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Open Grantmaking – Enabling high performance social enterprise

OpenRFP.net will function as a “Social Innovation Marketplace”. This means it will also help to incubate, launch and fast-track Social Enterprise organizations, achieving two key goals:

  1. Enabling Social Impact investing
  2. Pioneering Open Government Grantmaking best practices

Enabling Social Impact investing

As well as the Canadian Government RFPs from MERX, our other growth areas will include markets like the USA and the UK, and also other RFP project types like research and non-profit grants.

Our goal is a ‘Hand Up’ program that maximizes the success of social initiatives to help disadvantaged groups and tackle poverty and social inequalities.

We’ll be tapping into Grants.gov and also the UK Cabinet Office program to ‘Grow the Social Investment Market‘.

The UK has been pioneering ‘Social Impact Bonds‘, new models for financing social services, making them accessible to private investment and structured to achieve, as the name suggests, more community impact. In other words, High Performance Social Enterprise.

The site structures and processes are the same for these projects too, indeed the site is already structured for the UK strategy, where their white paper (59 page PDF) states plans for:

Creation of a single web portal or gateway.

The portal would help social ventures to connect with the right sources of finance, business capability or investment readiness support. In time, the portal could serve as a broader gateway: facilitating recruitment and internships to social ventures and intermediaries; and connecting social ventures to expertize offered by other social ventures, private sector organizations, universities or the general public. There may also be scope to use the portal as a platform to build social venture consortia to bid for large-scale contracts, or to help develop sector-specific networks.”

Pioneering Open Government Grantmaking best practices

This is exactly the goal of OpenRFP.net, and using these technologies and open portal approaches enables government agencies to implement an ‘Open Government’ version of the grant application process.

The value of this is best explained by the keynote expert in the field, Beth Noveck.

Beth pioneered a high profile Open Government project, the Peer to Patent portal, which transformed how the patent application process works, essentially from “closed to open”. This greatly improved performance by unblocking the hold ups caused by a restrictive closed system, where ‘Open Innovation’ can be harnessed through an online community of experts helping with projects.

This same science can be applied to any other process for the same benefits, and the objective of OpenRFP.net is to do so for Government spending through RFPs and grants. Beth describes the challenges via this blog on applying it to Community Impact Investing, and also the huge benefits that are possible through this one, Open Grantmaking in Practice.

Fundamentally these improvements translate into more social impact and value for money, through more efficient sharing of best practices. As Beth describes:

“In practice, this means that if a community college wins a grant to create a videogame to teach how to install solar panels, everyone will have the benefit of that knowledge. They will be able to play the game for free. In addition, anyone can translate it into Spanish or Russian or use it as the basis to create a new game to teach how to do a home energy retrofit.”

A very pertinent example is the US Small Business Administration. They disseminate grants like $30m for Trade Export Promotion, and also have an active Open Government strategy to improve how effectively their organization works in such activities.

Our OpenRFP.net site provides a central, global resource for helping achieve these new ways of working.

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