Big Bets

How we think ambitiously about addressing the planet's problems

Throughout The Rockefeller Foundation’s history, we have at times marshalled resources and partners behind large, singular efforts to promote the well-being of humanity. Whether to transform public health in the United States, China, and elsewhere, revolutionize how food is grown in Latin America, South Asia, and beyond, or start connecting nearly a billion people to electricity for the first time, these initiatives have broken down barriers and ensured billions of people benefit from new ideas and solutions.

For the Foundation, a big bet is a bold, concerted effort to solve a single problem, not just make incremental improvements. This level of ambition has driven our team and our partners to explore novel ideas and innovations including new vaccines, policy innovations like the child tax credit, and solar-powered mini grids. It has led us to establish unconventional partnerships, including the organization that became the World Health Organization, that marshal additional resources and capacity for scale. And it has required us to rigorously assess our outcomes, including our work to expand Covid-19 testing in the United States and beyond.

Not every project the Foundation works on is a big bet. Indeed, most of what we do is performed through grants around measured objectives. Sometimes, however, an opportunity or challenge arises that requires us to to vastly expand the scale at which we are working and amplify the impact of our work.

For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Foundation had an opportunity to expand its grant-making with a one-time bond offering. In the face of Covid, too few had access to the means and the vaccines to protect themselves and their families from illness and recover from economic shocks. With additional capital, the Foundation chose to make a big bet on jumpstarting the global economic recovery by connecting to renewable, reliable electricity the billion people who mostly lived in the dark. The idea caught fire, gathering $11 billion in commitments from the Ikea Foundation, Bezos Earth Fund, and many others to what became known as the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet.

Today, the Foundation is continuing that big bet as we position ourselves to help humanity meet the climate challenge. We are investing more than $1 billion over the next five years to advance the global climate transition and help ensure everyone can participate. We will bring the world together to address climate change in a more concerted manner and seize the climate transition’s opportunities for billions of people who have historically been denied them.

Of course, the Foundation also bets big on other big bettors. Right now, we are helping inspire and train those eager to take on similar scale. If you’re interested in making big bets of your own, please join our community below.

Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens

Read The Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Rajiv Shah’s new book about why big bets are important and necessary.

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Who Says You Can’t Solve Climate Change?

Join our community of emerging leaders making big bets to reverse climate change.

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