Panel Paper: The Social Innovation Fund and Building Evidence

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 1:15 PM
International D (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Idara Nichelson, Corporation for National and Community Service

The Social Innovation Fund at the Corporation for National and Community Service is intended to improve the lives of people in low-income communities. It does so by mobilizing public and private resources to grow promising, innovative community-based solutions that have evidence of compelling impact in three areas of priority need: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.

The Social Innovation Fund employs an operating and program model that is itself innovative and truly represents a “new way of doing business” for the federal government. This model is distinguished by four key characteristics:

  • Reliance on outstanding existing grantmaking “intermediaries” to select high-impact community organizations rather than building new government infrastructure.
  • On requirement that each federal dollar granted be matched 1:1 by the grantees and again by their subgrantees with money from private and other non-federal sources, thereby increasing the return on taxpayer dollars and strengthening local support.
  • Emphasis on rigorous evaluations of program results not only to improve accountability but also to build a stronger marketplace of organizations with evidence of impact.
  • Effective leverage of the grant program through supplementary initiatives that advance social innovation more generally in the nonprofit sector.

This paper will describe the mission of the SIF and in particular the evaluation plan for the SIF itself, as well as highlights of the many evaluations across the SIF portfolio.  The SIF evaluation, conducted by Westat, addresses three overarching questions: 1) Does SIF Produce?  2) Does SIF Teach?  3) Does SIF Influence?  For example, the SIF aims to influence the policies, funding and practices of public agencies (federal, state, and local), philanthropic organizations, and nonprofit organizations.  The SIF programs are also conducting independent evaluations, including more than a dozen random assignment and quasi-experimental studies.