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Want Your Big Bet to Pay Off? Don’t Forget About Government Capacity

At a graduation ceremony for Liberia’s President’s Young Professionals Program, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf congratulates Patience Y. Karley, who was a fellow for two years and now serves as Budget Officer in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. (Photo by the PYPP of Liberia)

In the Chinese zodiac, 2017 was the Year of the Rooster. But in US philanthropic circles, it was the Year of the “Big Bet” and “Systems Change” Agenda, most recently with the announcement of the MacArthur Foundation’s first $100 million 100&Change Award, among other philanthropic endeavors. These efforts aim to better coordinate philanthropists and focus on supporting larger social impact opportunities—and the social sector should applaud both.

But for long-term, lasting impact, most of these big systems change opportunities require an ingredient that gets much less attention and funding: overall sustainability through government capacity, particularly in developing countries.

In a new article published in Stanford Social Innovation Review titled “Want Your Big Bet to Pay Off? Don’t Forget About Government Capacity,” GDI’s Founder and Executive Director Andrew Stern argues why global philanthropists can no longer afford to overlook the importance of supporting government capacity in developing countries—and what they can do about it.

Throughout the article, Andrew draws insights from GDI’s experience across several initiatives including Emerging Public Leaders, the President’s Young Professionals Program of Liberia, and Unorthodox Philanthropy.