A half-century ago, Gordon Moore wrote a paper in which he projected that progress in the density and speed of silicon chips would increase exponentially. In his paper, Moore envisioned how this would enable technologies ranging from the personal computer, to the smart phone, to the self-driving car. His prediction became known as Moore's Law, and it has held remarkably true for fifty years. At a recent celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of his seminal paper, Moore talked about the impact of his insight on modern technology and the crucial role of basic scientific research in making it come true.
Moore, a founder of Intel and chairman of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, noted that the technological progress we have enjoyed over the last half-century was enabled by science education and basic research. While the opportunities for discovery have never been greater, commitment to and funding for science — from government, industry, and philanthropy — fall far short of what is needed today to accelerate progress into the future.
In 1965, when Moore enunciated his insights into the development of the microchip, the U.S. government invested about 10 percent of its budget in basic research and development. Today, federal funding for basic research has fallen below 4 percent.
"I'm disappointed that the federal government seems to be decreasing its support of basic research. That's really where these ideas get started," said Moore. "Our position in the world of fundamental science has deteriorated pretty badly. There are several other countries that are spending a significantly higher percentage of their GNP than we are on basic science or on science, and ours is becoming less and less basic."
Once a hallmark of an innovation-focused American society, corporate labs are almost non-existent today. Coupled with cuts in government funding, the United States is in jeopardy of losing its lead in super-computing, cybersecurity, space exploration, energy, and health care, a recent report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds.
PhilanTopic hosted lots of great content in April, including opinion pieces by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation in Detroit; and Peter Sloane, chairman and CEO of the New York City-based Heckscher Foundation for Children; Q&As with Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org; Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina; and Judith Shapiro, president of the New York City-based Teagle Foundation; a terrific book review from the formidable Joanne Barkan; thought-provoking posts from regular contributors Mark Rosenman and Derrick Feldmann; and a great Storify assembled by our own Lauren Brathwaite. But don't take our word for it...
What have you read/watched/listened to lately that made you think? Share your finds in the comments section below, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 1823, a young French physician, Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis, published a controversial article urging doctors to compile, share, and study statistics about their patients. He said that by recognizing larger trends across a community, physicians could more effectively treat individual patients. One of Louis' findings, based on thousands of case histories and autopsies he conducted, was that the common practice of bloodletting was probably not a good idea.
Many of his colleagues initially disagreed, but it was hard to argue with Louis' numbers, and bloodletting soon fell out of favor. Meanwhile Louis' "numerical method," as he called it, expanded beyond specific treatment to include background information on patients – their ages, their jobs, where and how they lived – and laid the foundation for modern epidemiology and today's clinical trials.
Today an exponentially greater revolution in health information sharing is under way. New technology is offering everyone, not just health professionals, vastly more health-related data than we could have imagined even a few years ago. This new era of data, both big (populations) and small (individuals), offers remarkable opportunities to improve health, by helping to stop the twenty-first century equivalents to bloodletting – those unhealthy behaviors and unnecessary medical procedures that are draining our physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being.
They are communities which nurtured many of us and to which many of us return when we want to recharge and reconnect. The fact that they are rural and removed from the economic dynamism driving the revitalization of urban areas across the country also means they often lack the capital – financial and human – needed to improve the circumstances of people who call them home. That organized philanthropy, like much of corporate America, finds it relatively easy to overlook such communities further complicates the situation.
One foundation looking to change that dynamic is the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, a philanthropy established in 1946 by Kate Gertrude Bitting Reynolds, the wife of William Neal Reynolds, chairman of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, to improve the health and wellness of low-income residents of North Carolina. In March, PND spoke with Karen McNeil-Miller, the trust’s president, about Healthy Places North Carolina, a new place-based initiative focused on rural areas of the state.
Karen McNeil-Miller: Well, for us, almost everything. For instance, we're not leading with money, which is a huge thing. We're not going into these communities saying, "Here's our agenda, apply for a grant." We're going into these communities and, essentially, are trying to help them organize themselves. In a way, we're leading from behind instead of leading from in front. The trust is deferring its goals to the goals of the community; we want the community to determine what it needs or what it would like to change, and then we'll bring our resources to bear to help them achieve those goals.
PND: Beyond a lack of resources, what are some of the challenges unique to rural communities that you aim to address through the initiative?
