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131 posts categorized "Environment"

Foundations and Climate Change: 5 Questions for…Robert Searle, Partner, Bridgespan Group

June 13, 2013

Headshot_robt_searleIn recent years, the debate over climate change has centered on greenhouse gas emissions, which have been linked by scientists to rising global temperatures. But after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on coastal areas of New York and New Jersey, underscoring the importance -- and vulnerability -- of critical infrastructure systems, many policy makers and environmentalists began to shift their attention to climate change adaptation strategies.

To help advance the debate, the Bridgespan Group has released a report, How Philanthropy Can Help Communities Advance Climate Change Adaptation (12 pages, PDF), that examines the funding environment for these strategies and offers a number of suggestions for foundations looking to support adaptation efforts in a post-Sandy context. Recently, PND spoke with Bob Searle, a partner in Bridgespan's Boston office and co-author of the report, about the impact of Sandy on the climate change debate, the tradeoffs between mitigation and adaptation, and some of the things foundations can do to advance the debate.

Philanthropy News Digest: The climate effects of a warming planet had been predicted long before An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006. Why has it taken so long for the discussion about climate change to get serious?

Robert Searle: I think there are two primary reasons, and they are interconnected. The first is that all science involves an element of uncertainty, and climate science is no exception. There are elements of the climate situation that are quite certain. For example, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing, and that increase has led to a general warming of the planet. There are other aspects that are less certain and open to interpretation and judgment; for example, whether human activity is the major cause of these changes, and what the environmental and social impact of climate change will be.

And this is where the second reason comes in: The biggest source of greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuel, and the global economy is based on fossil fuels. In other words, there are incredibly strong vested interests in not making the explicit connection between man-made greenhouse gases and the potentially devastating effects of climate change. Those vested interests will naturally seize on any element of uncertainty to argue against change that will threaten economic development, especially when the economy is already shaky.

One mistake that the environmental community has made is to allow itself to be painted as anti-people and anti-economic development on the climate issue. There was a great article in the Fall 2012 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled "Climate Science as Culture War," by Andrew Hoffman, that speaks to some of these points.

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The Social Progress Index: Measuring What Counts?

April 30, 2013

Report-cover_SocialProgressIndexThe Washington, D.C.-based Social Progress Imperative made a splash at the Skoll World Forum earlier this month when it launched its Social Progress Index (SPI), an ambitious effort to inform and influence development policies around the globe.

Developed by Harvard Business School professor and competitiveness expert Michael E. Porter in collaboration with Scott Stern of MIT, the index is founded on the principle that "what we measure guides the choices we make." To that end, the index analyzes fifty-two outcome-based (as opposed to input-based) indicators in three dimensions of social progress: meeting basic human needs; establishing the foundations of well-being that enable individuals to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives; and creating opportunity for all to reach their full potential. (For a complete breakdown of indicators, click here.)

While the index and the report (154 pages, PDF) released in conjunction with the launch of the index includes only fifty countries, those countries represent three-quarters of the world's population. Here's a chart from the report that plots their aggregate SPI scores against GDP per capita (PPP):

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 20-21, 2013)

April 21, 2013

Magnolia_bloomsOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz has some recommendations for nonprofit communications officers (here and here) on how to communicate during a time of crisis.

Current Affairs

In the wake of the horrific bombing at this year's Boston Marathon, Philanthropy 411's Kris Putnam-Walkerly has curated a list of resources for anyone interested in learning more about philanthropy's response to the tragedy. As of Friday, the One Fund Boston, which was created by Boston mayor Thomas Menino, had raised more than $10 million to help victims of the attack.

As if the marathon tragedy wasn't enough to rattle Americans, on Wednesday a fertilizer plant in the Texas town of West caught fire and exploded, killing at least fourteen people and injuring hundreds of others. According to ThinkProgress economic policy editor Bryce Covert, the plant hadn't been inspected in five years. Covert goes on to explain that the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "is chronically understaffed, which means that a given plant like West Fertilizer can only expect to get a state inspection once every 67 years on average." And what's more, OSHA is "slated to take a huge cut under the sequester...."

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Rising Risk and Rising Tides: Can We Catch the Wave?

April 19, 2013

(Rachel Leon is executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association.)

Headshot_rachel_leonSince its creation in 1970, Earth Day has helped bridge the gap between people and the planet, connecting us to the ground we stand on. For Extreme Weather Earth Day 2013, it is vital we reaffirm that connection as we confront global challenges and increasingly common extreme weather events in our own backyards.

At a recent conference, Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, articulated two priorities for us as a nation and community: finding solutions to problems of climate change, and getting kids outside. These macro and micro pieces fit together and can help show the way to a more sustainable future.

