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157 posts categorized "Environment"

Paris and the Way Forward: A Conversation With the UN Foundation's Reid Detchon

April 22, 2016

It's been an unsettling couple of months for people who worry about the climate. As Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis write in the Washington Post, "The first three months of 2016 have been the hottest ever recorded, and by a large margin. Greenland's massive ice sheet melted more this spring than researchers have ever seen. Warming seas are turning once-majestic coral reefs into ghostly underwater graveyards. And scientists are warning that sea levels could rise far faster than anyone expected by the end of the century, with severe impacts for coastal communities around the globe." Throw in the monsoon-like rains that have swamped Houston and the record heat baking the Pacific Northwest, and you're probably starting to think maybe it's time our elected officials took action. (Or not.)

In December, representatives from a hundred and ninety-five countries convened in Paris for the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), an annual gathering under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where they negotiated the so-called Paris Agreement, a non-binding pact to slow and, ultimately, reverse the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. On April 22, Earth Day, the agreement will be opened for signing by countries that support it.

For most people, what that means — in terms of its impact, if any, on their lives and the future of the planet — is a mystery. To help shed light on these issues, PND spoke with Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate strategy at the United Nations Foundation, about the agreement, the significance of the signing ceremony, and whether the global community can slow and reverse emissions of greenhouse gases before it's too late.

From June 1999 through December 2001, Detchon served as director of special projects in Washington, D.C., for the Turner Foundation, managing a portfolio of grants aimed at increasing the effectiveness of environmental advocacy and encouraging federal action to avert global climate change. Before that, he spent six years at the Podesta Group, a government relations and public affairs firm in Washington, D.C., and from 1989 to 1993 he served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for conservation and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. Detchon also worked for five years in the U.S. Senate, advising Sen. John Danforth (R-MO) on energy and environmental issues and serving as his legislative director, and was the principal speechwriter for Vice President George H. W. Bush.

Headshot_reid_detchonPhilanthropy News Digest: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to a ceremony at UN headquarters in New York on April 22, where they will have the opportunity to sign an agreement that was reached at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last December. Before we get into the details of the agreement, what does the UN hope to accomplish at the ceremony on the 22nd?

Reid Detchon: The significance of April 22 really goes back to the Paris Agree­ment itself. And what's so remarkable about that is that previous disagreements fell away, and the agreement was signed by virtually every country on the planet. For each country to agree to participate and make a nationally determined contribution to limit climate change over the coming years — that consensus is, I think, the larger significance of Paris, and bodes well for the process going for­ward.

So, on April 22, as you noted, there will be a signing ceremony at UN headquarters in New York. And it's expected that a larger number of countries will sign the agreement, in a single day, than has ever happened with any previous treaty or agreement. Again, it's an indication of the universality of the agreement and of the excitement and momentum that was created in Paris, and we need to carry that forward into the implementation phase. The signing ceremony is the first step in that process, and I expect it will be a great launch pad for future action.

PND: Will President Obama be in New York on the 22nd to sign the agreement? And which other world leaders of note will be there?

RD: The United States will be represented by Secretary of State Kerry. That's my understanding. And we've heard that Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of China will be present as well. As you probably know, the U.S. and China issued a statement ten days ago reaffirming their support for the climate agreement and their intention to move forward with implementation of the agreement.

Among heads of state, I believe the presidents of the current and upcoming COPs  — that is, French president François Hollande and Mohammed VI of Morocco — will be in New York for the ceremony, and I believe there will be at least forty other heads of state there, principally from developing countries and the small island states. But, of course, we'll have to see.

PND: You alluded a minute ago to why the Paris Agreement is historic, and I think supporters of the agreement would say that is especially true after what some consider to be the failure of Copenhagen summit in 2009. What happened between Copenhagen and Paris last December to change the calculus for so many countries?

RD: Well, a simple way to think about it is to say that the parties responsible for negotiating the agreement changed their focus from "burden sharing" to opportunity. Leading up to Copenhagen, and in the wake of Kyoto, the focus of multinational climate change efforts was on how to allocate what was seen as a responsibility to reduce emissions among different sovereign countries. But that sort of top-down approach proved too difficult for the international system to handle politically. Instead, the brilliance of the Paris Agreement is the fact that it is based on nationally determined contributions suggested by the countries themselves. And they are doing so in their own economic and political self-interest, not because somebody is telling them they have to. So, China has made a breathtaking commitment to clean energy. India, similarly, has made a very robust and ambitious commitment — to solar power, in particular. But every country is con­tributing their own fair share, as they see it. And that has enabled us to get to this point.

PND: The agreement is not binding unless it is signed by at least fifty-five countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Do you think that can be achieved in the next five years?

RD: Absolutely. We have high ambitions of reaching that target much quicker than that. I don't want to make predictions, but given the reaffirmation by the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, that will get us a long way to the percentage target, and the strong support for the agreement among many developing countries and small island states will make the number-of-countries target relatively easy to achieve as well. That's not to say it won't take some time. Each country has its own procedure for affirming its participation in the agreement, and so it will take longer in some countries than in others, but I have high hopes of it happening much more quickly than five years.

PND: The underlying assumption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, of which these COP conferences have been an important part, is to limit global temperature increase in this century to under two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Recently, the World Bank and others have reported that a rise of one and a half degrees Celsius is already locked in, and earlier this year the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere, for a small period of time, exceeded two degrees Celsius. Are we kidding ourselves in thinking we can keep global temperature increase in this century to two degrees Celsius?

RD: Well, that's the critical question, of course, and it's a very significant challenge. The difficulty about climate change is that the inertia that gets built into the system from decades of emissions takes quite a long time to turn around, both in the atmosphere and on the ground. And the Paris Agreement, I think, is widely understood not to be sufficient to get below two degrees C. In general, I've heard it said that the effect of the agreement was to reduce the projected emissions from something like three and a half degrees Celsius to two-point-seven — but two-point-seven is not two, much less one and a half.

