There has been a sea change in the public sector and philanthropy is failing to fully grasp its importance. While local government can conjure up visions of risk-averse bureaucracy encumbered by red tape and an uninspired workforce — the very embodiment of “status quo” — it may hold our best hope for sourcing tomorrow’s innovative solutions that will dramatically improve the lives of low-income people.

Unfortunately, there is little chance that you would reach this conclusion from today’s patterns of grant-making. Philanthropy has long looked to nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), led by extraordinary social entrepreneurs, to be the vanguard of innovation and problem-solving — and has invested accordingly. Those entities could fill gaps where other institutions and systems were failing, in education, health, workforce development and more.

Recognizing the vast opportunity to drive lasting change with population-level results, a growing number of social entrepreneurs are finding a home in city government. Innovation offices have cropped up in cities large and small, often headed by passionate leaders with private sector backgrounds. They’re bringing new competencies around data use, continuous improvement and more. In short, much of what has made non-profits and NGOs prime engines of innovation over the last decade is becoming true of our city halls.

Funders working with nonprofit organizations are often forced to ‘solve for’ limitations that the public sector simply does not face. Put another way, the government is uniquely positioned to both innovate and bring proven solutions to scale because it has the innate ability to:

  • Drive systems change with financial sustainability
  • Embrace complexity
  • Provide capacity
  • Be accountable

Read the full article about social innovation in the government by Ben Hect at Medium.