This month, the Council on Foundations blog features aQ&A with Elizabeth Good Christopherson, President and CEO of the Rita Allen Foundation.
Here, Ms. Christopherson sums up our approach to investing in innovation:
We look for promise, openness to collaboration, hunger for leadership—not proof that ideas will work. If we asked for detailed plans and proven results before awarding money, we would have a better sense of what was coming next—but true innovation is by definition unexpected.
A case in point: One of the very first Rita Allen Foundation Scholars, Robert Weinberg, became the first to identify a tumor-causing human gene—using a method that occurred to him as a young researcher while trudging through a Boston blizzard. His many pioneering findings have helped shape modern oncology, but even for him true discoveries are rare. In the documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, Dr. Weinberg observes about himself something we see in many of the leaders we support: “What drives one is one’s ongoing curiosity, and the optimism that if you push hard enough, and you look under enough stones, you’re going to turn up some really interesting things.”
Read more to learn about the Foundation’s approaches to building knowledge and networks, examining the intersection of science and civil society, and strengthening philanthropic effectiveness.