New York, NY, September 29, 2022 ⎼ Today, Schmidt Futures, in partnership with Ballmer Group, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies announced the Social Safety Net Product Studio, an initiative bringing technologist entrepreneurs together to improve the accessibility of U.S. government social safety net benefits. The program aims to spark innovation in benefits access programs and help unlock more than $100 million in benefits over the next two years for low-income families, and the Digital Harbor Foundation will aid in managing the Social Safety Net Product Studio. As part of Schmidt Futures’ mission to bet early on talented individuals seeking to solve society’s hardest problems, the Product Studio will support twelve groups aiming to improve benefits access through product and tool development for scale.
These twelve inaugural Product Studio teams will receive $13 million in funding, technical assistance, and in-kind support to develop product innovations that will ease access to key government benefits for underprivileged populations. Winners include entrepreneurs, engineers, data scientists, designers, and researchers from across the country, with missions ranging from increasing online education access for people who are incarcerated to simplifying the application process for emergency rental assistance. Together, this group of talented experts will rise to the challenge of transforming access to U.S. government benefits for millions of families nationwide.
This new partnership builds on Schmidt Futures’ Connectivity & Access program, which makes high-speed internet universally accessible and affordable, then uses the increased access to grow public benefits. Additionally, the Product Studio brings together cross-sector stakeholders in the social safety net ecosystem to increase access to government benefits by developing state and federal policy recommendations. This initiative will propel a community of highly skilled civic tech innovators working to drive positive change and increase access to benefits for families in need of support.
“We have been inspired by the ingenuity of the applicant pool, the awardees, and their government partners. They are tackling stubborn challenges with a renewed sense of urgency and optimism, driven by new, tech-forward solutions to enable greater access. We are thrilled to work alongside them, and support their efforts to make the safety net more efficient and effective for all who need it,” said Elizabeth Young McNally, Executive Vice President of Talent Ventures at Schmidt Futures.
Teams were selected based on their demonstrated success, technical innovation and ingenuity, scalability, and strength of their government partnerships. Successful implementation of these innovations – such as simplifying communication about benefits enrollment and renewal from government agencies – can help unlock more than $100 million in government benefits within the next three years for families in need.
Schmidt Futures and its partners proudly introduce the inaugural Product Studio cohort:
“The Product Studio was designed to bring together technologists, policy experts, and government benefits program administrators to collaborate to improve access and equity in the social safety net,” said Josh Hendler, Senior Managing Director of Technology and Impact at Schmidt Futures. “People facing eviction or struggling to feed their families deserve a system that is easy to use and puts their needs first. Our grantees and their partners know this and are fiercely committed to helping facilitate a customer-centered, tech-enabled safety net of support to families in need across the country.”
“There is a clear role for technology to play in improving access to the many public benefits programs that comprise our social safety net. In order for the solutions of tomorrow to be equitable and effective, they must be designed in concert with dedicated technologists, program administrators, frontline staff, and those who access benefits,” said Kevin Bromer, Executive Director, Head of Technology & Data Strategy at Ballmer Group. “We’re excited by the vision each Product Studio grantee has put forth to collaboratively design solutions that can help improve economic mobility by addressing a range of existing barriers to benefits for individuals and families.”