P2P Foundation

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What If Grants Were Given for Social Change Ideas?

The time has come.

The Jeff Skolls, Larry Brilliants and Melinda and Bill Gates of the social entrepreneur movement feel they’ve reached the tipping point. Sidestepping traditional charity, business or government “models” they’ve crafted systems for doing good that are data-driven and replicable – so they can scale, to use the geek term for “keep growing.”

Now they are determined to re-write Uncle Sam’s role and think Americans are ready for change. They formed an alliance, dubbed it America Forward and went to Washington, to ask for fresh, more accountable social and education programs.

As New York Times columnist, David Brooks describes it, “to expand national service (to produce more social entrepreneurs) and to create a network of semipublic social investment funds. These funds would be administered locally to invest in community-run programs that produce proven results. The government would not operate these social welfare programs, but it would, in essence, create a network of semipublic Gates Foundations that would pick winners based on stiff competition.”

As Bill Drayton famously said, “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish, or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.

By now we know that money alone doesn’t lead to fundamental social change. I especially like their underlying approach of offering incentives for proposing new approaches and for meeting goals. For example, former advisor to Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen suggested a grant system for social change ideas.

What do you think? Is this a SmartPartnership for the federal government, local not-for-profits, social entrepreneurial agencies and American citizens who may to start or work in such organizations? Is it a smarter way to invest our government and “charity” funds? Or will such an alliance get bogged down by government bureaucracy? Brooks seems more hopeful than not.

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