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55 posts categorized "Collaboration"

A Conversation With Steve Case: The 'Third Wave' and the Social Sector

June 23, 2016

Anyone of a certain age remembers when free America Online software — delivered on 3.5" floppy disks and then in CD form — seemed to arrive in the mailbox on an almost-daily basis. Although its genesis was in online gaming, the company soon evolved into an online services company and, by the early 1990s, was one of the leaders of the tech world, innovating and helping to build the infrastructure for the online world we know today. In the words of the company's co-founder and former chair, Steve Case, AOL was part of the "first wave" of innovation driven by the Internet.

By the early 2000s, a "second wave" of Internet-enabled innovation featuring apps and mobile phone technologies had sparked a new communications revolution, with companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook leading the way and birthing a new generation of billionaires. Even as this second wave was cresting, however, a third wave of innovation was forming in its wake. In his new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future, Case lays out his vision of an emerging era in which almost every object is connected to the Internet and the network of all networks "stops belonging to Internet companies.…The entrepreneurs of this era are going to challenge the biggest industries in the world, and those that most affect our daily lives. They will reimagine our healthcare system and retool our education system. They will create products and services that make our food safer and our commute to work easier."

PND spoke with Case, who chairs the Case Foundation and, with his wife, Jean, is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, about what these changes mean for the social sector and how nonprofits, large and small, can partner with business and government to solve some of our most pressing challenges.

Headshot_steve_casePhilanthropy News Digest: What you have labeled the "third wave" of Internet-enabled innovation will affect many areas of interest to the social sector, including health and health care, education, and food and agriculture. Do you see this next wave of innovation as a boon for nonprofits and social entre­preneurs?

Steve Case: I think it can be. Obviously, there are different folks focusing on different things in different ways. And there will always be an important role for nonprofits to deal with issues that, frankly, only nonprofits can deal with. But some of the sectors you mentioned — health care and education, food, agriculture — I think there's a role there for entrepreneurs to build companies that can have an impact.

One of the big things I talked about in the book — and which the Case Foundation has been championing for years — is the importance of partnerships. Partnerships between startups and other organizations — whether it's other companies, nonprofits, or government — will become more important in the nonprofit sector generally and will have a significant and, I think, positive impact on some of the sub-sectors you mentioned.

PND: The Case Foundation has always emphasized the importance of working across sectors. How do you think the changes brought about by the third wave of Internet-enabled innovation will affect its own work?

SC: I think we'll continue on the path we've been on. We've been talking about some of the issues around cross-sector collaboration for the nearly twenty years the foundation has been around. In the last few years, we've focused on things like impact investing, inclusive entrepreneurship, leveling the playing field so every entrepreneur who has an idea has a shot, and we'll continue with those efforts and try to use all the levers available to us.

Jean [Case] has spent a lot of time on impact investing. Part of her focus is advocating for policy changes that actually free up and expand more impact investing capital. The kinds of things we're focused on at the foundation are very much in sync with the kinds of things I address in the book.

PND: The MacArthur Foundation, along with the Chicago Community Trust and the Calvert Foundation, recently launched a $100 million impact investment initiative in Chicago aimed at accelerating the efforts of organizations there to address a variety of educational disparities, the lack of access to healthy food in many neighborhoods, the shortage of affordable housing, and other critical needs. While $100 million is a lot of money, it's a relatively modest sum given the scope and scale of the needs. Is impact investing the future of social service funding?

SC: I'm not sure it's the future, but it's certainly part of the future. I wouldn't want to suggest it's a way to solve all problems. Obviously, it isn't. But it is a new lever, a new platform that will gain traction and will be very helpful in accelerating and maximizing social impact across the country and the rest of the world.

I would add that sometimes these investments can be catalytic; you can't just measure them by the actual dollars put in. When we started AOL thirty-one years ago, we raised $1 million in venture capital in our initial funding round, and it took us a while to really scale the company, but eventually we did. A decade ago, the Case Foundation invested a couple of million dollars in Network for Good and platforms like MissionFish (now part of the PayPal Giving Fund), and those investments have generated more than $2 billion dollars in contributions to thousands of nonprofits. So sometimes the investments have substantially greater impact than the actual size of the original check would suggest.

