What The $50MM Presidential Social Innovation Fund Could Be
While tweeting my daily Hub LA tweets I came across an article about the President’s $50 Million Social Innovation Fund. The fund, which has served as the White House’s first policy foray into innovations in the social change space, was a bold and exciting first step for the federal government to recognize the efficacy and potential social benefits of for-profit components of social change organizations.
Pablo Eisenberg, Senior Fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership has characterized the fund as a diversion from a much-needed Presidential effort to effectively empower our nation’s non-profits, and you can read his take here. I absolutely agree that we must rethink how our country values our non-profit social change sector.
But what our country’s brightest and most lettered thinkers must understand is that the country is on the verge of nothing less than a social and economic paradigm shift, the likes of which requires a re-evaluation of the way we fund social innovation at the level of our federal government.
Specifically, our country must re-evaluate the entire notion of doing good. No longer can we (nor do we) relegate social change to the world of non-profits. As The Hub LA, Hubs around the country, and the thousands of successful social entrepreneurs who work at Hubs will attest, for-profit social change is real. It is here, and it is happening. And it is growing in strength, in substance, and in numbers.
As we move forward in committing ourselves to building, enabling, and sustaining a for-profit social change movement, we can look to the President’s Social Innovation Fund as a commitment by the White House to take seriously the notion of for-profit social change business models. In speaking with funders of new for-profit and hybrid social ventures (funds like Presumed Abundance who invest in for-profit businesses dedicated to social good), a rising belief within the social entrepreneurship community is that this funding amounts to a Presidential endorsement of a serious examination of for-profit, social good business models. The recent passage of Benefit Corporation legal status in Maryland points to the rising movement for creating business models to reflect the changing landscape for social innovators. As B Corp says on their website, “2 [states] down, 48 to go.”
We are embarking on something new here, a re-conception of the way we share goods and services. It is my firm belief that we are moving away from traditional capitalism’s focus on pure profit, and are steadily heading in the direction of business, and capitalism, as the newest mechanism for creating social change. Some define it as triple bottom line business (people, planet, profit) others call sustainable economics, and still others call it social capitalism. At The Hub LA, we call it going to work.
My point is, there is a movement afoot. The energy is in the air, yes, but it is an energy grounded in action. The social enterprise movement is growing like never before and is unwaveringly committed to ushering in a robust for-profit social change movement that not only competes with the best for-profit businesses, it seeks to transcend them.
Now this $50 million fund is currently geared primarily to for-profit innovation within the non-profit space. But the White House is dropping clues that there may be something more afoot.
As was written in this White House blog post about the Social Innovation fund,
We know that government must partner with philanthropists and the private sector to support – not supplant – solutions like LAYC [Latin American Youth Center] and others that are being developed in communities across the nation.
Now I don’t intend to mischaracterize the nature of the fund. It’s primary benefactors will be innovative non-profits. But the White House’s willingness, and indeed eagerness to explore innovative models for private organizations to engage in social good, leaves me confident that exploration of for-profit social innovation funding and through Presidential action and Congressional legislation is on the horizon.