The interactions around philanthropic initiatives, which occur between the federal government and private foundations, take many forms. It is helpful, however, to attempt some broad categorizations of these interactions, and the literature offers several ways to think about them. Taken together, two such frameworks portray a kind of continuum from minor interaction to intensive collaboration, also calling attention to circumstances where the relationship between USG and foundations is nonexistent, or even adversarial. In addition to shedding light on the important dynamics in USG-foundation interactions in this review, these conceptualizations also can inform case study selection and analysis.
In a theoretical article, public affairs scholar Jodi Sandfort (2008) conceptualizes the role of foundations specifically with respect to their relationship vis-a-vis the federal government. She sees the three main categories of interaction as (1) complementary, where the two entities work together in some way; (2) supplementary, where foundations explicitly seek to act in areas where USG is not acting; and (3) adversarial, where the foundation attempts to move public policy in a particular direction through an advocacy stance (which may or may not be as conflictive as the term adversarial typically implies). Adding nuance to the complementary category of interaction, it is useful to consider former MacArthur Foundation leader Kennette Benedicts (2003b) conceptualization of the typical ways in which foundations collaborate with each other. These ways include (1) affinity groups to share information, (2) federations to align resources, and (3) consortia to pool resources and govern projects. Applied to government-foundation interactions, we reconceptualize these three types as communication, coordination, and collaboration.
The center panel of Figure IV.1 depicts this typology of USG-foundation interaction. As the arrows indicate, a single initiative may involve both supplementary and adversarial actions, or evolve from one to the other. Either of these types could also eventually develop into complementary action. In contrast, complementary action is not likely to evolve into supplementary or adversarial action. An important consideration in all types of USG-foundation interaction is the degree to which the interaction is intentional or incidental. The top panel in the figure calls attention to the life cycle of an initiative, as articulated by the State Department (2008) and discussed previously.
The bottom panel in Figure IV.1 presents four key dimensions that determine the shape of USG-foundation relationships, which arise through the combination of Sandforts and Benedicts frameworks. In very general terms, these include the respective levels of communication, resources, organizational priorities, and decision-making for the various institutional actors. At the most basic level, different models of interaction involve different amounts and types of communication between organizations from the respective sectors. Communication may, for example, be frequent or infrequent, direct or indirect, collaborative or adversarial, and it may ebb and flow over the course of an initiative. Second, it is important to consider the extent to which the parties actually contribute resources to the endeavor, as well as the relative size of their contributions, and the proportion of an initiatives total costs that are met by the various funders of interest.
Conceptual Framework for USG-Foundation Decision Making, Implementation, and Interaction around Philanthropic Initiatives
Figure IV.1 presents the conceptual framework for USG-Foundation Decision Making, Implementation, and Interaction around Philanthropic Initiatives.
At top it has an Initiative Life Cycle comprised of: Formulation (Identify need or problem; gauge importance) leads to Planning (Select intervention approach, technology) leads to Implementation (Role of providers, advocates, government) leads to Evaluation (Define outcomes and impacts, develop or select metrics) leads to Renewal/Termination (Wind down sustain, or scale up).
Next is a three part graphic presentation of the interaction typology, with "supplemental action" and "adversarial / advocay action" to the left with a recprical interaction. Both these boxes have arrows leading to "complementary action" which has an internal breakdown of "communication" leading to "coordination" leading to "collaboration."
A third row is a list of components characterized as Characteristics of Decision Making, Implementation, and Interaction.
- How much communication takes place and at what level of the organization?
- What is the nature of communications: direct/indirect; collegial/ adversarial; etc.
- How much is each party committing?
- What is the relative size of each organization’s contribution?
- What proportion of total program cost are covered?
- To what degree is the initiative an organizational priority?
- To what extent do the priorities of the different organizations match up
- Decision Making
- To what extent is decision making shared or not?
- At what level and on what content are the different parties making decisions?
