5 Minutes with a Social Agitator – Caroline Bressan of Open Road Alliance on fast, flexible contingency funding in the philanthropic sector
For the first edition of “5 minutes with a social agitator,” we sat down with Caroline Bressan, the Director of Social Investments at Open Road Alliance. Open Road is a private philanthropic initiative that provides grant capital to non-profits for mid-implementation projects facing an unexpected roadblock or a sudden catalytic opportunity. Let’s jump in…
In a nutshell, what big global problem are you trying to solve, and how?
Open Road Alliance is trying to make philanthropy more efficient by bringing better management risk practices to the sector. We step in when a project runs into an unexpected roadblock but the original donor can’t – or doesn’t want to – provide the additional funding needed to get over that roadblock. So if you have a $1 million project that runs into an $100,000 unexpected challenge, Open Road Alliance foots the bill to get the project back on track. It’s like we’re paying $100,000 for $1 million of impact – it just makes sense.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that we (as funders) are leaving a lot of impact on the table because of the constraints of institutions. I like to think of what we do as “keeping impact on track” or preserving the ROI of the original funder’s investment.
Here’s one story I can tell you to make it more concrete: One of the common roadblocks we see is “organization misfortune” – like fraud or robbery. We had a social enterprise in Ghana whose European CEO contracted dengue fever for the second time. It turns out that when you have dengue more than once, the mortality rate skyrockets. So, this CEO had to leave the country entirely for health reasons. Open Road Alliance funded the hiring of a COO to manage day-to-day operations so the social enterprise didn’t go under.