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Making big bets for social change

By William Foster, Gail Perreault, Alison Powell and Chris Addy, Bridgespan, for SSIR |

When Don Fisher stepped down as chief executive of the Gap in the late 1990s, he and his wife, Doris, decided that they wanted to tackle one of the most difficult social challenges in the United States: improving public education.

Through an expert advisor, they learned about the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which at the time consisted of just two charter middle schools — one in Houston and one in New York City. And after lengthy due diligence, the Fishers committed to giving $15 million over three years (roughly three times the organization’s annual revenue at the time) to bring KIPP’s results- oriented methods to many more communities and students.

The Fishers bet big, and they bet smart.

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