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Social Innovation Fund

The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), established in 2009 under the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.  The SIF is intended to help effective nonprofits replicate their services in low-income communities by mobilizing public and private resources to grow promising, innovative community-based solutions that have evidence of compelling impact in three areas of priority need: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.  There are currently twenty intermediary grant-making organizations that have been awarded funding. 

The SIF is distinguished by four key requirements:

  • Competitively  awarding “intermediaries” with strong skills and track records of using evidence in grant-making to competitively select high-impact nonprofit, community organizations (subgrantees);
  • Each federal dollar granted must be matched 1:1 by the intermediaries and again by their subgrantees with money from private and other non-federal sources, thereby increasing the return on taxpayer dollars and strengthening local support;
  • All intermediaries engage each of their subgrantees in formal evaluations of program performance and impact; and
  • Each intermediary commits to knowledge sharing and other initiatives that advance social innovation more generally with the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

Evidence Standards and Evaluation:

CNCS defines (PDF 51 pages) three tiers of evidence:  preliminary, moderate, and strong, consistent with those used in the Investing in Innovation Fund at the US Department of Education.  Intermediaries are expected to fund program models with at least preliminary evidence of effectiveness and also support further rigorous evaluation of those models.

In order for each program model to reach moderate or strong evidence of impact by the end of the three-to-five year subgrant period, CNCS expects that some models may require a series of successive evaluations to build their evidence base during their grant period.  Therefore, the agency will work with intermediaries to determine appropriate short-and-long term evaluation plans to meet this goal.

In addition to the formal evaluation required by each intermediary, CNCS is also developing a SIF National Evaluation Plan that will take place over the next five years.  The structure of the evaluation plan is currently under consideration and includes five components, each representing a distinct body of work with its own questions and evaluation research methodology.