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47 posts categorized "Global Health"

A Marriage of Commerce and Cause: How Rotary Is Staying Relevant in the 21st Century

June 20, 2017

Time_to_adaptIn 1905, a lawyer, a merchant tailor, a mining engineer, and a coal dealer met in downtown Chicago. Rotary's founders initially were looking for an opportunity to build relationships and promote their businesses. A hundred and twelve years later, Rotary has matured into one of the world’s largest membership and humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

The work of Rotary's 1.2 million members combines the building of community connections with humanitarian efforts such as promoting peace, providing clean water and sanitation, preventing disease, and alleviating poverty — challenges that are just as pressing today as they were when Rotary was founded.

Yet, as is true of many large organizations in the world today, Rotary faces the ongoing challenge of staying relevant at a time when technology and organizations new to the NGO space are changing the landscape of philanthropy.

For example, the number of social sector organizations in the United States has increased some 8.6 percent since 2002, while by some estimates there are now approximately 1.44 million nonprofits registered with the IRS. Part of this growth reflects society's increased reliance on nonprofits to fill service gaps in areas where cash-strapped governments are no longer able to deliver on past promises.

In addition, with a greater range of charitable opportunities and new models for fundraising (e.g., peer-to-peer, mobile, crowdfunding), there is increased competition in the nonprofit marketplace for both supporters and donations.

In the face of these challenges, how can nonprofits like Rotary continue to thrive? Over the past few years, Rotary and its members have been thinking about that question and, after much discussion, have developed a plan to address the challenge. Below are three concrete steps we have taken or are taking.

1. Staying relevant for boomers and millennials. Organizations in the twenty-first century must structure themselves in ways that encourage sustained engagement opportunities, especially with respect to a millennial generation that tends to identify with causes and social impact more than with hierarchically organized institutions. Of the approximately 80 million millennials living in the United States, a recent study showed that 87 percent are interested in volunteering or participating in their company's corporate social responsibility programs, while nearly half have volunteered for a cause or nonprofit in the past month.

At the same time, it is equally important that we engage people at the other end of the demographic spectrum. As the New York Times reported in 2015, organizations like Rotary are an attractive option for the 10.6 million Americans over the age of 65 who want to stay active and engaged and who are eager and in a position to give back to society.

The importance of this change is underscored by the insights of Michael McQueen, an author, business consultant, and Rotary member. In the diagram below, McQueen illustrates the fact that sustained relevance is rarely linear, and that when an organization has passed its peak relevance (the red x), a reinvention is in order if it hopes to remain relevant.

Rotary_Silent Pulse
Fig. 1: What is Your Silent Pulse?, Michael McQueen

 

Organizations can avoid the downward slide by taking appropriate action, which is what Rotary did when a series of independent surveys revealed that many non-members (and even some of our members) could not fully explain our mission, or why people should join.

After lots of analysis and introspection, we began to address these issues by sharpening and strengthening our brand identity. That effort has borne fruit, as we surpassed our target of $1 billion in current and projected endowment assets two years early. We also were recently ranked no.3 in a CNBC and Charity Navigator profile of the top 10 charities changing the world in 2016.

2. A unifying cause: eradicating polio from the face of the earth. Staying relevant in a rapidly changing world also involves setting audacious, transformational organizational goals that serve to engage and motivate members and supporters. In Rotary's case, the big one has been the eradication of polio globally.

In 1985, Rotary, a nongovernmental organization — not a government ministry or multilateral institution like the UN — had the audacity to take on the challenge of eradicating polio. Thanks to our efforts and those of our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the incidence of polio around the world has been reduced by 99.9 percent over the last thirty years — making it one of the most successful public-private global health partnerships ever.

There were four key factors that enabled Rotary and its large, diverse membership to achieve this goal and stay focused on it for three decades.

The cause was relevant to our members. Polio was endemic in a hundred and twenty-five countries when Rotary announced its goal to eradicate the disease in 1985. Rotary is an international organization, and, as a result, many Rotary members had first-hand experience of the disease and the suffering it causes.

Hands-on participation. The use of the oral polio vaccine made it possible for any Rotary member or supporter to become a vaccinator and forge a deeply personal and emotional connection to a cause that went beyond simply writing a check or attending a fundraising event.

