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A Light-Bulb Moment For A Nonprofit

Publication Date: 
January 11, 2014
The New York Times
Christine Larson

Professor Paul Brest comments on the difficulties faced by companies attempting to bring efficient medical care to suffering countries for The New York Times. 

No baby should die or be disabled because a light bulb can’t be replaced. Yet during visits to hospitals in India and other countries, Krista Donaldson often saw lifesaving phototherapy systems, used to treat infant jaundice, languishing in dusty corners because of burned-out bulbs and other seemingly simple problems.

Often, the real issue was that these donated Western systems weren’t designed for local conditions


“It shouldn’t be surprising that a foundation that spent its whole history solving social problems through grant-making is not going to turn on a dime and learn the different skills required for solving problems through market solutions,” said Paul Brest, former head of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and an emeritus law professor at Stanford. This may well change over the next decade, he added.