Pipeline, diligence and sourcing
PSF has typically relied on a consistent network of partners to source and diligence organizations for our pipeline. Approximately one-third of PSF’s investments in social entrepreneur-led organizations have come via Echoing Green, an organization that works to identify and nurture the next generation of talent to solve the world’s biggest problems. All told, and with the help of supporters like PSF, Echoing Green has invested $42 million in 727 fellows in 70 countries around the world – who have in turn raised $5 billion for social good. For some of Echoing Green’s Fellows, including One Acre Fund, myAgro, Last Mile Health, PeaceFirst, CareMessage, IDinsight, Practice Makes Perfect, SHOFCO, Teach for America and Equal Opportunity Schools, the next stage in the funding and growth trajectory has been PSF, a great symbiosis for all involved. Equally important have been the partnerships with other funders in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem – Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Mulago, the Skoll Foundation, and others. We have worked closely with these organizations over the years to source organizations, relying on their expertise and diligence, and working closely as thought partners to strengthen the field. This is equally true on the social investment side, where intermediaries like The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund have introduced us to extraordinary innovators who use business as a force for social good. The expertise and networks of these partner organizations make our own investments possible. By contrast, our efforts to “go it alone” have sometimes led to inadequate diligence and inferior outcomes.
Programmatic reach and expertise
Many of PSF’s signature and most successful initiatives have relied on partnerships with allied institutions – fellow funders and expert practitioners who serve as collaborators in program design and implementation. Recall, for example, that PSSCRA Cancer Prize is an alliance not only with the Sohn Foundation, but with the city and country’s leading medical research institutions.
Public private partnerships
In New York City, our work with the Robin Hood Foundation on immigration has also involved working closely with city agencies including the City University of New York, the courts, city hospitals, the department of health, and others. We have learned that across our work, these types of public-private partnerships are critical to advancing the issues we care about most.
Building bridges between academia and practice
Some of our most fruitful partnerships are those that allow us to build bridges between research and organizations that can apply these findings in practice, either in the field or the marketplace. For example, the economic and behavioral insights uncovered at the Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative at Harvard have informed a number of policy interventions, from financial inclusion and education to criminal justice reform. The same is true of global health breakthroughs, developed in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, the Global Health Delivery Project, and a number of service providers on the ground. And PSSCRA, as we have seen, has built a crucial link between cancer researchers and the pharmaceutical industry.
Value of community insights and solutions
PSF’s partnerships have also been an essential reminder that our efforts cannot succeed without the full participation of the communities we look to serve. The most innovative solutions themselves are typically designed and delivered within the community – where our job is simply to support and facilitate. For example, our immigration work is only possible through our partners on the ground; in addition to The Dream.US and Robin Hood, we have had the good fortune to work closely with organizations like the Center for Popular Democracy and Welcoming America. Similarly, the educational successes now taking shape in Newark have occurred because the community has come to embrace charter schools and other changes in the traditional public schools as the children and families of Newark benefit from these gains. The initial challenges of the Newark initiative occurred in part because the proposed reforms were perceived to be top-down and externally imposed – not community-centric or community-led. In New York City, community engagement is both a work in progress and a paramount priority. For example, the High Line, an anchor of urban development and renewal, has been an engine of economic and cultural transformation in lower and mid-Manhattan. The organization that operates this public-private partnership is now working to ensure that its fruits are widely shared and embraced by the community, offering a blueprint for community-centered design in other parts of the country and the world. In short, we have learned that local and organic solutions are often the most innovative and effective in addressing community needs. With this in mind, we look forward to building new and lasting partnerships in our next decade of work.