Demonstrating that a DARPA-like social innovation model can work outside government and advance progress across key program areas.
Arati Prabhakar trained as an engineer and then spent her career investing in world-class engineers and scientists to create new technologies and companies. Arati is the former Director of DARPA, the Department of Defense agency responsible for investing in breakthrough technologies, where she oversaw a staff of 200 government employees and a $3 billion budget. Prior to DARPA, Arati held a number of positions in government and the private sector and was the first woman to head the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Now Arati is launching a social innovation nonprofit organization called Actuate. Actuate is adapting the DARPA model to address critical societal challenges: mitigating climate change, just and effective democracy, full access to opportunity, and robust population health. That starts with recruiting exceptional innovators, each of whom brings a systems perspective to the task of designing a program that demonstrates a potent new solution at a level sufficient to start structural change. Actuate coaches these individuals through a process of ideation and program design, engaging with many other breakthrough thinkers and doers and sponsoring seedling projects to test program concepts. After mapping the actors in the space, testing ideas, building hypotheses, weighing risks, and designing evaluations to assess outcomes in realistic environments, the most promising programs move forward.
UP is supporting Arati as she builds Actuate to prove out this new social innovation model. Philanthropy is the only source of capital that can cut across established silos and take the risk to validate a radically different model. As it succeeds, Actuate aims to catalyze both corporate and government capital to pursue an innovation approach that can change what’s possible for society’s greatest aspirations.
Learn more about Arati Prabhakar and Actuate here.