KMM: Well, one of the things we want to address is the building of human capacity. These days, it's hard to get folks to move to rural communities, which means if you want to help these communities thrive, you have to build the leadership capacity of the people who are already there.
We also want to help them, where we can, with access to care. In so many rural communities, you may have a primary care physician or two, but hospitals and specialty care are much less common. So, through the initiative, we've been helping community-based organizations invest in tele-health infrastructure, whether it's tele-psychology, or tele-therapy, or even tele-osteopathic medicine.
Of course, one of the most plentiful assets in rural communities is land. So helping communities make the best use of their land assets, whether it's through building an amenity like a playground, or bike or walking trails, or any of the other things that make communities more livable and healthy, is something we're interested in.
What's harder to address is job creation. But if we can help local people see the connection between physical and mental health and economic health and help them build their capacity to partner with local government to create the kinds of amenities that help attract jobs and improve quality of life for everyone, that will be big. We want everybody to start thinking that health is their business, not just the purview of healthcare institutions. It's about broadening the conversation to people who don't normally see themselves in the health business, to people in law enforcement, to people in the educational system, to business and industry, and bringing them all together to talk about what they can do to make their community the healthiest community possible.
More than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a woman's right to have an abortion in Roe v. Wade, a number of states have passed laws designed to restrict women's access to reproductive health services, including emergency contraception and abortion. In Congress, meanwhile, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services in most cases and has routinely been attached as a "rider" to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, recently was attached to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act — a bill designed to protect citizens or permanent residents of the United States who have been trafficked and/or sexually assaulted or abused.
We asked Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization that uses constitutional and international law to secure women's reproductive freedom, about these legislative trends, efforts to push back against them, and the road ahead.
Philanthropy News Digest: Your organization recently launched a campaign, "The War on Women Is Over! If You Want It," that was inspired by Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" campaign. What are the goals of the campaign, and what kind of response has it generated?
Nancy Northup: We launched the campaign on the forty-second anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision with the goal of inspiring current activists engaging and educating new audiences about the profound threats to women's freedom here in the United States. We're thrilled with the support we have received so far, from men and women across the country. Celebrities like Taylor Schilling, Susan Sarandon, Martha Plimpton, John Lithgow and Yoko Ono herself have all thrown their weight behind this campaign, and we couldn't be more grateful.
We were inspired by the power and history of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" peace movement, which brought together thousands of anti-war activists across the country and unified them behind a simple message. And we are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have the personal blessing of Yoko Ono as we go forward with the campaign.
PND: The inclusion of the qualifier "If You Want It" would seem to suggest that society — women and men — have become complacent about women's reproductive freedom in the decades since Roe v. Wade. Why is that?
NN: There are countless dedicated people — clinic escorts, providers, doctors, lawyers, youth activists, researchers, elected officials, writers, volunteers, and donors — actively engaged in the fight for women's reproductive freedom. The vast majority of Americans support women's access to safe and legal abortion as part of a full range of reproductive health care. But the anti-choice community has waged a successful propaganda war, based on fear and misinformation, to marginalize the seven in ten Americans who want to see Roe v. Wade upheld, and that has made people feel alone and reluctant to speak up. This campaign is about giving the silent members of our majority an opportunity to make themselves seen and heard.
A recent survey conducted by World Vision found that, despite the growing list of humanitarian crises around the world, 80 percent of Americans did not plan to increase their charitable giving in 2014. Discouraging perhaps, but not surprising. Those without the means to fund large-scale interventions tend to feel helpless in the face of widespread suffering, with many believing that a modest donation cannot possibly make a difference in addressing seemingly intractable problems, while others worry that little of their money will ever reach the intended beneficiaries.
In their new book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, award-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, former journalist-turned-investment banker Sheryl WuDunn, beg to differ: You can make a difference. But to do so, you have to be thoughtful and intentional in your approach. That means: 1) doing research to ensure that your gift benefits the target population; 2) volunteering your time and expertise when possible; and 3) engaging in advocacy.
The authors, whose 2009 book Half the Sky examined ways to expand opportunity for women and girls in the developing world, here broaden their canvas to include efforts to expand opportunity for all marginalized populations, in the U.S. as well as abroad, with a particular focus on poverty alleviation. It's a formidable challenge, and Kristof and WuDunn do their best to make it comprehensible by breaking it down into parts: how effective interventions can make a lasting impact; how nonprofit organizations can maximize both their income and impact; how giving can benefit the giver.
