To the Editor:
Now that the Corporation for National and Community Service has released a series of documents detailing the methodology its Social Innovation Fund employed in determining which organizations would be awarded grants, it is time to move forward and focus on the important opportunity that this fund has created.
Ashoka, whose mission has been social entrepreneurship ever since it was started 30 years ago, has found that many social entrepreneurs succeed in changing public policy at the local, regional, and national levels.
Social entrepreneurs seek policy change because governments have the capital, infrastructure, and broad reach to take up an idea and spread it more quickly. In turn, social entrepreneurs can be a key source of experimentation and new solutions for governments, which, by nature, are often risk-averse and less likely to experiment.
For example, J.B. Schramm, an Ashoka fellow who created College Summit to increase college enrollment among at-risk high-school students, is using the lessons he has learned to inform the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to increase college access. In India, Jeroo Billmoria, another Ashoka fellow, worked with India’s Ministry for Child Welfare to translate the lessons she learned in creating Childline—a toll-free helpline for street children—into a national program.
Such examples show why President Obama’s creation of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation is an important, proactive step. It is an attempt to harness the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to drive systems-changing solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.
I also believe that this effort recognizes something that many do not: Scale is not simply about building institutions, but more important, it is about creating an enabling environment—one that surfaces a variety of innovative solutions and helps them spread.
Along with government a key component of this enabling environment is the business sector. Cooperative ventures between business and social entrepreneurs can lead to both greater profits and better lives for the poor.
With the ever-increasing rate at which our world is changing, it is now more critical than ever to ensure that as many individuals as possible are mastering the skills of empathy, teamwork, and leadership needed to be effective changemakers.
Indeed, the only answer to more problems is more problem-solvers.
Ashoka: Innovators for the Public