America Forward Launches Advocacy Institute for Social Entrepreneurs and Innovators

First-of-its-kind effort aims to strengthen the voice of community-based problem solvers in local, state, and federal policy

December 13, 2019 (Washington, D.C.): America Forward has announced the launch of its new Advocacy Institute to empower social entrepreneurs, social innovation organizations, and their constituents to more effectively engage in critical policy debates at the local, state, and federal level. 

The launch of the Advocacy Institute comes at a time when social innovation organizations’ appetite for advocacy is at its peak when so much at stake as policymakers and politicians are grappling with changes in early learning, K-12, post-secondary education, workforce development, and pay for success policy. Now, more than ever, social innovation organizations know that they, and the constituents they serve, need a seat at the decision-making table. The America Forward Advocacy Institute is designed to give social entrepreneurs, and the constituents they serve, the skills they need to have a strong and effective voice in the decision-making process.

Deborah Smolover, Executive Director of America Forward, shares the impetus behind the launch of the Institute: “Too many nonprofits do not engage in effective advocacy or they start too late. Effective systems change requires the participation of social entrepreneurs, and those they serve, in the policy decision-making process. America Forward, with its track record of success, its ready-made network, and its unique expertise in social innovation advocacy, can demystify the advocacy process, turn nascent policy players into advocacy leaders, and help social entrepreneurs and the communities they serve to become better and bolder advocates.”

The institute will primarily serve the America Forward Coalition, a group of 100+ organizations, active across the U.S., who are committed to solving entrenched social challenges through innovation, evidence-based practice, and equity-driven approaches across a wide range of issue areas. Specifically, these organizations will benefit from the institute’s efforts to: (1) increase understanding of the value of engaging in advocacy among social entrepreneurs, leadership teams of social innovation organizations, and constituents from the communities they serve; (2) provide high-quality training designed to increase individual and organizational advocacy and policy capacity to drive lasting system-level change; and (3) increase access to high-quality advocacy training to underrepresented constituencies.

In a recent survey, over 90% of America Forward’s Coalition organizations reported a strong interest in receiving advocacy training, specifically addressing the needs of evidence-based organizations that are committed to collective advocacy and laser-focused on equity and expanding opportunity. The launch of the Advocacy Institute comes as a direct response to this widespread request from the social entrepreneurs who are members of the America Forward Coalition.

Through the launch of the institute, America Forward and its Coalition members hope to build on a robust track record of success over the last 10 years: 

  • Leveraging over $1.7 billion for social innovation and driving millions of federal resources toward programs that are achieving measurable results for those who need them most;
  • Crafting the first federal tiered-evidence innovation fund (the Social Innovation Fund), influencing the creation of a White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, and successfully advocated for important changes in federal workforce and elementary and secondary education legislation, including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and  
  • Leading the evidence-based policymaking movement and the movement towards national Pay for Success policy, including the new Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018) that provides $100M in funding to support outcome payments associated with Pay for Success projects.

For more information on America Forward and the America Forward Coalition, visit

About America Forward

America Forward is the DC-based nonpartisan policy initiative of New Profit, a national venture philanthropy organization that backs breakthrough social entrepreneurs advancing equity and opportunity in America. America Forward unites social entrepreneurs with policymakers to advance a public policy agenda that champions innovative and effective solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems. The America Forward Coalition works to foster innovation, identify more efficient and effective solutions, reward results, and catalyze cross-sector partnerships in education, early childhood, workforce development, youth development, and poverty alleviation.

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