The Innovation the Grantmaking Process Needs

Beth Simone Noveck and Andrew Young (TheGovLab) at Governing: “Although traditional grants provide greater flexibility than a contract for the recipient to decide how, precisely, to use the funds to advance a particular goal, prize-backed challenges like those on have the potential to reach more diverse experts. Challenges are just one example of innovations in the grantmaking process being tested in government, philanthropy and the private sector. These innovations in “open grantmaking” have the potential to yield more legitimate and more accountable processes than their closed-door antecedents. They also have the potential to produce more creative strategies for solving problems and, ultimately, more effective outcomes.

Certainly the time has come for innovation in grantmaking. Despite its importance, we have a decidedly 20th-century system in place for deciding how we make these billions of dollars of crucial public investments. To make the most of limited funding — and help build confidence in the ability of public investments to make a positive difference — it is essential for our government agencies to try more innovative approaches to designing, awarding and measuring their grantmaking activities.

In most instances, grantmaking follows a familiar lifecycle: An agency describes and publicizes the grant in a public call for proposals, qualifying individuals or entities send in applications, and the agencies select the winners through internal deliberations. Members of the public — including outside experts, past grantees and service recipients — often have few opportunities to provide meaningful input before, during or after the granting process. And after awarding grants, the agencies themselves usually have limited continuing interactions with those they fund.

The current closed-door system, to be sure, developed to safeguard the legitimacy and fairness of the process. From application to judging, most government grantmaking has been confidential and at arm’s length. For statutory, regulatory or even cultural reasons, the grantmaking process in many agencies is characterized by caution rather than by creativity.

But it doesn’t always have to be this way, and new, more open grantmaking innovations might prove to be more effective in many contexts. Here are 10 recommendations for innovating the grantmaking process drawn from examples of how government agencies, foundations and philanthropists are changing how they give out money:…(More)”