Key Points

Generative philanthropy is a collaborative investment practice that tests prototypes and identifies new opportunities that, over time, can focus direction and generate momentum for change. It is an incremental, decentralized approach to investment in communities.

This article’s purpose is to clarify the theory and practice of generative philanthropy and contrast it with other approaches. It provides an in-depth discussion of the meaning of generative philanthropy, offers five examples of the approach related to economic opportunity, and draws lessons for future practice.

Generative philanthropy offers a framework for understanding and enriching philanthropy’s long-term role and collaboration with partners from a developmental perspective. It can hopefully inspire and guide new foundation practices that pay attention to what comes next after the first or second investment of time, money, knowledge, and leadership.