Giving Compass' Take:

• Philanthropist Charlotte Wagner of the Wagner Foundation employs a "do, learn, share" approach to philanthropy that focuses on improving health equity. 

• How is the framework of "do, learn, share" replicable in other contexts within the social sector?

• Read about this other framework for impactful philanthropy. 


In 2005, Philanthropist Charlotte Wagner had a vision as she established her family's foundation in Boston, Massachusetts. Wagner Foundation would work to build just and robust community across the globe by way of engaging with organizations that focussed on improving health equity, increasing economic mobility, expanding institutional fairness, and striving for cultural transformation.

"We started with a vision to improve health care yet as we traveled and really connected with communities at the grassroots, we realized that there were complex dynamics that led to health care being inaccessible."

Complex dynamics were what led Wagner to see the role that underlying, harmful social norms played in ensuring her funding focus, accessible, quality health care, could truly be achieved. "Some may look at our foundation now and say that we became broad and general after those travels but in many ways, we are finally impacting the focus area we began with. We learned that it would become important for us to take an expansive view if we really sought to have lasting philanthropic impact. The most innovative thing we thought we could do was seek to invest holistically, eradicating harmful social norms and setting ourselves up to be funders that make a difference. We would make this difference by having honest conversations with partners and choosing to invest in the overall wellbeing of a community, not just a set of outcomes related to health."

Wagner's approach has taken on a framework over the years, now referenced within the organization as 'Do, Learn, Share'. This framework has given their grantee partners the chance to establish best practices for long term impact and not just the ability to execute programs that deliver a set of targeted outcomes.

Read the full article about different approach to philanthropy by Alyssa Wright at Forbes.