In this article, Alexandre Lambelet and Achilles Kallergis suggest that nowadays philanthropic foundations undermine the importance of shared knowledge before conducting complex programs in order to solve social problems. To illustrate their position, the authors examine the strategy behind one of the most famous philanthropic foundation, the Gates Foundation, more specifically the program Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. They ask whether the program’s framework would have benefited from having a firm basis in the growing body of knowledge about sanitation delivery, instead of funding several research groups that are using innovative approaches to develop sanitation technologies. According to the authors, the work of philanthropy should return to its roots when – a century ago – philanthropists used to expand their understanding of a social concern by building on earlier work about that subject. For the authors, operating under the principle of cumulative knowledge will allow philanthropic programs to reach effectiveness without loosing the innovative thinking that is required today.
Résumé : Emilie Pasquier