As I mentioned, sometimes the key is a partnership. Network for Good and MissionFish chose not to go it alone, but instead figured out how they could work together, pool some capital, and focus on specific issues they considered important. I think that's a good model, and having foundations looking at some of these issues in a broader, more integrated context is something we'd like to see more of.

We've done some work, for example, with the Kresge Foundation, which is doing a lot of different things in Detroit. One of the things it invested in, alongside Revolution, our investment firm, was Shinola, a Detroit-based maker of handcrafted watches. It's also making significant investments in rebuilding key parts of the city's infrastructure and is allocating some of its capital for direct investments in companies that can be catalysts for change, whether that's in the area of job creation, rebuilding neighborhoods, or driving economic growth in the city and the region.

PND: What, in your view, is needed to inspire more of these types of partnerships — and attract larger sums of money into impact investing experiments?

SC: In part, I think it's about awareness. A few years ago, most people I ran into didn't know about impact investing, or certainly weren't talking about it. It's also about building coalitions, which is why partnerships are so important. Some of it is engaging on the policy side. There are impediments that are holding back investment in the impact space, including some of the ERISA rules that were limiting or constraining some institutional investors — pension funds, typically — from making impact investments. One of the catalysts for the venture capital revolution three decades ago involved changes to the rules prohibiting large institutional investors from investing in venture as an asset class. When the rules were recently changed, it unleashed a lot of capital.

The last factor is success. Momentum begets momentum. As people see more of these initiatives and companies succeed, it will encourage others to take a closer look. And as those people pursue it and begin to have some success, many of them will devote larger sums to it. Again, sometimes these things just take time.

PND: Collaboration can be a challenge for nonprofits — not that it's easy for anyone — in part because nonprofits tend to be the partner at the table with the fewest resources. Do you think the third wave does anything to change that dynamic?

SC: I think it does, in two respects. One is that technology, particularly the Internet, is an unparalleled platform for mobilizing action. Awareness first, and then action. There are plenty of examples, including the Arab Spring and the way many politicians now run their campaigns. So you've got technology leveling the playing field and giving everybody a voice, giving people the ability to aggregate many voices and create networks around ideas. That will only accelerate.

The other is this growing emphasis on partnership and policy — what I call the "Ps" of the third wave. While the focus right now may be more on the company side of things, those same kinds of principles are going to drive a lot of innovation and success in the social sector over the next ten to twenty years.

PND: Business isn't always viewed as the most trustworthy player when it comes to addressing social and environmental challenges. Some would argue that's because so many business leaders are eager to promote the idea that the sole function of business in a free-market economy is to maximize shareholder value. Is that a fair critique?

SC: The view that profit should be the only concern of business is the traditional, Milton Friedmanesque view of capitalism, and it's a view that many investors and CEOs share. But I think it's changing. The interest in and growth of things like impact investing demonstrates that. Benefit corporations didn't really exist five years ago. I don't know what the current number is, but there are probably a couple thousand registered B corps in the U.S., and their boards are charged with tracking and reporting against the company's impact or purpose, not just its profit. There's also a growing recognition among companies that younger people and the millennial generation want to work for companies that stand for more than profit and they want to invest in companies that stand for more than profit.

I understand the traditional critique of business. As I said earlier, I don't think business by itself can solve all social problems; there's a role for nonprofits, there's a role for government, there are roles for lots of folks in the social sector. But business can have a bigger role in solving some of the problems we face than it has in the past. It will require a different mindset on the part of business leaders, of course, and that's one of the reasons I'm excited about the momentum that is building around impact investing. I also think it will be helpful to a lot of communities around the country, and around the world, if there's a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship and the playing field is leveled so that anybody with an idea for a business or social enterprise has a shot at making it a reality.

PND: What could persuade corporate leaders to adopt a double- or even triple-bottom-line view of the world?

