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How We Can Stop Avoiding "Risky" Projects & Start Funding Them

Amanda Y. Fung

Many donors have lost their appetite for experimentation, preferring to fund existing programs that produce mediocre results. But innovation is the key to truly cracking the intractable social problems we face. Instead of quick wins, a new breed of funders now looks for transformation—investing in new approaches that may have a higher risk of failure, but the potential to be lasting and game changing if they succeed. According to them, the risks and costs are well worth the [potential] returns.

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  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    I love the shift in investment towards innovation: "Funding innovation starts with a fundamental shift in mindset. Innovation funders intentionally trade off probability of success in return for greater potential impact. Instead of just supporting proven, incremental solutions, they focus on transformation—investing in approaches that may have a higher risk of failure, but the potential to be lasting and truly game changing if they succeed. “When you’re doing innovation, the first question is not ‘Is this going to work?’ but rather, ‘If it works, would it matter?’” says Eric Toone, the former principal deputy director of the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E)."