The most significant thing about the Paris Agreement in my mind is the commitment to come back every five years and revisit the progress that has been made, to review the tech­nology and tools that are available to drive further progress, and to ratchet up our ambition at successive meetings until we get below the two-degree Celsius threshold and, ideally, begin moving toward the one-and-a-half degree line.

Let me just add that much of the progress that has been made is being driven by the success of clean energy technology development. The cost of solar energy, the cost of wind energy has fallen dramatically, while, on the other side of the equation, the application of energy-efficient technologies in things like lighting has spread rapidly — I'm thinking here of, for example, LED bulbs – and that is going to have a tremendous impact around the world in terms of energy demand. At the same time, we have a growing global population and growing economies across the developing world, and both of those facts represent an ongoing challenge in terms of meeting that goal.

A final point: We have an opportunity to buy our­selves some additional time, not sufficient to change the overall equation, but some time nevertheless, and that is to think more aggres­sively about how to sequester more carbon in the natural world, particularly in soils. Carbon is very good for soil, it increases fertility and agricultural productivity, and I believe if we can encourage much more rapid adoption of farming techniques that capture more carbon, that could give us a little bit more time for clean-energy technology to catch up, and for the world to make the very significant shift from fossil fuel-based energy systems over the next thirty-five years or so.

PND: A potential unintended consequence of such an approach might be an acceleration of ocean acidification. Is that a legitimate concern, or just unavoidable?

RD: Well, to a certain extent, it's both. Obviously, ocean acidification is an enormous concern. Because of the emissions that are already in the atmosphere — and carbon emissions typically stay in the atmosphere for something like a hundred years — the oceans are an important absorber of atmospheric carbon dioxide. But as carbon in the atmosphere has increased, it has created a change in ocean chemistry that is very worrisome. And the answer to that problem must be to reduce our emissions as quickly as possible.

Now, some people have said that we might be able to geo-engineer an increase in the oceans' capacity to absorb carbon. But I, and most people I speak to, think the impact on marine ecosystems and species would be catastrophic, so you won't hear me say that that idea has promise. In general I would say that geo-engineering schemes address, at best, only part of the problem. And the very idea that we can fix this through technology, through some kind of carbon removal scheme, within the near to mid-term…well, it strikes me as impractical, at best, and unrealistic when you start to dig into the details.

PND: You mentioned earlier that one of the important aspects of the agreement is its focus on burden sharing. Does the United Nations have a view on how that burden should be shared? In other words, should it be shared equally by developed countries like the United States, England and Germany that, historically, have contributed the most to the problem and by emerging countries, like China and India, which today are the biggest emitters of carbon? Or should there be some proportionality applied to the formula, if in fact there is a formula?

RD:  Well, again, the significance of Paris was that the community agreed that formulas of that kind were not helpful if rigidly applied. But if the fundamental psychological shift represented by the agreement was from burden to opportunity, certainly countries with the greatest emissions today have the greatest opportunity to reduce those emissions — and to do so profitably while creating a range of other benefits in the areas of public health, agriculture, and so on. So, yes, I do think countries that are emitting the most have the most room for improvement, and that that's where you're going to see the biggest changes.

On the opportunity side, it’s increas­ing­ly apparent — and I am hopeful India will be able to model this for the rest of the world — that countries don't need to follow the same fossil fuel-dependent path to economic development as the U.S., Japan, and European countries did, that a modern electric grid built on substantial contributions from solar and wind resources can be just as effective in terms of supporting economic development as a more conventional grid. And so the hope, of course, is that clean energy pathways increasingly will be adopted by developing countries around the globe, particularly rapidly developing countries like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico, so that we don't simply repeat the same mistakes that were made during the first great wave of industrialization.

PND: Given the skepticism of many Republicans in Congress toward an anthropogenic theory of climate change, do you, as someone who has worked on Capitol Hill, see any way to forge a political consensus around the issue in the U.S.?

RD: Well, sometimes Washington is the last place to catch up to trends in the country, but I think there is a broad and growing understanding and embrace of the need for action on climate change in the United States. It shows up most clearly in the strong support across political lines for clean energy, and for renewables in particular. We've seen some evidence of that even in Congress, at the end of last year, when, as some members were complaining about the Paris Agreement, Congress passed legislation extending for five years a very important production tax credit for wind and an investment tax credit for solar, both of which will make a big difference in helping the U.S. meet its climate commitments.

As we move forward, the changes that we need to make — and that have been feared by some — will prove to be more beneficial than skeptics anticipate, and aggressive deployment of renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency measures, will continue to move us rapidly down the path to realizing a clean-energy economy.

On that note, I don't want to neglect the very important role that will be played over the next twenty years by, first of all, the doubling of fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks in the U.S to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, as well as the promulgation, by the Department of Energy, of literally dozens of appliance efficiency standards, which, like LED bulbs, will deliver the same labor-saving productivity as before but consume much less energy. These kinds of things are going to be good not just for consumers' pocketbooks, they'll also significantly reduce our emissions regardless of where the power is generated.

PND: How does the Paris agreement fit into the Sustainable Development Goals campaign launched by the UN last year? And, more specifically, how do you see the agreement working with Goal 13 of the SDG campaign, which calls for the global community to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts? Is there a relationship between the two efforts?

RD: In many ways, the most significant event of 2015 was the coming together of these two strands, development and environment. The vice chair of the UN Foundation is the former prime minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, who chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development more than thirty years ago. In fact, it was the recommendations of that commission which laid the groundwork for the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. If you go back and look at the commission’s report, you'll see that even then many people in the international community were stressing the inter-connectedness of the two. And what happened in 2015 was that the international community as a whole really embraced that theme and finally accepted the idea that to succeed on climate change, and to avoid seeing literally decades of development progress reversed by adverse weather and related events, we simply have to have sustainable development. Concurrently, there was a recognition in the climate community about how actions to reduce the threat of climate change must take into account the legitimate rights of people, all people, to economic development.

