On February 23, the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) announced its first new grant competition in two years. The program will be offering $65.8 million in grants this year.
According to the announcement, in addition to its core focus areas of health, youth development, and economic opportunity, the program will also encourage applicants to address disconnected youth aged 16-24, collective impact, and/or presidential initiatives such as Promise Zones.
In its first three years (FY 2010-2012), the program made $177.6 million in grants. These grants were subsequently matched by 20 grant-making intermediaries and 217 grant-receiving nonprofits, generating an additional $423 million in commitments.
In FY 2013, SIF used its funding to provide continuing grants to existing grantees, so there was no new competition that year. Congress subsequently increased SIF’s budget for the current year (FY 2014) from $42 million to $70 million, making possible both the new grants and a separate competition to fund pay-for-performance initiatives.
On March 12, in more detailed budget justifications submitted to Congress, SIF laid outs its plans to evaluate the program and share lessons learned.
According to the document, evaluation plans have been approved for all of the grantees. Since the SIF grants are limited to 5 years, this is the final year of funding for the original cohort that received grants in 2010. SIF expects “significant data” to be available for these grantees some time next year. Moreover, while final program results may still be a year off, SIF has already received 62 interim or other evaluation reports. (Two are here and here.)
Overall, SIF reports that the ongoing evaluations include a mix of randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental designs, and non-experimental designs such as pre- and post-test (outcomes) studies. According to SIF, 79 percent of these studies are “targeting moderate or strong level of evidence through their evaluation efforts.”
SIF has launched a web-based community for SIF grantees to share information on these efforts, called the “Knowledge Network.” It has also launched a broader “Knowledge Initiative” to “document and share lessons learned and best practices so that growth of evidence-based solutions can be achieved both in SIF’s portfolio and in the social service field at large.”
The program expects to report its progress on a national evaluation some time in “late FY 2014.”
- Stanford Social Innovation Review: Innovation to Impact: Obama’s Social Innovation Fund at Four (March 3, 2014)