example areas of opportunity
We will consider any ideas that can create sustained impact with finite philanthropic capital. By way of example, we have outlined some potential areas of opportunity, including:
Information acquisition and research
- Conducting a novel and uniquely impactful randomized control trial (RCT), survey, or study
- Research in emergent fields such as behavioral economics
- Translating existing research findings or theory into public action
- Aggregation of existing data to generate impact
New models of financing or delivery
- Alternative models of social service delivery or financing
This list is not meant to limit the scope of what we may fund, but to illustrate some characteristics of the kinds of opportunities we seek. We welcome suggestions about other areas of opportunity that we should consider exploring. We have also been compiling specific examples that exhibit one or many of these qualities, including:
- A recent op-ed in the New York Times explains how a currently unfunded $10 million RCT could provide evidence for aspirin’s potential effects on breast cancer and result in an estimated 85,000 lives saved per year.
- GiveDirectly, backed by a rigorous RCT to demonstrate its impact, has elevated the concept of cash as a benchmark for development interventions and is raising standards for transparency by disclosing performance data in real time.
- The promotion of handwashing to prevent infection in hospital settings.
- A working group organized by the Center for Global Development helped translate economist Michael Kremer’s academic research on advance market commitments for vaccines from theory to practice.
- The development of point-of-use chlorine dispensers to encourage household chlorination and provide access to safe drinking water.
- There are numerous examples of social marketing campaigns around hygiene, smoking, drunk driving, etc. that resulted in widespread behavior change.
- A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed proposes a novel pay-for-success model to collect and destroy unknown smallpox samples.
- The global spread of self-organizing groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or the Wikipedia community.
- The YMCA Diabetes prevention program is an example of utilizing an existing network for an alternative purpose.
- An example of an innovative platform initially subsidized with philanthropic capital includes the UK Department for International Development’s early investment to help telecom company Vodafone/Safaricom develop the mobile money platform M-Pesa.
- The integration of psychology and economics to create “behavioral economics” has challenged the traditional “rational actor” model, creating a breakthrough in understanding and designing public policy.
Let us know if you know of other areas or examples to explore.