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19 posts categorized "Agriculture"

Financing Sustainable Development Around the World

April 11, 2014

(Tensie Whelan is president of the Rainforest Alliance, which works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.)

Headshot_tensie_whelanMore than two billion people around the world are dependent for their livelihoods on five hundred million smallholder farms. Yet these smallholder farmers, who typically have less than five acres under cultivation, operate far below their potential because they lack access to the technical assistance and credit they need to implement better farm management practices.

Global smallholder demand for credit is estimated at nearly $500 billion. While "social finance lenders" typically lend to smallholders who don't qualify for traditional or commercial loans, they currently meet only a tiny fraction of that demand — roughly $350 million. That leaves millions of smallholders unable to make needed investments in raising their workers' pay and improving worker safety, building waste management systems, and installing new water-conserving technology — all of which contribute to increases in yields and income.

Traditional aid programs aren't likely to alleviate the problem anytime soon, but urging lenders to change their practices could help. A 2013 study conducted by the Rainforest Alliance in conjunction with the Citi Foundation suggests that better data can dramatically improve smallholders’ access to credit. The study, which compared a hundred and ten Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffee and cocoa farmers in Colombia and Peru with a non-certified control group, found that 90 percent of the certified producers in the survey tracked both revenue and expense metrics for their farms, while only about 30 percent of the non-certified producers did so. The study also found that the average dollar value of loans to certified producers was $5,562, while it was only $3,311 for non-certified producers — a finding which suggests that many smallholders rarely keep the kind of records, including production cost, income, and delivery history, that would enable potential lenders to assess their creditworthiness.

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Big-Dollar Philanthropy Gets the Broad-Brush Treatment

December 03, 2013

(David Jacobs is director of foundation information management at the Foundation Center. In his last post, he claimed to be shocked – shocked! – that the IRS was subjecting conservative and Tea Party organizations applying for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny.)

Blue_paintIs big-dollar, high-profile celebrity philanthropy really just for show? That's what Guy Sorman, a City Journal contributing editor and public intellectual in France, seems to think. Writing in the fall issue of CJ, Sorman cites a CNN story from March that begins: "Bill Gates is putting out a call to inventors, but he's not looking for software or the latest high-tech gadget. This time he's in search of a better condom."

"Incongruous as the story seemed," writes Sorman,

the former Microsoft titan had joined the struggle against sexually transmitted diseases. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was offering a $100,000 start-up grant to anyone who could design a condom that didn't interfere with sexual pleasure. Rachel Zimmerman, host of public radio’s CommonHealth, called the Gates Foundation's initiative "truly inspired." But was it? After all, the latex industry has pursued the same goal for decades and devoted many millions of dollars to the effort. What's the point of a philanthropist trying to do what the market is already doing?

Call this philanthropy for show, a kind of celebrity giving designed for a mediatized age, based on grand gestures, big dollars, and heartwarming proclamations -- but too little concern with actual results, which often prove paltry, redundant (as with the condom initiative), or even destructive. The American media often revel in controversy, so one might expect that the gap between expansive promises and disappointing outcomes would prompt intense journalistic interest. But for the most part, would-be statesmen-humanitarians -- such as Bill Clinton, Gates, and Al Gore, along with entertainment-world benefactors like Oprah Winfrey and academic superstars like Columbia development economist Jeffrey Sachs, have gotten a free pass for their good philanthropic intentions. They and their cohorts deserve closer scrutiny....

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Philanthropy and the Open Society: A Q&A With Christopher Stone, President, Open Society Foundations

August 22, 2013

Headshot_christopher_stone"George Soros once told a group of people he and I were speaking to that my appointment signaled no change in the Open Society Foundations, because change had been a constant since OSF's birth and would continue into the foreseeable future," said Christopher Stone when we spoke to him earlier this year.  "And that certainly applies to our funding priorities."

Since Stone joined the Open Society Foundations as president in 2012, many have wondered how, if at all, the change in leadership might affect the global network of philanthropies started and funded by Soros, the hedge fund billionaire. After all, Stone succeeded Open Society's founding president, Aryeh Neier, a former executive director of Human Rights Watch, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a close Soros friend who led the foundation for nearly twenty years, helping "to make...[it] into a truly international organization." With foundations in dozens of countries around the world, it was unclear -- and concerning to some -- how Stone intended to "streamline" what Soros previously had described in an interview with the New York Times as "a very complex organization." But, as Stone told us when we spoke with him, what Soros was alluding to was nothing more than new ways of organizing the Foundations' work so that it could "achieve more with each grant, program, and strategy."

Before joining Open Society, Stone served as Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Prior to that, he served as director of the Vera Institute of Justice, founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and served as a founding director of the New York State's Capital Defender Office and the Altus Global Alliance.

PND spoke with Stone in May and followed up with him via e-mail earlier this month.

Philanthropy News Digest: You were once described by Open Society founder George Soros as an "outsider insider." What did he mean?