So, to me, the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals is not just that Goal 13 focuses on climate change, but that these two themes run through almost every other goal. I would point in particular to Goal 7, which targets access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. That goal, of course, is intimately tied into our response to the changing climate, as well as our need for sustainable development. Again, the interweaving of these themes across all seventeen of the Sustainable Development Goals really is the most important theme that emerged from the SDG process — and one that will be increasingly central to the implementation process going forward.

PND: A final pair of questions for you. Are foundations and private donors doing enough to combat climate change and its impact? And, given philanthropy's relatively limited resources, how do you think it can best use those resources to secure ratification of the Paris Agreement and advance the fight against climate change?

RD: The challenges in climate change work are so large that it's hard to say anybody, anywhere, is doing enough. We all need to do more. In fact, at a recent discussion it was suggested that, going forward, those of us working on climate issues should adopt the motto "More, Faster."

That said, I think philanthropy has stepped up in very useful ways and will need to continue to do so. Probably most significant is what it has done to help mobilize grassroots support for action on climate change, communicating that to elected officials, and generally helping where it can to build momentum behind calls for action. As we go forward, however, it will be important to raise expectations for future commitments, because, ultimately, the challenges and needs are going to be even greater than they are today. In that the sense, we're all in the same boat, and we all need to work together to protect the hopes and security of future generations, not to mention the planet we live on, in a way that is sustainable and contributes to a better life for all.

— Mitch Nauffts

This Earth Day, Let’s Celebrate Experimentation in Environmental Grantmaking

April 20, 2016

News_tropical_andes_for_PhilanTopicAs we near the forty-sixth anniversary of Earth Day, let's all take a moment to celebrate the diversity and breadth of approaches to conserving this special planet we call home. Like so many other organizations in the conservation field, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grapples with the question of how to make sure — while there is time — Earth and its vital ecosystems flourish long into the future.

When Gordon and Betty Moore established the foundation in late 2000, they asked us to find ways for humans and other species to share the limited resources of our small but amazing planet. Fifteen years in, we've been both encouraged and humbled by how much our grantees and others working alongside them have accomplished — whether it's conserving wild salmon ecosystems across the North Pacific, the long-term health of the Amazon basin, or North America's marine environments.

As much progress as we have made, however, we also recognize that we need to scale and accelerate these gains. By reducing the mounting pressures on natural resources, we can help sustain the most critical ecosystems worldwide and, by extension, those who depend on them for their livelihoods. Put simply, those of us who work in environmental conservation must embrace the challenge of trying new things and doing more to develop long-term, systemic, sustainable solutions to meeting the demands of a growing human population.

To be clear, we don't think there's a single best approach to conservation. In fact, we believe our  success — as funders, nonprofits, corporations, governments — will require coordinated efforts that bring together vastly different approaches from all sectors.

Even within our own portfolio of investments, we have intentionally diversified, experimenting with a trio of newer initiatives that seek to harness global agriculture, seafood, and financial market forces while complementing our longer-running investments in strategies such as comprehensive ocean planning in the United States and Canada and the creation of protected areas and indigenous lands in the Amazon basin.

For us, these different approaches evince some consistent themes. When Gordon and Betty Moore articulated their hopes and expectations for the foundation, they also advised that we search for under-resourced opportunities to make a lasting difference at a large, meaningful scale. With respect to environmental conservation, they asked the foundation to "seek pragmatic solutions that maintain the integrity of essential ecosystem functions while accommodating necessary development and other activity." That pragmatism drives our commitment to fostering solutions that align conservation with social and economic incentives, often by bringing unlikely partners together.

Across all the foundation's programs, the spirit of scientific inquiry that stems from Gordon's background as a chemist guides us to articulate hypothesized outcomes and establish metrics and systems for evaluation to determine what works, while creating space for our grantees to manage their efforts in a way that enables them to adapt and achieve the greatest impact.

What do we think we need to do, collectively, to make meaningful, lasting progress in environmental conservation at the scale that's needed and at the rate that's required? We believe such an outcome can only result from a diversity of, and experimentation in, approaches to conservation that reflect the complex and beautiful natural systems around us. For the Moore Foundation, that means placing some complementary but strikingly different bets in our own grantmaking portfolio. For us, as well as our grantees and partners, across sectors, it also means we have a better chance at success if we all recognize the need for a multiplicity of perspectives and strategies.

Aileen_lee_for_PhilanTopicSo, this Earth Day, let's celebrate diversity, both in the world around us and in the work we all do, to conserve the resilience and abundance of life on Earth for future generations.

Aileen Lee, J.D., incoming chief program officer for the environmental conservation program at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and program director for its conservation and markets initiatives, has been with the foundation for fifteen years. She currently is a board member for the Climate and Land Use Alliance and served as chair of the board of the Environmental Grantmakers Association.

Weekend Link Roundup (April 2-3, 2016)

April 03, 2016

Baseball_3Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Education

StudentsFirst, the education reform organization started by controversial former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is being merged into education advocacy organization 50Can. "Rhee's group launched on Oprah Winfrey's talk show in 2010, with the goal of raising $1 billion dollars in its first year," writes Joy Resmovits in the Washington Post. "The goal was then revised to $1 billion over five years; in its first year, it brought in only $7.6 million."  Rhee stepped down as CEO of the organization in 2014, after which it closed a number of state chapters, downsized its staff, and lowered its profile.

Environment

Two-thirds of the environmentalists who have died violently since 2002 were activists in Latin America. And for the five years ending in 2014, more than 450 were killed -- over half of them in Honduras and Brazil. Darryl Fears reports for the Washington Post.

