What We Can Learn from the COVID-19 Philanthropy Commons
Ultimately, the platform fell short of its ambitions
A few weeks after the WHO declared the COVID-19 pandemic, Eric Braverman of Schmidt Futures and Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation penned an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle, lamenting philanthropy’s inability to join forces to amplify and expedite impact. “Fourth-grade soccer teams with phone trees have more effective lines of communication than we do,” they wrote:
“Even the largest philanthropies figure out what others are doing through random emailing or searching online. We need mutually informed action; instead we have a bazaar of many stalls operating independently.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic provided a prime opportunity to change this dynamic, not only to establish an infrastructure for funder coordination but to expedite the strategic deployment of assets for relief and recovery efforts. Coalitions have come together in the past to share learnings, align on strategy, or pool resources toward a specific effort, of course. But there has never been a sustained system for institutional or individual funders to organize at scale for the greater good, during a crisis or otherwise. As a result, donors must reinvent the wheel, identifying prospects and doing due diligence from scratch.
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