Christopher Stone: I think he meant that I've been associated with the Open Society Foundations since the 1990s, but I haven't truly been inside the organization. I've been an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative since 2004 and an occasional advisor and grantee of the organization since the Open Society Institute was created in 1993. But I've been outside the organization in the sense that I haven't worked directly for Open Society, and I haven't been on any of its governing boards, until now. I can appreciate the organization and understand its history, but I don't have the commitments and am not wedded to any particular elements of the foundations that George Soros, I think, is hoping we will be reviewing over this transition.

PND: What has your varied experience taught you about the potential and limits of philanthropy?

CS: Over the years, I've known a number of foundation presidents and worked with many foundations, occasionally as an informal advisor and mostly as a grantee. Among other things, I've learned that, like other fields, the philanthropic sector is all about relationships; that foundations vary tremendously from one to another; and that they are really dependent in all sorts of ways on their grantees. Not just to execute the projects they support, but to help define and inform their sense of the field. Foundations work hard at getting outside opinions and observations. But it's a hard thing to do, and I think the mutual dependence of foundations on grantees, and grantees on foundations, is not as obvious to a lot of people who assume that the grantee is a supplicant and the foundation has all the cards.

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'Talking Good' With Joe Jones, President/CEO, Center for Urban Families

June 15, 2013

Just in time for Father's Day, our friend Rich Polt at Communicate Good has posted the inaugural on-camera interview in his Talking GOOD series, a regular feature spotlighting the good works of "citizen philanthropists" -- purpose-driven individuals whose commitment to a cause is a central aspect of their being.

In the video, Joe Jones, a former drug addict and repeat offender who had an epiphany in a Baltimore City courtroom, got himself off drugs, and went on to found the Center for Urban Families, talks about the first time he felt like a father.

In the accompanying transcript, Jones talks with Polt about his purpose in life, how his work with BRFP has changed him, and the burning question he would like to pose to his community. Enjoy.

And Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there!

-- Mitch Nauffts

Eye On: Bill and Karen Ackman

July 31, 2012

(This is the first in a series of short profiles of individuals, couples, and families that have signed the Giving Pledge, the well-publicized effort spearheaded by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the wealthiest Americans to commit the majority of their assets to philanthropic causes. For more about the Ackmans and the other eighty Giving Pledgers, visit the Foundation Center's brand-new Web portal, Eye on the Giving Pledge.)

Ackmans-lgSome of Bill Ackman's earliest memories "include my father's exhortations about how important it is to give back." That disclosure is included in the "pledge" letter Ackman wrote on joining the Giving Pledge campaign earlier this year. 'These early teachings were ingrained in me," the letter continues, "and a portion of the first dollars I earned, I gave away. Over the years, the emotional and psychological returns I have earned from charitable giving have been enormous. The more I do for others, the happier I am."

A happy man, indeed. An "activist" investor whose Pershing Square Capital Management (PSCM) has made strategic investments in some of North America's best-known companies, Ackman, 46, has amassed a considerable fortune in his two decades as a hedge fund manager -- and is already busy giving it away, even as he continues to be a force on Wall Street.

But then, Ackman was marked for success from a young age. The son of a successful real estate executive in New York City, Ackman was raised in the wealthy Westchester County suburb of Chappaqua and earned a B.A. (graduating magna cum laude) in 1988 from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1992. (Cambridge is also where he met his wife, Karen, nee Herskovitz, who received a master's in landscape architecture from Harvard and subsequently worked for the Central Park Conservancy.)

That same year, Ackman and David Berkowitz, a friend from Harvard, co-founded the hedge fund Gotham Partners and, using a wide-ranging investment approach, grew it into a half-billion-dollar concern. The two split when Gotham closed in 2003, and Ackman wasted no time launching New York City-based PSCM in 2004.

From the beginning, PSCM's activist approach to making money was straightforward: identify an undervalued and/or underperforming company using proprietary research, build a large equity position in the company, and use that position to pressure management to make changes -- typically by liquidating assets, closing down non-core businesses, or eliminating inefficiencies -- that improve the company's profitability and boost its share price. Over the years, Pershing Square "targets" have included the likes of Wendy's International, McDonald's Corp., Fortune Brands, Borders, Target Corp., JC Penney, Canadian Pacific Railway, and Procter & Gamble. And while not all of Pershing's campaigns have succeeded in the way Ackman and his partners had hoped, enough have to make Ackman a wealthy and -- in some quarters -- feared man.

Which is all the more surprising given Ackman's low-key demeanor and penchant for progressive causes. Already philanthropically active in their thirties, Ackman and his wife began to think about ramping up their philanthropy as they neared forty and created the Pershing Square Foundation in 2006 as a vehicle to that end. Since then, the foundation has announced more than $145 million in grants and social investments in the areas of economic development, education, health care, human rights, the arts, and urban development. In 2010, for example, the foundation pledged $25 million to support K-12 education reforms in Newark, New Jersey, helping to match Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to the city's schools.

