Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Just last week the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Center for Social Innovation hosted a roundtable for the newly-created White House Office on Social Innovation.  Headed by Sonal Shah, formerly of Google, the Office of Social Innovation seeks to develop new funding for social innovation, expand national service, increase civic participation through new media, and develop new partnerships both within the federal bureacracy and with private partners. 

Seeing this raises two thoughts for me – on the one hand, it’s easy to think “Maybe I should pack up and move to the coast, where there’s lots of innovation experience to learn from and energy to inspire.”  On the other hand, some of what the new White House office wants to do aligns with what Innovation Lab here at CAP is all about – especially the part about building partnerships and using “new” media (i.e. this blog).  And then I feel good that we’re on a good track, a track that may be more established elsewhere but is nonetheless just as critical to have outside the typical hotbeds of innovation. 

As Garth Saloner, incoming dean at Stanford’s Business School said at the roundtable, “The scarcity is not in the ideas, the scarcity is in the organizaitonal capacity to help grow these ideas.”  CAP and Innovation Lab believe this capacity is needed not just in Silicon Valley or Washington, D.C., but right here in Tulsa as well, and we’re proud to be a part of it.


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Time ran an interesting article on how the Obama administration (and before that for his campaign) is being influenced and advised by the brightest minds in behavior change research.

We all know Obama won the election because he looked like change, sounded like change and never stopped campaigning for change. But he didn’t call for just change in Washington — or even just change in America… Obama called for change in Americans.

In fact, Obama is betting his presidency on our ability to change our behavior. His top priorities — the economy, health care and energy — all depend on it. We need to spend more money now to avert a short-term depression, then save more money later to secure our long-term economic future. We need to consume less energy in order to reduce our oil imports and carbon emissions as well as our household expenses. We need to quit smoking, lay off the Twinkies and avoid other risky behaviors that both damage our personal health and boost the costs of care that are ravaging the nation’s fiscal health. Basically, we need to make better choices — about mortgages and credit cards, insurance and retirement plans — so we won’t need bailouts down the road.

The problem, as anyone with a sweet tooth, an alcoholic relative or a maxed-out Visa card knows, is that old habits die hard. Temptation is strong. We are weak. We’ve got plenty of gurus, talk-show hosts and celebrity spokespeople badgering us to save energy, lose weight and live within our means, but we’re still addicted to oil, junk food and debt. It’s fair to ask whether we’re even capable of changing.

But the latest science suggests that yes, we can. Studies of all kinds of human frailties are revealing how to help people change — not only through mandates or financial incentives but also via subtler nudges that preserve our freedom to make choices while encouraging us to make better ones, from automatic-enrollment 401(k) plans that require us to opt out if we don’t want to save for retirement to smart meters that warn us about how much energy we’re using. These nudges can trigger huge changes; in a 2001 study, only 36% of women joined a 401(k) plan when they had to sign up for it, but when they had to opt out, 86% participated.

According to the article, our friend Sendhil Mullainathan “is organizing an outside network of behavioral experts to provide the Administration with policy ideas.” In his spare time, Sendhil has been helping us think about how to use the science of behavior change to get parents to avoid costly financial decisions such as subprime loans, and he recently introduced the basic concepts of behavioral economics to staff from every division of CAP at one of our “Lunch n’ Learns”.

Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user russelldavies.

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President Obama released his budget for the 2010 fiscal year. The document is a kind of roadmap for the President’s initiatives over the next several years, but he’s left lots of room to Congress to fill in details.

Anyway, I thought I’d put up some topics of potential interest to our readers:

  • Early Childhood – The President will build on the investments made in the stimulus bill (e.g. doubling Early Head Start slots), as well as expand early childhood eduation by encouraging state and local investment, promote coordination among state, local, and federal partners, and improve information about program options and quality. Additionally, the budget proposes to create the Nurse Home Visitation program to “provide home visits by trained nurses to first-time low-income mothers” and expectant mothers. This program is based on the evidence-based Nurse Family Partnership model, of which Oklahoma’s Children First is a part. the Read more here.
  • Quality Jobs – The Labor Department budget supports transitional jobs and career pathway programs that help low-income Americans attain quality jobs that pay a living wage and offer opportunities for advancement. New workforce programs will continue to focus on “green jobs” that prepare workers for jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Savings and Economic Stability – Building on the work of behavioral economists that demonstrates automatic enrollment in 401(k) programs dramatically boosts participation, the President seeks to create a system in which every employer would automatically enroll every worker into a retirement or pension program. If the employer didn’t offer such a plan themselves, the money would be deposited into an IRA account instead. Such programs have been shown to boost participation rates to as high as 90%. See this article in Harvard Magazine for more on automatic enrollment and behavioral economics. The budget also boosts the Saver’s Credit by providing a 50% match on the first $1,000 of savings for families earning less than $65,000.
  • Promise Neighborhoods – The President includes his campaign commitment to supporting “Promise Neighborhoods,” which would be modeled after Harlem Children’s Zone and seek to improve “life outcomes in high-poverty areas” through intensive services and innovative educational strategies.
  • Social Innovation – Finally, in a move sure designed to forever win the hears of people like Diama, the President proposes a Social Innovation Fund, which would support new approaches to major challenges and leverage private and philanthropic funding. The Stanford Social Innovation Review recently published an article suggesting four federal policies to promote social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Did you see anything else of interest to you?

