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Working differently to scale up innovation

Not business as usual — well that was for sure at the announcement of the White House Social Innovation Fund.  What a thrill and sense of possibility to hear First Lady Michelle Obama and Domestic Policy Director call for a new type of partnership and commitment to solving some of our most thorny issues from failing schools to breaking the cycle of poverty. While the initial $50 million is an important first step from the government, the match from private donors – ranging from leading philanthropists to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to George Soros’s Open Society Institute to the Skoll Foundation will provide much needed matching dollars and expertise.

Working differently — a focus on the solutions, not the credit — is an important work ethic in today’s world of philanthropy. Hats off to Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) leader, Kathleen Enright, who pulled together more than 20 foundations to support Scaling What Works. As similar investments that align with the White House Social Innovation Fund, Scaling What Works will support the selected intermediaries in documenting lessons learned and strengthening a new model of public-private partnerships. What a great chance for philanthropy to learn and improve our partnership abilities as well.

The new CEO of the Corporation for National Service, Patrick Corvington, has big dreams to fuel and complex challenges to attack. A talented team including Sonal Shah, Marta Urquilla, Michelle Joilin and James Siegel, all of whom have tremendous front-line experience and impressive track records, are building and will continue this momentum.   

It was an honor for the W.K.. Kellogg Foundation — which is focused on ensuring that our country’s vulnerable children are educated, healthy and live in secure families — to join with the other philanthropic and public partners to support and help scale up outstanding community innovations such as the Latin American Youth Center in D.C., Family Independence Initiative in Oakland and Juice Joint in St. Louis.

I think the first lady said it well – “As we continue to tackle our nation’s great challenges, we know that many of the best, most lasting solutions are already being developed in communities across the country.  Local answers to our national challenges originate everywhere,” said Mrs. Obama.  “Today’s event shows how the government is doing business differently: finding solutions outside of Washington, DC; investing in innovations that can have a big impact and have the potential to grow; and partnering with the private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to address the toughest problems we face.  These efforts are just the beginning of how we seek to turn community solutions into national solutions.”

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