Sunday, April 26, 2009

Social Enterprise Summit's Policy Track

One of the highlights of last week's Social Enterprise Alliance's Summit was the Launch of the Policy Track. We were delighted to have with us Carlos Monje of the White House Office of Social Innovation (so new, it doesn't have a website).

A lot of cool things happened in the policy track (even I spoke), but I think the interesting thing was Carlos' comments. And so, I'll share those with you.

According to Carlos, the Office is part of the domestic policy team inside the White House. They have four staff right now. They have three areas of focus:
  1. Service. The big deal here is the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act. Michelle Obama was a big part of Public Allies and is a huge fan of national service
  2. Public Private partnerships.
  3. Social innovation.
The service angle is not service for its own sake. They see this as a big deal, and expect to upgrade to really rally more volunteer service. There will be a Social Innovation Fund, small by federal standards ($50 million this year, probably going to $150 million). Carlos was realistic: you probably aren't going to get Social Innovation Fund money was his aside.

The goal of the social innovation effort is not simply to be a source of money. Phrases like "partner in charge" and "gaps in the market" caught my ear. There is interest from other groups in the government and the White House, like OSTP and the Office of Public Engagement. The Corporation for National and Community Service is clearly at the center of this. They are the organization charged with national service and will be hosting the Social Innovation Fund.

The interesting thing here for me is that they aren't using the language of social entrepreneurship or social enterprise. Social innovation is broader and apparently easier to sell.

Carlos was frank about the focus in Washington on creating jobs. If you talk about independent living, then the reaction is thinking about creating home healthcare worker jobs.

Something that piqued my interest was the Summer of Service. They are apparently looking for nontraditional partners here: Bookshare came immediately to mind!! He mentioned as a part of this.

Carlos then listed some of the different money available through the ARRA (stimulus bill). I'm not going to repeat the list: it's being talked about all over the country.

The great thing was to have the White House put the priority on meeting the social enterprise community. There was huge energy at the Summit around the growing influence and impact of social enterprises.

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