Other significant grants announced by the foundation include commitments of more than $6 million each to the One Acre Fund and Root Capital, innovative organizations working to transform the lives of smallholder farmers in parts of Africa and Latin America; $10 million over five years to Human Rights Watch, the highly respected watchdog and advocacy organization; and $25 million to the Signature Theatre in New York City to help ensure that affordable tickets are available for every Signature production over the next twenty years.

And of course, with a little friendly encouragement from Warren Buffett, they were among the twelve new families or individuals to sign the Giving Pledge in April. As Ackman told Fortune at the time:

"While my motivations for giving are not driven by a profit motive, I am quite sure that I have earned financial returns from giving money away. Not directly by any means, but rather as a result of giving money away. A number of my closest friends, partners, and advisors I met through charitable giving. Their advice, judgment, and partnership have been invaluable in my business and in my life. Life becomes richer, the more one gives away."

-- Mitch Nauffts

Last updated: August 6, 2012

Bill Gates' Fourth Annual Letter

January 25, 2012

Bill_gatesAs he has every year since 2009, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has put his thoughts about the scourge of extreme poverty and the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest, to improve the lives of millions around the globe into a letter and posted it to the foundation's Web site.

In addition to outlining the foundation's key priorities in 2012, this year's letter focuses on the need for continued investments in innovations -- agricultural and otherwise -- that are accelerating progress against poverty in the developing world. Or as Gates puts it in the letter's opening section:

The world faces a clear choice. If we invest relatively modest amounts, many more poor farmers will be able to feed their families. If we don't, one in seven people will continue living needlessly on the edge of starvation. My annual letter this year is an argument for making the choice to keep on helping extremely poor people build self-sufficiency.

My concern is not only about farming; it applies to all the areas of global development and global health in which we work. Using the latest tools -- seeds, vaccines, AIDS drugs, and contraceptives, for example -- we have made impressive progress. However, if we don't make these success stories widely known, we won’t generate the funding commitments needed to maintain progress and save lives. At stake are the future prospects of one billion human beings....

To read or download the letter (which is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, and Spanish), click here.

Are Western Conservation Efforts Causing Famine In Africa?

October 03, 2011

(Rebecca Adamson is the president and founder of First Peoples Worldwide, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated "to strengthening indigenous communities through the restoration of their authority and control over their assets." This opinion piece first appeared on AlterNet and is reprinted here with the permission of Ms. Adamson and First Peoples.)

Horn-of-Africa-hunger2 As Americans anxiously watch stock market fluctuations, mothers and fathers a continent away are making choices about which of their children to save. In East Africa, worry about one's retirement investments is a fairy tale woe compared to the daily struggle for life that many face.

You may have seen something on the television news about a drought in the Horn of Africa. The worst such calamity in sixty years, the lack of rain has decimated farmers in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda. Over the last few months, 390,000 living skeletons have trekked from as far as southern Sudan to a Kenyan refugee camp, fleeing hunger and war, deprivation and death.

What you may not have seen is that "conservation" efforts undertaken by well-meaning industrialized nations are partly to blame. To save remaining African wilderness, we've been impoverishing the very people who have kept it intact. First, we've prohibited hunter-gatherers and pastoralists from their traditional itinerant lives and then, after we've turned them into farmers, we remove them forcibly from their lands.

The exact size of the area designated as protected in the region of the disaster is hard to assess. Somalia boasts 638,750 km of such lands, 11 national parks and 23 reserves. Kenya, an eco-tourism hub, has the most in the region and perhaps the continent: 348 protected areas on 75,238 km. While these may seem happy statistics in the current ocean of tragedy, in creating these preserves African governments consciously evicted or prohibited from farming an estimated 1.5 million indigenous inhabitants in the 1990s alone.

Yet the United Nations reports that in Africa the very same cultivation methods these evicted indigenous people always practiced "can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings." What's now in vogue as "small-scale mixed-use organic" is just status quo to these unheralded agronomists who know that monoculture and over-cultivation strips the land and makes communities vulnerable to starvation when their few crops no longer bear fruit.

Traditional practices combining hunting, gathering, and organic farming would not have cooled the blazing sun or made the rain fall. They would, however, have ensured the land could better withstand nature's onslaught and provided alternative sources of food. Instead, narrow-minded policies that fail to see indigenous people as vital to protecting their homes exacerbate the destruction that horrible weather has wrought. Not only do too many of our conservation efforts force whole tribes into refugee camps (or graves along the way), they make preserving lands and wildlife cost more.

Conservation experts such as George Washington University's Michal Cernea have long recognized that a "park-establishment strategy predicated upon compulsory population displacement has...compromised the cause of biodiversity conservation by inflicting aggravated impoverishment on very large numbers of people."