According to Kristof and WuDunn, these days individual donors can be more confident about the effectiveness of their donations, for a number of reasons: anti-poverty interventions and development projects have become more evidence-based and cost-efficient in recent years; the Web makes it easier for donors to learn about the impact of their giving; and, increasingly, development projects are run more transparently and with greater buy-in and expertise from local communities. Indeed, the book, as much as anything, is a compilation of admiring portraits of nonprofit practitioners, social entrepreneurs, and activists working to remove barriers to opportunity. At the same time, it emphasizes the importance of (and increasing use of) rigorous randomized controlled trials to ensure that interventions are evidence-based and effective. And in highlighting organizations such as Evidence Action, MDRC, and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, organizations that do the un-sexy but essential work of research and evaluation, it aims to empower individuals to think critically about the programs and charities they choose to support.
Instead of posting an infographic, as we usually do on Saturdays, we decided to mix things up this week and share a compelling presentation put together by journalist and author Jeff Madrick (Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World; Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present), Clio Chang, and their colleagues at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank here in New York City.
Built with an online tool called Creatavist, Seven Lessons About Childhood Poverty opens with a reminder that the official child poverty rate in the United States today stands at 20 percent, the second-highest among the world's developed countries. The presentation then segues into an articulation of seven "lessons" about childhood poverty in the U.S. — lessons formulated at the Century Foundation's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative conference last June. They are:
The length of a substantial blog post, each lesson includes downloadable tables and charts, a short video, and links to related materials.
So grab a mug of your favorite warm beverage, pull up a seat, and start reading. We're pretty sure that by the end of the last lesson, you'll agree with Madrick, et al. that "investment in early childhood is the best way to create a better economic life for all Americans."
Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content from and about the social sector, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....
Good post on the GrantSpace blog by Carrie Miller, regional training specialist at Foundation Center-Cleveland, on the importance of communicating your impact to donors.
On The Hill's Congress Blog, Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, argues that higher education has been slow to catch up to the changing demographics of America's college-going population. By shifting the way we deliver college to help meet the needs of people for whom higher education had been out of reach, Merisotis writes, "we can create a higher education system that works better for everyone – students, educators and employers – and create a populace that is better poised for future success. [And that] is especially important, given that an estimated 65 percent of jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020, and today less than 40 percent of Americans hold two- or four-year degrees...."
In a review for The Nation, the Century Foundation's Rich Kahlenberg finds much to admire in Lani Guinier's latest book, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America for The Nation. In the book, Guinier, a Yale Law School classmate of Bill Clinton's who had her fifteen minutes in the national spotlight after then-President Clinton nominated her to head the Justice Department's civil rights decision – only to withdraw the nomination under conservative pressure – argues that "the heavy reliance on standardized test scores in college admissions is deeply problematic on many levels." Kahlenberg deftly walks the reader through Guinier's many criticisms of the reigning "testocracy" and seems to agree that "by 'admitting a small opening for a select few students of color', affirmative action policies actually help buttress the larger unfair apparatus...." A good review of a timely book.
For a majority of Americans, the holiday season is a time of celebration, feasting, and thankfulness. In the midst of our merriment, however, it's important to remember that while many of us are planning our holiday meals, millions of Americans will be wondering where they are going to get their next meal.
Feeding America recently revealed the results of its quadrennial study, Hunger in America 2014 (176 pages, PDF) — the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind. The study concluded that, in the most recent calendar year, one in seven Americans — or more than 46 million people — sought food assistance from the Feeding America network.
On the surface, people relying on foodbanks may not appear to be "hungry." They may have a home and a job. Yet all too often, they struggle to get enough to eat for themselves and, in many cases, their families. Many qualify as working poor — they work long hours but are paid such meager wages that they are forced to choose between paying the heating bill and buying food. And for a person living paycheck to paycheck, one car problem or unforeseen illness can have devastating consequences. Despite their hard work, food-insecure people often find financial stability out of reach.
Foodbanks are a lifeline for millions of people and families in need. In every county across America, they provide food for people struggling to get by. Yet while these services are critical, the provision of food alone will not solve the problem of hunger. As the plight of the working poor demonstrates, food insecurity does not exist in isolation. It intersects with other basic needs such as housing, access to health care, and employment. To truly solve the problem, we have to meet the needs of low-income families holistically and help them build a pathway out of poverty.