SC: Many corporate leaders already have. While the majority of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies may still be focused on profit maximization, there's a growing recognition in corporate America of the importance of purpose and there are many conversations going on about how business can transition to a different, more socially and environmentally focused kind of model. I have no doubt that ten, twenty years from now there will be more companies focused on and tracking their impact in those areas and not just focused on profit.

PND: Obviously, technology will be a key driver of future innovation. But nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits, often don't have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of it. Do you worry about a widening tech divide among nonprofits? And what, if anything, can be done to lower the barriers to participation for smaller nonprofits?

SC: That's a concern, sure, but I believe the continued development of a variety of different platforms will make it relatively easy for smaller nonprofits to take advantage of new technologies and will help level the playing field. I'm not particularly worried about that.

Earlier, I mentioned Network for Good as an example. A decade or so ago, Jean and I and others at the Case Foundation sensed that the Internet could be an important fundraising platform for nonprofits, but most nonprofits didn't have the expertise or the capacity to take advantage of the opportunity. Backing an initiative like Network for Good, which basically was a platform that all nonprofits could use and plug into at essentially no cost, was a way to provide those tools more broadly. Today, crowdfunding sites, platforms like Kickstarter and others, are doing the same kind of thing, and smartphones have been a game-changer in terms of leveling the playing field. In Africa, for example, a few years ago most farmers had no idea what the price of their particular crop should be or even what the weather a few days out was likely to be. But now, thanks to smartphones, farmers in Africa are empowered in ways that simply weren't possible before.

PND: In the book you talk about some of the things down-on-their luck cities and marginalized urban neighborhoods are doing to encourage entrepreneurial activity. How might that apply to social sector organizations working in those communities?

SC: There's remarkable momentum building around entrepreneurialism in many places. We've visited dozens of cities in our Rise of the Rest tours over the last couple of years, and I'll give you two examples based on what we saw. Seventy-five years ago Detroit was the most innovative city in the country, and then it kind of lost its entrepreneurial mojo, it lost 60 percent of its population, and then it went bankrupt. Now it's fighting its way back, which is most evident downtown. And a lot of that renewed economic activity has been driven by cross-sectoral partnerships between government, foundations, and business -- both small and large businesses. There's still a lot of work to be done, it's not going to happen overnight, but it's creating a new sense of hope in Detroit. There's a sense of possibility and opportunity there that didn't exist five years ago.

New Orleans is another example. Ten years ago, the city was reeling from Katrina and lots of people had left, many of them for good. Now, there's a great startup scene in the city and very encouraging things are happening in the school system, in part because city leaders and school officials, post-Katrina, are much more open to trying new things. You even have a couple of dozen education software companies in New Orleans, some of them started by former teachers.

So, there's no question we're seeing greater interest and more investment in Rise of the Rest cities. And it's not just Detroit and New Orleans; I could give you a couple of dozen other examples. But the important point is that these communities are more vibrant today than they were a decade ago, they are seeing more job growth, more economic growth, and they're providing better services. And when that happens, a lot of good things can happen. We can debate what the priorities are or should be, but at least now the residents of those cities are seeing investment grow for the first time in a long time, are seeing tax revenues grow, and have an opportunity to think about the best way to allocate those resources for the greater good. It's the way our system is supposed to work, and we're very excited to see it happening in many places around the country.

Matt Sinclair

A Collaborative Investment to Build Shared Outcomes for Our Field

June 09, 2016

Generation-Now-Cover-232x300A couple of years ago, four foundations set out to find the answer to a critically important question: How do we measure the success of our Jewish teen engagement and education initiatives?

The question, while specific, also spoke to a real need. Our foundations recognized the importance of engaging the next generation of Jews in Jewish life as a way to ensure the vibrancy and longevity of our community. But there was a gap between what our community's teen initiatives accomplished and what our actual long-term goals were — and are.

To address this need, we came together to invest in a significant way in research on Jewish teens. The result is a new report, Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today.

