Author: Kevin Starr

January 30, 2014

Get Out of the Office

I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual bar fight between Charity Navigator and fans of GiveWell over a recent SSIR blog post. A few years ago, GiveWell posted a no-holds-barred critique of Charity Navigator, and after suitable time to sharpen the knives, Charity Navigator roared back, slamming GiveWell's approach to philanthropy as "defective altruism."

Author: Kevin Starr

November 04, 2013

Stumbling into Philanthropy

I wasn't looking for this job. My friend and mentor, Rainer Arnhold, died while we were working together in the mountains of Bolivia. His family, bankers for generations, wanted to establish a foundation to carry on Rainer's life's work, and they invited me to be part of it.

Author: Kristin Gilliss

October 10, 2013

Half-Baked: Why We Need to Rethink Social Enterprise Accelerator Programs

When I was a kid there was a product called the Easy Bake Oven that was a working toy oven. To me, it didn't seem like a toy at all. It was a magical machine that produced perfect cakes. Today, "incubator" and "accelerator" programs purport to work the same magic for aspiring social enterprises: start with the right ingredients (a big idea!), give it the right time and space to set (short-term immersion with mentors, networks and resources), and the result, without fail, will be a finished product.

Author: Kevin Starr

August 22, 2013

Dump the Prizes

I was sitting at my desk the other day, writing a recommendation letter for some prize or another, and I found myself thinking, "Why the hell am I doing this?" It often takes me a couple of hours to write something I feel good about -- and for what? The vast majority of contestants don't win anything, and even when they do, it's often shamefully small amounts of money and/or the dubious assumption that the attendant publicity will lead to bigger things.

Author: Kevin Starr

May 31, 2013

At Least Take Down the Signs

I just spent another month in Africa, visiting remarkable people doing remarkable work in four countries. In between all the remarkable stuff was way too much time on potholed highways and muddy rural roads. Despite the heady distractions of trying to fix the stereo and arguments about whether "Django" deserved the Oscar for best screenplay (it did), I was impressed yet again by the proliferation of development industry signs by the side of the road.

Author: Kevin Starr

April 04, 2013

Be Nice. Fund Results. Minimize Hassle. Help Out.

A few weeks ago we had a meeting of our poverty-solutions funding group, Big Bang Philanthropy. As a group, we're committed to the idea of high-impact, low-hassle funding. The high-impact part requires high-quality due diligence; the low-hassle part means doing it efficiently and respectfully.