My mother likes to tell the story of my first speech, which I gave when I was three and which included a plea for more parks in our community. I grew up in Schenectady, New York, in an inner-city neighborhood; our playground was a vacant lot full of metal pipes and glass, and that speech was the beginning of my personal activism and connection to the outdoors.

Ultimately, the community, with a huge contribution from my mom, succeeded in getting a new park built. And, thanks in part to that experience, I was drawn to issues of poverty and inequality as I got older. I really didn't reconnect with environmental issues, however, until I found myself working at a statewide anti-hunger organization. Our agenda included getting food stamps accepted at farmers markets so as to encourage fresh food choices for all families, regardless of income. At the time, I didn't identify as an environmentalist, and yet my work was absolutely connected to the environment. That perception, that people working for a better planet are somehow different from those working to address poverty, inequality, or other social issues, is all too common -- and one we absolutely need to address if we hope to build an engaged community that spans all interests and sectors.

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Protecting Nature Is the Smartest Investment We Can Make

April 10, 2013

(Mark Tercek is president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy and co-author of the book Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature).

Headshot_mark_tercekIn my work for the Nature Conservancy, I think a lot about how we can do more. How can we unlock new sources of capital, enlist more people to support our cause, and develop new alliances that will enable us to conserve nature at a scale never before achieved?

In my view, the answer is in putting ourselves in others' shoes -- whether those of a sugarcane grower in Colombia, a trawl fisher in California, or the executive of a global manufacturing company -- and focusing on why nature is important and valuable to them.

A simple but elegant solution to an environmental challenge in Colombia demonstrates this approach -- an approach that is leading to exciting new ways of structuring, funding, and discussing environmental nonprofit interventions.

The Project

In October 2011 I met with a group of sugarcane growers in Bogota, Colombia. They were warm and gracious hosts, affable dinner companions, and extremely proud of their beautiful lands and their booming business. They didn't see the world exactly the same way I do and they certainly didn't think of themselves as environmentalists. But they did agree with me on a simple point -- it makes great sense to invest in nature to protect water supplies.

Over the past decade, Colombia's sugarcane growers have become increasingly concerned about water supply in the Cauca Valley, situated near the country's Pacific coast and one of the richest cane-growing regions in the world. The farmers there need abundant water to irrigate their enormous fields.

The solution we arrived at together: protect the water supply by protecting the forested watersheds that feed the Cauca River.

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Philanthropy? I’m Going Fishing!

March 31, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is the president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about the linguistic creativity of funders who award general operating support.)

April 1 is the most important day of the year on my calendar, and not because it's April Fools' Day. No, April 1 is the opening day of trout fishing season here in New York State -- and if it's like past opening days, it will be icily cold, wet, and unproductive, with my chances of actually catching one of those wily trout almost zero. Still, I'll be out there -- early -- because trout fishing is my form of meditation, the one thing I do that takes my thoughts as far away from work as possible, to nowhere.

Brook_trout
Given that my work is the business of philanthropy, I thought I'd share a list of the things I will NOT be thinking about while I am, as author John Gierach puts it, "standing in a river waving a stick." Here goes:

Is philanthropy effective?
Is philanthropy efficient?
Is philanthropy strategic?
Is philanthropy catalytic?
Is philanthropy innovative?
Is philanthropy transparent enough?
Is philanthropy too transparent?
Does the Foundation Center's data capture the uniqueness of each foundation?
Will the foundation world ever agree on data standards?
What is the difference between an outcome and an output?
Is there too little collaboration among philanthropy "infrastructure" groups?
Is there too little collaboration among foundations?
Is limiting the lifespan of a foundation better than establishing a foundation in perpetuity?
Is perpetuity better than limiting the lifespan of a foundation?
Who will be the next president of the Kellogg Foundation?
Who will be the next president of the Ford Foundation?
Who will be the next president of the (fill in the blank) Foundation?
Is there a viable business model for open source, open data, open anything?
Can philanthropy keep up with technological change?

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 30-31, 2013)

Easter_eggOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Black Male Achievement

Here on PhilanTopic, the Open Society Foundation's Shawn Dove, whom we spoke with back in December, announces the launch of BMAfunders.org, a Web portal designed to "facilitate engagement, collaboration, and strategic decision making among funders, nonprofits, and policy makers working to promote positive outcomes for black men and boys in America."

Communications

In a guest post on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Blog, Jen Charney, communication manager at the Save the Redwoods League, explains how the organization redesigned its Web site to attract more "uniques" and increase online donations and e-mail subscribers.

