Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

The President's Social Innovation Agenda

President Obama with Office of Social Innovation Director David Wilkinson. President Obama with Office of Social Innovation Director David Wilkinson.


"We know there's nothing Democratic or Republican about just doing what works. So we want to cast aside worn ideological debates and focus on what really helps people in their daily lives."

--President Barack Obama, June 30, 2009


The mission of the Office of Social Innovation is to advance opportunity, equality and justice by helping to create a more outcomes-driven government and social sector.  The Social Innovation team works to identify and scale better, more effective social solutions, advancing Presidential priorities that strengthen communities and enable upward economic mobility.


Government and the social sector deploy considerable resources to advance essential priorities, from education, job growth, and safe neighborhoods to economic development, healthier lives, and stronger communities. The core purpose of these endeavors, and so many more, is to achieve better outcomes for the individuals and communities they serve. Thanks to new tools, we are better positioned than ever before to clearly understand what approaches get the best outcomes and make them work for more people.

The Office of Social Innovation advances approaches that prove they achieve better results, more effectively deploying limited resources for greater impact. This involves identifying programs that work better through the use of data and evidence as well as scaling what works through smarter use of federal resources and cross-sector collaboration. It also involves identifying and removing the barriers to scaling what works.

Theory of Change

The Office of Social Innovation seeks to create a more outcomes-driven government and social sector. We believe that advancing this goal requires governments at all levels to collaborate with social sector and other private sector leaders to:

  1. Find what works – Increase data availability and analytics, invest in evaluation, and experiment responsibly to build evidence about what works, when and for whom.
  2. Fund what works – Deploy new and existing resources to scale up what's working best. Funding innovations like tiered evidence funds and Pay for Success help orient funding around outcomes.
  3. Build the enabling infrastructure – Advance policies that incentivize achievement of outcomes over inputs and process compliance, invest in the capacity of service providers to perform on outcomes while reducing resource drains, barriers, and constraints that distract from a focus on results. 

Advancing Cross-Silo Collaboration

Rather than focusing exclusively on a particular issue or agency, our unique approach involves working across issue areas to advance tools and techniques that get better results for people and communities in need. Collaborating closely with other White House Offices and federal agencies, as well as communities and social enterprises, we promote approaches that are citizen-centered to advance coordinated solutions that yield better outcomes.

The Office coordinates other White House efforts that are multi-issue area Presidential policy priorities.  These includes policy related to impact investing, and efforts to attract and deploy America’s talent, from national service and volunteerism to employing better management strategy, in support of effective community solutions.

The Office also advances work on Presidential priorities that bring many of the principles above into practice, including leadership on the Data Driven Justice Initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, Interagency Evidence-Building processes, United We Serve, and the Police Data Initiative, as well as work to advance White House priority initiatives including TechHire, Performance Partnership Pilots, OpenGov, the Community Solutions Team, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, and the Social and the Behavioral Sciences Team, among others.