Scholars have a name for this: conservation-induced population displacement. That sounds euphemistically benign, but it means forcibly removing people who have lived harmoniously on lands in order to protect these lands -- global-sized proof that we'll cut off our nose to save our face.

Conservation is big business -- the budgets of nonprofits involved in such schemes can dwarf the GDPs of the countries in which they work. International groups receive billions of dollars every year for taking over biodiverse areas in underdeveloped regions without regard for the human diversity that is integral to these lands. The prevailing ethos of pristine wilderness may attract tourism dollars but it's an expensive, human rights-violating approach that has never been proven to work.

While modern-day perils like poaching pose threats to indigenous people, justifying business-as-usual conservation to control poachers makes as much sense as kicking owners out of homes because thieves may be on the way. In fact, despite everything stacked against them, today's indigenous lands contain 80 percent of our remaining biodiversity even though they constitute 24 percent of the world's surface. This is living proof that indigenous people are great stewards of land.

Nevertheless, outside the immediate famine zone, more of the same awaits these newly nomadic indigenous people. The Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, for example, are prohibited from living off the lands that had been their home for hundreds of years. The area's status as a world heritage site would be threatened were the Maasai to remain, so they were pressured by the government eager to collect conservation dollars to leave and assured they would not be allowed to farm, graze livestock, or gather food if they remained.

This violation of Maasai rights forced them to seek refuge in other countries even as the famine refugees begin to enter Tanzania. And this is no isolated case. Big-league conservation groups are encouraging African leaders to re-create this pattern throughout the Horn of Africa and beyond. Famine is the inevitable result of a community barred from producing food and living as they have for the whole of human history.

This is not, as some claim, "Sophie's Choice” on a massive scale. We are not sacrificing people in order to save trees and elephants; we are taking everything down with the same destructive policy sweep. But there's a way to address the environmental, moral, and human rights concerns all at once.

Indigenous people know how to care for their homelands; they've done so for centuries without the well-meaning intervention of the West. In fact, indigenous groups conserve land, purify air, and protect biodiversity for $3.50 per hectare; for large organizations to administer and conserve a hectare, US taxpayers spend $3,500. Yet, the United States Agency for International Development, the government agency that does development work internationally, continues to award 90 percent of its conservation funding to create and maintain these impoverishing protected areas, leaving zero for the indigenous communities who've been silently (and effectively) doing this work against great odds.

To reverse this dangerous trend, we must first grant land-tenure rights to indigenous peoples across the world, affirming what's been theirs all along. Because most of these groups have lived on their land since before the advent of property regulations or even governments, they don't hold deeds and thus have no means of legal redress in eviction attempts. Once we accomplish this, we must equitably equip indigenous people to do the work of preservation in harmony with their needs. This is the only morally defensible course of action. Of course, if this doesn't sway you, there's a pragmatic reason, too: it's cheaper.

-- Rebecca Adamson

This Week in PubHub: Civil and Human Rights

January 06, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports that explore the landscape of impact investing.)

Every January, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, PubHub features reports on the topic of civil and human rights. This week's focus is on the protection and promotion of international human rights, whether through regional courts or development agencies.

The Open Society Foundations' study From Judgment to Justice: Implementing International and Regional Human Rights Decisions suggests that multilateral human rights mechanisms -- including the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee -- are struggling to implement their decisions on the ground. If the judgments are not effectively enforced, the report's authors argue, the very legitimacy of the courts could be undermined. The report calls for strengthening the procedures for monitoring and promoting implementation by, for example, developing national legal regimes governing implementation and reporting mechanisms, allocating greater resources to follow-up efforts, and fostering cross-system dialogue among human rights systems.

Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights, issued in December 2009 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, finds that in Organization of American States member countries, many factors -- including the history and structure of the state and society, government policies and programs, the relevance of economic, social and cultural rights, and international and regional conditions -- are undermining the protection of citizens from crime and violence perpetrated by state and non-state actors. The report outlines governments' international obligations and urges states to adopt a human rights perspective on citizen security -- bolstering democratic participation, implementing comprehensive public policies to ensure that human rights are respected, and strengthening institutions, laws, programs, and practices.

Not only are governments obligated to protect their own citizens' rights, they should also be held accountable for promoting human rights as an integral part of international development efforts, a new report from the World Resources Institute argues. The report, A Roadmap for Integrating Human Rights Into the World Bank Group, suggests, for example, that political repression, discrimination, and poor health conditions for local workers are likely to prevent outside investment from generating poverty reduction and net development benefits. In part because the economic benefits of human rights protections are not easily quantified, however, open dialogue about a human rights approach to development is not yet the norm within the World Bank Group. The report recommends short- and medium-term strategic goals for human rights integration, including improving assessments of risks and empowering communities to use the World Bank's grievance mechanisms to address rights violations.