The research that informs the report was designed to identify a set of shared outcomes to be used across various programs when assessing Jewish teen education and engagement initiatives. Not only were we pleased with the clarity of that research, we were also pleased with the process. For example:

  • We found it very helpful to partner with a highly knowledgeable and trusted voice in the field — in this case, The Jewish Education Project's David Bryfman, who already had strong relationships with many of the parties involved in these efforts. Bryfman led the work in partnership with an experienced research team.
  • All parties involved — national and local funders, practitioners, and teens themselves —demonstrated a willingness to move away from old frameworks (both for teen programs and their evaluation) designed by adults to a new framework that takes into account the voices and interests of a new generation of teens.
  • We made sure the researchers conducted focus groups with teens and interviewed parents and practitioners. As a group, we then reviewed what was learned, proposed a set of outcomes, tested them with stakeholders, refined them based on that feedback, and then retested. We made sure that what we had developed through the process strongly reflected what we had heard from the teens themselves.
  • To help ensure that our efforts would lead to actual, positive change on the ground, toward the end of the process we brought in experts to "translate" the shared outcomes into draft survey questions for teens in communities across the country. The survey questions then went through an iterative review and refinement process with funders, practitioners, and teens.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2016)

June 04, 2016

Greetings from Northeast Ohio, where the seventeen-year cicada are vibrating their tymbals to beat the band. We're pretty excited, too — about our lineup of popular posts from May featuring pieces by a whose who of social sector luminaries. So grab a cold beverage and your noise-canceling headphones and let us know what you think in the comments section below....

Got a submission you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2016)

May 02, 2016

The 2016 presidential primary races are heading into the homestretch, and for the first time in half a century the contests in California may actually help determine the winner(s). In the meantime, we've already tallied your votes for the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in April. Take a look and let us know what you think (or write in your favorite) in the comments section below....

It's a new month and we're looking for new contributors. Got a submission you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

[Infographic] Nonprofit Strategic Restructuring

January 16, 2016

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the action of working with someone to produce or create something.
  2. traitorous cooperation with an enemy.

For many people, the word collaboration has more than one meaning. And while they may not be as derisive as the second definition above, the topic, when it comes up, almost never fails to spark lively conversation.

Which is as it should be. Nonprofit collaborations are serious affairs and should not be entered into lightly. But as our first infographic of the new year — courtesy of the folks at Tides and La Piana Consulting and our social sector outreach and GrantCraft colleagues here at Foundation Center — makes clear, collaborations, when approached strategically and with an open mind, can yield significant benefits. 

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Isn't Our Research Already Free? Why Open Access Matters for the Social Sector & How You Can Get Involved

October 30, 2015

Open_repositoryLast week individuals and organizations across the globe, including Foundation Center's own open access repository IssueLab, celebrated Open Access Week. This annual event/celebration puts the spotlight on a concept that is of terrific importance to those of us who produce knowledge but also to those of us who rely on it to do our jobs.

According to the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC): " 'Open Access' to information —  the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need  —  has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole."

Many of us who work in the social sector — who fund, produce, use, share, and safeguard research and knowledge about social issues and social change  —  already know that open access is incredibly important. Why? Because we live that last bit about "direct and widespread implications...for society as a whole." We're the people who grapple with social issues that impact all of us, all over the globe, every day. Through our work we research, implement, and share strategies that attempt to eradicate poverty, eliminate hunger, conquer inequality, abolish injustice, and so much more.

Free and immediate access to information about social change strategies, and unfettered use and reuse of the results of that information, just makes sense. It lines up with why we produce knowledge in the first place: to build awareness about tough social problems and the creative and persistent solutions that are making the world a better place.

In the spirit of both Open Access Week and of the purpose and principles that drive us to produce knowledge in the first place, we invite our social sector colleagues to learn more about what open knowledge sharing means for our sector. To get you started, we'll explore two concepts you can implement today: open licensing and open repositories.

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Consortial Leadership to Scale and Sustain Innovation

October 08, 2015

Teagle-Foundation-Tree-IconScaling change. Short- and long-term impact. Indicators of success. Dissemination. Effect. Sustainability.

