Social Innovation and Civic Participation

We have some insight from Sonal Shah, the head of the new White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, who is advocating here at here at the 10th annual National CAPACD convention for government to play a limited and defined role, create opportunities for transparency, an environment for nonprofits and philanthropic organzations to have a greatest impact, to ensure that the government remains as a catalyst for partnerships, and to leverage new media.

The tech-savvy Obama team-cum-administration, which leveraged an impressive outreach effort in the 2008 campaign by way of Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, and e-mails, has in its first few months produced the Open Government Initiative in an ongoing effort to make government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Shah, who, before joining the administration, was head of (Google philanthropic/foundation arm), pointed to the administration’s aim to “have a place to come talk to us and discuss how we can build interesting partnerships: Nonprofits, and foundations; Government and community based organizations.”

“It doesn’t always have to be a transactional relationship with the local government — we want to show that there are innovative ways to solve local problems and we want to mesh those ways into local government.

In the spring 2009 issue of Shelterforce, Justin Massa examines the administration’s technological advancements, and points out areas where (while it’s still early) there is room for improvement.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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