Maximizing the Value of Philanthropic Efforts through Planned Partnerships between the U.S. Government and Private Foundations. Supplementary Action

Supplementary models of interaction occur when some goals are shared but strategies differ, so neither resources nor implementation are aligned. They occur when donors or sectors are unable or unwilling to address a particular need using similar strategiesor when they simply choose to take different approaches. This may happen because of some constraint under which a philanthropic organization or sector operates, such as national security responsibilities, differences in core values, aversion to risk, or a lack of technical expertise.

Because of these potential differences, partnerships are not always necessary or practicable even when goals are similar or shared. The use of varied strategies and multiple players may in fact be the best way to address some problems, especially if this allows donors to take advantage of their different strengths or address different aspects of a problem. Target populations may be more fully served when one sector provides a good or service that the other cannot or does not.

An example comes from the Ashoka Fellows program, which provides grants to social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that have the potential to bring about systemic change at the country, regional, or global levels. Ashoka takes its program approach from the world of business, where one entrepreneur can create value from an idea and encourage others to embrace it. By funding individuals, Ashoka seeks to activate and enhance human resources that more traditional public aid or private philanthropy might overlook. Ashoka has been able to partner with various foundations to strengthen its network of Fellows but has thus far sidestepped collaboration with government agencies because they see reforming government as one important goal for many of the Fellows. Although the program avoids direct collaboration with governments, the Ashoka Fellows have many interactions with government programs and agencies, both domestically and internationally.

In such instances of supplementary action, however, USG may be able to learn from, and possibly emulate, some foundation approaches (and vice versa). In this example, if the federal government believes the Ashoka model to be effective, USG may consider providing support for social entrepreneurs in some situations or as one element of an overall initiative or grant program.

In addition, where supplementary efforts occur, there may be opportunities for communicating and sharing information. Even if the federal government could not adapt Ashokas approach of funding individuals, shared communications between individual Ashoka Fellows and USG might be productive in some situations. For example, between 1990 and 2006, Ashoka supported 18 Fellows in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africaalso a goal of the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR; Office of the United States Global AIDS Coordinator 2004). Opportunities to piggyback on each others efforts may be worth exploring.

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