Obviously all these well-laid plans must still ultimately be funded by Congress, so keep watching.

Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user Ma1974.

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Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user changedotgov

Arne Duncan, President-elect Obama’s choice for Education Secretary, began his confirmation hearings today, appearing before Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee. Congressional Quarterly reports that Duncan “promised a new emphasis on early childhood education” and called for a commission on the subject as well as improved cooperation between his department and the Department of Health & Human Services, which oversees Head Start.

It looks like Duncan will sail through confirmation. The New York Times has Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, gushing “I think you’re the best.”

Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user changedotgov

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So reports the Gray Lady:

After years of what they call backhanded treatment by the Bush administration, whose focus has been on the testing of older children, many advocates are atremble with anticipation over Mr. Obama’s espousal of early childhood education.

Actually the article turns out to be a pretty nice summation of the case for high quality early childhood education, after getting through the early silliness of words like “atremble.”

The article covers a lot of ground, from summarizing the research (“each dollar devoted to the nurturing of young children can eliminate the need for far greater government spending on remedial education, teenage pregnancy and prisons”), the current fragmentation of the pre-K system (“California has 22 different funding streams for child care and preschool, and that mirrors the crazy labyrinth of funding sources coming out of Washington”), the diminishing of conservative opposition, the history of universal pre-K (beginning with Georgia, followed shortly by Oklahoma), Obama’s connections to early education (his confidante Valerie Jarrett’s mother leads early childhood programs for Chicago Public Schools under its superintendant, the Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan), and even anecdotes from an Educare center in Chicago. Reporter Sam Dillon even finds time for a mention of George Kaiser as one among three major philanthropic supporters (the others mentioned are Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s children).

Update: See also Ryan Avent, EarlyEdWatch

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No matter what your politics, you’ve got to admit that the times are a-changin’! I thought since it’s official I’d post up a few links on President-elect Obama’s positions/plans on topics of TI interest:

Children and Family: see the campaign page and a post on Early Ed Watch.

In a nutshell, the Obama administration intends to invest in zero-to-five early childhood programs using what they call “Early Learning Challenge Grants.” The goal is to build capacity and quality, improve state accountability standards, and encourage public-private cooperation. Additionally, Obama hopes to quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding (especially to build quality), increase funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and support a proven intervention called nurse-family partnerships (called Children First in Oklahoma). The President-elect also supports policies that strengthen “work/family balance” by expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, provide funding to states that establish paid leave laws, expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and promote flexible work arrangements.

Economic Security

  • Workforce and jobs: Obama proposes to fund career pathways that lead to steady jobs with opportunities for advancement, expand the EITC (especially for non-custodial parents), and improve access to job transportation.
  • Poverty: The President-elect admires Geoff Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone and hopes to replicate it by creating twenty “Promise Neighborhoods.” Like HCZ and even Tulsa Initiative, the program will support neighborhoods that offer intensive interventions in areas of concentrated poverty that focus on improving the prospects for low-income kids from birth to college. That includes early childhood education, after-school programs, youth violence prevention, and parenting education.
  • Asset building: See this document (PDF) from the New America Foundation. Obama wants to encourage employers to make opting into retirement plans the default, which is shown to dramatically improve take-up. He also proposes to make the Saver’s Credit refundable and to use federal funds to offer a 50% match for the first $1,000 in contributions per family. Finally, Obama says he will clamp down on abusive credit practices by improving accountability in the subprime mortgage industry, improve bankruptcy protections for mortgage-holders, create a quality rating system for credit cards, and institute a bill of rights for credit cardholders.

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