Results were measurable. Success and victory were easily measured — you either had polio cases in the world or you did not. Our members set themselves a concrete and achievable goal with clear metrics for success.

We didn't do it alone; finding good partners is crucial. When Rotary decided to tackle polio in 1985, we knew we couldn't do it alone. So we assembled a coalition in 1988 to achieve the goal — the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined more recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and allowed each to define its role in the effort.

As part of GPEI, Rotary has leveraged its unique strengths in fundraising (Rotary members have contributed more than $1.6 billion to the eradication effort), advocacy, awareness raising, vaccination initiatives, and enlisting the support of governments.

One irony of this incredible project is that we could become victims of our own success. Over the three decades that we have worked to end polio, there was always the danger that the goal would become less relevant to a younger demographic, particularly in developed countries where the virus had been eradicated. To avoid mission fatigue, our response has been to highlight the opportunity of being a part of history and contributing to the eradication of a human disease for only the second time ever, after smallpox in 1980. The approach has resonated.

3. Shifting the paradigm: social good becomes part of the value proposition. As the world rises to the challenge of a new set of ambitious United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, nonprofits able to blend commerce and cause will play a key role. Organizations that do this effectively also will be well positioned to meet millennials’ insistence on integrity, accountability, and social good as core corporate values.

Making these values part of your organizational DNA is critical. At Rotary, the promotion of business ethics and our focus on maximizing positive social good is a core organizational principle. Rotary's Four-Way Test — which asks of the things we think, say, or do: Is it true? Is it fair? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? And will it benefit all? — has guided Rotary leaders and members for more than a century.

In the for-profit sector, however, adding social value is not always embedded in a company's mission, and corporate social responsibility initiatives often can seem like discretionary add-ons to a firm’s business objectives.

If that is to change, the social value of a company's work must become a key performance indicator for executives in the way that share value currently is.

The question, then, is how to unlock the significant potential of the private sector as a key engine of sustainable growth and a force for improving lives globally. This is where nonprofits can lead. NGOs can help bridge the gap between private capital and local causes, providing the capacity, leadership, and experience needed to forge smart partnerships.

For example, Rotary partnered with global healthcare company Abbott to offer Mega Wellness camps in India and Brazil. These are daylong events where doctors and laboratory assistants provide free consultations and healthcare information to all walk-in patients about a range of health issues. Over the life of the partnership, Rotary and Abbott teamed up to provide care to 26,226 people at thirty-eight different events, and Rotary volunteers helped raise awareness of the camps, mobilized support within the various communities, and helped spread the word about the benefits of polio immunization.

Partnerships like this also help Rotary establish a legacy for our flagship polio program by demonstrating to communities in which we work our commitment to public health more broadly and our ability and willingness to provide resources to back that commitment up. Last but not least, they provide a framework for a deeper, more sincere commitment from the private sector beyond the limitations of strategic corporate social responsibility. And that helps advance an ongoing paradigm shift in the for-profit world from a model where shareholder value and the maximization of profit are all that matter to one where creating positive social impact is a core element of every company’s model.

So, as nonprofit leaders, how can you ensure that your organizations are positioned to compete for hearts, minds, and dollars in the twenty-first century? It's pretty simple: Stay true to your DNA but take steps to make sure you stay relevant; identify a big, audacious goal that motivates your teams and mobilizes your supporters; and maximize your impact through smart partnerships. Do all three and your organization is likely to not only survive but thrive in the years to come.

Headshot__John_HewkoJohn Hewko is the general secretary of Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 20-21, 2017)

May 22, 2017

Pause-button-2Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

Does your organization have a strategy for dealing with the media? To help its members think beyond the press release, dispel misperceptions about working with the media, and provide practical guidance on how to approach this powerful medium, Exponent Philanthropy has released A Funder's Guide to Engaging With the Media, which includes the five building block of a successful media strategy highlighted in this post on the organization's PhilanthroFiles blog.

"Why do so many nonprofits take on the burden of producing the equivalent of a magazine a month [i.e., your monthly newsletter] that gets an average 1.5 percent click through rate and 14 percent open rate?" That's one of the controversial questions Ally Dommu poses in a post on the Big Duck site. Before you do anything rash, take a look at some of the other questions Dommu poses in her post and read the half a dozen or so comments submitted in response to her post.