On March 15, the World Health Organization released the second edition of a report on the health challenges that arise from living and working in unhealthy environments. The UN Foundation's Analise McNicholl shares five takeaways from the  report. 

A recent state task force report called the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, an "environmental justice." But what does that mean -- and what can we do to ensure that instances of similar injustice are eliminated? Brentin Mock examines those questions for The Atlantic's City Labs portal.

Higher Education

Phase-one results from College Count$, a joint research project established in April 2015 by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation, demonstrate that low-income students who've participated in the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) earn associate degrees or technical certificates at more than double the rate of the general community college population in the state and experience a boost in wages. College Count$ itself currently is seeking funding for the next phase of research to measure the return on investment (ROI) to the state generated as a result of expanded employment, increased tax revenues, and a decline in the need for public assistance. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 26-27, 2016)

March 27, 2016

CherryblossomOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Forty-one percent of Americans — a record number — believe global warming poses "a serious threat to them or their way of life." Aamna Mohdin reports for Quartz.

Another sign of the times: The Rockefeller Family Fund, a family philanthropy created by Martha, John, Laurance, Nelson, and David Rockefeller in 1967 with money "borne of the fortune of John D. Rockefeller," America's original oil baron, has announced its intent to divest from fossil fuels, a process that "will be completed as quickly as possible." You can read the complete statement here

And the New York Times' coverage of new findings warning of the potentially devastating consequences of unchecked global warming, in a much more compressed time frame than previously thought, should get everyone's attention.

Conservation

What is the most effective way to protect wild lands? Traditional place-based conservation? Or through efforts to reshape markets and reduce demand for the development of those lands? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther explores that question with Aileen Lee, chief program officer for environmental conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, one of the largest private funders of environmental conservation efforts in the world.

Corporate Social Responsibility

"What we are seeing," write Brigit Helms and Oscar Farfán on the Huffington Post Impact blog, "is not just a passing trend, but the beginning of a new form of business — a business that looks beyond profits to generate social value, the business of the future. Tectonic forces are accelerating this movement. At the global level, the most important one involves a cultural shift driven mainly by millennials. The new generation sees the main role of business as that of 'improving society', and not just generating profits...."

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 12-13, 2016)

March 13, 2016

The-Round-UpOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Looking for a good collection of juvenile justice resources? The Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a leader in the field, has published this on its blog.

Climate Change

On the Humanosphere site, Tom Murphy asks the question: Will the Global Climate Fund falter before it gets off the ground?

Education

In the New York Review Books, historian of education and author Diane Ravitch reviews Dale Russakoff's The Prize: Who's In Charge of America's Schools? and Kristina Rizga's Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail it, and the Students and Teachers Who Made it Triumph and finds both to be "excellent." Together, Ravitch adds, the two books also "demonstrate that grand ideas cannot be imposed on people without their assent. Money and power are not sufficient to improve schools. [And genuine] improvement happens when students, teachers, principals, parents, and the local community collaborate for the benefit of the children...."

Environment

Nonprofit Chronicles' Marc Gunther has written a must-read post about the recent assassination of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres -- and what U.S. funders can do to combat the organized campaign of terror and intimidation being waged against environmental activists in Honduras: 1) Demand that Berta Cáceres' killers be brought to justice; 2) provide more support for grassroots activism; and 3) recognize/acknowledge the connections between the environment and human rights.

Fundraising

In Forbes, Russ Alan Prince recaps the seven wealthy charitable donor types.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 5-6, 2016)

March 06, 2016

Ronald_Reagan_and_Nancy_Reagan_aboard_a_boat_in_California_1964 Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

After months of negotiation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fossil Free MIT have reached an agreement that will end the group's sit-in in front of the school's administrative offices. The plan agreed on by MIT and the student-led group includes four "action areas": moving toward campus carbon neutrality as soon as possible; establishing a climate action advisory committee to consult on the implementation of the Plan for Action; developing a set of strategies and benchmarks for MIT's engagement with industry, government, and other institutions; and convening a forum on the ethics of the climate issue. In response to a recent essay in the Boston Review titled "Carbon on Campus," Benjamin Franta argues that campus divestment efforts like the one at MIT are not "primarily [designed] to starve big carbon of capital," but rather "to force hard, accountable moral analyses to take place and...put an end to equivocation and dissembling on climate change by demanding action involving real money.  [Moreover doing] so helps to shift institutional and social norms and to democratize the climate debate." 

Criminal Justice

More than two decades after the federal government prohibited taxpayer dollars from being used for college-degree programs in prisons, forty-seven states have applied to participate in a Department of Education that makes Pell grant dollars available to inmates. The AP's Donna Gordon Blakenship reports.

Data

The television commercials are charming. But Forbes contributor Bernard Marr thinks Watson, IBM's natural language analytics platform, just might be the solution to the big data skills gap in America.

Dylanology

Bob Dylan -- or at least an archive of his work dating back to his earliest days -- is going "home," spiritually speaking, to Oklahoma (Woody Guthrie's birthplace), thanks to the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation. The New York Times' Ben Sisario untangles the story behind the gift.

Education

The Oakland-based New Schools Venture Fund has announced its first group of Diverse Leaders ventures -- part of an initiative by NSVF to improve public education in America by supporting a community of entrepreneurs who are committed to changing the face of K-12 leadership and being truly inclusive.

"Research findings have made clear the persistence of strong connections between arts learning in earlier years and overall academic success and pro-social outcomes," writes Marinell Rousmaniere in the Boston Globe. "[And for] the past six years, Boston has been ahead of the curve reinvesting in arts education by generating, and sustaining, a collective effort in the city among the public, private, and philanthropic sectors...."

