As the daughter of long-time U.S. Sen. Jacob Javits, I feel frustrated that the political climate is stymied in advancing proven solutions to our country’s biggest problems.  When confronting my father about things that did not reflect our nation’s founding values, he would challenge me with, “What can you do to improve the situation?”  He helped me understand that the freedom to celebrate what’s right comes with the responsibility to change what’s wrong.  A catalyst for making change today is the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).

Experiencing homelessness, neighborhood violence, incarceration or addiction. These are situations that prevent people from getting a job. I often meet mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who share that they or a family member have struggled with these challenges. Each person is eager to understand how we are creating jobs opportunities for people who otherwise are left out of the labor force. This is the work of the social enterprises we advise and fund across the U.S.—businesses with a mission to provide jobs and training to people who are overcoming great disadvantage. These are people who want to work but need a transitional pathway to succeed in sustainable employment.


Independent research proves that people who work in a social enterprise business transform their lives. They are more likely to remain employed one year later; they earn more money, they are able to stabilize their housing and they are less dependent on government benefits. Employment focused social enterprise is an efficient, cost-effective, proven strategy that produces savings to society—generating 123% return for every dollar spent—about four times better than the stock market on average. And better yet, the social enterprise approach is sustainable because most of the revenue come from the business earnings rather than public or philanthropic grants.

Michael’s story says it all. At age 15, Michael was incarcerated for being involved in a gang-related murder.  After 17 years in prison, he was paroled, with little hope of finding a job. He could have easily ended up right back inside, like about 70% of those who exit prison in California.  But Michael walked through the doors of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and broke the cycle of re-incarceration. With CEO, Michael received training and support while working in a wage-paying job. Today, Michael is “a clinical case manager, counseling young people who have been involved in the criminal justice system. He’s working toward his college degree, and is an advocate in the anti-recidivism movement.  

A key factor in the growth of social enterprise is the U.S. government’s little known but far-reaching Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The SIF is a highly leveraged billion dollar public-private program that identifies evidence-based programs around the country, evaluates their results and scalability, while requiring a 2 to 1 private matching support that has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic resources.

Beginning in 2010, REDF’s SIF grant generated the start-up and growth capital to catalyze social enterprise expansion across the U.S. By leveraging twice as much in private revenue than government funding, REDF generated more than 10,000 job opportunities for people ready to work from 2010-2015. Over the next five years, with SIF funding, we will add 50,000 more job opportunities for people who face formidable barriers to employment across the U.S.  With this impact and documented evidence, the House is planning to include funding for SIF in the 2017 Appropriations Bill, although the Senate zeroed it out.  The two chambers will negotiate a final decision on the Appropriation.

Everyone in the U.S., no matter their party affiliation, believes in the power of work and the importance of including as many people as possible in the economy.  When we have evidence of results, the case is even more powerful. 

I challenge the members of Congress to commit a small but powerful act of bipartisanship and support the Social Innovation Fund so that our fellow Americans who are highly motivated to work have the chance to contribute and become proud taxpayers.

We must join forces at those rare moments when we identify solutions that embody the evidence-based policymaking and pay-for-performance approaches already being championed across bipartisan divides by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Wis.), Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTime for action to improve government data analysis Overnight Health Care: Opioid bill, action on drug prices top fall agenda | ObamaCare defenders prep for court case | Koch group ad hits McCaskill on health care Measure making it easier to prosecute police for deadly force on Washington ballot MORE (D-Wash.), and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDem rep who met with Kavanaugh accuser: 'She wanted her truth to come out' Senate passes bipartisan bill to curb opioid crisis Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (R-Utah).   

The SIF is a low-cost approach to transforming lives and communities.  As a small program within a huge federal budget—the SIF is demonstrating what really works. Reflecting back on the critical question—“what can we do to improve the situation?” — I have thousands of stories of people going to work, and lives transformed. I urge Congress to appropriate the necessary resources so that the Social Innovation Fund can continue “finding what works, and making it work for more people.”

Carla Javits is daughter of the late Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) and president and CEO of REDF, a venture philanthropy that invests in the growth and effectiveness of social enterprise.