Education

Budget documents obtained by the Washington Post offer the clearest picture yet of how the Trump administration intends to shrink the federal government's role in education and give parents more opportunity to choose their children's schools. Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss, and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report

Environment

In his first four months as president, Donald Trump has walked back many of the promises he made to supporters on the campaign trail. One thing is absolutely clear, however: he is committed to rolling back a half-century of environmental regulations and protections supported, at different times, by majorities in both parties. And that, according to the findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, puts him at odds with a majority of Americans.

Global Health

On the Devex site, Rebecca Root shares five key takeaways from her conversations with attendees at the recent G-20 meeting on global health innovation.

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The Brave New World of Open Source

May 09, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century; As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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OpensourceAllow me to introduce myself. My name is Dave Hollander, and I'm a data scientist here at Foundation Center. The role of a data scientist is to use techniques from statistics and computer science to make sense of and draw insights from large amounts of data. I work on the Application Development team, which engineers the code in Foundation Center products you use, including Foundation Maps and the new search tool that was launched as part of the redesign of foundationcenter.org.

Like nearly every software development team, the members of the center's Application Development team share code among ourselves as we work on new projects. This allows us to work on smaller parts of a larger machine while simultaneously ensuring that all the parts fit together. The individual parts are assembled during the development phase and eventually comprise the code base that powers the final product. When finished, that code lives internally on our servers and in our code repositories, which, in order to protect the intellectual property contained within, are not visible to the outside world. The downside to keeping our code private is that it does not allow for talented programmers outside Foundation Center to review the code, suggest improvements, and/or add their own entirely new twists to it.

We plan to change that this year.

Open-source software (OSS) is a term for any piece of code that is entirely visible and freely available to the public. Anyone can pull open-source code into their computer and either use it for a personal project or change it and "contribute" those changes back to the original project. Open source is not strictly related to code, however. Wikipedia, which allows anyone to create an account for free and edit articles and entries, is also an example of an open-source project. To ensure a high-level of quality throughout, submissions to Wikipedia are evaluated by volunteer editors, and while a bad entry may sneak through on occasion, the Wikipedia community eventually will find it, review it, and amend it.

Open-source code projects work in much the same way as Wikipedia, but rather than editing text, users edit code and then submit their changes back to the project. The process can be a challenge to monitor, but today there are tools available that make it relatively easy to manage the edits of multiple users and prevent source-code conflicts. The most popular is GitHub, a free service that serves as a repository for code projects and allows any user to make copies of any other project hosted on the platform. Once a project on GitHub is copied, the user can make changes to the original code, or use the code for his or her own purposes.

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What Governments Can Do to Address Cancer

February 04, 2017

Dr. Kelly Henning is the public health program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

World-Cancer-Day-LogoWhile much work remains to find a cure for cancer — the good news is we know that many forms of cancer are preventable. On World Cancer Day, a moment when the global community comes together to reflect on those lost to cancer, as well as the advances we need to make to find a cure,  it's important to remember that there are actions that governments and individuals can take to prevent cancer. In fact, governments hold many levers that can actually address this leading killer.

For example, governments — both at the national and municipal levels — can and should take on tobacco. A staggering twenty-two percent of all cancer deaths are tobacco-related. One of the most effective strategies to cut into tobacco use is to raise tobacco taxes, which not only reduces use but also increases government revenue. When Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Mike Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City, mortality rates from cancer declined 6.4 percent compared to 2001. 

While we can't definitively say this was the direct result of one action, we do know that efforts to curb tobacco — like implementing bans on smoking in work places and public spaces, raising the price through increased taxes, and airing hard-hitting media campaigns, had important  impact....

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Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance Is Tackling the World's Most Urgent Problems

November 23, 2016

Over the past decade, the financial industry has been the subject of harsh criticism — and not without cause. Disillusioned by the abuse of esoteric financial instruments and repeated examples of corporate malfeasance, large numbers of Americans have grown tired of Wall Street and what they see as the financialization of the economy. Finance, however, is only a tool, and as with any tool, it can be used for good or ill.