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5 Questions for...Katherine Lorenz, President, Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation

February 24, 2016

Not yet forty, Katherine Lorenz has been active in the social sector since her early twenties, notably as co-founder of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria, a nonprofit organization working to advance food sovereignty in rural Mexico. For most of her career, Lorenz thought of herself as a grantseeker rather than as the person who would end up heading the family foundation established by her grandfather, George Mitchell, a Texas wildcatter who amassed a fortune in the natural gas industry and pioneered the cost-effective use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") to extract gas from shale. However, a stint as deputy director of the Institute for Philanthropy — which later merged with the Philanthropy Workshop, where she serves as chair — convinced her that her nonprofit experience could be valuable to the Texas-based foundation. Elected president of the foundation in 2011 and named "One to Watch" by Forbes in 2012, Lorenz has become a respected speaker on topics related to environmental sustainability, NextGen philanthropy, and nonprofit leadership and has helped guide the foundation's emergence on the national stage as it waits for a final, significant infusion of funds from her grandfather's estate.

Philanthropy News Digest spoke recently with Lorenz about the difference between "good" and "responsible" donors, the foundation's strategic planning process, and its efforts to support sustainable land-use practices in Texas and the Southwest.

Headshot_katherine_lorenzPhilanthropy News Digest: You've carved out an interesting career in the social sector. Are you at all surprised to find yourself leading your late grandfather's foundation?

Katherine Lorenz: Yes and no. I never really envisioned that I would work on the grantmaking side. Working in the field, in rural communities in Latin America, was my first pro­fessional love. I really enjoyed the work I did with a group called Amigos de las Americas and then in founding Puente a la Salud Comunitaria and leading that organization for six years in Oaxaca, Mexico. I really believed that was my passion and that I would always stay connected to the grantseeking, imple­mentation side. A few people asked if I saw myself going on to work in the foundation at some point; my answer was always no.

But several things happened: the primary one was that I went through the Philanthropy Workshop and had an "a-ha" moment, thinking about where can I have the most impact with my time and the work I do. It became clear while I was working on the grantseeking side how good donors who are well-informed can have a much bigger impact than people who are just writing checks. There's nothing wrong with providing funding, but I learned to recognize how great it was to work with good donors and how difficult it was to work with not-as-good donors, which helped me recognize the power of being a really smart, thoughtful, informed donor.

PND: How would you distinguish a good donor from a bad donor?

KL: I hate to use the term "bad donor" because I think all donors are really driven to have an impact, and for the most part they're not doing harm. There are some cases where, completely inadvertently, good intentions lead to significant problems. Something that might seem like a simple solution could have much larger — and negative — implications. For example, disaster relief that ends up destroying local markets. Then there are donors who are difficult to work with.

I think a lot of donors feel that, to be a "responsible" donor, they need to be strict with their grantees, making sure that only a certain amount goes to overhead. Or maybe they won't fund administrative costs or salaries and will only fund direct program costs, or require some additional type of reporting that's unique to them to make sure they're getting the impact they want to see. What I've found is that by trying to be a responsible donor, you can sometimes make it more difficult for the organization receiving the grant. I told one donor that we would rather not take their money than have to do what they were asking, because what they were asking would cost more than what they were willing to give us.

One of my pet peeves is the overhead conversation. When I was applying for and receiving grants, I felt it was very clear to me, as the organization's executive director, where we needed support and where we didn't. We did everything on a shoestring. We couldn't have a computer for all our employees, or our computers were so old they didn't work, or we couldn't pay to have the right software to run the accounting systems we needed. Even office space or an additional car — really basic things — all count as overhead. But none of it was wasteful, it was necessary. We couldn't do our work in the field without those things.

One area I felt was particularly important that no one wanted to fund was strategic planning. To achieve the most impact it can, an organization needs a strategic plan. But that's investing in the institu­tion and overhead, which many of our donors were not interested in funding. So, when a donor would come to me and ask, "What do you want to do that no one will fund?" — which wasn't often — that was incredibly helpful. Whereas, a different donor might say, "In addition to tracking that annually, we want you to track this other thing over here every six months, and money should only go to programs." Both would think they were doing a good job, but the difference in dealing with those types of donors, in terms of pursuing our mission, was night and day.

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Moving From Theory to Practice: A Synthesis of Lessons About Incentive-Based Instruments for Freshwater Management

February 08, 2016

Urbanwater_splashThere has been growing interest in applying incentive-based instruments such as pollution charges and tradeable permits to address the twin challenges of accessing enough freshwater to meet our needs while also preserving the well-being of freshwater ecosystems. These instruments use direct or indirect financial incentives as motivation to reallocate water or to reduce the health and environmental risks posed by an activity. But what do we know about how they have actually performed?

New York City provides an excellent illustration of the potential for incentive-based instruments. To meet new federal drinking water requirements in the late 1990s, the city was faced with the prospect of building a $4 billion to $6 billion filtration plant and spending an additional $250 million annually to operate it. Instead, city officials paid farmers and landowners in the upstream rural Catskill watershed to better manage the land, at a fraction of the cost of the proposed filtration plant. The outcome was a win-win, improving downstream water quality for people and ecosystems and boosting the rural economy.

This is just one example. To move beyond theory and better understand how these instruments perform in practice, the Rockefeller Foundation partnered with the Foundation Center and Pacific Institute on a synthesis review of existing, largely practice-based knowledge about incentive-based instruments. For the review, the foundation developed the project's scope and provided financial support, the Foundation Center and its IssueLab service were involved in project and technology development, and the Pacific Institute wrote the text.

The resulting report looks at water trading, water quality trading, and payment for ecosystem services but notes that these are but three of a much broader suite of methods available to address threats to freshwater availability and sustainability. Other methods, such as demand-side management approaches, have demonstrated considerable success in addressing such threats but were not included in the scope of the review.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 23-24, 2016)

January 24, 2016

Melted_snowman_ice_cubesOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

Are the residents of Flint, the majority of whom are black and many of whom are poor, the victims of environmental racism? Would Michigan's state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water if the majority of the city's residents were white and affluent? The New York Times' John Eligon reports.

