Monday 6 April 2009

Centre for Social Innovation

Obama has established a Centre for Social Innovation in the White House. My very last meeting of my recent visit to non profits in The States was to meet the staff of this new Centre in the White House, and talk about what they plan .

It is still early days , but it is clear President Obama sees this as an important initiative .he has earmarked $50m this year , rising to $200m to provide a Social Innovation Fund but this is expected to raise a further $500m in leverage from the commercial sector and the States .

They have a number of goals :

* They want to use policy tools to create a better climate for innovation as well as new bodies , such as the Fund ,

* They will look at the barriers that prevent innovation going to scale,

* They will use the new impetus of the Serve America Act ; which builds on the work of the conservation corps etc ( this is the Obama volunteering initiatives )to encourage innovative approaches ; the new " Corporation of National Service "will have a capacity building arm ,

* Exploit the new media tools developed in the Obama campaign for innovation.

* Develop partnerships , particularly with the private sector .

They will have a similar approach to our own Office of the Third Sector in that they will forge links and work through the big Federal departments of State; particularly in Health , Education and Jobs. They are also working on a "Presidential Challenge " scheme.

It was a very positive meeting of minds . We talked about the example of Futurebuilders . Prof Salamon , (the leading States non profit academic)who was with us , said what Amercia needed was an American Futurebuilders! I said we would be delighted to help .I gave her some examples of the way in which Futurebuilders invests in the sector ,and how this model helps unlock capital money for the sector , when traditionally they are effectively barred from capital markets.

I also liked their emphasis on removing barriers . This is an approach that ACEVO has taken in its work on funding and commissioning , so we talk about that and our campaign to get Full Cost Recovery . Often it is the small and inconsequential bureaucratic rules that prevent the sector delivering more ,or [persuading the public sector to fund roll outs of our ideas .
It is not always the result of deliberate policy . ACEVO's work with DWP has shown how we can move to get change by intensive engagement with Government departments rather than the usual whinging .

We also talked about the Innovation Exchange ; a UK initiative led by the brilliant 2 brained and charming John Craig . ACEVO is a partner in this Government backed scheme which looks at the barriers to scaling up third sector innovation into the public sector. Seb is on the Board and talks about its work . We agree to put them in touch .

This is all exciting but work in progress .I came away very positive about their approach and excited at what it might achieve . In some areas the States are ahead of us , for example in the Community Reinvestment Act , but it is also clear we have a lot to teach too . I have asked them to come across to the UK in September to talk about what we are doing and we will also arrange more in depth discussions with acevo members , Futurebuilders and the Innovation Exchange. I'm hoping they will contribute to our annual Futurebuilders Conference.

This is a link we will forge into steel to suppoprt the third sectors in both countries.

We are now working on a transatlantic round table and workshop to build links.

Amusingly , in the meeting at the White House Lester Salomon says that right wing republicans and parts of the banking industry are attempting to claim that the Community Reinvestment Act was investment into sub prime organisations , helped facilitate the crisis and so should be repealed. In fact Lester says the evidence is that these loans have been more stable and more productive than the usual bank loans . I return to open my copy of Brolly Weekly ( as Third Sector is now known ) to discover someone in our sector peddling the same line that this is sub prime lending so led to the recession . Sub prime lending is only bad when it involves reckless risk that fails to pay off . The evidence of the Act in the States is that it actually opened up a stream of lending that was profitable and stable , but had been ignored by the Banks because of their ridiculous and discriminatory red lining . In other words , lending to black or small community organisations can be both sensible and is not inherently more risky . These are not hedge funds . These are not deals done simply to make a banker a bonus . I'm shocked someone in our sector has fallen for this line and will be in touch with him.

Meanwhile it is back to the Office with a vengeance . Much to do , but thank goodness for a blackberry which has meant i was in regular touch with our wonderful staff...even with a 4 hour delay in replying to email. And what a superb weekend . In Charlbury the blossom is out and the Hound had a great few walks in the fields . I was not sure her chasing a Bull was very advisable though ; still no challenge too great for Sparkles. Like her Lord and Master !

1 comment:

alex said...


We have a meeting in Scotland next week about this sort of issue. Are we allowed in at the high table in London for UK issues ?