By Lois Nembhard, Acting Director, Social Innovation Fund
This is an exciting time for the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The impact and sophistication of our grantees and subgrantees is both enabling social innovation across America and making available new sources of evidence on what works best to solve the country’s most intractable problems. Two years after the launch of our Pay for Success (PFS) program, our PFS grantees continue to be at the forefront of promoting an approach to contracting that ties payment for service delivery to the achievement of measurable outcomes. Over the years, the SIF has tested and demonstrated what works, and our investments have brought together thought-leaders and decision-makers to promote results and build the capacity of nonprofit organizations so they can successfully assess whether their programs are truly creating impact.
Our dollars have supported the identification and growth of innovative solutions to communities’ greatest challenges in health, workforce development, school readiness, and more. SIF projects: house the chronically homeless and improve their health outcomes; help the unemployed gain long-term employment; and teach children to read by the 3rdgrade so they are prepared to read to learn.
As we kick-off #SIFWeek, I wanted to take a moment to share a key milestone that we have reached: the SIF started 2017 celebrating its cumulative federal and matched investments reaching more than $1 billion! In fact, SIF investments have provided critical capital and technical assistance to more than 490 nonprofit organizations across America to grow effective programs to have greater impact and develop innovative approaches to address the most challenging social problems. For those of you that are less familiar with us, the SIF Classic and SIF Pay for Success programs improve outcomes for communities in three focus areas: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.
Along with its highly leveraged federal dollar, the SIF sets itself apart with its rigorous evaluations of the programs it funds and its knowledge-sharing efforts. You can learn more about the results of some of the 93 experimental and quasi-experimental design evaluations we support by following us on Twitter and visiting CNCS’s Evidence Exchange.
For example, our work with AIDS United looked at removing barriers—such as lack of stable housing and transportation, mental health and substance abuse issues, and stigmas attached to HIV—between people with HIV and the treatment and prevention services that they need.
With more than one third of children and adolescents in the U.S. overweight or obese, the U.S. Soccer Foundation program looked at health and nutrition outcomes and produced valuable findings on the health gains for children from its soccer-based after-school activities.
Did you know that forty percent of asthma episodes are caused by preventable hazards found in homes, including mold and dust mites? Our PFS grantee Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) is helping low-income individuals and families reduce such asthma triggers in their households. GHHI is working with service providers and health care organizations to explore using PFS to fund proven home-based asthma interventions, in order to reduce asthma-related hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and ultimately, healthcare costs.
We also invest in workforce development programs. Evaluation on LISC’s Financial Opportunity Centers showed that they are uniquely successful in getting clients on the path to financial stability. A study on WorkAdvance, a sectoral training and advancement initiative, showed that the program was able to increase earnings among the long-term unemployed. And, finally, Jobs for the Future/ National Fund for Workforce Solutions’ workforce model demonstrated statistically significant positive effects on the general employment rates of participants and were highly effective in improving focus industry employment, job retention, and earnings for Health Careers participants.
At the SIF, we are committed to being a resource not just for the organizations and programs that we directly support, but for anyone dedicated to having a real impact on our nation’s communities. A key goal of the SIF is to build the evaluation capacity of nonprofit organizations, so they can successfully assess if their interventions are truly creating impact. By sharing what we are learning through our programs’ evaluation results, we hope to reach new partners and create new champions who will use evidence and innovation to address challenging social problems.
Our success reflects the imagination, energy and resilience of people in all parts of our ecosystem, including the hundreds of program and evaluation staff at our grantee and subgrantee sites. As we spend this week sharing how we advance the use of evidence in decision making and grow the impact of innovative programs that work, I ask for your support and participation to keep evidence and innovation central to the conversation. My hope is that, even more than in the past, we are making the most of our resources to grow innovations proven to address the most challenging social problems.