Cover_capital_and_the_common_goodGeorgia Levenson Keohane, executive director of the Pershing Square Foundation, professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School, and author of Social Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century: Innovation Across the Nonprofit, Private, and Public Sectors, makes the case in her new book, Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance Is Tackling the World's Most Urgent Problems, that traditional financial tools can be used to innovate solutions to some of the world's greatest social and environmental challenges and urges readers to regard finance not as an instrument of exploitation but rather as a force for good.

Central to her argument is the distinction between financial innovation — the creation of new, increasingly complex instruments of financial engineering — and innovative finance — the use of existing tools to overcome market failure and meet the needs of the poor and underserved. Divided into five thematic chapters, the book explores how innovative finance can be used to fund solutions to environmental, healthcare, financial inclusion, and disaster relief challenges around the world, as well as problems in the United States.

Revisiting Adam Smith's theory of the "invisible hand" in the context of public need, Keohane shows how financial techniques previously used in the pursuit of private interest can be adopted across sectors to benefit the common good and provide economic opportunities for those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid. "When markets fail to produce a set of broad-based and sustainable public goods," she writes, "we need a more visible hand: concerted efforts by governments, multilateral agencies, philanthropies, and, increasingly, socially minded investors to meet needs and solve problems." It is a perspective rooted in the power of agency, the core of which she describes as "aligning incentives in ways that encourage people — individuals and government leaders — to make decisions that both are in their own self-interest and benefit the society." The logical extension of this argument is that many negative externalities (e.g., CO2 emissions) can be internalized by the market with the judicious application of the right tools — for example, cap and trade — while certain failures of the market can be redressed by the deployment of hybrid incentive models such as pay-for-success bonds.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 19-20, 2016)

November 20, 2016

Tgiving-2Our 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

William McDonough, an author/architect and inventor of the concept of "cradle-to-cradle," wants to change the way we talk about carbon. FastCoExist's Adele Peters explains.

Communications/Marketing

Consultant (and former Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter) Peter Panapento shares some tips designed to help you write an op-ed that actually gets published.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Looking for a job that offers more than a check? Amy Elisa Jackson and her colleagues at Glassdoor have compiled a list of eleven companies that give back — and are hiring.

Current Affairs

If the 2016 presidential election told us anything, it's that the divide between rural and urban America is widening. To learn more about what that might mean for the country, The Atlantic's Sommer Mathis spoke with Kathy Cramer, whose new book The Politics of Resentment "traces the rise of conservative Gov. Scott Walker and the political evolution of Wisconsin." (The Badger State went for Trump in this election, the first time a Republican candidate has won there since 1984.)

"The scandal [of this election]," argues Travis LaCouter in a piece for Philanthropy Daily, "lay in the fact that that outcome came as such an utter surprise to half the country, and as such a desperate necessity to the other half." Looking ahead to 2020, 2024, and beyond, this is something foundations can have a direct impact on. "Programs that [bring] together partisan Democrats and Republicans to teach them the basics of dialogue," writes LaCouter, "would help bridge the empathy gap currently wrecking our politics. It sounds childish, perhaps, but also necessary given the tone and quality of this electoral season."

It's been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of folks in the nonprofit sector. As Vu Le writes in his latest blog post, "It will take us a while to understand what happened and what we need to do." In the meantime, Le, in his latest post, shares seven "agreements" designed to help folks navigate through the difficult weeks and months ahead.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 1-2, 2016)

October 02, 2016

Ears-up2Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

Every year, B Lab, a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good, puts together a list of "the best companies for the world." Business Insider's Ariel Schwartz has the details.

First Amendment

In an article on the Knight Foundation site, Sam Gill, the foundation's vice president for learning and impact, shares key takeaways from a survey of university students in which they were asked to weigh in on First Amendment issues and freedoms. Very interesting.

Global Health

In a guest post on the Humanopshere blog, Sean McKee, a policy translation specialist at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, reports that mother and child death rates are improving dramatically in most parts of the world.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have pledged to commit $3 billion to cure, manage, and end disease by the end of the century. How should they spend the money? Devex's Catherine Cheney shares some thoughts.

Higher Education

The Steve Fund has launched a free online resource center that aims to connect college students of color with mental health information and support. Claudia Lamberty reports for the Campus News.

