It's probably not controversial to say that philanthropy is infatuated with the idea of novelty. What matters these days is to be “transformative,” to show how you are “innovating” and being “disruptive.” The latest craze is “big bet philanthropy,” described in a December 2016 Forbes article as “an eight-figure-or-more attempt to create systematic social change.”

While talk about “big bets” seems everywhere, it is not entirely clear what the phrase means, beyond committing to spend a lot of money on something. Every writer on the subject seems to use different criteria. The idea must entail more than a concerted effort to accomplish something beneficial to society, since that would encompass pretty much everything every major foundation has been doing for decades.

Sometimes, putting money into solving a specific problem seems to be a defining feature. But not always, as evidenced by the inclusion of support for scholarship funds, university endowments, open-ended research, and even the maintenance of a single park. Other times the important thing seems to be offering major support to a particular organization, though a number of bets singled out for recognition are broader than this. Near-term results often seem likewise to matter, though it is not clear whether big bets must be strategic or designed to achieve a specific measurable impact, and a number of them plainly are not.

Read the source article at Stanford Social Innovation Review