We are forming a nonprofit organization with individual middle-class members that supports agricultural scientists working on the problems of farmers producing food in developing countries.
We hold educational programs for our members and the broader community, and committees of members, under the advice of experts, decide on specific grants and prizes, generally in a 5-digit range per project. We provide a learning and networking opportunity for members and better food crops and livestock, and better ways of raising them, for farmers.
We have four program areas, including productivity, value added, resiliency, and sustainability. For examples and photos of what success looks like in each of these areas, see What success looks like .
We do not
- Fund the development of GMOs (also known as transgenics or products of genetic engineering), pesticides and chemical fertilizers, or any other technologies that would be inconsistent with organic practices. (In practice, almost everything we support is useful to both conventional and organic farmers.)
- Accept money from Monsanto or any other company or industry association that could pose a conflict of interest or allow the results of research we support to be exclusively licensed to a private company.
- Take positions on GMO regulation or other public policy issues. We welcome members regardless of their opinions on GMOs.
Our model is a type of collective giving, which has been long used by organizations in other sectors ranging from informal groups of friends to large organizations like Rotary International. Collective giving has played an important role in major social achievements such as the near-eradication of polio. A private-sector counterpart to collective giving is angel investment groups, which have gotten countless world-changing companies off the ground and provided their members with financial returns that are at least as high as those from venture capital funds as well as a value-added experience.
We expect our administrative costs to be considerably lower than a foundation or government agency for projects of a comparable size, allowing us to consider smaller projects–much as angel investors can consider companies that aren’t yet ready for venture capital. We can use volunteers, including members and their families who are from the developing countries where we support research, to help conduct due diligence with fewer concerns about conflicts of interest than at an organization where the decision-makers have no skin in the game. We plan to apply for the status of public charity, which would greatly simplify the paperwork of international grant-making relative to what is required of a private foundation.
- Interested community members join Grow Further and pay their membership dues.
- Those members who are interested and available at a particular time serve on a committee where they learn about a particular area of agricultural research and, with an international network of experts playing an advisory role, choose specific projects for the group to support. Some minority of committee members contribute informal expertise through farming experience or family ties to the countries the research aims to benefit.
- Scientists do the research projects, in some cases training students in the process.
- Useful results are shared with farmers through dealers and agricultural extension agents, with other scientists through publications and conferences, and in some cases with policy-makers. Farmers see higher incomes, consumers see lower priced or more nutritious food, the environment sees less pressure on natural resources, or some combination.
- Farmers provide feedback to scientists through ongoing partnerships and Grow Further through market research.
- Members gain value from a learning and networking experience as well as supporting meaningful work. Those who don’t have time to serve on a committee can also participate in social and educational activities or volunteer to help with programs or administration.