Although they're often overlooked, community colleges are a key driver of rural economic development and opportunity. Science Foundation Arizona's Caroline VanIngen-Dunn reports.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2016)

July 03, 2016

Happy Fourth of July weekend! Hope you're spending it with family and friends. Before we head back out with more shrimp for the barbie, we thought we'd revisit some of the great content we shared here on PhilanTopic in June. Enjoy!

What did you read/watch/listen to in June that got your juices flowing? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Africa’s Hunger Challenge

May 20, 2016

African_smallholder_farmerAfrica is the most undernourished region in the world. Even in the best of years, the continent is unable to feed itself. Despite decades of massive development aid aimed at making African countries food self-sufficient, more Africans go hungry today than did thirty years ago. And while the main culprit is a fast-growing population that has outstripped the continent's ability to produce more food, a number of other factors also contribute to growing hunger there.

The current population of Africa is 1.2 billion, twice what it was in 1985 — and it is projected to double again by 2050, surpassing the populations of both China and India by 2023. At the current rate of growth, Africans will comprise half the world's population by 2035.

Higher population densities increase pressure on the land, reducing farm sizes, soil fertility, and the quality of pastures. Today, one in four Africans, or nearly three hundred million people, are hungry, their lives impaired by poor diets. A fast-growing population combined with stagnant food production only means more hungry people in the future unable to enjoy healthy and productive lives.

Another contributing factor to hunger on the continent is rapid urbanization. While most Africans still live in rural areas and depend on subsistence agriculture, urbanization on the continent is occurring at an unprecedented rate — indeed, half of Africa's population will be living in towns or cities by 2030. Unfortunately, these new urban dwellers will only exacerbate the rapid expansion of impoverished slums on the continent.

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[Review] The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice, and Money in the Twenty-First Century

May 10, 2016

To critique a critic: that is the task before me. In The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice, and Money in the Twenty-First Century, David Rieff offers an erudite and well-researched analysis of the problem of world hunger and the challenges associated with international development. While occasionally dense, his book both exposes the contradictions of the philanthrocapitalist dogma currently in vogue and challenges readers to reexamine the causes of growing development inequality among countries.

Bookcover-the-reproach-of-hungerIn outlook, Rieff, whose previous books include Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (1997), A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis (2003), and At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention (2006), is unapologetically pessimistic. "Hunger and poverty are inseparable," he writes, "and despite the many real successes in poverty reduction in many parts of the Global South, it is highly unlikely that these gains will be sustainable if rises in the price of staple food significantly outstrip the rise in incomes of the poor as a result of sound development policies." Due to the 2007-08 global economic crisis, recent extreme weather events, commodities speculation, and the diversion of corn to ethanol production, he notes, there is a "new normal" for global food production characterized by high prices and surging demand. And "[i]f significant changes to the global food system are not made, a crisis of absolute global food supply could occur sometime between 2030 and 2050…when the world's population will have risen…to nine or perhaps even ten billion."

Central to Rieff's critique is what he sees as philanthrocapitalism's unquestioning adherence to the secular faith of progress first promoted by eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, subsequently nurtured by Gilded Age capitalists, exalted by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and promoted today by their neoliberal acolytes. The intellectual embodiment of this hope, says Rieff, can be found in the thought and work of Bill and Melinda Gates, the development economics of Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, and political scientist Francis Fukuyama's triumphalist "end of history" thesis that capitalism and democracy were inevitable following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

While Rieff seems to delight in putting a few dents in Sachs's worldview, his real aim here is to carve out space for a thoughtful critique of the historical, economic, and social forces underpinning international development as it is presently understood and practiced. To that end, he frequently challenges the "impatient optimism" advocated by the Gateses as well as their foundation's technocratic approach to the problems of global poverty and hunger. Similarly, he has little patience for those who insist that the line between the public and private sectors has been "blurred" — a trope, he says, that disingenuously ignores the ideological underpinnings of the neoliberal system, resulting in impoverished dialogue and the dismissal of intellectual alternatives.

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[Review] Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering

May 06, 2016

Global health volunteering — medical missions, health brigades, "flying" surgeons — is a huge and growing enterprise. An estimated two hundred thousand Americans engage in such activities each year, and their time is valued at more than $750 million — not including the hundreds of millions of dollars in direct costs such as air travel, administration, and supplies.