Foundation officers frequently utter these phrases. In most cases, these words reflect a heartfelt concern for change in the desired area, and, to be sure, big bucks often are put behind such efforts. Still, scaling and sustaining innovation in colleges and universities is challenging work. Consortial leadership can make it easier, yet, as we have found, it is often overlooked and underestimated as a change strategy.

The Teagle Foundation has been making grants to higher education consortia and multi-campus collaboratives for more than a decade now. The strategy rests on the basic premise that "critical friends" — a term that higher education scholar George Kuh uses to describe friends who help you think better and do better work — need to be built into the change process. External evaluations of the foundation's work conducted by leading scholars in the field corroborate the foundation's own finding that collaboration, a core feature of Teagle's grantmaking, pays off in terms of greater change and innovation on campus.

Consider the advantages. Consortial leadership and collaboration help institutions get beyond the "no one is our peer" mindset. The consortial network provides support and a sounding board, creates shared responsibilities among its members, allows for information and knowledge exchange, and provides multiple settings in which practices can be tested. Perhaps one grantee said it best: "Collaboration helped 'foster the baking of half-baked' ideas." Adapting a solution borrowed from elsewhere is often much easier than inventing the solution.

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Creativity: A New Pillar of Sustainability

October 01, 2015

Sustainability21.980x980Creativity. We hack it. We map it. We study it. We rate it. We take it places. We build industries around it. We invest in it. We recognize we need it, even when it hurts. We know our future depends on it.

This is the first in a series of blog posts which will explore the radical premise that creativity is a key driver of sustainability

We will look at the role creativity plays in strengthening communities and driving change. We will appreciate entrepreneurs using the arts, design, and making to tackle topics like healthy food, climate change, the criminal justice system, and immigration. We will remind ourselves how much research science, technology, and social entrepreneurship have in common.

We will imagine creativity as an investment theme and propose how it may be integrated into impact and mission-related investment portfolios. We will review creativity standards for companies and investment funds seeking to have a positive social and financial impact. We will start the conversation about how to measure creativity's contribution toward our sustainable future.

What Do We Mean By Creativity?

Creativity is the spark. When the spark catches, it catalyzes an expression, an experiment, a "creation." If the spark turns into an invention, an entrepreneur can build an enterprise around it. 

If the invention works and the company is profitable and grows, there can be a wide-spread change – that's innovation. Innovation makes markets.

Business uses the word creativity, too. In fact, the Conference Board reports that creativity ranks among the top five skills that U.S. employers believe to be of increasing importance.

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Funding the Marriage Equality Movement: Lessons in Collaboration and Risk Taking

July 06, 2015

Rainbow-flagThe marriage equality movement in the United States has been fueled by the strategic and coordinated efforts of legal groups, advocacy organizations, and a small but active community of grantmakers. The historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 26 to extend marriage equality nationwide was preceded by a gradual legislative sea change and a dramatic shift in public opinion. In 2001, a majority of Americans opposed the idea of allowing same-sex couples to marry. In 2015, polls showed a reversal of the numbers, with 57 percent of Americans favoring marriage equality.

One of the key funders behind this shift was the Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC), an initiative of the Proteus Fund that has partnered with individual donors and foundations to award roughly $2 million in grants each year since 2004 for a broad range of publicly visible education activities aimed at advancing marriage equality. In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, it's worth looking closer at how CMC, as a funder collaborative, contributed to the success of the marriage equality movement. The CMC story also offers lessons about the role philanthropy can play in advocacy, as well as how funders can collaborate and take risks to achieve greater impact.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, federal law defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. By 2004, marriage equality had gained traction with a number of key legislative wins, including the approval of civil unions in Vermont, which granted same-sex couples some (but not all) of the legal benefits of marriage, and a landmark victory in Massachusetts that made it the first state in the U.S. to uphold the right of LGBT couples to marry. But it was also a year of setbacks for the movement, as a series of same-sex marriage bans were passed in thirteen states. According to CMC director Paul A. Di Donato, it was around this time that some grantmakers began to realize that achieving a critical mass of support for marriage equality would require greater engagement by the philanthropic community, not just a few relationships between individual foundations and big national players. With that in mind, a group of funders, including the Gill Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and the Proteus Fund (as a convener), came together around the idea that pooling financial resources and sharing collective knowledge could lead to broader change. Subsequently, they agreed to test the waters as a funder collaborative for a few years to see whether same-sex marriage would continue to gain traction as an issue. In 2007, when Di Donato joined CMC, same-sex marriage was still at the top of the LGBT agenda and the collaborative's members were still deeply committed to supporting public education activities aimed at advancing that agenda.

