A New Direction for Good Ventures: Supporting Think Tanks Overseas

Established by the husband and wife team of Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, Good Ventures is a relatively new foundation and only began making grants at the end of 2011, with a focus that includes efforts on global health and development, policy advocacy, scientific research, and reducing global catastrophic risk.

This is an important funder to watch for several reasons. For one thing, there's a vast fortune behind this foundation. Facebook co-founder Moskovitz is worth around $8 billion, and most of that money will eventually be given away. The other thing about Good Ventures is that it's a creative and ambitious funder, and definitely a work in progress, suggesting opportunities for new grantees.

One organization that recently got its foot in the door is the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which Good Ventures is supporting for its foreign policy and national security work in India and China.

Carnegie has been working on building locally controlled policy think tanks around the world for years. Opening the Carnegie Moscow Center in the late 1990s paved the way for additional centers in Brussels, Beirut, and Beijing. Good Ventures's $100,000 grant will be awarded over two years, supporting policy infrastructure work at Carnegie Centers in South Asia and Delhi.

Good Ventures says that it's interested in increasing its future role in funding policy work in other countries, branching out from the foundation's past support of U.S. policy groups. So this is a new direction. 

Since the beginning, Good Ventures has partnered with Give Well to guide its funding decisions. Good Ventures and GiveWell are separate organizations, but work closely together in identify giving opportunities in the broad fields of global health and development, policy advocacy, scientific research, and reducing global catastrophic risk. Initially dubbed GiveWell Labs, the partnership was rebranded as the Open Philanthropy Project.  

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Open Philanthropy is still in the process of locking down its specific areas of interest. But from the outset, the partnership has sought out the relatively underfunded issues in its areas of interest while also tackling longer term challenges through risky investments with uncertain payoffs. Though public policy advocacy isn’t really an underfunded field, Good Ventures’ $100,000 grant to Carnegie surely falls into the risky and uncertain investment category.

Good Ventures will presumably use what it’s learned from Carnegie to help inform its future policy grantmaking decisions. How that information will inform those decisions remains to be seen. According to Good Ventures: “We expect that much of what we learn will not be public, but we hope to be able to share some public reflections on what we learned in the future.”

Good Ventures cites the lack of transparency as a limitation of traditional philanthropy. Disclaiming such transparency related to the Carnegie grant makes this funding just a little bit out of the ordinary for the foundation.