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Identifying and Funding Social Innovations (2)


The Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation likes to use the Stanford Graduate School of Business definition of social innovation:

“A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.”

The Scattergood Foundation has worked to operationalize this definition by identifying, funding and planning for the sustainability of social innovations in the behavioral health sector. By using empathy, creativity and empowerment as guiding principles, the Scattergood Foundation embodies the framework of design thinking. Over the past five years, the Scattergood Foundation has had significant success in driving social innovation with a nontraditional approach to philanthropy, positively impacting communities across the United States. In fiscal year 2016, the Scattergood Foundation is slated to provide $950,000 in grants to organizations supporting social innovations through general grantmaking, the annual Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation Innovation Award and the Scattergood Foundation Design Challenge. 

Scattergood Foundation General Grantmaking

The Scattergood Foundation’s vision is to “be Thomas Scattergood” for the 21st century. Thomas Scattergood was an early 19th century Quaker committed to providing access to humane and moral treatment of individuals with mental health issues. Today, the Foundation honors his work by seeking opportunities for productive dialogue and learning within the behavioral health field and activating leadership and collaborative endeavors by awarding targeted grants to address important behavioral health needs in innovative ways. With the range and depth of behavioral health needs far outpacing a single foundation’s financial resources, the Foundation recognizes the need to proceed in a thoughtful manner to have a meaningful impact in the region and beyond.

The Scattergood Foundation takes an active role in identifying initiatives consistent with its priorities, seeking out organizations that can advance these initiatives, and awarding grants in a manner that helps facilitate targeted and measurable outcomes. The Foundation also pursues partnerships that fruitfully leverage both material and non-material resources to extend its ability to effect change at the grassroots and systemic levels. 

All of the Scattergood Foundation-funded projects demonstrate the following core priorities: viability, collaboration, innovation, leadership, impact, integration, workforce development and cultural competence. Since 2005 and guided by the core priorities the Foundation has made exactly 100 grants totaling $5.12 million. In doing so the Foundation has partnered with seven different institutions of higher education, thirteen other foundations and eleven governmental agencies.  

Annual Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation Innovation Award

Since 2013, The Scattergood Foundation has been the host and funder of the Annual Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation Innovation Award. The Innovation Award is national award which recognizes and rewards innovators in the field of behavioral health. In addition to a providing a $25,000 prize, the Innovation Award establishes a crucial public dialogue, thereby challenging the views, organization, and practice of behavioral healthcare. 

Each year, innovators from across the country are able to submit their products, programs and ideas online via the Scattergood Foundation webpage. Though the Foundation chooses only one winner, every submission becomes a part of the Innovation Database, which now consists of 235 innovations available for public review, sharing and commenting. 

The following criteria has been identified by the Scattergood Foundation as critical to the selection of a truly innovative winner. These criteria are used both by the community-at-large and a panel of experts in the judging process: 

  • Creativity – The submission demonstrates originality, ingenuity and resourcefulness in promoting behavioral health.
  • Leadership – The submission influences others to accomplish goals and objectives that enhance the field of behavioral health.
  • Sustainability – Are resources available to continue the work outside of the Innovation Award prize and/or grant funding? 
  • Replication – The submission has potential to be duplicated, transferred or adapted by others.
  • Outcomes – The submission specifies metrics to assess the effectiveness of the innovation.

Community collaboration is an integral component of the Innovation Award. Nominees, their networks and the Scattergood online community are all encouraged to participate through a process of online commenting and social media sharing in order to both gather public input and stimulate public discourse. Once the submission period closes, the expert panel of judges narrow the field to roughly ten percent of the total nominations, using both the criteria listed above and indicators of public support. The resulting nominations move to the finalist round in which Scattergood Foundation staff verifies the credentials of finalist organizations and calls for the public to vote for a winning nomination. During the first three years (2013-2015) the 235 submissions have garnered a combined 2,264 comments and 16,841 online votes. 

Scattergood Design Challenges

For the past four years the Scattergood Foundation has partnered with the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University to address a specific behavioral health issue. Guided by the principles of design thinking, the team identifies a problem, develops a question, crowdsources ideas and implements a solution – all within the span of a year. By rapidly sourcing and prototyping solutions to deeply entrenched social problems, the Design Challenge has had significant community impact. Further, this ongoing project has garnered considerable acclaim, inspiring significant press coverage and winning the Dornsife School of Public Health Exemplary Community-Based Master’s Project each year it has been in existence. 

At its core, the Design Challenge takes a community-based approach to engage unique or unexpected collaborators in both classic public health theory and creative problem solving technique to help inform, change practices and think differently about behavioral health issues. This process allows for the bottom-up approach known as divergent to convergent thinking, empowering consumers to have a hand in designing and choosing the products, programs, policies and systems necessary to meet their needs. 

Past Design Challenges have focused on a myriad of behavioral health-related issues, including Mental Health First Aid, stigma on college campuses, access to behavioral healthcare in the retail clinic setting and trauma-informed homeless shelters. In total, these Challenges have inspired thirty-five creative submissions from both the likely and unlikely suspects and have sparked collaborations among numerous community stakeholders. 

To date the most successful of Design Challenges was the 2014 challenge, which sought to integrate behavioral healthcare into retail clinics located within pharmacies. The winner of the Design Challenge was Screening for Mental Health (SMH) and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services with their idea known as the MindKare Kiosk®. The first MindKare Kiosk® was placed at the QCare Clinic within a ShopRite in North Philadelphia in August 2014. The MindKare Kiosk® technology, appearance and programming around the kiosk has grown and been adapted since the launch. Currently two additional upgraded kiosks have been deployed at the Drexel University Recreation Center and the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center, and the North Penn Community Health Foundation has committed funding to bring five MindKare Kiosks® to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Screening for Mental Health is engaged in contract negotiations and is scheduled for rapid expansion of the MindKare Kiosk® across four states in early 2016.


Through its general grantmaking, the Innovation Award and the Design Challenge, the Scattergood Foundation continues to make a substantial contribution to the field of behavioral health. The Scattergood Foundation views social innovation as an imperative to solve some of the nation’s most intractable problems. In doing this work over the past five years, we have found that inspiring social innovation is not as daunting a task as it seems. As our behavioral health system continues to be under-resourced, underfunded and under-accessed, acting slowly and cautiously is simply no longer an option. By engaging new and nontraditional stakeholders and encouraging people to think big, the belief of the Scattergood Foundation is that we work toward a more effective, efficient, sustainable and just world.

The Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation is a Quaker-based, philanthropic organization committed to transforming how mental health is viewed and advancing innovative approaches to behavioral healthcare delivery and policymaking. The Foundation's vision is to challenge, disrupt and change how behavioral healthcare is envisioned, organized and practiced in the Philadelphia region and beyond.