Related to the question of resources, another dimension of interest is the extent to which the issue or initiative is an organizational priority for the stakeholders involved. Such concerns may influence the organizations levels of involvement, their commitment to the initiative over time, and their willingness to interact with other organizations. Finally, decision-making around an initiative is perhaps the most complicated dimension in conceptualizing USG-foundation interactions. Salient questions include the level of decisions being made by the different parties (for example, determining broad goals versus making brass tacks implementation decisions); the content areas of the parties decisions (for example, drawing on programmatic expertise versus policy know-how); and the degree to which decision-making authority is shared or not.
Below we present examples of several different types of USG-foundation interactions around health and social services endeavors in the U.S. and abroad. We focus on supplementary and complementary activities, as these are more likely than adversarial interactions to provide models for deliberate partnering activities in the future. Each example calls attention to several of the conceptual issues presented in Figure IV.1.
A. SUPPLEMENTARY ACTIVITY
In the philanthropy sector, foundation efforts are generally considered supplementary to the work of government because of relative funding levels. In theory, USG could supplement foundation activities, but this is probably unlikely in practice. This is not to imply temporal order, however: foundations supplementary activities may and often do precede USG intervention in a given arena. Indeed, some foundations pursue an active strategy of involvement in areas they view as neglected or unrecognized by government (Benedict 2003a). These include, for example, large organizations, such as MacArthur and Gates, as well as small groups, such as Ashoka.
The MacArthur Foundation also seeks explicitly to act in areas where it views itself as having a comparative advantage, often resulting in a supplementary relationship to USG efforts. Currently, MacArthur focuses on three very broad issue areas: social justice, environment, and world peace. According to an inside observer, MacArthur would like to position itself as a leader in a new grantmaking and policy domain, so the choice of an area will likely lead the Board to favor those where few other public or private donors are operating (Benedict 2003a). This same dedication to leading new efforts and affecting policy change sometimes also casts the MacArthur Foundation in an adversarial or advocacy role. A prominent example of such interactions vis-a-vis the federal government can be found in MacArthurs conservation and biodiversity initiatives. When the Foundation launched the World Environment and Resources (WER) program in 1987, the scientific community had not yet developed a consensus about the importance of biological diversity, and the issue was just beginning to emerge in public and governmental policy circles. MacArthur invested heavily in this arena and, according to the same inside source, has encouraged government and other funder activity. Of course, since MacArthur acted independently on WER, decision-making for the initiative fell solely to MacArthur.
Similarly, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations Global Health Program (GHP) targets diseases and health conditions that cause the greatest illness and death in developing countries, yet receive little attention and resources (Gates web site). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation views GHP as filling the large and urgent gaps in public health worldwide. Again, this supplementary role can have advocacy components, which the Foundation views as necessary to accelerate progress against the worlds most acute poverty. Whereas MacArthur tends to use the language of leadershipthat is, explicitly placing the Foundation on the cutting edge of important social issues that may come slowly to the fore in the public consciousnessGates tends to emphasize its initiatives potential for high and quick impact on problems it gauges to be addressed inadequately by other organizations.
Ashoka bills itself as the global association of the worlds leading social entrepreneurs. This relatively small public foundations activities can also be viewed as supplementary to the efforts of USG; however, here the difference is not so much in the programmatic area of investment but in the model of social change. In a very general sense, public development aid often relies on a top-down theory of change, with USG funding typically directed toward the governments of developing countries or relatively large NGOs. (This may be changing, particularly in the domestic sphere, as illustrated by the federal push for increased contracting with small faith-based and community organizations.) Ashokas model of social change, on the other hand, works through individuals more than organizations, and from the bottom-up. Ashokas main activity is identifying, funding, and supporting social entrepreneursindividuals who they believe can make a difference in addressing social problems. Ashoka identifies changemakers with new ideas and provides these entrepreneurs with the necessary support to increase the scale of their interventions. With relatively few resources, the foundation nevertheless is prominent in global philanthropy because of its innovative approach and ability to leverage other resources.
B. COMPLEMENTARY ACTIVITY
The spectrum of complementary interactions between USG and foundations is broad, and there is variability in the order of the respective sectors entry into the field. The dimensions previously discussed for their salience to the shape of USG-foundation interactionscommunication, resources, organizational priorities, and decision-makingalso are more significant to complementary interactions than to supplementary activities.
