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Washington DC – President Obama called on foundations, philanthropists, and others in the private sector to partner with the government to invest in innovative, high-impact programs that confront acute social problems at an event held in the East Room of the White House on June 30. The presentation and conversation was led and moderated by Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul professor of government and director of the Ash Institute’s Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School.
“Despite all of our investments and good intentions, we see that civic progress has been slow for many Americans,” Goldsmith said in opening remarks. “The new approach to solving our nation’s most serious challenges that the president is announcing today will help to focus our future investments and goodwill on innovation and on outcomes. Measure our progress here on the progress of Americans most in need.”
Stand-out programs such as Harlem Children’s Zone, Teach for America, HopeLab, Genesys Works, and Bonnie CLAC were held up as examples of programs that demonstrate results. Leaders and participants in these organizations joined in the conversation with the president.
“Solutions to America's challenges are being developed every day at the grass roots,” president Obama said, “and government shouldn't be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts.”
The president highlighted new ways for government to spur community solutions, including the Corporation for National and Community Service and a new community innovation fund. He also asked Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and her innovation team to search outside of Washington for the programs that can most effectively transform communities.
“Now more than ever, it is clear what befalls us when our major institutions and policies—both within government and without—don’t keep pace with the changes happening around us,” Goldsmith said. “Our charge is to transform the trajectory of individual lives and communities by first transforming how we address entrenched social problems. Just as private-sector entrepreneurs have been the driving force in our economy, community innovation coupled with a strong will for change has always been the driving forces behind social progress.”
Goldsmith’s moderation of the event points to the national leadership role that he and the Ash Institute play in the arena of government and social innovation. Goldsmith also leads an Executive Session at Harvard Kennedy School on Transforming Cities through Civic Entrepreneurship funded through a Knight Foundation grant. Goldsmith served as mayor of Indianapolis from 1992 to 1999.
Watch this event here.