As a cofounder of Lighthouse, a leading mid-market private equity fund, Sean Sovak has a deep understanding of what it takes to empower entrepreneurs...
India Philanthropy Report 2019 highlights the ‘Field Approach’ where non-profits, corporates, government and philanthropists have successfully worked towards eradicating malaria and controlling tobacco consumption, and are presently seeking to address sectoral challenges relating to urban sanitation and adolescent empowerment. The report concludes by describing the key themes that emerge from these cases that form the principles of a field approach and calls for Indian philanthropy to take a more ambitious and holistic view towards creating impact at scale.
The following case highlights ways in which philanthropists and other stakeholders have successfully adopted a field approach. The cases are not all funded by philanthropists, but they all demonstrate how the field approach works and how philanthropists could adopt a similar ap- proach to their giving.
Since the early 1990s, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has played a vital role in tackling one of the largest causes of preventable death in the US: tobacco use.
The problem: When RWJF began its work in the tobacco control field, the steady progress that had been made against smoking since the mid-1950s (adult rates of smoking had dropped from 42.4% in 1965 to 25.5% in 1990) was slowing down considerably—the adult rate decreased only to 24.7% by 1997. But the smoking rate among high school students was on the rise, surging from 28.3% in 1991 to 36.5% in 1997.
The approach: RWJF knew that in order to get results, it had to influence public behaviours and mindsets at a large scale in a short amount of time. The foundation built on the work and momentum of advocates, researchers, philanthropists, health organisations, federal agencies and NGOs, and adopted strategies that amplified the reach of its message.
What was achieved: From 1991 to 2009, the foundation invested close to $700 million in its two-pronged approach to tobacco control: helping habitual users quit and preventing tobacco uptake, particularly among children. The foundation and other stakeholders can be credited with policy and behaviour change that resulted in at least 5.3 million fewer people smoking in 2010 and averted more than 60,000 smoking-attributable deaths.
Key success factors: