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Co-Impact: can it shift the power?

1 maart 2018, 06:00
Co-Impact: can it shift the power?
Co-Impact: can it shift the power?
Towards the end of last year, foundations and philanthropists including the Rockefeller Foundation, Richard Chandler, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jeff Skoll and Romesh and Kathy Wadhwani, launched the Co-impact initiative, a collaboration to bring ‘large-scale, sustainable change to underserved populations across the developing world in the critical areas of health, education, and economic opportunity’.
The EkStep Foundation, co-founded by Indian philanthropists Rohini and Nandan Nilekani, will serve as technical partner. The initiative promises ‘systems change grants of ‘up to $50 million over several years’ which will go to ‘initiatives with proven leaders and results which are poised to scale even further’.
We asked several philanthropy practitioners around the world about Co-Impact’s prospects, as follows:
  1. What do you think are the strengths and qualities of the initiative as it’s been presented by its founders?
  2. Do you think the design of the initiative has any shortcomings?
  3. What concrete action do you think Co-Impact should undertake in the next 5-10 years to genuinely make strides towards achieving its ambition for impact at scale?
By and large, they saw an exciting prospect of big resources and influence being deployed in concert in pursuit of some of the world’s most vexing and urgent questions.
But will it have the staying power, they wondered, for a long journey through often inhospitable country? Will it be ready and able to hold the feet of powerful vested interests to the fire and – as a coalition of powerful entities itself – risk having its own soles similarly scorched?
Paula Fabiani, Director of IDIS, Brazil comments:
Co-Impact has presented itself with an enormous task to show the world that there are implementable strategies that can achieve enduring results at global scale.
The good news is that it seems to have what it takes: an incredible (and credible!) group of funders, team, structure in place and an inspirational goal of supporting systems-change initiatives.
It still lacks funders from Latin America, a space where innovation can certainly emerge and scaling up be tested. Nevertheless, Co-Impact can certainly fill this gap in the future.
There are two issues in which Co-Impact’s positioning is still intriguing: how they are going to deal with timing and risk expectations? There must be a shift in understanding timing (and commitment) and risk-taking for social change from both funders and social change agents. More than ever funders require grantees to produce short-term results and avoid long-term risk, while social entrepreneurs focus on guaranteeing project continuity in the short term.
‘Co-Impact can make an enormous contribution to solving some of the most pressing issues’
Moreover, successful entrepreneurs tend to move to new ventures after some time; it is part of their nature. How can both really commit to achieving long-term systems change? Social problems are harder and take more time to solve (five years might not be enough) than those facing profit-seeking enterprises. We must also add that long-term strategies are at odds with our connected and speedy era.
Nonetheless, there are potential alternative solutions to this puzzle.
Co-Impact might in the future review its maximum term for financing successful projects that require longer-term funding. It could also make an effort, on day one of each initiative, to really involve governments, which may slow project development but can also result in some becoming public policies.
Or it could create social businesses, to provide long-term sustainability of impact and financing beyond the term of Co-Impact’s support. The important question is how every commitment that is moving towards systems change can be continued.
One thing is certain though; if successful, Co-Impact can make an enormous contribution to solving some of the most pressing issues of our world!
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