Social Innovation Challenge

We need to do a better job at supporting social innovation in the form of providing seed money for ideas from social entrepreneurs who may not be connected to an established nonprofit group.

What is needed is a program such as the one started by the Draper Richards Foundation which provides social entrepreneurs who have an innovative idea that addresses a social need by awarding them a fellowship of $100,000 a year for three years, along with business assistance.

Congress recently approved $50 million for a Social Innovation Fund to provide matching funding for projects and programs and given Detroit’s dire situation we need all the innovation we can muster, making the D a prime candidate for the fund.

The New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan should step up to the plate and initiate a program modeled after the Draper Richards Fellowship and start accepting proposals to find innovative ideas from visionary individuals worthy of support.

I came across an interesting statement on why foundations should take risks by Sean Stannard-Stockton, a principal and director of Tactical Philanthropy at Ensemble Capital Management and author of the blog Tactical Philanthropy; paraphrasing the sentiment of Jim Canales of the Irvine Foundation:

“Jim’s point is that failure goes hand in hand with taking risks and if philanthropy never fails it means no risk is being taken and if no risk is being taken then the chance to produce high levels of social impact are off the table.”

I believe one of the reasons why we are in our present predicament is because the region has been dominated by the machine mentality the auto industry gave birth to and a failure to nurture creative entrepreneurship. We need to embrace a more organic method of generating ideas to make our way back to prosperity.

Paul Horton is a Social Entrepreneur. living in Detroit. He can be contacted by email at

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