Environment

Environmental "cause days" such as Earth Day are great, but what about the other 360+ days of the year, asks Geoff Livingston, author of Welcome to the Fifth Estate, in a recent post on his blog.  "If our culture intends to adapt to climate change," writes Livingston, "our efforts need to increase. First of all, let's not poo-poo the small acts taken. Instead, let's build upon them...."

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Investing for Impact: Conservation and Environmental Restoration Through Mitigation Banking

February 07, 2013

(Ashley M. Allen is a founder and managing partner of i2 Capital Group, a merchant banking firm focused on impact investments in the energy and natural resource, education, and health sectors.)

Img-habitat-banking-gaining-groundIn industrial and post-industrial economies around the world, economic development has often come at the expense of the natural environment. Over the coming decades, the United States will experience significant negative impacts to ecosystems and watersheds from energy development, infrastructure build out, and urbanization. Growing demand for low-carbon electricity and biofuel production is likely to involve large amounts of publicly and privately owned land, while energy developers anticipate drilling tens of thousands of oil and gas wells across more than two million acres of leased land. Against this backdrop, the implementation and expansion of effective habitat conservation and mitigation practices and policies has the potential to dramatically reduce and offset many of the less desirable impacts associated with this kind of development, thereby helping to create a sustainable economy in which economic development and conservation are valued and promoted.

Habitat Mitigation

Habitat mitigation is the practice of avoiding, minimizing, or offsetting negative impacts on natural habitats and wildlife from energy and other development activities. In the U.S., the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), and the National Environmental Policy Act (1969) together form the policy underpinnings for environmental mitigation activities. As defined by the Council on Environmental Quality, mitigation includes: (a) avoiding negative impacts altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action; (b) minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation; (c) rectifying negative impacts by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected environment; (d) reducing or eliminating impacts over time by maintaining mitigation activities over the life of the action; and (e) compensating for negative impacts by replacing or providing substitute resources/habitats (compensatory mitigation).

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2012 Year in Review: Impact Investing, Other New Forms of Giving Gain Traction

December 31, 2012

Pnd_yearinreview_2012Impact investing -- the practice of making loans and equity investments in nonprofits and socially minded businesses working to generate measurable social or environmental impact with the expectation that the money will be repaid over time -- and other new forms of giving continued to gain traction in 2012, thanks in part to the efforts of organizations like the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Omidyar Network, and the Skoll and Rockefeller foundations.

The year got off to a flying start when, in February, NFF announced a $40 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation in support of community development projects across the United States; an initiative of the U.S. Treasury Department, the NMTC program enables nonprofits to affordably complete facility improvements and finance projects in low-income areas around the country. In March, Omidyar Network and ACCION International made a $3.2 million investment in Zambia-based Mobile Transactions to boost financial transactions across the Zambian economy. In April, the Skoll Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development launched a $44.5 million global initiative to identify and fund high-impact social entrepreneurs who have created workable innovations and sustainable, scalable business models. And, in May, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced its participation through its Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund in a $3.7 million Series A venture financing round for Umbel, a privately held digital audience measurement company.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 29-30, 2012)

December 30, 2012

Happy_new_yearTo help mark the end of another eventful year, we've rounded up a dozen or so of our favorite "best of" and nonprofit trendspotting pieces. Have a list you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Communications/Marketing

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares Trendwatching's list of consumer trends to keep an eye on and weighs in on what each could mean for nonprofits in 2013.

And in a two-part series on her Getting Attention blog (here and here), Nancy Schwartz lists the nonprofit marketing trends that are "must-dos" for your organization in 2013.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Kula CEO Gerrit McGowan looks back at some of the CSR high- and lowlights of 2012 -- and tells us what companies looking to take their CSR programs to the next level will be doing in 2013.

Innovation/Leadership

As it has it has for many years, Foreign Policy magazine closes out 2012 with an eclectic list of the top global thinkers -- a list that includes Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, novelists Haruki Murakami and Chinua Achebe, and Russian environmentalist Yevgenia Chirikova.

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[Inforgraphic] 2012 Conservation Victories

December 29, 2012

After Sandy, after Newtown, after a presidential election that was too long and cost way too much, we wanted to do our small part to end the year on a positive note. So here, courtesy of the Pew Environment Group, is an encouraging look at some of the important wins for the environment, the planet, and all of us in 2012.

Let's hope there are more to come in 2013. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 3-4, 2012)

November 04, 2012

Sandy_recoveryOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Society

On the NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Niki Jagpal discusses a recent article from the Poverty & Race Research Action Council about the "unsettling statistics on the status of voting rights in our country." According to PRRAC, voter identification laws, early voting restrictions, purging of "legitimate registered voters because of baseless suspicion of their citizenship status," and felon disenfranchisement continue to marginalize low-income individuals, communities of color, younger voters, and the elderly.

