June 2012

High risk/high gain? Opportunity, risk and global development

Volume 17 , Number 2

PDF - £10.00 Hard copy (£15.00)


June 2012

High risk/high gain? Opportunity, risk and global development

Volume 17 , Number 2

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It is often said that foundations can take risks that others cannot – but do they in practice? This issue of Alliance looks at opportunity and risk, and what philanthropy can gain from taking calculated risks. Guest editor Peter Laugharn concludes that foundations should push themselves further to identify the most promising opportunities and take risks to attain them.

What are the real risks in philanthropy? For the Rockefeller Foundation’s Zia Khan, the real risk is not realizing the potential of your grant dollars. For Johannes Meier of the European Climate Foundation, the biggest risk is that foundations become irrelevant because they don’t tackle the big issues. Discussing the best approach to opportunity and risk, Lance Fors suggests we look to attitudes in the private sector, while Pesh Framjee comes up with a ‘heat map’ tool to assess risk. The special feature concludes with the views of other development actors – including governments, NGOs, the World Bank, UNDP and the UK’s Department for International Development – on what they want from foundations.

Also included in the June issue of Alliance: Paul Woolley offers suggestions for foundations looking to achieve better long-term returns on their assets while at the same time helping to reform the financial system; a reminder from Françoise Pissart that men and boys should be included in gender approaches; and an interview with Aryeh Neier as he steps down as president of the Open Society Institute; plus more articles, letters, book reviews, opinion and global updates.

Special feature

The art and science of seizing opportunities

1 June 2012
Peter Laugharn

Foundation leaders are often heard to make comments that ‘foundations can take risks that others cannot’ or that ‘foundations are society’s risk capital’. But is this actually so? To what extent do foundations currently integrate risk and opportunity into their grantmaking? What can philanthropy learn from the private sector’s approach to risk? What would good practice look like in the area of opportunity and risk? And, finally, how do opportunity and risk figure within the …


A role model for the good ship philanthropy?

The cover of this issue of Alliance shows Christopher Columbus’s ship – presumably on its way to discovering the ‘New World’. The explorer’s fragile ship, buffeted and tossed by huge waves, on an expedition that turned out to have momentous results but could well have ended in the loss of the ship and all aboard it, provides an apt analogy for the sort of ‘high risk/high gain’ activity that the special feature in this issue of Alliance encourages foundations and philanthropists to embrace. While risky philanthropic ventures do not involve personal risk in the way that the early voyages of …


Formal risk management training needed

Marcos Kisil

Lisa Jordan’s article in the March issue of Alliance addresses a critical topic for any grantmaking organization or individual donor. …

Reappraising the systemic constraints to change

Sheela Patel

I loved Lisa Jordan’s opinion piece on foundations and risk. However, while Lisa discusses the basis for revoking a grant, …

What about values?

Atallah Kuttab

I am glad that Lisa Jordan has raised the issue of risk and how to measure failure. However, though I …

Failing to talk about failure

Rosien Herweijer

Failure is failing to talk about it! Lisa Jordan makes an important point about the links between risk-taking and potential failure. It …

Always make new mistakes

Chet Tchozewski

Lisa Jordan’s challenge to embrace risk in organized philanthropy reminded me of a quote from technology writer Esther Dyson (who …

In defence of gorillas

Karla Simon

When I saw the ‘gorilla’ cover on the September 2011 issue of Alliance, I congratulated Caroline Hartnell on it. I …

What about gender justice investing?

Ise Bosch

Regarding an otherwise excellent special feature on resilience investing, I was missing a discussion of gender justice grantmaking/investing (besides mentioning …

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