Saturday marked a big milestone for our little North Carolina chapter of JDRF. We raised $1.34 Million in one night for diabetes research. Once you have the money, however, a new problem arises - how do we best spend it?
JDRF prides itself in distributing the vast majority of every dollar raised directly to scientists who are searching for a cure, better treatments and ways to prevent the onset of diabetes. But how do we find the people who have the most promising lines of research? How do incent them to do what they promised to do in their grant proposals? How do we draw the best talent and minds to dedicate their time to solve our particular medical conundrum?
I met Ling last night at the 2011 TED Conference in Long Beach. As the "head honcho" of innovation at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she's seen first hand how the current system of grant making can sometimes destroy or pervert the innovators who apply for the support. Incentives disappear once the money is granted. Ling is trying to solve this puzzle (and promised to share it with me once she learns it).
Money alone can't cure diabetes. We need to be vigilant at how it's spent too.