The Reemergence of Innovation in Philanthropy

There has been a recent push to transcend effective and sound business strategies to philanthropy. Critics of effective philanthropy argue that focusing philanthropy on results may suffocate innovation in philanthropy as foundations and non-profits reshuffle their priorities to win over donors with "results" rather than striving to innovate and promote ideas that are actually effective.

To push for more innovation in 2008, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, established the Grand Challenge Explorations (GCEs), to help jump start innovation in philanthropy. The Gates Foundation provided $100,000 to the most promising ideas, and up to $1 million for certain projects to continue exploring their concept. The ideas and projects the Gates Foundation has funded through the GCE vary from simple breath tests for tuberculosis and newer more effective condoms. To date, 40,000 applications have been submitted and 850 have received initial grants and 51 projects have received the coveted $1 million continuation grant.

Funding and supporting innovative ideas can have a tremendous global impact. In the height of the HIV/AIDS scare in the 1980, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and big pharmaceutical companies stifled research and pushed specific and ineffective drugs on patients. It took the Aaron Diamond Foundation to donate a large sum of money into building one of the first dedicated HIV/AIDS research labs which resulted in the cocktail of drugs that has helped millions of patients to date.

To learn more see the comprehensive report Stanford Social Innovation Review has published a on the re-emergence of innovation in philanthropy.