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The Hewlett Foundation Blog




Tuesday Notelet: Hewlett the Blogs Out? 

April 1, 2014 — By Larry Kramer

I haven’t blogged in a while, and instead of devoting this space to a single item, I thought I’d catch you up on a number of recent developments at the Hewlett Foundation.

First, you may have noticed that we’ve renamed our blog. “Work In Progress” was a good name, but it feels a tad too earnest.  So in the Silicon Valley spirit of rapid prototyping and iterating, popularized by design thinking, we decided to just change it. If we don’t like it, we’ll change it again.

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I hope you’ve been reading Ruth Levine’s “Friday Notes.” While they are one of my favorite things about Fridays, I confess to being somewhat competitive. So I’ve decided to take Ruth on. Henceforth, I’ll be offering these "Tuesday Notelets.” I can’t write as fast as Ruth, so they’ll be shorter than Ruth’s Notes (that’s why we’re calling mine “notelets”).  I’m sure you’ll find them interesting, though. I’ll be checking the Google Analytics on this, so please don’t let me down. Whether or not you actually read them, I’d appreciate it if you would just click on them a lot.

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Speaking of strategic philanthropy (because we’re always speaking of strategic philanthropy around here), a recent evaluation that involved a robust randomized control trial suggests that our approach to grantmaking does no better than random chance. Before acting on this somewhat unexpected finding, I want to see if we can replicate it internally. So we’re going to take a portion of our grant making portfolio and throw darts at a dartboard to select a control group of grantees. We’ll be looking closely at these so-called “bullseye” grantees to see if they do better at achieving results than those we select through our normal rigorous strategic approach.  Fingers crossed everyone!

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It amazes me how many people think that I’m the president of HP.  Anyone who really knows me, after all, knows how much I really, really hate computers. (And don’t get me started on tracked changes. But I digress.) Other people think I work for the Packard Foundation, or for any number of other organizations that have either Hewlett or Packard in the title. When I first told my mom about this job, she couldn’t understand why I would leave the law school to go into the home printer business.  To solve this annoying brand confusion problem, we are going to propose a merger with the Packard Foundation, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the HP Foundation, and HP itself. The new entity will be named HF-PF-LPCH-HPF-HP.

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Here’s another piece of really exciting news. If you read my initial post about transparency back in November, you know how truly committed I am to sharing everything I can about the Hewlett Foundation, and that should include what it’s like to be a foundation president. To that end, I’ve agreed to be a contestant on the TV show Big Brother (I wanted to do Survivor but worried that at my age I’d be voted off the Island too quickly).  A little unorthodox, perhaps, but we pride ourselves on experimentation and risk, and this seems like a terrific opportunity in that light. I promise to watch my language and always wear a robe or towel around the hot tub.  

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Finally, inasmuch as we’re in the heart of the technology world in Silicon Valley, it seems crazy to make grants using such antiquated means of payment like money. So over the next eighteen months, we'll be transitioning to Bitcoin. (But we're already planning our move to Dogecoin. Dogecoin is the future, man, and we want to get with the program.) I don’t actually know how Bitcoin works, but I read that interview where Mark Andreeson takes Warren Buffet behind the shed for criticizing it and decided the whole cryptocurrency thing sounds really cool.

That’s all the news I have for now on this April 1. Hope you keep clicking, especially here.