After reading Dr. Kevin Starr’s bold writing—and hearing glowing things from members of the Leap Ambassadors Community about Mulago’s support for grantee performance—we reached out to Starr, the managing director of the Mulago Foundation to learn more about Mulago’s work.

He invited us to come to San Francisco to visit with him and his colleagues.  We found a powerful story about a foundation’s transition from arm’s-length checkwriter to a changemaker whose grantees are overflowing with praise for the way it supports their ability to perform at a high level. We believe Mulago’s story has relevance for any foundation leader who, like Starr, is fed up with feudalism and eager for impact.

Below is a glimpse into the team’s funding approach, and as you would expect from an organization led by Starr, extremely clear and jargon-free:

We fund high-impact organizations to do what they do well…. We don’t invest in organizations that don’t measure impact. They’re flying blind and we would be too.

Mulago goes into more detail on its approach to design in its “DIF” (Design Iteration Format). With approachable language and concrete examples, the DIF lays out a process for clarifying mission, the big idea, key outcomes, model, and “who will replicate and who will pay for your model at scale.” For grantees not already steeped in “design thinking,” Mulago organizes full-day workshops to help guide them through the DIF.

The Mulago team focuses on a concept that every fellow and grantee knows well and calls by the shorthand term “doers and payers.” Mulago’s DIF template explains the concept as follows: “If you want to get to real scale, there are two critical questions that really matter: 1) Who’s the doer and 2) Who’s the payer? You’ve got a model—the thing you do. Who’s going to replicate—do—it, and who is going to fund that replication?”

Read the full profile about the Mulago Foundation at Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community.