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Jeremy Weinstein joins the GIF Board

By Zach Johnstone, Director of Donor and Investor Relations  |   Posted 29th July 2022

We are delighted to announce that Jeremy Weinstein has joined the GIF Board of Directors.

Jeremy is the faculty director of Stanford Impact Labs. He created Stanford Impact Labs to catalyse new partnerships between leading researchers and expert practitioners with the goal of generating innovative policies, programs, and interventions to meaningfully address important social problems. He is Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at both the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University. He also is faculty co-director of the Immigration Policy Lab and the Data for Development Initiative.

Jeremy has worked at the highest levels of the United States government on major foreign policy and national security challenges. Most recently, between 2013 and 2015, he served as the deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and before that as the chief of staff at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. As deputy, he was a standing member of the National Security Council Deputies’ Committee, the sub-cabinet policy committee with primary responsibility for advising the National Security Council, the Cabinet, and the President on the full range of foreign policy issues, including global counterterrorism, nonproliferation, U.S. policy in the Middle East, the strategic rebalance to Asia, cyber threats, and other issues.

Meet Jeremy Weinstein

  1. What most interested you about GIF?

GIF represents a really powerful model for mobilising donor and philanthropic capital towards evidence-based innovations which are addressing global poverty. There are few models as attentive to the need for experimentation, the importance of systematically testing new interventions, and the need to think about pathways to scale. I have long been interested in how we apply these approaches to big development challenges, and I am thankful for this opportunity to contribute to GIF’s important work.

  1. How does being a GIF board member align with your values?

Throughout my career, I have straddled two worlds.

The first is as a social scientist with expertise in the political economy of development and as an academic, institutional driver of evidence-informed policy work in global development, including leading on experimental field research on questions of governance and accountability.

The second is as a senior policy-maker working on questions of global poverty, first at the Obama White House and then as the Deputy Ambassador to the UN when we were negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals in New York. GIF sits at the perfect intersection of these two worlds: combining a commitment to evidence-based policy with a concern for spending donor resources on innovations with the potential for outsized social impact.

The last piece of the puzzle is that four years ago I co-launched Stanford Impact Labs, which has a lot of parallels with the GIF model in that it is designed to support and scale innovative approaches to global problems. Part of my motivation is to reimagine the role of higher education in making practical contributions to addressing major social problems both in the US and around the world, and there is a lot to be learned from GIF: from its investment process and commitment to accountability through to its perspectives on scaling. So I see joining the GIF board as an opportunity both to learn and to contribute.

  1. What makes the GIF approach to impact investment unique?

 Most work in global poverty reduction is through the traditional architecture, whether through programme support via implementation partners, or direct bilateral engagement with governments. There is a lot of value in these approaches, but they perhaps miss the opportunity to test and experiment at a smaller scale with new approaches that could represent breakthroughs for hard problems around poverty reduction and fragility.

The GIF model can intelligently and deliberately allocate capital – through both grantmaking and risk capital investments – which positions it to be able to back innovations that may carry too much risk for large philanthropic players or other large funders to entertain, but which at the same time focus on evidence and evaluation. This positions GIF not just as an investor in innovation, but as an organisation that has the power to generate evidence that can shape larger flows of funds going forward. Not many others are doing this.

  1. Why is funding ‘innovation’ so important when seeking to improve the lives of those living in the developing world?

Global poverty is a difficult and multi-faceted problem with many distinct and related causes. Traditional approaches coming from the Global North often provide less space than is desirable to engage with teams, forge partnerships, and really push frontiers. They also often place less emphasis on evidence than GIF does – this flexible, nimble, adaptable approach that looks for some marriage between important problems meaningful in people’s lives, and an intuition or idea that could make a significant difference, is important. Our approaches to addressing global development challenges are impoverished in the absence of this being one part of the toolkit.

  1. Why do you think partnership is so important?

 We are at a critical moment in the effort to eradicate extreme poverty, and different actors each have a role to play in the ecosystem: from governments driving policy progress to local innovators in the social and private sector who are taking advantage of the opportunity to deliver financial services or the provision of healthcare.

The challenge in international development is to figure out how to target and invest philanthropic and donor capital in a way that lifts up the voices and the perspectives of those closest to the problem. We often hear terms like localisation, or ideas around centring the voices of those most affected by the problems we’re seeking to address – these are critical ideas, and when I think about partnership I think about not only the philanthropic funders and international donors, but how the GIF model embeds this commitment to these ideas and reflects the best insights from real exposure on the ground. This is much needed in the development landscape.