However flawed or limited, some of these multilateral efforts are actually advancing the protection of human rights around the world. Which makes Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the "Enhanced" Interrogation Program, a report from Physicians for Human Rights, all the more difficult to read. The report examines the evidence in three cases in which the United States involved medical professionals in monitoring detainee interrogations, analyzing the results, and drawing inferences applicable to subsequent interrogations. Highlighting the implications for public trust in the healing profession, the authors recommend a federal investigation as well as legal, executive, congressional, and other actions.

What role should philanthropy play in protecting and promoting human and civil rights around the globe? Is the presence of a robust civil society a precursor for the protection of rights? And is a human rights-first approach more likely to lead to sustainable economic development? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And don’t forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse over a hundred reports on civil and human rights.

-- Kyoko Uchida

A Chat With Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen Fund

April 23, 2010

Jacqueline_novogratz She started out as an investment banker who viewed herself as a "citizen of the world" and ended up as an outspoken proponent of "patient capital" as the solution to the problems of global poverty. Along the way, Jacqueline Novogratz helped to pioneer microfinance in Rwanda, picked up an MBA at Stanford, spent half a dozen years at the Rockefeller Foundation, and founded the Acumen Fund, one of the first venture capital funds to focus its investments on the "base of the pyramid" (BoP) -- the billions of poor without access to clean water, reliable health services, or formal housing options.

Recently, PND spoke with Novogratz about the problems with traditional development aid, the importance of moral imagination, and the opportunities for change created by the global financial crisis.

Philanthropy News Digest: Much of Acumen's work and investments around the world are focused on poverty alleviation. Traditionally, that's been the purview of international aid programs and large NGOs. You've been fairly outspoken in your criticism of such approaches. What don't traditional aid experts get about poverty?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I guess I'd say that too often they see the poor as objects rather than as human beings who want to make their own decisions and control their own destinies. They're not great at understanding the situation on the ground from the perspective of the poor and then coming up with solutions that allow people to be active participants in improving their own lives.

PND: You've also been critical of traditional aid approaches for creating what you refer to as a "charity mentality" among donors and grantees. How does Acumen's approach differ from more traditional development approaches?

JN: In a number of ways. First, we don't give out handouts, we invest in people. Second, we measure what we do in terms of both financial return as well as social impact. Third, we discuss and report back on our failures as much as our successes. Fourth, we don't consider ourselves as having "donors." At Acumen, we have investors, although they don't receive a monetary return on their investments in the traditional sense of that term. Instead, they invest and become stakeholders in what we do because they want to share in our successes and learn from our failures.

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Webcast: 2010 Global Philanthropy Forum Conference

April 19, 2010

For the second year in a row, the Foundation Center is providing the information platform for the Global Philanthropy Forum's annual conference. Using its research database and knowledge resources, the center has made targeted materials and a set of visual presentations organized around four central themes -- food security, global health, access to water, and climate change -- available to conference participants through a customized Web portal.

Many of the conference sessions are being streamed live. You can follow the proceedings on this page through the conclusion of the conference on Wednesday.

Watch live streaming video from gpf2010 at livestream.com

-- Mitch Nauffts

3rd Annual Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting

April 17, 2010

Cgi_logo2 The third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has descended on the University of Miami campus, where more than a thousand college students, dozens of university presidents, and various nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs will spend all or part of the weekend participating in workshops and meetings focused on five topics of importance to college students: education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. This year's meeting also will focus on reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

As at all CGI events, participants are expected to make "commitments to action" -- a comprehensive, formal commitment to address a specific problem on their campus, in their community, or somewhere in the world. This year, participating students volunteered a thousand new commitments, while various universities and national youth organizations offered an additional sixty. When fully funded, the value of those commitments is expected to total roughly $42 million and will improve the lives of more than 290,000 people around the globe.

The following commitments (among others) were announced today:

Maren Gelle, Kayla Johnson, Sarah Carlson, and Daniel Novas will offer bike rentals for students on the St. Olaf College campus. The goal of the project is to encourage a bicycle culture on campus while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Gelle, Johnson, Carlson, and Novas also will work with the local community to donate bikes to Haiti to be used as bicycle ambulances.

• Syracuse University undergraduates Tim Biba, Gregory Klotz, Kate Callahan, and Allison Stuckless will launch a literacy and nutrition program -- Books and Cooks -- for children in low-income housing in Syracuse, New York. In addition to improving students' reading skills, the students will teach workshops devoted to cooking and nutrition.

• New York University student Michelle Pomeroy, in partnership with the Tibetan Women's Association, will lead a two-week leadership skills course in India for exiled Tibetan women. The course will train women in leadership, settlement officer responsibilities, conflict resolution, and gender sensitization, with the goal of preparing the women to be elected or appointed as settlement officers.

• University of Miami undergrads Kaitlin Birgenthal, Safia Alajlan, Kelley Winship, and Sara Johnson will work to expand Ocean Kids to Boston, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas, and Kuwait. Ocean Kids currently brings underserved elementary school students to the University of Miami campus, where they learn about marine life and science.

