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As the strategic philanthropy movement has swept across the field, many grantmakers have lost their appetite for funding experimental and innovative projects. Recently, however, a number of funders have begun exploring how to deliberately reintroduce risk-taking into their processes and portfolios in search of breakthrough change.
The term “innovation” is now used so widely and so vaguely that it has come to mean almost anything, or almost nothing at all. Long before it became a buzzword, though, innovation played an essential role in philanthropy. The field has a rich history of private funders using their resources to seed experiments with the potential to produce outsized social returns.