Indian-American Sonal Shah, who formerly led the philanthropic arm of Google.Com, has been appointed as the head of the new Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Obama administration.
"It's now official-- Sonal Shah, former head of global development at Google.Org, the search-engine company's philanthropic arm, is head of the new White House Office of Social Innovation", Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, confirmed Shah's appointment, which has not been formally announced.
Inouye said the new office will fall under the Domestic Policy Council, a body that coordinates domestic policymaking in the White House and is headed by Melody Barnes, adding, he could not give further details as the office " has not been rolled out yet".
Members of President Obama's transition team had proposed creating an Office of Social Innovation to promote government efforts to help innovative nonprofit groups and social entrepreneurs expand successful approaches to tackle pressing social problems. Widely recognised as a leading voice on global development and an expert on policy creation, the appointment of Shah closely follows two other high-profile appointments of Indian Americans in the Obama administration: Vivek Kundra, the nation's first chief information officer; and actor Kal Penn, the new associate director for the White House Office of Public Liaison.
The office will be involved in the Social Innovation Funds pilot program that was created by the Serve America Act, a national-service bill that will be signed by the president next week.
Shah was a member of the Obama transition project's advisory board and co-chair of a transition group that made recommendations about technology and innovation, including innovation in civil society.
She is also the co-founder of Indicorps, a nonprofit group that offers fellowships to Indian-Americans working on development projects in India.
Earlier, Shah's appointment to the transition team was challenged by two Indo-American groups who alleged that she had ties with the VHP and Gujarat government in India.
Shah denied the allegations saying she had never been involved in Indian politics, and did not intend to do so in the future.