• Rockland Community College undergrads Mark Svensson and Tarik Abdelqader will work to combat the modern human slave trade in the U.S. by lobbying state officials in New York and urging them pass a resolution that aims to stem the flow of enslaved people into the country. Each year an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 people are brought to the U.S. to be traded as human slaves, with New York state functioning as one of the largest trafficking hubs. In 2009, the legislature of Rockland County passed a memorializing resolution co-authored by Svensson and Abdelqader, and the two plan to target other county legislatures as well.

• Bates College student Razin Mustafiz will create financial literacy workshops for the Somali and Somali-Bantu community in Lewiston, Maine. The workshops will cover the basics of financial planning, from opening a bank account to saving money for education. Mustafiz' commitment is supported by the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships and Adroscoggin Bank.

• MIT student Christopher Moses will develop a course called "Sana Lab" to teach medical personnel and students in the Philippines how to adapt a mobile medicine system developed at MIT to poor, remote locations. His commitment ultimately aims to extend medical care to the conflict-ridden area of Mindanao.

• St. Lawrence University student Grace Ochieng will work to expand the Pads for the People Project that she started in her village of Lwala, Kenya, with the help of the Lwala Community Alliance and thirteen local women. Women who participate in the project are trained to sew menstrual pads and encouraged to sell them for a profit. Over the next six months, Grace will form partnerships and work to make the program more financially sustainable.

John Trimmer and Scott Teagarden, undergraduate engineering students at Bucknell University, will construct a rainwater harvesting system that will provide the three hundred residents of Tumaipa, Suriname, with reliable, clean running water year-round. Local labor and materials will be used in the construction of the rainwater catchment system, and a water committee will be established to take ongoing ownership for the project.

Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International and a graduate student at the University of Michigan, in association with Hippo Water International, will work to expand Hippo Water Rollers to India, providing Rollers to women and families. The Hippo, an innovative water transport tool designed to alleviate the problems associated with lack of access to water, makes it possible to collect twenty-four gallons of water, five times the amount possible using traditional methods, in much less time and much more easily.

• Makerere University graduate student Divinity Barkley will build an energy-efficient recording studio for the Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association (AGYA) Learning Center, a community center she founded in Kampala, Uganda. Her commitment will provide digital technology training to the Ugandan youth at AGYA, empower them to produce and market their own music, and serve as a source of revenue for AGYA's arts and educational programs. In addition, the recording studio will utilize solar power for 35 percent of its energy.

• Wesleyan student Kennedy Odede, in conjunction with Shining Hope for Communities and American Friends of Kenya, will work to empower and educate women in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. His commitment has two parts: a Home Birth Network, through which women will be trained as home birth attendants; and the Women’s Microfinance Empowerment Project, which will use sustainable gardening techniques to grow vitamin-rich vegetables that provide desperately needed sources of nutrition at affordable prices.

• Purdue University student Keith Hansen will create the iRead Foundation to deliver childrens books to community health centers in Indiana. As vice president of the Purdue Engineering Student Council, Hansen oversees a group that puts on the largest student-run job fair in the nation, bringing over 350 of the nation’s biggest engineering companies to campus and raising nearly $500,000 dollars annually. A portion of those funds will be used to set up the foundation.

• Miami Dade College student Ximena Prugue will distribute 10,000 solar-powered lamps in India's rural communities, with the goal of reducing and/or eliminating kerosene lamp use. The D.Light Design Company lamps will be provided by Bogo Light at wholesale price, and Ximena will work with PTK Honor Society at Miami Dade to raise the money neccessary to purchase the lamps.

• MIT student Sreeja Nag will work to bring renewable, sustainable, and affordable energy to rural regions of India. After consulting local citizens, NGO representatives, and staff at Selco Solar India, Nag has created a report outlining how to bring energy to these areas. One of her ideas, for example, is to create detachable table lighting systems for students to carry home from a solar-powered charger at school.

• University of Miami students Kristina Rosales, Arielle Duperval, Austin Webbert, and Lissette Miller will establish two new community centers in Cite Soleil, a slum located in Port-au-Prince. The community centers will provide educational progams, cultural activities, mentoring, and opportunities for intercultural exchanges between the south Florida community and Haiti.

Khushbu Mishra, an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College, will open an art institute in Mithila, Nepal, to display and sell the cultural folk art of local women, empowering and improving the lives of their families. After it's completed, the center will be run by local women who will then train other women in the arts, thereby expanding the reach of the program.

Jessica Yamane, an undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside, will design an experimental course on how communities can promote healing for domestic violence victims. Partnering with Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Path of Life Ministry's King's Hall Transitional Housing Program, and With Her Strength, Yamane hopes to modify this curriculum for integration in K-12 health and wellness programs throughout the Riverside School District.

