These two issues – implementing what we already know to be effective and doing so on a scale to benefit many people – are two of the biggest challenges to creating benefit through research. After considering our own history of grantmaking and listening to the experience of others, it’s clear that there are at least three interrelated conditions at the source of this difficulty.
- There’s lot of money for research but precious little to implement research findings.
- It’s nobody’s “job.”
- Most research is done in academic centers, whose incentives work against developing an idea far enough along for the findings to be put into a useable “product.”
Because these conditions are larger than Donaghue can change on its own, we are looking for opportunities to work with other funders. And although we aren’t spending a lot on new grants now, we are working to shape our grantmaking programs to be more focused on these issues. Maybe this involves starting with those who have the health care problems and then looking for research-based solutions. Maybe the research team should be a partnership with those who are ultimately the end users. And maybe, like Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, we need to be willing to stick with one issue for several years in order to make real change.
But this is only my take on the topic – what’s yours?
Lynne Garner is Trustee and President of the Donaghue Foundation