Disaster Relief

In the days following the devastating landfall of Superstorm Sandy near Cape May, New Jersey, nonprofit bloggers were busy sharing resources for those interested in contributing to relief and recovery efforts. On her Have Fun, Do Good blog, Britt Bravo has compiled a list of articles and Web sites that suggest ways to donate and volunteer; Idealist's Allison Jones has a few additional suggestions for New Yorkers looking to get involved in relief and recovery efforts; and longtime New Jersey resident Nancy Schwartz suggests three organizations on the ground in that state -- the NYC Rescue Mission, the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey -- that are "providing services right now and need your help to keep it up."

Looking at the response to the storm through a tech/data lens, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz tracks, in a series of posts, the many ways in which organizations and individuals used information communication technologies during and after the storm, while the Weakonomist looks at how Sandy might affect the economy.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 27-28, 2012)

October 28, 2012

Hurricane-sandy_satOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Climate Change

Bridgespan Group manager Chris Addy says that if the federal government won't address climate change at the policy level, at-risk communities may need to rely on the generosity of private philanthropies like the San Diego Foundation for support. He goes on to list "five powerful pathways for philanthropic funders to invest in climate adaptation":

  1. support local science and local scientists;
  2. invest in neutral conveners;
  3. build the field of climate adaptation;
  4. re-frame adaptation around equity; and
  5. support advocacy.

Leadership

On the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation blog, David Grant, who was president and CEO of the foundation from 1998 to 2010, writes about a board leadership training in which he put off using the "a-word" -- assessment -- and asked the participants to envision what success for their organizations would look like in progressively specific terms. The participants discussed their answers with one another, then repeated the exercise but this time described what success would look like at an even higher level. Grant writes:

I was talking about building an assessment culture. And without using the word "rubric," the teams from each organization had begun to build one, as they discussed...what criteria they would [use to] measure success and began to meld together their visions of what success would look like at various levels. They were beginning to create a clear, specific, shared vision they could plan backwards from -- and one they could use to give and receive feedback in time for the feedback to be useful.

My contention has always been that the word "assessment" needs to be rehabilitated. We have all experienced assessment so many times in our lives...as something that comes at the end and judges our past performance that we have trouble assuming it could be something that happens all along and improves our performance. But it can be. Coaches know that. Teachers of performing arts know that. And leaders of nonprofit organizations can know it, too, once they establish some basic principles and some new habits with their colleagues....

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 25-26, 2012)

August 26, 2012

Ts-issac-satelliteOur (slightly delayed) weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Environment

On NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Niki Jagpal commends the Kresge Foundation for a recent grant of $500,000 to Princeton-based Climate Central in support of efforts to provide decision makers and the public with information about future coastal flood exposure and sea level rise. "Kresge," writes Jagpal, "is leading the way by example: focusing specifically on socially vulnerable populations is precisely what environment and climate philanthropy expert Sarah Hansen recommends for environment and climate funders in Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders."

Leadership

Philanthropy 411's Kris Putnam-Walkerly shares a post from Trista Harris, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, in which Harris explains what an informational interview is for those "too embarrassed to ask."

Social Entrepreneurship

In a post on his Harvard Business Review blog, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta discusses how he went from building Pallotta TeamWorks, one of the most successful charity event businesses in the country, to losing everything -- including four hundred full-time employees and sixteen U.S. offices -- after his biggest client jumped ship.

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Innovation Forum 2012

June 26, 2012

We thought it would be fun (and interesting) to share the livestream of the Rockefeller Foundation's 2012 Innovation Forum, which is supposed to start around 12:45 EDT and is one component of the storied foundation's centennial celebration.

The forum is designed to explore solutions to pressing global challenges and this year will focus on ways of ensuring that the benefits of new technologies do not bypass the world's poor. To that end, the event will showcase cutting-edge inventions, convene thought leaders from different sectors, and feature discussions that explore opportunities to help those who are becoming more vulnerable due to pernicious economic, social, and environmental forces.


Live streaming by Ustream

Later this evening, the foundation will honor Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons Ltd.; Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the UK-based Portland Trust and Big Society Capital; and J. Carl Ganter, director and co-founder of Circle of Blue, an international network of journalists, scientists, and communications experts working to address and raise awareness of the global freshwater crisis, for their innovative work and philanthropy. And you can watch the whole thing from the comfort of your air-conditioned office.

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