High-Leverage Philanthropic Action

Some Examples:

1. POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. In 1997, Charles Harper realized the importance of the vision and ideas of University of Pennsylvania Professor Martin Seligman in the year he became President of the American Psychological Association.  He met with Seligman and proposed a symposium to initiate a series of strategic programs focused on taking Seligman's vision for the development of "Positive Psychology" forward.  Twelve years later in 2009, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article entitled, "An Intellectual Movement for the Masses: 10 years after its founding, positive psychology struggles with its own success"  (August 7th issue, pp. B7-11). The article cites $226M in grants made to positive psychology researchers since 1999 by the National Institute of Mental Health, and mentions other funding streams from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Education, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Under Harper's strategic guidance, the Templeton Foundation invested a total of about $5M in Martin Seligman's activity.  That represents a huge degree of catalytic leverage, perhaps in total involving likely a leverage factor exceeding x50 overall thus far.  In particular, Seligman had a very impressive strategic vision worth investing in.  He wanted to develop a next-generation of young highly talented research leaders.  He was concerned to help them to cross from risk-taking mavericks working in a new and controversial direction away from the dominant NIMH funding streams and into unknown terra incognita.   Harper, Seligman and their talented colleagues together developed the idea of a prizes program for young bright  pre-tenure innovators working in the field.  Sir John Templeton was delighted and enthusiastic in his support.   This strategy worked spectacularly.  And the rest, as they say, "is history."  Positive psychology today is a major topic in both university teaching and research.  It has been the most popular course at Harvard University for some years.  The key to success was to see the opportunity with the right person at just the right time and to invest strategically.  This work was recognized in 2008 by a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities.   

http://www.neh.gov/news/archive/2008_Medalists.html#Templeton  )


Charles Harper met James Tooley in 2002 in Goa, India.  He engaged in some on-the-spot field research with him and realized immediately that his vision had huge potential.   (See:   http://www.templeton.org/funding_areas/show_profiles.asp?p=10382&b=3|61)   After various consultations, in 2003, the Templeton Foundation made a grant of $900,000 to James for a major research initiative spanning a selected suite of countries (India, China, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Philippines) to access the state of private education for/by the poor in the developing world.  His findings were spectacular.  Tooley found that throughout the developing world, State-provided education programs systematically defrauded the poor, who in large proportions paid for private education themselves for their children in a hitherto unknown and undocumented grey-zone industry of enterprise schools educating vast numbers of poor children at a cost level typically of a few dollars per child per month.  Tooley's research showed strongly superior educational performance relative to the public sector with a cost basis typically one third of public sector expenses.  Tooley also found that the poor provided for the poorer with various charitable scholarships for children in particularly great need.  In 2006, Tooley published an essay that won a Gold Prize in the IFC-FT competition, leading to an op-ed published in the Financial Times.  This attracted huge attention and more than $100M in charitable support.  Over the past few years, the vision Tooley initiated has caught the imagination of a number of people and now is growing as a major reform initiative throughout the developing world.  Leverage on the initial investment into James Tooley's vision, research, and public policy reform agenda is now greater than x100.  

Major reform efforts in India and Africa inspired by this research include: 

  School Choice, India: http://www.schoolchoice.in/  

  New Globe Schools: http://www.newglobeschools.org

  Indian School Finance Company: http://www.grayghostventures.com/socialvf/files/ggv-summary_2008-nov.pdf 

  Opportunity International Microschools project: http://www.opportunity.org/Page.aspx?pid=410 

  Orient Global Education Fund Rumi Schools of Excellence: http://www.rumischools.com/)

  School Ventures: http://www.schoolventures.com

  African Private Schools Investment Index:  http://apsiindex.com/page_aboutus_apsinews3.php

  IFC Africa Schools Program:  http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/che.nsf/Content/Features_Africa_Private_Education_Jul07

  UK, possible plans for the next government: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/news.html

  IFC-FT, Gold Prize essay recognition of James Tooley:      http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/economics.nsf/AttachmentsByTitle/educating_amaretch_gold_essay.pdf/$FILE/educating_amaretch_gold_essay.pdf


Study: Private Education is Good for the Poor:  A Study of  Private Schools Serving the Poor in Low Income Counties.  

(http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=5224 . 

See 2009 book by James Tooley: “The Beautiful Tree.” 

This work also was recognized in 2008 by a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

http://www.neh.gov/news/archive/2008_Medalists.html#Templeton  )


Charles Harper met Mike Fairbanks in 1997 after reading his Harvard Business School Press book, 

"Ploughing the Sea:  Nurturing the Hidden Sources of Growth in the Developing World."   Via this link, the Templeton Foundation began a series of philanthropic engagements with Mike, first via a small grant to support the first "Culture Matters" conference at Harvard and later to support several other projects including activities of a new research center at Tufts University directed by Lawrence Harrison, and later to develop Fairbank's most recent venture, Seven Fund (www.sevenfund.org) and its Pioneers of Prosperity awards competitions for entrepreneurs in Africa and in the Caribbean/Latin-America.  Mike and his talented colleagues represent a super-entrepreneurial group who mix business savvy with philanthropy and have impressive abilities to utilize capital-as-catalyst to seize new exciting opportunities.  Their message, however, is the most dynamic and high-leverage aspect of what they do and is leading a transformation of economic development policies from failed aid agendas towards successful entrepreneurism-focused agendas all over the world.  Leverage in these projects has been very substantial and continues to grow rapidly via partnerships with the Monitor Group, OnTheFrontier, Harvard University, the Legatum Group, Fortune Magazine, the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Government of Rwanda, and most recently, Oprah Winfrey's TV show.  (http://www.templeton.org/funding_areas/show_profiles.asp?p=1052&b=3|23 ; Pioneers of Prosperity awards ): http://www.pioneersofprosperity.org/ )