"Recent events have shone a light on the black experience in dozens of U.S. cities. Behind the riots and the rage, the statistics tell a simple, damning story," writes Richard V. Reeves on the Brookings Institute blog. "Progress toward equality for black Americans has essentially halted." 

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tamara Copeland, president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, writes that, despite the election and re-election of Barack Obama, America is not a post-racial society, and that until the public — and philanthropy — acknowledge that the "negative treatment of a group of people based solely on race is a major contributor to poverty and inequality,...we won't be able to take the steps needed to end racial inequities."

How can America narrow its racial wealth gap? the Annie E. Casey Foundations shares four policy recommendations designed to help low-income families boost their savings and assets, "the currency of the future."

Children and Youth

On First Focus' Voices for Kids blog, Karen Howard shares the five things every presidential candidate needs to know about poverty among America's youngest children.

On the Chronicle of Social Change site, Inside Philanthropy's Kiersten Marek takes a closer look at what new leadership at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation — Peter Laugharn is the first non-Hilton family member to lead the foundation — and a doubling of assets is likely to mean for the foundation's future support of child welfare initiatives.

Community Improvement/Development

Returning to the subject of the most popular post on his blog in 2015, "trickle-down" community engagement, Vu Le argues that communities of color and other marginalized communities too often are "infantalized" by funders, a dynamic that plays out in a number of ways: a lack of trust that communities have solutions to their own problems; unrealistic expectations for communities to "get along"; and demands for communities to prove themselves with little initial support. Instead, writes Le, "[w]hy don't we try the reverse for once, and invest significant amounts in organizations led by the people who know first-hand the inequity they are trying to address." We are tired, he adds,

[of] being asked to attend more forums, summits, focus groups, answer more surveys, rally our community members, only for our opinions to be dismissed. One funder told me, "Communities need to stop complaining and start proposing solutions."

We have been. We propose solutions all the time. But if there's no trust that we actually know what we're talking about, if there's no faith that the qualitative experiences and perspectives of people who have lived through decades of social injustice are just as valid as double-blind quantitative meta-studies written up in a glossy white paper or whatever, then what's the point? The investments will be token, oftentimes trickled-down, and then that will be used to say, "You know what, we invested in you, and it didn't lead to what we wanted," further perpetuating the cycle....

In his last blog post as president of the Vermont Community Foundation, Stuart Comstock-Gay, who is leaving VCF after seven years for the top job at the Delaware Community Foundation, reflects on four questions that all Vermonters — and many other Americans — should be asking themselves.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 9-10, 2016)

January 10, 2016

5-save-worldOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson explains why it  is imperative to rebuild the city's early childhood ecosystem and the steps the foundation is taking to that end.

Communications/Marketing

According to the folks at Top Nonprofits, a good logo should be aesthetically pleasing, distinctive, memorable, timeless, scalable, simple enough for use in multiple mediums, and effective in communicating the qualities of your organization's brand. Sort of like these fifty logos.

What can nonprofits learn from public radio about storytelling? With the help of some podcast snippets, Aquifer Media's Will Coley explains.

Nice post by Ebola Deeply managing editor Kate Thomas illustrating how first-hand narratives can add meaning to hard data.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, a 91-year-old literary magazine published at the University of Virginia, is planning a year-long "experiment" on Instagram in 2016 featuring a series of black-and-white photographs and accompanying text. "We're improvising as we go along," VQR deputy editor Paul Reyes told Neiman Lab's Shan Wang. “The potential lies in how Instagram, as a platform, shapes content. Part of this is determined by what people want to write about, what they're sick of reading about, and how they might be motivated to push the limits of what can be done on this platform." 

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four reasons why your nonprofit needs to identify and launch a team of staff messengers ASAP.

Environment

To kick off 2016, three of last year's Goldman Environmental Prize recipients — Howard Wood (2015, Scotland) of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), Jean Wiener (2015, Haiti) of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity (FoProBiM) and Phyllis Omido (2015, Kenya) of the Center for Justice Governance & Environmental Action (CJGEA) — share their hopes for the new year.

Gun Violence

On Medium, Joyce Foundation president Ellen Alberding commends the series of executive actions to reduce gun deaths in America announced by President Obama on January 5 — and the president's use of research funded by the Joyce Foundation to support those actions. And here's a good piece by the Washington Post's Josh Lederman explaining the president's plan.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 2-3, 2016)

January 03, 2016

Jan_fresh_startHappy New Year! Read on for our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. And for more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

In an open letter to friends, supporters, and fellow activists, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Shawn Dove looks back on a year that was filled with "both progression and painful reflection."

Children and Youth

"Spending on children makes up just 10 percent of the federal budget, and that share is likely to fall," write Giridhar Mallya and Martha Davis on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog. In part as a result of that underinvestment, child well-being in the United States ranks 26 on a list of 29 industrialized nations in a UNICEF report. If we want to change that calculus, add Mallya and Davis, "the best thing we can do to give kids a healthy start in 2016 [is to] support parents and families."

Education

Can America's troubled public schools be fixed? In The Atlantic, a group of "leading scholars of, experts on, and advocates for K-12 education" offer reasons to be both discouraged and hopeful.

In Education Week, Doug Allen, principal of the Bessie Nichols School in Edmonton, Alberta, and a member of the Mindful Schools network, offers some reflections for educators on why they should implement a mindfulness practice.

Environment

According to Environmental Health News' Doug Fischer, 2015 was the year that "[c]overage of environmental issues, especially climate change, jumped traditional boundaries to pick up broader — and slightly ominous — geopolitical and health angles."

Environmental Defense Fund's Fred Krupp shares five reasons why 2016 will be a good year for the environment and environmental progress.

Food Insecurity

Before you donate the unwanted canned goods in your pantry to your local foodbank, read this article by the Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 19-20, 2014)

December 20, 2015

Xmas_stockings Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at@pndblog....

