Overhauling education is a hot topic. It has conflict—most often between “ reformers” and teachers unions. It has rock stars who grace the covers of news magazines, appear on “60 Minutes,” and even star in the occasional movie—people like Michelle Rhee, the former Washington public-schools leader, and Harlem Children’s Zone leader Geoffrey Canada.
It also happens to center on a vitally important issue: education.
Less well known (and perhaps less advanced) is a second movement that has been brewing for several years. It has its own controversies and its own central players. They include the organizations in America Forward, a coalition of nonprofits that promote social enterprise and innovation, and journals like the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
They also include organizations with a foot in each movement, such as the Harlem Children’s Zone, KIPP charter schools, and New Leaders for New Schools. Moreover, like the education-overhaul movement, this one focuses on important and seemingly intractable problems, like persistent poverty.
This blog, Public Measures, will cover major developments in this growing nonprofit movement, particularly the efforts of the Obama administration, which has hired many of its key players and absorbed many of its ideas. Topics will include:
- Public innovation. We will track several Obama-administration programs whose explicit aim is promoting innovation in the nonprofit world, including the Social Innovation Fund and the Education Department’s Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods programs.
- Data and evidence. More than its predecessors, this administration is requiring grant recipients to collect data and measure their performance. How are these changes taking place? What difference are they having?
- Competition. The administration’s new programs emphasize grant competitions over the long-favored government approach of giving money to any groups that qualifies. What effect does this have on the nonprofit world?
- Philanthropy’s role. The administration is working directly with private foundations in many of these programs. We will track their work and major contributions.
This blog will feature a mix of news, links to major new resources and reports, and opinions.
It won’t truly be a success, however, unless it also includes the thoughts and opinions of people who are working to solve social problems every day. We want to hear from you.