Among the models of complementary activities, the communication model (what Benedict [2003b] describes as affinity groups) occupies the lower or less intense end of USG-foundation interaction. Here, organizations from both sectors communicate about an issue, but are not involved directly in addressing the problem together. Such interactions typically see an agency or foundation acting in a convening role, bringing stakeholders together to discuss the problem and potential avenues toward solutions. The Clinton Global Initiative is a prominent example of a foundation bringing together stakeholders rather than directly implementing projects. As the foundations website describes it, the Clinton Global Initiative facilitates cross-sector partnerships that, in turn, create and carry out projects of their own choosing. Clinton Global Initiative participants may come from USG and other governments, foundations, for- and nonprofit organizations, universities, or NGOs.
Moving toward more intense USG-foundation interaction, the coordination model (described by Benedict [2003b] as federations) occupies the middle part of the spectrum of complementary activities. An example of such deliberate alignment of resources with separate decision-making structures can be seen in the West African Seed Alliance. A public-private (for-and nonprofit) partnership, the West African Seed Alliances goals are the development of affordable, high-quality seeds for use by small farmers and the development of business networks to support access to such seeds across five West African nations. As part of its Global Development Alliance, USAID has partnered with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA web site) on this five-year initiative. AGRA itself is probably more aptly described as a fully collaborative effort (comparable to those detailed below), at least with respect to the founding organizations, which include the Gates and Rockefeller foundations, as well as the five West African governments in the Alliance. With respect to USG involvement with the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations via AGRA, however, the relationship is probably more accurately understood as a coordination of efforts. While the broader AGRA initiative has received hundreds of millions of dollars from the foundations, the West African Seed Alliances resources will total just $61 million over five years, with USAID committing $6.1 million. USAIDs role is very limited, relative to Gates and Rockefeller, with the agency responsible primarily for technical and policy decisions directly affecting the roll-out and implementation of the Alliances activities on the ground in Africa. The foundations, on the other hand, set the broad AGRA agenda and determine how the West African Seed Alliance fits into it.
In contrast to AGRA, USG agencies are taking the lead in the multibillion dollar Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative. Several of the largest and most influential foundations are also heavily invested in HIV/AIDS initiatives. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has allocated significant funding to the search for an HIV vaccine. PEPFAR, on the other hand, provides funding for increased antiretroviral treatments, as well as prevention efforts. Some of this work is coordinated through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, but USG and foundation strategies still are developed and pursued independently.
The West African Water Initiative is a good example of this next and highest level along the continuum of USG-foundation interaction. The Initiative is a 13-member partnership primarily funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and USAID. The partnership, founded in 2002, addresses issues of safe and adequate water supply, good sanitation, and improved hygiene in Ghana, Mali, and Niger. The West African Water Initiative views itself as a potential model for future collaborations between the public and private sectors. It is a particularly interesting example because the partnership has engaged in decision-making processes that deliberately reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the collaboration, prompting periodic changes to improve the effectiveness of the partnership. Hilton has committed more than $19 million to the Initiative over 6 years, while USAID investment is about $6 million over four years. Other partner contributions total $18 million.
Initially the West African Water Initiative was a loose partnership that avoided building a new organizational structure to oversee the collaboration. With time, however, the Initiative has added more governance structures to facilitate collective action and ensure that the partnership produces results that are greater than the sum of the individual Partner effort (Doyle and Corliss 2006, p. 2). While the West African Water Initiative has not become a grantmaking body (grants are still distributed separately by the Hilton Foundation and USAID), there is now a greater emphasis on collective action.
While the independence of both public and private actors is preserved in the West African Water Initiative partnership, other public-private collaborations involve the creation of a new entity with decision-making and funding authority. This is true of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), a large partnership effort to increase access to immunizations in the developing world. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a founding partner of the GAVI Alliance, but the Alliance also receives significant funding from USG, as well as the governments of other developed nations. The GAVI Alliance follows the partnership model, where donors pool resources, with the Alliance itself governing the project and allocating funds. This partnership model ensures a unified approach, but individual donors do sacrifice autonomy.