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[Review] 'Staying the Course: Reflections on 40 Years of Grantmaking at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund'

May 15, 2015

Book_staying_the_courseWilliam S. Moody joined the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1968, and for the next four decades he helped shape the fund's grantmaking programs in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central and Eastern Europe. In Staying the Course: Reflections on 40 Years of Grantmaking at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Moody recounts with unflagging enthusiasm — and, at times, in great detail — his distinguished career, the credit for which he is more than happy to share with colleagues, collaborators, grantees, and members of the Rockefeller family and RBF board.

Staying the Course explores how RBF's grantmaking programs tried, "over time, to enlarge people's understanding of, and ability to address, sustainable development challenges; to protect human rights and promote international understanding; and to strengthen important dimensions of civil society and democratic practice in transforming societies." A tall order, to be sure, and one that, in Moody's view, the fund for the most part delivered on, thanks to what he describes as its "responsive and proactive, serendipitous and systematic" approach to "helping people help themselves."

Moody traces the evolution of that approach from the fund's establishment in 1940 by the sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The operation was still very much a family affair, he writes, when he came on board in the late 1960s, but the Rockefeller family philosophy of being "in it for the long haul, articulating ambitious goals knowing full well that those goals could not be reached quickly," and being "willing to make long-term commitments to effective organizations and institutions — a decade or two or more, long enough 'to make a difference', as Andrew Carnegie said" — was already deeply embedded in the fund's grantmaking practice.

As a program officer at a relatively small foundation, Moody was focused on allocating the limited resources available to him to maximum effect. In the late 1960s, for example, RBF's annual budget for international programs was a modest $10 million to $15 million — although at a time when only 5 percent of total U.S. foundation grantmaking was directed overseas, the fund was considered an important player in the international arena. More importantly, its efforts in that arena, Moody argues, demonstrate that small investments can create significant impact. In fact, the approach to grantmaking he developed back then, he writes, is quite similar to what today we call "venture philanthropy," characterized as it was "by a high level of involvement with grant recipients; a willingness to experiment and try new approaches; and a focus on capacity building for sustainability" — while avoiding any expectation of a quick pay-off.

Early on, Moody's efforts were focused on two areas: the thoughtful use of natural and cultural resources, or what is now called "sustainable development," in the developing world, and strengthening civic engagement and the nonprofit/voluntary sector globally. From 1968 through the mid-1980s, for instance, RBF supported rural development in sub-Saharan Africa and anti-apartheid efforts in South Africa, where the young program officer learned the importance of collaboration — as well as the need for flexibility, patience, and good partners. When making grants in six Central and South American countries, for example, he made it a point to invest in individuals, people like conservation expert Kenton Miller, a pioneer of sustainable resource management models and a key facilitator of RBF's productive partnership with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 28-29, 2015)

March 29, 2015

Umbrella_april-showersOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sectorFor more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Collaboration

On the Rockefeller Foundation blog, Zia Khan, the foundation's vice president for initiatives and strategy, shares four "counter-intuitive lessons" about cross-sector collaboration.

Data

On the Markets for Good blog, Bill Anderson, technical lead for the Secretariat of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), examines the potential for a people-based data revolution across Africa.

Education

50CAN, a network of local education advocates "learning from and supporting each other," has launched a new blog called The Catalyst to help local education leaders develop policy goals, craft their advocacy plans, and secure lasting change.

