Venture philanthropy

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Venture philanthropy takes concepts and techniques from venture capital finance and business management and applies them to achieving philanthropic goals.[1]


The Centre for Effective Altruism spun off a venture philanthropy project in 2014, called Effective Altruism Ventures. Other examples of this type of venture philanthropy are the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City, Tipping Point Community in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN) initiative from FasterCures,[2] the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), and the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA).

Cystic fibrosis[edit]

In the late 1990s the Bethesda-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, encouraged by their then-President Robert Beall, invested in a small California biotechnology firm to help fund the development of Kalydeco. The treatment now costs more than $300,000 a year per patient.[3]

Twenty-nine physicians and scientists working with people with cystic fibrosis (CF) wrote to Jeff Leiden, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals to plead for lower prices.[4]

"We are aware of the financial complexities of the huge expenses for R & D with respect to the small number of patients or the market system that enables these advances to become reality. Yet -- notwithstanding all your patient support programs -- it is at best unseemly for Vertex to charge our patients’ insurance plans (including strapped state medical assistance plans), $294,000 annually for two pills a day (a 10-fold increase in a typical patient's total drug costs). This action could appear to be leveraging pain and suffering into huge financial gain for speculators, some of whom were your top executives who reportedly made millions of dollars in a single day (Boston Globe, May 29)."

— David M. Orenstein, MD et al.

Criticism of venture philanthropy in education[edit]

Teachers unions have been critical of how venture philanthropists have brought in deregulation and market-based practices into schools eg New Schools Venture Fund in the US. [5] and the Gates Foundation [6] have come under particular criticism.


Professor Susan Robertson of Bristol University in referring to GERM: the Global Education Reform Movement pinpoints the principal parties interested in GERM : Pearson (owners of EdExcel, The Economist, TheFT etc who have moved out of housing and into education), Elseviere as well as “venture philanthropists” including James Tooley, Michael Baiber, Bill Gates. She also identified some key moments in its development eg the 2011 International Summit on Teaching Profession which took place in New York attended by OECD and many multilateral agencies but not a single teachers union. Some strategies of corporations and governments e.g. PISA, TELUS and SABER are also mentioned as key moments of the ongoing global privatization of education.

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