Quarterly Links Summer 2021

Not-entirely-random stuff stuff for doers and funders obsessed with impact at scale.

We're Beating Systems Change to Death

Systems change is more a destination than a journey. “Scalable solutions” might be a better way to make the trip. An evolving understanding of what it means to find and support these solutions has been one of our biggest focuses these past few years. Catchy title aside, this has been a huge focus for us recently.
Stanford Social Innovation Review (10 minutes)

The Intellectual Johnny Appleseed of the Counterculture

This conversation with Whole Earth Catalog founder, Merry Prankster, and woolly mammoth de-extinctionist Stewart Brand may seem random but it has so much wisdom on how you bring about lasting change.
Reason.com (13 minutes)

From The Ground Up

Our portfolio and fellows have flagged to us that to get big impact in agriculture you need to focus on the most basic of inputs - the soil. Sarah's written a snappy blog that highlights some exciting new approaches and research into soil-friendly farming practices.  
Mulago (3 minutes)

Book: Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke teaches you how to get comfortable with uncertainty and make better decisions as a result. One idea we love is saying “I am 70% sure that X is how it is” rather than just saying “X is how it is.”
The Book
Podcast: Conversations with Tyler
Podcast: The Knowledge Project

The Journey to Scale with Government

Village Reach made this deck to help navigate the journey towards government-owned solutions which have sustained impact at scale. While there are many approaches to achieving government ownership and leadership, this tool focuses on the pathway in which government adopts a solution, and integrates it into their systems.
Village Reach (20 minutes)

Podcast: The Innovation Challenge Facing NGOs

An episode of the Good Will Hunters podcast with Kevin Starr and Mark Reading of Atlassian Foundation on the innovation challenge facing NGOs, and how NGOs need to get better at taking successful innovations to scale.
Good Will Hunters (40 minutes)

Education: Failure and Repair

Earlier this year, Girin Beeharry stepped down as the inaugural director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global education program. He didn't leave quietly - and published an essay on the collective failure of international education to address terrible learning outcomes especially in low-income countries. CGDEV put together a fascinating collection of responses to Girrin's admonishments. A couple of standouts:

H/T Liz and Mollie

Fast Forward Tech Non-Profit Job Board

This easy to use hub has a ton of jobs in social impact from 500+ tech nonprofits, from ed-tech to global health, and engineering to marketing. Any tech nonprofit is able to post a job on it just email jobs@ffwd.org.
Fast Forward

New Additions to Mulago's Portfolio

This Spring we added 5 organizations to our portfolio:

Aceli Africa address the financing gap faced by many small and medium agricultural business in Africa. They help high-impact agri-businesses become investment ready, and provide lenders with targeted subsidies to reduce their risk and encourage more loans.

CHANCEN International provides affordable financing to students for a college education in Africa, through income share agreements. In contrast to a traditional loan with a fixed monthly payment, these agreements allow students to repay their education expenses as a percentage of their post-education salary for a set number of years.

Friendship Bench’s big idea is that ordinary people - even grandmothers - can provide talk based therapy to reduce depression. In Zimbabwe, where they were founded, Grandmothers are trained to deliver talk-based therapy to people struggling with depression, who are then plugged into a long-term peer support group.

Gaia Amazonas has spent forty years developing long-term partnerships with indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon – they call this Accompaniment – that protect forest health and indigenous rights. Accompaniment helps communities become government-supported stewards of their own resources, secure land tenure and get basic services like education, healthcare, and livelihood support.

PIVOT works in direct partnership with the Ministry of Public Health in Madagascar to create a “district healthcare in-a-box” model for universal healthcare. They train and deploy community health workers, buff up clinics and referral hospitals, and link everything through data systems that provide continuous feedback and evidence for what works.

COVID Response Funding

The current dire straits in India and Nepal are a reminder that the crisis is far from over. We've made some recent COVID response grants that fit our "survive, maintain, respond" approach. We're grateful for the work these orgs are doing in these hard times:

David Evans Corner: What’s the Latest Economic Research on Africa?

David Evans and Amina Menez Acosta have done a round-up of nearly one hundred studies from Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University (CSAE) conference. Thirty of them are RCTs on everything from agriculture and healthcare to politics and cash transfers. This is true one-stop shopping.
Center for Global Development

And Finally....

Thanks to Pamela Jakiela for this gem.

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