On the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation blog, Cari Schneider, director of research and policy for Getting Smart, suggests that one of the least appreciated barriers to effective education reform is definitional in nature.

Fundraising

Why do people give to charity? The Guardian explains.

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Tracking the Human Rights Response to HIV

September 10, 2014

"Good decisions always require good information, and when resources are limited, data matters even more...."

– Greg Millett, vice president and director of public policy, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research

Headshot_sarah_hamiltonIn August, AVAC and amfAR issued a report, Data Watch: Closing a Persistent Gap in the AIDS Response, that calls for a new approach to tracking data on the global response to AIDS. What's unique about Data Watch is that it places equal emphasis on filling the gaps in both epidemiological and expenditure information. Data has always reigned supreme in the public health world, but in their new report AVAC and amfAR pose a simple question: What happens to our quest to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 if we don't know whether we have the funding to sustain our efforts?

Through improved data, for instance, we now know that key populations (i.e., men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people, and sex workers) represent a major share of the epidemic, largely due to such factors as stigma, discrimination, and punitive laws that continue to marginalize these populations and keep them from the care and treatment they need. With human rights abuses continuing to fuel the epidemic and impacting the health and rights of those most at-risk, targeted funding for a human rights response to HIV is critical.

But is that happening?

Sadly, no. Recent research from the Join United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) [1] found that less than one percent of the $18.9 billion spent on the overall HIV response in 2012 supported human rights programming.

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Aligning Investments in Water Quality

June 01, 2014

Headshot_nathan_boonOne of the most exciting aspects of philanthropy is the prospect of effecting systematic change, yet many of us in the sector often struggle with the scale of the systems we're trying to influence. Certainly this is true in environmental philanthropy, where a single and coherent environmental system like a watershed (e.g., river basin) can encompass an enormous geography and a host of complex issues. Where my colleagues and I sit in the Delaware River watershed, for example, we're dealing with 216 major tributaries and an area of more than 13,500 square miles that includes four states, 838 municipalities, and a total population of nearly 8 million people. For watersheds and other large ecosystems, even the most generous grantmaking budget will be dwarfed by the enormity of what's needed, raising important questions for philanthropic investors. How can we be more effective in deploying scarce resources? How do we assess whether we're making a difference? Where do we choose to invest, and how do we support work in a way that meaningfully sets the stage for replication and greater impact?

At the William Penn Foundation, we're responding to these tough questions by implementing a new approach to a decades-long legacy of environmental grantmaking. With the support of our board and strong partners in the research and nonprofit communities, we are focusing our geographic footprint by prioritizing select ecosystems, aligning the work of capable nonprofit organizations within those ecosystems, targeting specific environmental stressors, and continually measuring progress. All to restore and protect the quality and availability of our water resources — resources with a history of unchecked pollution and abuse.

We have come a long way since the mid-1880s, when fouled water, factory waste, and mining by-products were drained into our waters at alarming rates. In the first half of the twentieth century, many bodies of water — including the Delaware Estuary, the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, and Long Island Sound — were renowned for their dead zones, stretches of polluted water where virtually nothing could survive. The extent of the damage eventually led to multi-sector partnerships to address the problem, including the first interstate watershed commission in 1936, as well as a succession of state and federal legislation to reduce point-source pollution, culminating in the Clean Water Act of 1972 and amendments to the act in 1977 and 1987. Today, as a result, we have far fewer dead zones in our lakes, rivers and estuaries, and polluters are held to a much higher standard when it comes to releasing waste into local waterways.

But it is not enough.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, new contaminants have emerged to threaten environmental and public health, even as major sources of industrial pollution have been outsourced to foreign shores. With the relative decline in American manufacturing and an ever-increasing U.S. population, we are seeing new threats from the industrialization of agriculture, suburban sprawl, and our appetite for fossil fuels. Regulators are challenged to address sources of pollution that are widely distributed across the landscape and cannot be traced back to a single end-of-pipe discharge point.

