Key Points

Different kinds of action entities need different theoretical frameworks. A theory of change hypothesizes how an intervention is expected to achieve desired impacts in the world. A theory of philanthropy articulates a foundation’s role in supporting specific kinds of theories of change.

This article extends that analysis to a theory of philanthropic alliance, which explains and hypothesizes how several foundations working together can have greater collective impact than they could working separately. A theory of philanthropy will be contrasted with a theory of philanthropic alliance, using the Global Alliance for the Future of Food to illustrate and illuminate the distinction and its importance for understanding collective action among foundations.

While the Global Alliance is this article’s specific case example of a theory of philanthropic alliance, the framework elements may be relevant to any collective effort by multiple foundations, grantees, communities, organizations, networks, or other collaborative entities.

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