4.  FORGIVENESS RESEARCH.  In 1996, Sir John Templeton wrote to Charles Harper to ask him to develop scientific research to illuminate the topic of forgiveness.  Harper took several actions in response to this request.  First, he identified the leading scientist in the world who had published on the topic.  Second, with the input of that person (Dr. Everett Worthington) he developed an exploratory research symposium, (later published as "Dimensions of Forgiveness") to gather together about 15 top people into a strategy group towards launching a major research sponsorship initiative.  Third, based on the success of the symposium and the positive advice of the strategy group, he developed a major funding initiative to sponsor scientifically-focused forgiveness research formally for the first time ever in history.   The response to the RFP (request for proposals) offering was so strong that it was decided to develop a "Campaign for Forgiveness Research" to bring other donors into the project to complement the $3M dollars Sir John Templeton was willing to put forward.  In the end, the Campaign raised an additional $4M to support of serious research efforts.  As a result of this project, the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation now has been successfully "mainstreamed" within the community of psychological and medical research funding institutions.   This work also was recognized in 2008 by a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities.   ( http://www.neh.gov/news/archive/2008_Medalists.html#Templeton  )  Also, see:  http://www.forgiving.org/funding_areas/core_themes/forgiveness/


One of Sir John Templeton's strongest interests was in the topic of understanding the deepest of the virtues:  agape, or altruistic unlimited love.  His vision was to explore philanthropic steps towards illuminating the 'dynamics' of altruistic love scientifically.  His expectation was that new knowledge might prove useful eventually towards future possibilities to expand the degree of altruistic love interactive between people and groups worldwide.   Like the topic of forgiveness, the topic of altruistic love was new, against-the-grain, and unusually interdisciplinary to pursue scientifically in university contexts.  The leadership challenges for a project were considerable.  And the chances that it would be dismissed by opinion-leading researchers were high.   Charles Harper met Stephen Post in 1996 and later identified him as a very-high-dynamism and productivity "vision-entrepreneur" who might be able to take-on a substantial project.  The first exploratory step was to do a conference project to 'learn and grow' and to explore various opportunities towards developing a major grants initiative similar to that developed to launch forgiveness research.  The conference took place at MIT in 1999 (http://www.altruisticlove.org/docs/templeton.html) and later was published by Oxford University Press under the title: Altruism and Altruistic Love, with Stephen Post as the senior editor for the project.  

While observing the performance on the conference and book project, it became clear to Charles Harper that Stephen Post was precisely the right person to ask to manage a larger $9M research support project which he (CH) had developed for Sir John and which Sir John had approved enthusiastically.  Terms-of-agreement were developed in the project which offered incentivizing matching funds for other donors who would join-in with support for research through grants competitions that Stephen Post developed and managed.  While this was a very challenging and stress-inducing challenge for Stephen due to the newness of the field, its academic focus and its unusualness, in the end Post was successful in gaining more leverage than the initial $9M put forward in the Templeton Foundation grant.  Most of the value of this support was realized through the strong enthusiasm of the President of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, who put forward more than $9M in resources to attract Stephen to relocate to Stony Brook and take up a directorship of a new staffed center developed just for him to continue his vision.  Post has been among the most productive-ever grant recipients.  A detailed report of his accomplishments in on-line via:  Productivity: http://www.unlimitedloveinstitute.org/grant/index.html  Also, Stephen leveraged his research experience into a major book contract with a trade press, leading to the publication of his popular book, "Why Good Things Happen to Good People:  How to Live a Longer, Healthier Life by the Simple Act of Giving.  (2007: http://www.whygoodthingshappen.com/ )


Sometimes high-impact philanthropy is possible simply by assisting other philanthropic groups to make great connections with extraordinary people and agendas.   This is by the simple technique of hosting very special forums for leaders to meet each other and share vital ideas in the context of a compelling strategic focus.  The case of the Legatum-MIT center is one such case.  It involved simply bringing together a number of cutting-edge philanthropists with Iqbal Quadir (who himself is a philanthropist using proceeds from his huge success founding Grameen Phone, --a magnificent achievement chronicled in Nicholas Sullivan's book, You Can Hear Me Now.  (See: www.youcanhearmenow.com).  The specific activity occurred at one of the Global Leadership Summits that Charles Harper and his colleague Barnaby Marsh developed as a series hosted at the Lyford Cay Club in the Bahamas.  The seminar in which Iqbal met the Legatum Group was focused on Enterprise-Based Solutions to Poverty.  It explored strategies that will harness the power of enterprise and the resources of the philanthropic sector for the generation of wealth and opportunities for self-empowerment for the poor.  The Legatum-MIT Center is a $50M initiative initially.  It can be followed via:  www.legatum.mit.edu.   (See: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/legatum-0917.html )