Social Innovation: A Strategy for Expanding Opportunity

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This post originally appeared on the White House blog on June 21, 2012.

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Chicago, IL. This annual gathering of the nonprofit sector brings together activists and organizers, government officials and nonprofit leaders from around the country. These individuals shared best practices, swapped ideas and shined a spotlight on stories of service and innovation in our communities.

This year, many conference attendees were talking about how to use financial capital to spread successful solutions from one community to others all across the country. One of the most important developments in this area is the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).

Launched in 2010 and managed by theCorporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), SIF invests money in nonprofits and foundations, so they can accelerate the work of high-impact organizations and replicate their approaches in new localities and markets.

SIF recently announced grants to 49 nonprofit groups and local public agencies. Every dollar the SIF spends is matched with private money, three to one. With these new grants, SIF is now supporting nearly 200 innovative organizations in 34 states and the District of Columbia. It is financing the expansion of initiatives focused on youth development, economic opportunity, and healthy futures while touching the lives of thousands of families and improving the prospects of tens of thousands of Americans.

Changing One Life At a Time

Jonathan began to lose interest in school at 14 when his mother, the only parent in his life, died. He soon left school with his GED and entered the workforce. By the time he turned 20, he suffered from back problems that interfered with his job moving furniture. Soon he was out of work, out of school and without any prospects.

Jonathan, a graduate of the Year Up program. Year Up is supported through a Social Innovation Fund grant awarded to New Profit, Inc.

That's when Jonathan turned to Year Up, where he not only gained career skills, but also life skills and a new self-confidence that inspired him to excel. Year Up helped Jonathan secure an internship, which eventually led to a full-time job in a field with opportunities for advancement.

Jonathan says that Year Up saved his life.

Year Up was supported through a SIF grant awarded to New Profit, Inc. Because of SIF, Year Up now expects to help an additional 1,288 young adults get on the path to success through its intensive education, career readiness, and life skills program.

Jonathan's story highlights how social innovators are strengthening our communities and addressing social needs across the country. We hope stories like Jonathan's inspire you to think creatively and take action in your own community.

Jonathan Greenblatt is Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

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