Climate Change

"After two centuries of prosperity built on the use of coal, oil, and natural gas, representatives of nearly two hundred countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference resolved to turn away from those fuels and embrace a new future of clean energy," writes Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate strategy at the United Nations Foundation. The key word in that sentence is "resolved," and while the agreement should be celebrated, the "hard work of implementation remains [to be done]." It won't be easy, but Detchon, for one, is an optimist. As is Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and head of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, who in an interview with the Harvard Gazette pushes back against the idea that the agreement signed in Paris was a "fraud."

Corporate Philanthropy

Tech giant Microsoft has announced an "expanded commitment" to its global corporate philanthropy and a new organization within the company, Microsoft Philanthropies, "to make this ambition a reality."

Environment

The so-called war on drugs not only has failed to impede global drug trafficking, it's also contributing to "widespread environmental degradation and accelerating climate change." Vice's Eva Hershaw has the story.

On the Huffington Post's Green blog, Laura Goldman looks at what the Philadelphia-based William Penn foundation, and others, have been doing to improve and maintain the Delaware River watershed, which provides drinking water to fifteen million people or 5 percent of the U.S. population. 

Giving

It's that time of year, and Steve Delfin,  president and CEO of America’s Charities, has six tips for getting the most out of your giving during the holiday season.

When is a pledge to give as valuable as an actual donation? More often than you'd think. The Wall Street Journal's James Andreoni and Marta Serra-Garcia explain.

Yes, taxes matter when it comes to charitable giving. But as Andrew Blackman explains in the Journal, the relationship isn't as simple as it looks. "For instance, research suggests that the system of itemized deductions the U.S. has been using for decades is much less effective at spurring donations than tax systems in other countries that...offer charities matching donations.

Still other research suggests people may even be willing to give money voluntarily to the government — if the government gives them the chance to direct the money to a cause they approve of.

Meanwhile, some scientists have found that the brain reacts the same way to making donations as it does to paying taxes, if the taxes are clearly being used for a good cause — suggesting that people may be more willing to pay taxes if they know how the money's being used. And some findings even suggest that offering deductions for charitable giving may promote good health....

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5 Questions for…Ward S. Caswell, President, Beveridge Family Foundation

November 05, 2015

Foundation Center Vice President for Development Nancy Albilal spoke with Ward S. Caswell, president of the Beveridge Family Foundation in West Newbury, Massachusetts, about the foundation’s grantmaking to nonprofits working to create opportunity and a more vibrant economy and quality of life in Hampden and Hampshire counties. Nancy’s Q&A with Caswell is part of the Funder's Forum series, which helps foundation leaders exchange ideas and connect with their peers, and is featured, along with other Forum interviews, in the center’s monthly E-Updates for Grantmakers newsletter.

Headshot_ward_caswellNancy Albilal: How does the Beveridge Family Foundation's grantmaking honor the legacy of Frank Stanley Beveridge while continuing to evolve to meet the needs of the communities you serve?

Ward Slocum Caswell: When the foundation was started back in the 1940s, Frank Stanley Beveridge was doing quite a bit in the community to give back in those areas he felt had helped him become a success. It's important to understand that Mr. Beveridge was the adopted son of farmers up in Canada. He understood the value of hard work, but also what I like to call putting your fingers in the dirt, understanding man's connection with nature and the environment. So, he established a park in Westfield, Massachusetts, that today is called Stanley Park. In the early days, it was small and used quite a bit for Stanley Home Products company events. But it grew over the years and now is the largest non-government-owned, free-to-the-public park east of the Mississippi. It's very popular with people in Westfield and the Pioneer Valley and includes a large playground, beautiful gardens, lots of rolling paths that wind down to ponds and woods and across fields, and it's a hundred percent handicapped accessible.

So the Beveridge Family Foundation exists primarily to fund the needs of the park, which have evolved. Following Mr. Beveridge’s death in 1956, the foundation benefited from growth in its primary investment, the stock of Stanley Home Products. When we exited the stock in the 1980s, we invested in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds and, well, it was the 1980s, and our corpus continued to grow into the late nineties. Of course, as anyone who reads the business news knows, the markets since the late nineties haven't been that productive. At the same time, costs have risen for lots of things, so we took a pause in 2009 and asked ourselves, "What would happen if the needs of the park eventually exceeded the ability of the foundation to fund it?" As a result of that process, we did two things. First, we started to fund raise within the park, and then we began to require public support for anything over and above how the park looked in 2009, including endowing any new structures or additions. And I am pleased to say that we are finishing up a new pavilion to replace one built sixty years ago that had been ruined by beetles and had to be removed. Not only is the new pavilion much nicer than the old one, its construction was also made possible through the support of the community, which is very different from the way we used to do things. It used to be that if the park needed something, we wrote a check. But the new approach allows us to continue growing the legacy of the foundation, which supports a host of nonprofits, primarily in Hampden and Hampshire counties in western Massachusetts. At this point, we give about $2 million a year, a third of which supports Stanley Park, with the rest going to a range of environmental, social, and other organizations, and all of it in keeping with the interest Frank Stanley Beveridge had in promoting culture, education, and the general enjoyment of the community.

NA: How has the foundation's investment in environmental issues developed over time? And how do you position your work on this issue given your primarily local focus?

