If you had $100 billion to give away, how would you spend it?

Question: If you had $100 billion to give away, how would you spend it?

Michael Porter: I think the general principles of philanthropy are that giving the money is not what’s important. It’s actually what the money enables you to do, and the ideas that the money stimulates developed.

So what we have to do is we have to invest these resources in solutions to these very difficult social problems that are, first of all, that are implementable and scalable. We don’t want to create little projects that are wildly successful but they cost $100,000 per person benefited. We’ve got to find ways of doing things that are scalable. We’ve got to find ways of doing things that can be implemented.

I also believe that the best philanthropy that could be invested is philanthropy that starts to work out and prove some of these models of value that I was talking about.

With enough resources, you can solve almost anybody’s problem. You can give them all the food they need. You can give them housing. You can even pay for their healthcare. You can provide free medicine.  But that’s not sustainable. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to find ways of equipping people with the skills, and the talents, and the attitudes, and the orientations, and the access to create their own solutions to their own problems.  That means some different kind of investments.

I worry about philanthropists who are too caring and too focused on really wanting to help people and demonstrate that they’ve fed this many children, or they’ve provided this many mosquito nets.

The Gates Foundation, I think, is starting to come into its own, in terms of understanding that its greatest contribution is about ideas. It’s not the money, it’s the ideas. It’s finding and validating some sustainable models that they can scale, but others can join.

I don’t know if that answers exactly the question of how you give this kind of vast resource, but it’s certainly the answer that I would give.

I would also say that there’s a tremendous tendency in philanthropy – for example, in healthcare – to give the money for the science, to fund that researcher who’s going to come up with that cure for cancer.

I think equally we have to understand that some of the most important problems of human society are not so much about the scientific, or the technical, or the tools, but they’re about the application. And so I guess I’d like to see more. I would put more – if I had it – resources into those areas.

Recorded on: June 11, 2007

It's not the money, it's the ideas, says Michael Porter.

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Climate change is no longer a financial problem, just a political one.
  • Mitigating climate change by decarbonizing our economy would add trillions of dollars in new investments.
  • Public attitudes toward climate change have shifted steadily in favor of action. Now it's up to elected leaders.