Christine Meling, an undergraduate student at Luther College, will purchase the materials and sewing machines for women in Yari, Sudan, to make school uniforms for families that cannot afford them. The women also will receive training on how to sew and use the profits from uniform sales to sustain the program.

An Thi Minh Vo, in association with the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Hue City, Vietnam, will provide microloans of $212 to thirty-five families with children disabled by Agent Orange. The project aims to increase borrowers' income and ease the hardship of families struggling to afford health care and other basic needs.

• University of the Pacific graduate student Harnoor Singh will work with local physicians to provide free blood sugar and basic cardiovascular health screenings for California's migrant worker and supply low-cost prescription drugs to those in need. The tests, which can be completed for less than $15 per person, are of vital importance to California's migrant laborers, the majority of whom lack access to basic healthcare services.

Nathan O'Hara, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in association with Makerere University and Vancouver General Hospital, will work to supply Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, with three hundred half-pins annually. Each year, there are unnecessary fatalities in Uganda due to a lack of vital medical supplies; half-pins, which are used to treat traumatic injuries involving fractured bones, are among those. A collection system in Vancouver-area hospitals will reprocesses the reusable pins, which will be delivered to Mulago Hospital twice a year.

Christina Newman, Sherley Codio, and Fabrice Marcelin, students at Virginia Tech, in partnership with Caritas and the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Gros-Morne, Haiti, will raise $60,000 and oversee the construction of a facility that can house more than 1,500 hens capable of producing 1,250 eggs per day -- 15 percent of the local egg supply. The three have already raised $23,000 and developed a business plan for the project. Their commitment will strengthen the local economy by reducing reliance on imports, and will empower local communities by providing much-needed employment opportunities.

Wow. As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Hats off to those who have stepped up with commitments. You're an inspiration to us all.

To learn more about and/or view webcasts from the event, which ends tomorrow, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

This Week in PubHub: Advancing Global Health

April 07, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about climate change mitigation and adaptation.)

As mentioned in my last post, the Foundation Center is providing grants data, research, and relevant news items for four plenary sessions ("Providing Food Security," "Advancing Global Health," "Improving Access to Water," "Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation") at the upcoming ninth annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference, April 18-21, in Redwood City, California. In the weeks leading up to the conference, PubHub is featuring reports on each of these issue areas. This week's focus is on "Advancing Global Health."

Global health challenges, caused or exacerbated by climate change, growing pressure on freshwater supplies, and/or food insecurity, are predicted to consume an ever-larger share of global GDP. So what is being done to address these closely linked issues?

The U.S. Global Health Initiative: Overview & Budget Analysis (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation) examines the Obama administration’s six-year, $63 billion global health initiative, which advocates a shift in U.S. policy from a vertical, disease-specific approach to global health problems to a more horizontal, integrated approach that addresses multiple health issues in the same populations while strengthening underlying health systems. The initiative also includes continued commitments to the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis and a broader focus on maternal and child health, family planning, and neglected tropical diseases. The report points out the need to consider implications of ongoing reviews of U.S. diplomacy and development policy, reforms of foreign aid structure, and the U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative.

Building Healthcare Leadership in Africa: A Call to Action (Accordia Global Health Foundation) highlights the need to bolster public health systems in Africa — not only by hiring more workers, improving infrastructure, and introducing new technologies, but also through building leadership capacity. Based on discussions from an April 2009 conference, the report lays out a framework for building capacity and sustainability through leadership development at the individual, institutional, and network levels.

Proven HIV Prevention Strategies (Global HIV Prevention Working Group) describes effective strategies for preventing sexual, blood-borne, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV such as antiretroviral drugs, breast-feeding alternatives, and caesarean delivery. The issue brief emphasizes the need to complement prevention technologies with structural interventions that reduce the vulnerability of those at risk, including legal and policy reforms that empower women.

Empowering women is what Investing in Women for a Better World (BSR) is all about. The report offers case studies of HERproject, a six-country initiative that aims to improve women factory workers' health awareness, leadership skills, and employer relations though peer education and intervention networks. Given that women are more likely to invest their income in the education, nutrition, and health of their children, the authors argue that workplace health programs further empower them to break the cycle of poverty.

Clearly, the global health challenges of the twenty-first century cannot be tackled in isolation, and the above reports only begin to touch on the cross-cutting strategies that will be needed to bring about lasting change. What other strategies are being tried and/or are working? Use the comments section to share your thoughts. And be sure to check out some of the 1,400 other health-related reports in PubHub.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Bill Gates at the 92nd Street Y

November 13, 2009

92Y_Gates I had a chance to see Bill Gates being interviewed by Matthew Bishop, New York bureau chief for The Economist and co-author of Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World (read our interview with him here), the other night at the 92nd Street Y here in New York.

