Thursday, September 10, 2009
Posted by Ray Leach
I have had a chance recently to spend some time at the White House to meet some of President Obama's leadership in the area of Social Innovation and Regional Economic Development and I have to say that I was more than impressed and encouraged.
A few months back, Obama announced a new Social Innnovation Fund which he has requested $50 million for in his FY2010 budget. The Fund's purpose is to identify the most promising, results-oriented non-profit programs and expand their reach throughout the country. I think that this is the kind of leadership we need from the federal government to maximize and leverage existing public/private partnerships to help them sustain and increase their impact in these times where non-profits of all types are really struggling. The person that Obama has tapped to manage this fund is Sonal Shah. Sonal joined the administration directly from a position focused on global development Google.org -- the philanthropic arm of the internet search leader.
Along with this exciting development, I have also been talking to leadership in Washington around all sorts of ideas that can accelerate regional economies, and this week a great article came out from ScienceProgress.org called The Geography of Innovation. This article speaks to the fact that the Obama administration has also requested $100 million to support regional innovation clusters across the U.S. -- in fact it even shares the Northeast Ohio and Southwestern Pennsylvanian partnership, an initiative we in the region call TechBelt, in this article.
What is so encouraging to me about these actions is that it shows the Obama administration understands they have a critical role to play to highlight best practices and to encourage partnership. When initiatives like the Fund For Our Economic Future and the Ohio Third Frontier Project have provided such significant leadership and resources with similar goals, it has been discouraging that the Fed's have not taken a more direct role in the work of these incredible public/private partnerships.
It now appears with programs like the ones mentioned above, that is about to change in an important way which is great news for everyone who has invested and labored so hard to make an impact in changing the trajectory of communities like Northeast Ohio.
Ray Leach is CEO of JumpStart and brings his energy and leadership experiences from founding five high growth entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial endeavors in the last 20 years. Ray is a Sloan Fellow and earned an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He also earned a BA in Finance from the University of Akron.