Prospect of failure is a risk worth taking

Dylan Mathews

Congratulations to Alliance for holding a very thought-provoking Breakfast Club meeting to discuss its latest issue on peace philanthropy. I was struck by a number of recurring themes which I would encourage Alliance readers and, indeed, all philanthropy professionals to consider. The first is how, as funders and re-granters, we can be more tolerant of risk. The context that we are all operating in is becoming more restrictive and more risk averse, both in terms of the regulatory environment and the space for civil society to operate freely. Our role should be as enablers, finding creative solutions to the challenges of fiduciary challenges, restrictive operating environments and risk of failure. As one of peace philanthropy’s pioneers, Stephen Pittam, put it, if private funders can’t play this role, who can?

Above all, I’d encourage us all to take a more progressive approach to failure. We can’t move the field forward if we don’t take risks, and this requires an acceptance that a proportion of our portfolio will fail. We should embrace this, as venture capitalists do. Their failures are part of rapid learning and iteration, and are more than offset by the wins. If we adopted the same approach, our work could be more transformational.

Dylan Mathews
Chief executive, Peace Direct

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