September 15, 2011

White House Names New Head of Social-Innovation Unit

Jonathan Greenblatt, who served as chief executive of the company that oversees Good magazine and helped create All for Good, an online volunteer database, has been named the new director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Mr. Greenblatt replaces Sonal Shah, who stepped down in August after heading the office since it was created in 2009.

Mr. Greenblatt started his new position today, said Shannon Gilson, a White House spokeswoman.

Mr. Greenblatt was a lecturer at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles and director of the Impact Economy Initiative, a program of the Aspen Institute that explores ways to encourage social enterprise.

He formerly served as chief executive of Good Worldwide, a media company. He also co-founded Ethos Brands, a business that started Ethos Water, a company now owned by Starbucks that pays for projects to help children around the world get clean water.

The social-innovation office works closely with the Social Innovation Fund, a grants program of the Corporation for National and Community Service that seeks to help nonprofits expand effective programs.

It also houses the White House Council for Community Solutions, a panel of nonprofit leaders and others who are advising the federal government on ways to promote innovative social projects and get people more involved in civic affairs.

Mr. Greenblatt worked with technology developers, nonprofit groups, and others to create All for Good in 2009. The project grew out of discussions among people, including Mr. Green­blatt and Ms. Shah, who had advised Mr. Obama in the period just before he took office.

Incubated at Google, it aimed to create a sort of “Craigslist for volunteers.”
All for Good aggregates information about volunteer opportunities from groups across the country, and it created a search engine to help people find them. It uses open-source technology so that other organizations can package the data on their own Web sites or mobile applications.

The project won support from heavy hitters like Craig Newmark of Craigslist and Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post when it started, although it attracted criticism from some volunteer advocates who thought it was duplicating existing efforts and putting too much pressure on groups to participate.

Mr. Greenblatt served as president of Our Good Works, the nonprofit that managed All for Good. The Points of Light Institute, a group that promotes volunteerism nationwide, acquired All for Good last December.