In these notes, I describe my discussions as of April 2012 with Ruth Levine, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Global Development and Population (GD&P) Program, about opportunities for Good Ventures to co-fund projects with her team.
Part of the context for these discussions has been my interest in finding opportunities to co-fund projects with funders whose work I admire. My goals with co-funding are to 1) leverage the resources of existing funders to identify outstanding giving opportunities, 2) build strong relationships with other funders and 3) learn how different funders approach grantmaking, ideally from conceptualization through evaluation of grants.
Ruth and I met in October 2011. She was introduced to me by Jacob Harold, a program officer in the Hewlett Foundation’s Philanthropy Program, and recommended to me by Dr. Chris Elias, then Executive Director of PATH. During our first conversation, she offered some off-the-cuff ideas for causes and groups that she would investigate if she were in my shoes, including:
- Government accountability in the US and developing world, in particular looking at the Open Government Partnership (OGP)
- Whole Child International, which works to improve orphanages
- Rapid Results Institute
Ruth said she thought transparency and accountability and the application of behavioral economics were two exciting frontiers in international development. In particular, she said there is significant room for funding and innovation in the field of government accountability. She recommended reading the following article on the OGP: http://www.economist.com/node/21531430.
Ruth and I began discussing co-funding opportunities in December 2011. She presented me with a framework for thinking about the types of work we could co-fund with Hewlett’s GD&P Program:
- Types of grants (general operating support, project support, support for regranting, direct charitable activities)
- Geography (US-based NGOs, European-based NGOs, East, South or West Africa, India, Mexico)
- Subject matter (transparency and accountability, quality education, population research and training, reproductive health service delivery)
- Types of activities (research, training/technical assistance, service delivery, advocacy)
- Level of participation
Co-funding ideas that came up during our December 2011 conversation included:
- Support for regranting by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, a Hewlett grantee
- Think Tank Initiative, a multi-donor collaboration to build the capacity of independent policy research organizations in the developing world
- A registry of randomized controlled trials and possibly other types of impact evaluations focused on development
- Encouraging data-sharing among the INDEPTH Network of demographic surveillance sites, which collect longitudinal health and demographic data, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa
This conversation led to my participating in a meeting of funders on the topic of trial registration.
Ruth also invited me to learn about the GD&P Program’s advocacy portfolio, as well as its thinking about the next set of Millennium Development Goals, since the first set of MDGs expire in 2015. Notes from a meeting I attended on the latter topic can be found here.
During the MDGs discussion, Ruth mentioned offhand that she had a wishlist of ideas for development-related projects that far exceeded the size of her discretionary budget. I asked her to jot them down for me, as possible germs for co-funding opportunities. She described them as “blue sky” ideas, which she considered promising but had not fully vetted. I met with Ruth, other GD&P program staff, and the co-executive directors of GiveWell in March 2012 to discuss these ideas.