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Why The TDM Foundation Supports Novel Ideas

This article discusses the importance and challenges of supporting 'new and novel' ideas in the social impact eco-system.
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In August 2018 Guy Fowler OAM, Matthew Grounds AM and Dr Gary Weiss AM had an idea. They wanted to scale the benefits stemming from the Sohn Investment Conference. Established in New York, the Conference’s purpose was for people could to from some of the best investors in the world, with funds raised from ticket sales being donated to medical research. The conference model was adopted in many countries around the world, including Australia, which hosted its first conference in 2016.

Guy, Matthew and Gary looked at the impact the conference was having and thought more could be done. They believed they could have an even greater impact by creating a listed investment company that would not only maximise long-term returns for shareholders but also provide vital financial support to leading medical research institutes.

Since 2018, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. Over the past five years, HM1 has donated more than $60 million to Australia’s leading medical researcher institutes, responsible for some of the world’s most important and life-changing medical discoveries. Over the next 10 years, it is hoped an additional $150-200 million will be donated.

We can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s answers

HM1 is a perfect example of why the TDM Foundation sees great opportunity in supporting and fast-tracking innovation in the social impact sector. While backing novel ideas may bring increased risk, it also brings opportunity. Opportunity to support people like Guy, Matthew and Gary who strive to make a positive impact.

To pursue this type of impact, we know there are trade-offs. A more traditional grant-making avenue might prove to be more predictable, funding established programs with clearly defined impact and regularly observed outcomes. Yet, as Gabriel Kasper argued in his article, The Re-Emerging Art of Funding Innovation in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, we might need to shake things up a bit;

“In many cases, existing approaches are proving insufficient to truly crack the intractable social and environmental problems that we face. The solutions to these large, complex issues…are not yet known. So philanthropy needs to experiment and find new approaches to create breakthrough change.”

Put another way, we cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s answers.

Risk is a necessity for innovation

Innovation is not limited to the discovery of entirely new models. Innovation can also be about connections between existing models or programs, and/or applying them in new ways or to different problems. For example, it might involve adopting ideas from different geographies or industries and adapting them to the local experience.

As we know, funding innovative approaches carries risk. However, with a substantial track record of making early investments in businesses that not only have a clear market potential, but the right teams and cultures to reach that potential, and with a large and always growing network of partners and expert advisors, we believe we are well positioned to scale the types of social impact initiatives that can make Australia a better and fairer place.

Indeed, we’re already doing it. From HM1 to our work with CS In Schools and Day of AI, we are actively supporting new and novel approaches to solving complex social problems.

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