WSC: You know, sometimes when people invest in the environment, it's to say "no" to things — to developers, to pollution, et cetera. And saying no to things can create difficulties for people who are trying to earn a living or looking for an affordable place to live. We believe there needs to be an intelligent balance between conservation and the needs of local communities. The park is a great example. It's a large park with very few buildings. A lot of woods, a lot of open fields, and a lot of well-tended gardens, as well as a few facilities that allow people to get out of the rain, to have a wedding or family reunion or hold a concert or any of the hundreds of events we host there every year. When we fund environmental issues in western Massachusetts, we tend to spread that funding across a variety of different activities. Twenty years ago, it would have been for the Connecticut River watershed group that was working to clean up the river after the removal of a lot of paper pulp factories. Thirty years ago, the river I fished as a kid was a mess. You'd pull out your fishing line and it would be covered with strings of paper pulp, and the only fish you could catch were carp and other kinds of junk fish that dug up the bottom. Today the Connecticut River in Massachusetts is beautiful. It's clean. It's clear. There are all kinds of different fish coming back up the river. And for the first time in many years, people are using it. They hold dragon boat races to raise funds for breast cancer research and crew practices and regattas for people of all incomes and from every socioeconomic background. It's a vibrant resource again. And that happened in part because of the work that was funded twenty and thirty years ago, the shutting down of large polluters and the removal of some of the heavy metals and toxins, the replanting of littoral grasses, and so on.

Today the funding we do in the environmental area is a little different. We're strong supporters of the Center for EcoTechnology, for example, and their work in helping make Massachusetts the most energy-efficient state in the nation. We've achieved that not by having crazy restrictions on emissions from cars, which you see in California and which means auto manufacturers have to make special versions of their cars just for California. What the center does instead is to go door-to-door and help people understand the ways in which their homes and businesses are energy inefficient and what they can do with tax rebates and other kinds of programs and incentives to remedy those inefficiencies. The great thing about it is that it actually saves the homeowner or business owner money by lowering their energy bills while making Massachusetts a much more energy-efficient state and reducing our dependence on carbon fuels. It's a win-win.

Another thing we do is fund trusts that help people put agricultural or low-density deed restrictions on their properties as a way to conserve open space in Massachusetts where wildlife can continue to flourish and people can enjoy nature. Often, these trusts also benefit the owners of the property by enabling them to reduce their tax bills and, occasionally, to receive actual funds from a nonprofit organization that is willing to pay the property owner for effectively reducing the economic utility of their properties while preserving the property in perpetuity in a way that benefits the public and is sustainable.

That said, we recognize that one of the greatest needs in Massachusetts is affordable housing. So we do quite a bit of work in trying to help people find effective and efficient ways to build, maintain, rent, and sell affordable housing. We're strong proponents of an east-west high-speed rail line to connect the economic engine that is Boston with the tremendous opportunities in the western part of the state. If you look at the economic cycles that seem to run on a seven- to ten-year basis — think of a sine wave — Boston is interesting in that it is always flattened on the top. Because housing costs are so high in and around Boston, making it increasingly difficult to hire and house employees in up cycles, the city's economy tends to flatten out before the rest of the nation's economy. When the economy is booming, people find it increasingly difficult to live and work within reasonable commuting distance of the city. Meanwhile, Springfield, Holyoke, and the entire Pioneer Valley is full of intelligent, hardworking, experienced people who would love to be earning a higher wage but are reluctant to move from the Pioneer Valley because of its affordability and the quality of life there. Unfortunately, the Mass Pike, along with Logan Airport, is owned by a private corporation that really seems to have no interest in expanding those key transport hubs for the benefit of the state. CFX, which owns the freight lines that run east-west, also is reluctant to give up its rights, which are crucial if we ever hope to connect the two parts of Massachusetts for the long-term economic health of the state and its residents. So we try to work with different groups to understand those problems and find ways to help more people understand the situation and what can be done to address it.

Last but not least, we're involved in a group called City2City in the Pioneer Valley that was incubated by the Federal Reserve and studies what the Fed calls "resurgent" cities. The Fed looked at seventy-five post-industrial cities across the U.S. and found that twenty-five or so of them had actually come back nicely, while the rest had not. Springfield was one of the ones that has not. And so each year, we visit other cities to try to learn what they have done to revitalize themselves and bring those lessons back to Springfield. Next week, we're going to Chattanooga!

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Katrina 10: Recovery, Resilience, and a City Back From the Dead

August 29, 2015

Weekend Link Roundup (August 22-23, 2015)

August 23, 2015

Gone_fishinOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

The student-led movement aimed at getting universities to divest their endowments of investments in the fossil fuel industry is going global, writes Rosie Spinks, and financial types on Wall Street and in London's City district are starting to pay attention.

Community Improvement/Development

The folks at Daily Detroit have posted a good Q&A with Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation, which has played an important role in many of the major and minor developments in Detroit over the last five years or so.

Consulting

Richard Marker explains how the well-known "rule of three" in the world of strategy, along with timely advice from colleagues and friends, made him realize how much he had "siloed" his own consulting practice.

Corporate Social Responsibility

With the "economic system that won the great ideological battle of the 20th century...facing a renewed challenge in the 21st," Fortune editor Alan Murray introduces the magazine's first-ever Change the World list, ten companies that are "doing well by doing good."

"For decades many companies ignored the social and environmental consequences of their activities. They saw their main responsibility as delivering returns to shareholders and viewed their obligations to society narrowly, as 'giving back' through philanthropy," write ;Michael E. Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Mark R. Kramer, a co-founder (with Porter) of FSG, a nonprofit social-impact consulting firm, in conjunction with the publication of Fortune's Change the World list. But what's emerging today, they add,

is something more fundamental — something we call creating shared value. Large companies are addressing big social problems as a core part of their strategy. They are disproving the flawed and simplistic notion that business and society are implacable opponents locked in a zero-sum game. Instead, they are demonstrating the radical idea that companies that tackle social problems through a profitable business model offer new hope for innovative and scalable solutions....

On Forbes, Ryan Scott says the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF), to be held in Geneva in October, is further proof that companies increasingly recognize "the essential role they must play in the march toward social change. Checkbook philanthropy isn't enough to impact communities or benefit a company's culture," Scott adds; "rather, businesses are seeing the positive results that happen when they engage all aspects of their mission and functions around corporate social responsibility.

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