Security was surprisingly light, and the Y's wood-paneled concert hall offered a suitably dignified setting for the well-attended event, though both men walked on stage tieless and in good humor. Bishop, who devotes a whole chapter to Gates and the Gates Foundation in his book, almost immediately referenced the February TED talk at which Gates, to illustrate a point, released a swarm of mosquitoes into the audience. Then Bishop, to much laughter, pulled out a can of insect repellent and set it down on the table between them. (You can see the aerosol can in the picture above.)

From there, the conversation moved briskly. At one point, Gates, a man clearly comfortable in his own skin and with his own wealth, dismissed Bishop's suggestion that the global financial crisis had been caused by "the rich" and rejected the notion that he -- or any person of wealth -- should view philanthropy as a path to redemption.

Other takeaways from the evening:

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Detroit: Back to the Future?

November 04, 2009

Urban_farming Yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to speak with a very busy Diana Aviv. Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, was getting ready for her organization's annual conference, which opens today at the Marriott Renaissance in downtown Detroit and runs through Friday. (With a little luck, I'll post the transcript of our conversation tomorrow.)

The theme of this year's conference, "Challenging Times, New Opportunities," couldn't be more timely, and the choice of Detroit as host city -- a decision made four years ago -- was prescient. The pre-conference materials on the IS Web site describe the Motor City as "a laboratory for exploring how the nonprofit and foundation community, government and business can together respond to the new opportunities offered by these challenging times" and goes on to commend Detroiters for their "creativity, passion and entrepreneurship" in reinventing their city and the region.

Those qualities are certainly evident in the urban farming movement that has taken root within the city's 140 square (and often deserted) miles. Indeed, the "de-urbanization" of Detroit has become a fertile topic of discussion for the likes of Aaron Renn (a/k/a "the Urbanophile"), City Journal's Steven Malanga, and others.

The latest to explore the topic is Mark Dowie, the former publisher and editor of Mother Jones magazine (and the author of American Foundations: An Investigative History). As Dowie explains it, the phenomenon is largely driven by two things: Detroit has become a "food desert" -- i.e., "a locality from which healthy food is more than twice as far away as unhealthy food, or where the distance to a bag of potato chips is half the distance to a head of lettuce." And it has a lot of open space.

"Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco could be placed inside the borders of Detroit with room to spare," Dowie writes,

and the population is about the same as the smallest of those cities, San Francisco: eight hundred thousand. And that number is still declining from a high of two million in the mid-nineteen fifties. Demographers expect Detroit’s population to level off somewhere between five hundred thousand and six hundred thousand by 2025. Right now there is about forty square miles of unoccupied open land in the city, the area of San Francisco, and that landmass could be doubled by moving a few thousand people out of hazardous firetraps into affordable housing....

Combine the two with old-fashioned American ingenuity and you have a recipe for...well, if not an urban paradise, then

something close to it. The most intriguing visionaries in Detroit, at least the ones who drew me to the city, were those who imagine growing food among the ruins -- chard and tomatoes on vacant lots (there are over 103,000 in the city, sixty thousand owned by the city), orchards on former school grounds, mushrooms in open basements, fish in abandoned factories, hydroponics in bankrupt department stores, livestock grazing on former golf courses, high-rise farms in old hotels, vermiculture, permaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, waving wheat where cars were once test-driven, and winter greens sprouting inside the frames of single-story bungalows stripped of their skin and re-sided with Plexiglas -- a homemade greenhouse. Those are just a few of the agricultural technologies envisioned for the urban prairie Detroit has become....

It's an intriguing piece and well worth your time. Click here to read it in its entirety.

-- Mitch Nauffts

World Food Day 2009

October 15, 2009

WFD Friday, October 16, is World Food Day. Here are nine things you should know about child hunger, courtesy of Save the Children USA:

1. For the first time in history, more than a billion people live with chronic hunger -- and at least 400 million of them are children.

2. In the developing world, volatile, historically high food prices together with the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis continue to drive families into poverty, putting millions more children at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

3. Drought is adding to extreme food crises in Guatemala and East Africa. In Ethiopia alone, three million children urgently need food.

4. A child dies every six seconds from hunger-related causes.

5. When there isn't enough food, poor families resort to skipping meals, pulling children from school, selling off livestock and assets and foregoing health care.

6. Poor families in developing countries typically spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, U.S. families spend only 5 to 10 percent of their budget on food.

7. When small children are malnourished, their physical and intellectual development may be permanently impaired.

8. Food shortages will increase as world population grows. By 2050, 70 percent more food will be needed to meet demand. Yet investment in agriculture is historically low.

9. It takes more than food to end hunger. For instance, the most agriculturally productive region of Mozambique has the highest rates of child malnutrition in the country. Poor families must be able to access a healthy diet.

(Sources: 1. FAO, WFP 2. World Bank 4. FAO 6. IFPRI, USDA 7. Lancet 8. FAO)

There is some good news. World leaders have pledged support for a $22 billion food security initiative and the Obama administration has outlined a new strategy to fight hunger. You can help these plans become reality by contacting your congressional representative today.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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