Social Innovation Fund Boosts Youth Programs

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The Corporation for National and Community Service announced the 11 groups that will receive the first grants from its $50 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF), which is designed to fund promising new approaches in job training, youth development and health initiatives.

Almost 40 percent of the total funding will go to three groups that will focus specifically on youth:

* New Profit Inc. ($5 million, one year) to help young people navigate from high school to college and productive employment.

* Venture Philanthropies ($4 million, two years) to create a network of nonprofits to address the education and employment needs of low-income and vulnerable youth in the Washington, D.C., area;

* Edna McConnell Clark Foundation ($10 million, one year) to scale up youth development programs in rural areas of California, North Carolina, South Carolina and Oklahoma.

Other winning projects will affect youth by offering job training, improved access to health care and mentoring.

The grant winners are intermediaries and won’t perform the actual projects. For the most part, those will be chosen in competitions over the next several months, although three of the winning groups have already selected their subgrant recipients, officials said.

The subgrantees for New Profit include College Summit, iMentor and Year Up. Subgrantees for Venture Philanthropy Partners include College Summit, KIPP DC, the Latin American Youth Center and Year Up-National Capital Region.

The conditions for receiving the SIF money include one-to-one matching, both by the intermediaries and their subgrant partners, so that the original $50 million should be leveraged to at least $200 million, corporation officials said.

During a conference call with reporters, corporation CEO Paul Corvington said the SIF reflects President Barack Obama’s belief that many solutions to social problems are being developed in communities. “The notion that communities are finding new ways to tackle those problems is what this is all about,” Corvington said.

Although the projects promise innovation, each of the 11 recipients already has a track record of producing programs that work, Corvington said. A central controversy of SIF has been how to find innovative programs that have some track record of working.

Paul Carter, who heads SIF for the corporation, eschewed the notion that many of the programs seem to be just more of the kind that are already at work across the country. He emphasized that the 19 panels that reviewed applications were looking for intermediaries that were already successful.

“They are not the ones we are looking to to generate the on-the-ground” innovation, Corvington said. “The vast majority of the organizations that we are going to be relying upon … are yet to be selected.”

Corvington said that the groups selected have arranged additional backing that totals $74 million, meaning that the total amount of the program should exceed $200 million. For small programs in poor areas that might not be able to raise their needed matching amounts, there is a $45 million pool of money from five foundations.

The SIF was created by the Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009.

The recipients were chosen from 69 applicants. The list of winners, their partners and descriptions of their proposals, is at www.nationalservice.gov/about/serveamerica/innovation_grantees_2010.asp.

  • Dr. Edwad Pabon

    “eschewed the notion that many of the programs seem to be just more of the kind that are already at work across the country.” Oh how the status quo continues.

  • Dr. Edwad Pabon

    “eschewed the notion that many of the programs seem to be just more of the kind that are already at work across the country.” Oh how the status quo continues.