Book_hoping_to_help_for_PhilanTopicDespite this enormous investment of resources, very little is known about the actual benefits of short-term volunteer service trips, of which the vast majority last less than two weeks. Volunteer trips are seen as opportunities to "make a difference" or to "give back," and most people who engage in such activities intuitively believe they accomplish some measure of good. Yet whether these efforts actually benefit the host communities, how those benefits are measured, and what other objectives are involved are rarely discussed or considered.

As they have grown in popularity, such activities — often grouped under the heading of "voluntourism" — have become a target of criticism. In a scathing critique in the Guardian a few years back, Somalian blogger Ossob Mohamud wrote: "Voluntourism almost always involves a group of idealistic and privileged travelers who have vastly different socio-economic statuses vis-à-vis those they serve. They often enter these communities with little or no understanding of the locals' history, culture, and way of life. All that is understood is the poverty and the presumed neediness of the community, and for the purposes of volunteering that seems to be enough."

Judith N. Lasker engages this debate with her latest book, Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering. A professor of sociology at Lehigh University, Lasker examines the landscape of short-term volunteer trips; the benefits and drawbacks of such activity from the perspective of the sponsoring organizations, the volunteers, and the host communities; and what can be done to make such activity more effective, particularly for the latter. The research on which the book is based includes a national survey of a hundred and seventy-seven U.S.-based sponsor organizations, more than a hundred interviews, and participant observation by the author on two short-term trips.

To assess effectiveness, one has to identify program goals, and in the case of voluntourism that ends up being more complicated than simply saying "improving the health of host communities." Indeed, sponsoring organizations — which include churches, universities, hospitals, and NGOs, as well as large corporations and other profit-making companies — often state that providing health services and building public health capacity in underresourced communities is one of their primary goals. However, organizations oftentimes have other, competing interests, including their ability to recruit talented professionals and their own financial sustainability. "[E]nhancing the organization's reputation" and "promoting volunteers' personal growth," writes Lasker, "are often considered just as important [as any benefits created for the host community], raising questions about whether a focus on them might reduce the effectiveness of a group in promoting health."

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A Cure for HIV: Cracking the Code

March 30, 2016

Crack-the-codeIt is rare in the field of biomedical research that a complex scientific challenge can be reduced to a quartet of deceptively simple sounding steps. After thirty years of incremental progress and steady accumulation of knowledge — and close to half a billion dollars expended by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research alone — we've reached such a juncture in our quest to find a cure for one of the most deadly viruses of our time — HIV.

The principal barrier to a cure is the reservoirs of persistent virus that remain in a person even after they have reached a so-called "undetectable" level of HIV as a result of antiretroviral therapy (ART). The four key questions that need to be answered all relate to these reservoirs: Where exactly in the body and in which types of cells are they located? How do they become established and how do they maintain themselves? How much virus do they contain? And, finally, how can we safely get rid of them?

HIV cure research has largely evolved from a process of discovery to a technological challenge. We need to develop the tools and agents to answer these key questions. Once we have answers, we can begin to cure some of the people some of the time, then most of the people most of the time. Ultimately, we hope, we'll have a safe and effective cure that can be made available to all who need it.

At the outset of World War II, the United States and its allies found themselves in a race against time and a Nazi war machine that was making alarming progress toward the development of an atomic bomb. And so the Manhattan Project was born. President Roosevelt marshaled the best scientific minds in the nation and provided them with the resources necessary to mount a massive collaborative effort and be first to the finish line.

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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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[Review] Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works

February 12, 2016

Changing the world is a lot like writing a novel: many people say they want to, but only a few actually accomplish their goal, and fewer still succeed in creating something that gets noticed.

Cover_getting beyond betterIn Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works, business strategist Roger L. Martin and Sally R. Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, provide an overview of the burgeoning field of social entrepreneurship and share the stories of several social entrepreneurs who have changed — and are changing — the world for the better. And, like the entrepreneurs they highlight — nearly all of whom have been recognized by the Skoll Foundation for their efforts — Martin and Osberg mostly succeed in their objectives, providing a definitional framework for the field, explaining the joys and challenges of the work, and finding compelling examples of people who have overcome those challenges.