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The Smartest Investment We Could Make: The Future of Girls

March 13, 2014

(Dr. Anand K. Parekh is an adjunct assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. His family manages the Parekh-Vora Charitable Foundation.)

Girls_in_classroomAs the father of two young girls, there is no greater joy for me than to see them smile and thrive. This is why I often remember former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan’s words: "There is no policy for progress more effective than the empowerment of women and girls. A nation that neglects its children, especially girls, is a nation that neglects its future and development." Given this truth, the Parekh-Vora Charitable Foundation has initiated a focus on two areas particularly important to girls: water and sanitation, and primary school education.

We could have chosen many areas of need to focus on, so why girls, why water and sanitation, and why education?

To begin with, we were struck by the numbers: globally, 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation, while 768 million people lack access to safe water. Every day, 2,000 children die from water-related diseases. And each year, 60 million children are born into homes without access to safe water and sanitation. It's estimated that improvements in these areas alone could vastly improve health outcomes, increase productivity, and reduce healthcare costs – while increasing a country's gross domestic product (GDP) by anywhere from 2 percent to 7 percent. Girls are disproportionately affected by the water and sanitation crisis, given that they frequently miss school or drop out altogether because of a lack of a private toilet in school. Tens of thousands of other girls and women spend hours at a time walking for miles while carrying water on their heads that can weigh up to forty pounds. Simply put, access to water, sanitation, and hygiene enables women and girls to take control of their lives.

The numbers around education are equally alarming: 793 million people worldwide are illiterate. Once again, girls and women are disproportionately affected and account for two-thirds of all illiterate persons. In the developing world, an estimated 42 percent of girls are not enrolled in school, while more than 60 million primary school-aged children of both genders do not have access to education and likely will never learn to read or write. The numbers are confounding, not least because we know that even a few years of basic education empowers women and girls to take control of their lives. Educated women are healthier (an extra year of  education for girls can reduce infant mortality by 5 percent to 10 percent) and earn more (an extra year of education boosts future wages by 20 percent). If every child were to receive an education, an estimated  171 million individuals would be lifted out of poverty.

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Are Social Sector Leaders Walking the Talk?

February 19, 2014

(The following post is the third in a series of four written by Laura Callanan, a senior fellow at the Foundation Center. Laura wishes to acknowledge colleagues who have contributed to this work. For more on the survey, click here.)

Social sector thought leaders such as Lucy Bernholz, Paul Bloom, Bill Drayton, and the late Greg Dees have all weighed in on how ecosystem-level cooperation is the only way to scale and sustain solutions to problems too daunting for any one organization to tackle alone. As Dees and Bloom wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the first step for social entrepreneurs – and other social sector leaders – is to understand their environment:

Social entrepreneurs get help from some individuals and organizations, give help to others, fend off threats from others, and compete with still others. Social entrepreneurs must identify all of the relevant players and the roles that they play.…To create significant and long-lasting changes, social entrepreneurs must understand and often alter the social system that creates and sustains the problems in the first place. This social system includes all of the actors – the friends, foes, competitors, and even the innocent bystanders – party to the problem, as well as the larger environment – the laws, policies, social norms, demographic trends, and cultural institutions – within which the actors play....

In recent years, many funders and nonprofits – reinforced by colleagues in government and some corners of the private sector – have emphasized the importance of ecosystem-level efforts to address social problems. It all started with a few discrete cross-sector partnerships among businesses, government, and nonprofits. It evolved into a nuanced discussion of how social impact assessment must look at organizations' contributions to solving a problem, rather than attempt to attribute credit to individual actors within a like-minded group of organizations working in concert. It has led to innovative financing options such as social impact bonds, in which government, impact investors, and nonprofit service providers share risk, and rewards, in order to scale proven social welfare interventions. FSG even coined a term, "collective impact," to describe the approach.

My colleagues and I wondered whether the rhetoric around collaboration, cooperation, and ecosystem-level change was in fact the reality in the social sector. So, through a survey, we asked leaders in the sector how they are working today, and what attributes they thought would be most important for successful leaders in the future. The answers we found were mixed.

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