Funds are organized around the ultimate outcome we want to achieve. That is to say, at the end of the day, what it really means to solve a problem.
For example, a philanthropist funding malaria bed nets doesn’t care about people owning and using bed nets per se; she cares about preventing people from contracting malaria. But even then, she doesn’t care so much about the malaria as its effects (i.e., reduced quality of life and/or premature death). If a vaccine came along that allowed someone to live a long and healthy life after having contracted the malaria virus – and it proved to be cost effective to administer – a smart philanthropist would shift her dollars to this solution. To that end, our Funds are designed to be outcome-oriented and strategy agnostic. This isn’t to say we don’t care about strategy, just that to our Fund Managers, no particular strategy is precious if it doesn’t cost effectively generate the social or environmental outcomes that are the goal of the Fund.
Each Fund Manager is expected to choose strategies that – all else equal – maximize “expected social return” with respect to that Fund’s outcome focus (just like with an investment whose expected profits are a function of its costs and chance of success, “expected social return” is the total projected social or environmental impact of a strategy, adjusted for its chance of success and its cost). This means that Fund Managers may back strategies that are risky but that would deliver immense benefits if successful as well as relatively safe but highly cost effective bets.
It’s then up to each Fund’s Fund Manager to identify those high-impact, evidence-based strategies most likely to achieve their fund’s goal. We take inspiration from the Open Philanthropy Project in using the following criteria (which we’ve adapted slightly) for Fund managers to evaluate and prioritize strategies (as well as opportunities):
Importance: How many individuals does this strategy address, and how deeply?
Neglectedness: Is this strategy underfunded by other philanthropic and civic institutions?
Tractability: Is it clear that our funding will contribute to progress?