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Big Bets
Striving toward transformative change in areas of profound concern

Our Approach

In thinking about a potential big bet, the Foundation considers the following factors:

Problem or Opportunity

Is it profound?

Does it affect a large number of people?

Is it longstanding or seemingly intractable?

Is it new or emerging with truly significant implications for people and society?


Is the goal audacious?

Does it require risk?


What will it take to achieve the goal?

Consider will; time; commitment; leadership; collective action; evidence; and changes in behavior, policy or practice. What would success look like?

Moment in Time

Why now?

Are forces converging?

Is a window of opportunity opening or closing?

Are leaders emerging?

Is the cost of inaction compelling?


Why is it/could it/might it be feasible?

What are the factors, trends or conditions that increase confidence that the big bet can be implemented?

That it can achieve the goal?

Does it capitalize on Foundation knowledge, experience, expertise or standing


What is not known?

What must be known before proceeding?

What will need to be known over time to ensure achievement of the goal?


What is the big bet?

What action, approach, or strategy for MacArthur is proposed?

What will it take?

Why is it feasible?

What is the degree of possibility?

Will it affect a large number of people?

Does it reflect ambition? Is it creative, original or unconventional?

Does it reflect independent thinking or willingness to take a contrarian view?

Does it require risk?

Does it fill a gap?

Does it take advantage of a significant opportunity?

Does it leverage others’ actions or resources?

Is it likely to achieve significant, sustained impact?

Is it intended to achieve the goal or make substantial, but essential, progress toward it?

What is the Foundation’s value-add?

What would success look like?

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