news release this morning.

In May, First Lady Michelle Obama said the SIF had received more than 70 applications for its first round of grants. In a Justmeans post on that news conference, Obama said: "The challenges we face today are bigger and more complex than ever and solving them will require all of us to contribute our ideas and pool our resources like never before -- one investment, one project, and one pioneering community at a time. Addressing the greatest challenges of our time cannot depend solely on what happens in Washington, and thank God it cannot. If we're going to go beyond the status quo, if we are going to transform lives and lift up communities, we will need good ideas and successful programs in every single corner of this country."

Included in the list of grantees are:

Jobs for the Future, Inc. and its National Fund for Workforce Solutions initiative received a 2-year, $7.7 million grant to expand their targeted training and technical assistance to at least 23,000 low-income people over the next three years and matching their skills to the needs of more than 1,000 employers. The grant is intended to place disadvantaged workers into full-time jobs.

The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg's public-private aid initiative -- received $5.7 million in a one-year grant to replicate five effective anti-poverty programs originally piloted by New York City's Center for Economic Opportunity in eight more urban areas.

National AIDS Fund -- Received $3.6 billion in a one-year grant to improve health outcomes for at least 3,500 low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. This program will work with the White House to implement its national HIV/AIDS strategy and offer lessons in reducing barriers to care for a broad range of people living with the virus and other chronic diseases.

New Profit Inc. received $5 million in a one-year grant to collaborate with innovative youth nonprofits -- including Year Up, College Summit and iMentor -- to help them expand their reach in working with students to help them stay on the path from high school to college and productive employment.

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation received $10 million in a one-year grant to combine large grants, strategic business planning, rigorous evaluation and fundraising to boost the scale and impact of up to 10 youth development organizations in communities of need across the U.S.

Venture Philanthropy Partners, social entrepreneur Mario Morino's venture philanthropy fund and investment group, received $4 million in a two-year grant to create a network of effective nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C. area that will team up to address the education and employment needs of low-income and vulnerable youth aged 14-24. Subgrantees already identified include Year Up National Capital Region and the Latin American Youth Center.

Go here for a complete list of grantees.  What do you think? Will this help spawn more social enterprise and innovation? Let us hear from you.