Posted on 30. Oct, 2009 in Uncategorized
One of the most exciting examples of government applying the principles of social innovation for accelerated social impact is the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Investing in Innovation, or i3, Fund (formerly known as the “What Works” fund). As the name suggests, the fund exists to identify and “support local efforts to start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.” If you haven’t had a chance to read up on it, see the DOE’s fact sheet, check out this great post by Learning Point Associates that synthesizes a good amount of the information that’s out there, or this one by Grantmakers for Education.
Why am I (and lots of other people) so excited about the i3 Fund? Jim Shelton, formerly of the Gates foundation and now the deputy assistant secretary for innovation and improvement in the DOE, is overseeing the Fund – and he totally gets it. The guidelines for the fund show he has a deep appreciation of the fact that there is a need to understand and invest in innovation while simultaneously keeping a sharp focus on spreading solutions that work based on results.
The fund takes a similar approach to the social impact measurement spectrum I recently wrote about in my post on randomized control trials (RCT). The fund offers three levels of award categories: up to $5 million (“development”), up to $30 million (“validation”), and up to $50 million (“scale-up”). Each level of investment has its own set of guidelines in terms of progress on the innovation and the type of measurement required. As you might expect, as the level of investment increases, so too do the requirements and expectations for measurement and evaluation become more demanding – but not until the level of a “scale-up” award does the DOE demand RCT-type evaluation. Hopefully the i3 Fund will prove to be a great test case for how government can reward success, spread solutions, mobilize its systems, and influence others in government for how to partner with innovators on the ground.
By the way, the public has been given the opportunity to comment on the priorities laid out in the Federal Register here. If you have feedback, you must submit your comments by 11:59pm on Monday, November 9. To submit a comment, click here – and don’t forget to check the box that says “Comment directly on NOTICES: Investing in Innovation (Document ID ED-2009-OII-0012-0001).”
Photo by Chicago 2016 Photos via flickr
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