Martin and Osberg define social entrepreneurship as direct action aimed at transforming, rather than incrementally improving, an existing system; in the process, a new equilibrium is created. Moreover, social entrepreneurs work in "ways that do not fit neatly into the traditional modes of government and business." Whereas businesses are constrained by a need to earn profits, and government-led change efforts are designed to provide services to citizens rather than cultivate new customers, social entrepreneurs are able to "[negotiate] these constraints. The creative combination of elements from both poles...is what enables [them] to build models designed for a particular context."

Through their work at the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll World Forum, Osberg and Martin have observed that transformative change involves four key stages: first, the social entrepreneur must understand the system she is trying to change; then, she must envision a future in which that system has been changed, build a model for achieving the change, and, finally, scale a solution.

It is not enough, for example, to be repulsed by a tradition such as foot binding or female genital cutting that has been standard practice in certain societies for centuries. Rather, the social entrepreneur "sets out to make sense of the problematic equilibrium itself: how did it come to be and why does it persist?" To do that, Martin and Osberg write, the social entrepreneur must "navigate three powerful tensions" with respect to the world they wish to change: abhorrence and appreciation; expertise and apprenticeship; and experimentation and commitment.

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[Review] No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy

December 09, 2015

In No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, Linsey McGoey, senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Essex, excoriates what she sees as the historical illiteracy of many of today's philanthropists. Armed with good intentions, wealth, and (as they would have you believe) inerrant business acumen, the new breed of "philanthrocapitalist" applies terms like impact, theory of change, and social entrepreneurship to their philanthropic activities and are intently concerned with generating "shared value." In reality, however, these "TED heads" (as McGoey calls them) are simply following in the footsteps of their philanthropic predecessors.

Book_no-such_thing_as_a_free_gift_for_PhilanTopicIndeed, the main difference between the new breed of philanthropist and their robber-baron forerunners is rhetoric, argues McGoey. Like their modern progeny, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford each earned their fortunes through anti-competitive practices, aggressive lobbying for favorable legal treatment, and risky financial engineering; each used his philanthropic benevolence as public cover for the ethically dubious (and often illegal) means used to amass his wealth; and each claimed his business acumen made him a better custodian of the public good than government or traditional charity. Or, as Carnegie famously put it: "[T]he millionaire will be a trustee of the poor, intrusted [sic] for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself."

McGoey will have none of it. The billionaire-knows-best style of philanthropy is as paternalistic as it is ineffective, she argues, and the simple truth of that observation is as lost on today's philanthropists as it was on Carnegie and Rockefeller. The typical philanthrocapitalist insists, for example, that philanthropy has, until now, been ineffectual — a claim made without any acknowledgment of the difficulty inherent in measuring social impact, or that the actual influence of any one foundation’s grantmaking on a social problem is nearly impossible to isolate. One case is particularly instructive for McGoey: former President Bill Clinton has said in the past that microfinance is responsible for lifting more than a hundred million people out of poverty. But while it's true that more than a hundred million people have received a microcredit loan, she writes, most studies indicate that even for "successful" microfinance programs, insufficient evidence exists to demonstrate a link between their activities and poverty alleviation. Moreover, the few studies that were able to demonstrate a statistically significant link showed only very modest increases in the income of loan recipients, while several studies have found that the high interest rates attached to such loans — and favored by microfinance investors — often exacerbate rather than alleviate poverty among loan recipients. Investors, on the other hand, have seen consistently positive returns on their investments; little surprise, then, that microfinance advocates are adamant in their opposition to interest-rate caps and other regulations that would stifle the “success” of microlending.

McGoey herself further argues that today's TED heads are different from their more modest progenitors in the way they shamelessly leverage their charitable donations to advance private economic interests. Whether it's a wealthy mining magnate using a generous donation to the Clinton Global Initiative to earn himself an introduction to the foreign minister of a resource-rich developing nation, or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supporting agricultural initiatives in Africa and South America to increase the economic influence of U.S. agribusinesses, she details how modern philanthrocapitalists consistently blur the line between charity and business. While there may be nothing legally wrong with using charitable largess to reap financial rewards, for McGoey such practices raise important ethical questions about the use of philanthropy to advance a corporation's (or nation's) economic interests.

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