Insanely Great Philanthropy?

What would “insanely great philanthropy” look like?  

This question was prompted by some recent blog posts that I read.  

Economics and entrepreneurism guru Umair Haque took businesses to task here for focusing too much time on playing with business models and not enough time on making stuff that’s “insanely great.”  He noted:

Yet, the best business model in the world is also the simplest: make stuff that’s insanely great…That kind of stuff doesn’t need a hard sell, a new market, or a convoluted product range. It just needs to be.

Philanthropy and foundation strategist Lucy Bernholz started a set of thoughtful challenges to the fundamentals of how foundations work here and here.  She noted:

Why do foundations in 2009 – all 70-odd-thousand of them – look so much alike structurally?…Why hasn’t something either inside or outside organized philanthropy fundamentally altered recognizably and admittedly bad institutional practices and replaced them with something better?

And in her earlier post, wrote:

Why create a foundation in the first place? If an individual cares about a social issue, is an endowed pile of money a useful tool for the job?  What about creating media platforms, loan funds for advocacy campaigns, or innovation hubs within public agencies – might some other structure work better? 

Lastly, I ran across the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s report on applying a culture of innovation to improving philanthropy and social impact.

I always appreciate people who can challenge basic assumptions about an issue, policy, or practice.  And these posts and the report were reminders to challenge the basics of how organized philanthropy works.

Philanthropy is fundamentally about offering opportunities to transform lives and communities, ideally in ways that are meaningful and effective to both giver and recipient.  We’ve then layered tax acts, legal structures, theories of change, intermediaries, org charts, and everything else on top of that.

Lucy pushes us to strip away those layers.  Umair reminds us that the best ideas and products are so great that they sell themselves, spread virally, maybe even transform the way we do business or live.

So, what kind of philanthropy would be insanely great – so compelling and effective that it just needs to be?  

Or maybe, what philanthropic products and services would be insanely great?  Is there a “killer app” in our future?

I definitely don’t have the answers (opinions certainly, answers no), but I’m looking forward to the search!  What would insanely great philanthropy look like to you?