By: Stacie Mills, Associate, GreenLight Fund Bay Area

In 2012, GreenLight Fund was honored to be the recipient of a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Not only were we grateful to be one of four selected out of hundreds of applicants, but in 2012, CNCS saw the great potential in a Boston-based organization to transform program innovation across the country. The expansion of GreenLight Fund Bay Area is, in part, due to the funding received from the CNCS.

This federal government grant acts as a catalyst for impact, using evidence-based programs to enable social innovation nationally. The SIF definition of “’social innovation’ means ‘new ways to solve old problems that are faster, cost-effective, data-driven and lead to better results for the public good.’” GreenLight Fund’s primary focus is scaling socially innovative solutions when they have the potential to meet critical, unaddressed needs locally for children, youth and families. As venture philanthropists, we saw this grant as an opportunity for our portfolio organizations to have a strong, scalable and innovative foothold in our local Bay Area communities by creating lasting change. Knowing social innovations face daunting barriers to replication, we applied the GreenLight Method to select two organizations to be SIF portfolio organizations – Genesys Works and uAspire. When brought to the Bay Area, these two organizations replicated innovative approaches and brought evidence-based progress toward closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in our communities.

Over the course of their first five years in the Bay Area, Genesys Works and uAspire partnered with external evaluators to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of their models – a SIF requirement for receiving the funding. This included refining logic models, identifying key research questions to study, subject and comparison group selection, data collection, analysis and reporting. In the case of Genesys Works, they used a well-designed implementation, outcomes and impact study vis-à-vis a quasi-experimental design, while uAspire conducted implementation and impact evaluations through a Randomized Control Trial. As a result of these extensive evaluations, both organizations achieved a moderate level of evidence by the CNCS, what both aspired to achieve at the outset of the evaluations in 2013.

We’ve learned a lot in the last five years. As our SIF grant winds down, let’s reflect on some key takeaways from both portfolio organizations.

Genesys Works Bay Area’s Key Findings:

uAspire Bay Area’s Key Findings

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Beyond the metrics, one defining goal surfaced during this process: listen to the community to help transform the lives of children, youth and families in high-poverty urban areas by creating equal opportunity to achieve success. SIF funding links to our goal in three ways:

Margaret Hall wrote about the potential benefits of why a subgrantee should apply for this grant, stating organizations had the ability to make a significant, measurable difference for thousands of children and young people in communities they care about. Genesys Works and uAspire have impacted the lives of over 11K youth and counting here in the Bay Area. We will continue to share what we’re learning and we look forward to a new year of collaboration, proven results and progress in the Bay Area and nationally.