In July, the Obama administration established a new $50 million federal “Social Innovation Fund” aimed at financing successful nonprofit programs. According to this New York Times report, it looks like the program is potentially rife with conflicts of interest and has made questionable grants:
What was supposed to have been an emblem of the administration’s commitment to nonprofit groups has become instead a messy controversy over potential conflicts of interest and the process used to select the grantees.
Several of the 48 independent reviewers who vetted the initial 54 applications for the grants were surprised by some of the winners because they had awarded them mediocre scores.
Critics noted that the executive director of the fund, Paul Carttar, had worked at New Profit Inc., a nonprofit group that helps promising social programs. New Profit Inc. received a $5 million grant from the fund.
Similarly, Patrick Corvington, the official who oversees the Corporation for National and Community Service, where the fund resides, previously worked for a foundation that financed a program operated by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, better known as LISC. The foundation won a $4.2 million grant.
A senior adviser for the fund says neither Carttar or Corvington had any role in selecting who got the grants. However, the fund also won’t disclose who applied for grants, who reviewed the grant applications or how the grant applications were scored.