Mapping the Social Innovation Fund

Posted on July 23, 2010 by


Yesterday, the Social Innovation Fund announced their inaugural grantees–eleven in total–that received grants between two and ten million dollars to be distributed over the next one to two years. While the Social Innovation Fund has received mixed reviews in terms of it’s scope and veritable innovativeness, this collaborative among the federal government, private funders, the intermediary beneficiaries, and subgrantees offers a great deal of excitement for those interested in philanthropy and providing solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing social problems.

Because of President Obama’s and the federal government’s imprint on this initiative, I have often wondered where the funds would be awarded and subsequently distributed, and how far of a reach they would have on a national level. Does geography matter in this case? It may be a while before we can truly tell, but in the interim, I have constructed a map using Google Maps that lists the donors providing matching funds, as well as the eleven intermediary groups who will further disperse funds to subgrantees. I will be working to update the map to also reflect the subgrantees that receive funds. It is my intent to collect as much data as possible through the map and throughout the duration of the Social Innovation Fund to see the extent of the Fund’s impact across the nation.

So, back to my original question: does geography matter? A brief look at that map will show you a couple of interesting things:

  • Four of the five major matching donors are located in California; three of them are based in Silicon Valley (two involve the founder and first president of eBay), and one in Los Angeles. The other major donor is based in New York City.
  • All but two of the intermediary organizations are located east of the Mississippi River: Three organizations in New York City, two in Washington, D.C., two in the greater Boston area, one in Louisville, Kentucky, and one in Cincinnati, Ohio. REDF of San Francisco was the only West Coast grantee, and though the Missouri Foundation for Health in St. Louis is technically located west of the Mississippi, it is still geographically closer to all of the grantees in the East.

These are just some basic observations. Perhaps geography doesn’t matter, and this is only an interesting, if maybe coincidental, markup of the locales of donors and grantees. But, we won’t know for sure for a while. In any case, with the addition of subgrantees and future inceptions of the Social Innovation Fund, hopefully the map will diversify. I hope the map will eventually serve as a tool for those who wish to apply for grants in the future, as well. In any case, I appreciate your commentary and feedback here or on my personal website for how the map can be improved.

For more information and different points of view on the Social Innovation Fund and those serving as intermediary organizations, I highly suggest the following reads: