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Last week I had the privilege of representing Jolkona at the White House Summit hosted by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, and where people such as the Founder of Meet-up, Change.org and representatives from Rock the Vote, Echoing Green, Code for America (to name but a few) gathered to help the Administration answer the question: What should the blue print for citizen innovation look like and how can the White House best support it.

In its essence, the goal of this invite-only summit led by the Director of the Administration, Jonathan Greenblatt, was to understand from top innovators working in the sector how their administration can best help social innovation scale. I was honored to be a part of the first of hopefully many more discussions to help our country move forward through social innovation and civic engagement.

Here’s five of my top take-aways from the summit:

  1. It is our moment to drive innovative social change to make our country better. Can’t agree more with this theme. We need people, especially young people to step up and support social change so that we’re all better off.
  2. The importance of non-profits for a healthy economy. The non-profit sector is growing and today makes up about 10% of job force.
  3. The importance of participating in civil society with regards to networking, building job skills, trust, community, and ultimately a greater level of economic growth. Networking and being an engaged citizen leads to more opportunities, jobs, and thriving communities.
  4. There seems to be a lack of civic engagement in our country and the biggest challenge is how the White House can help spread enthusiasm and passion to make action more infectious.
  5. It’s possible to do well and do good at the same time, and social enterprises are for-profit models of making change that exemplify this.  In addition, the idea of citizenship is not purely altruistic, but one of self-interest too.  It leads to stronger communities and economic growth if properly executed and understood.

We ended the day with a great discussion on the ways the White House can solve these issues, and here’s a few of my favorite ideas:

  1. Sharing stories of new citizens.  40% of Fortune 500 companies are started by immigrants or children of immigrants. We need to hear more of these stories so everyone can truly embraces new citizens in this country.
  2. Sharing positive stories of citizenship and social innovation around the country. Every day we hear stories of failure and are disillusioned by the power individuals wield. We need to share more positive impact stories to help inspire and re-engage people to get involved.
  3. Leveraging the power of the White House to convene by hosting summits like this around the country to empower local leaders to spread civic engagement in their communities.
  4. Funding should not only be available for evidence-based programs, but we need to take risks and provide more funding for new innovative approaches that have potential to scale and make larger impacts and create more jobs.

We ended the summit energized with the idea that we must all re-commit to building up our citizenship muscle. After an inspiring day with amazing leaders in the non-profit and social innovation space, I left pondering what I could pledge to do to help spread the idea of civic engagement and this is what I decided:

One of the common themes discussed was the power of storytelling and collective action – two things that are absolutely to Jolkona’s mission and model of giving. Sharing powerful stories inspires and engages people to action they would have otherwise not taken part in. In addition  to our featured donor and volunteer posts that share the stories of how individual donors and volunteers are making a huge impact, I’m committed to showcasing stories of how each partner we work with is changing lives with the support of our community. We’ll start featuring two partners a month to really showcase the power small actions and funding can truly make. Hopefully this will inspire even more people to get involved with Jolkona or any other cause that they feel passionate about.

To follow tweets from the summit, search for #WHsummit and #socialinnovaton and tweets my tweets at @nadiamahmud or @gl_weekend who helped facilitate the summit.

GET INVOLVED!