Recognizing this, some foodbanks have begun to partner with job training organizations, healthcare workers, financial firms, and others to help the people they serve access resources that enable them to meet other priority needs. Bank of America, for example, has committed to working with Feeding America to provide families facing hunger with access to the benefits and financial tools they need to begin building a financial safety net and, ultimately, a path to economic stability. Partnerships such as these enable food-insecure families to reach goals they once thought unimaginable, including saving for college, buying a house, and achieving financial stability.
Even for people who have health insurance, a health crisis often can turn into a financial crisis. Traumatic injury or illness can lead to transplants, extensive rehabilitation, and/or a lifetime of expensive medications. Uninsured expenses add up over the long term and place a significant financial burden on families who are already facing tremendous challenges.
Many people don't realize how severe this financial burden can be. But, in point of fact, it's a major problem affecting thousands of Americans and their families every year. Annual costs for a C-6 quadriplegic, for example, can range up to $111,000. Transplant patients regularly have to cover $600-$1,000 per month in out-of-pocket medication co-pays. Many patients who find themselves paralyzed after a catastrophic injury may be unable to continue working and may need to make renovations to their homes or find new transportation options. Others may need lengthy stays at specialized treatment centers or to relocate for an extended period of time.
For many patients and their families it can be uncomfortable to ask relatives and friends for financial support. That's understandable. But members of the patient's local community are often eager to help and welcome guidance on the best ways to do so. Professional organizations like HelpHOPELive provide the support necessary to help community fundraising volunteers launch and sustain successful fundraising campaigns that can help patients and their families over many months or years as they face long-term challenges with uncovered medical expenses.
With that in mind, here are a few steps for organizing a successful community-based fundraising campaign to help meet the uninsured medical expenses of someone who has experienced a catastrophic illness or injury:
Identify a support network. A support network includes a patient's family members and friends, of course, but it should also include co-workers, neighbors, and members of local clubs, schools or community faith-based organizations. For example, HelpHOPELive held a transplant fundraiser in honor of Allen West ("Wes") Edgar at his church in Alabama. More than three hundred people came together for a benefit concert and silent auction that helped raised $15,000. The funds raised helped Wes get listed for a transplant, and he received a kidney in March 2013.
"Good decisions always require good information, and when resources are limited, data matters even more...."
– Greg Millett, vice president and director of public policy, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research
In August, AVAC and amfAR issued a report, Data Watch: Closing a Persistent Gap in the AIDS Response, that calls for a new approach to tracking data on the global response to AIDS. What's unique about Data Watch is that it places equal emphasis on filling the gaps in both epidemiological and expenditure information. Data has always reigned supreme in the public health world, but in their new report AVAC and amfAR pose a simple question: What happens to our quest to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 if we don't know whether we have the funding to sustain our efforts?
Through improved data, for instance, we now know that key populations (i.e., men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people, and sex workers) represent a major share of the epidemic, largely due to such factors as stigma, discrimination, and punitive laws that continue to marginalize these populations and keep them from the care and treatment they need. With human rights abuses continuing to fuel the epidemic and impacting the health and rights of those most at-risk, targeted funding for a human rights response to HIV is critical.
But is that happening?
Sadly, no. Recent research from the Join United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)  found that less than one percent of the $18.9 billion spent on the overall HIV response in 2012 supported human rights programming.
Why hasn't the once-booming tech ed sector solved education's problems? Writing in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer, an associate editor for the publication, shares some thoughts on that question from Paul Franz, a former doctoral candidate at Stanford who now teaches language arts in California. Those thoughts, writes Meyer, "mirror my own sentiment that education is a uniquely difficult challenge, both technically and socially, and that its difficulty confounds attempts to 'disrupt' it...."
The "ice bucket challenge," a grassroots campaign aimed at raising funds for the ALS Association, a a charity dedicated to finding a cure for amyotropic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig's disease), went viral this week. Around the country, celebrities and members of the public were filmed being doused with a bucket of ice water and then posted the footage to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. "Multiply this activity 70,000 times," writes William MacAskill, a research fellow in moral philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, "and the result is that the ALS Association has received $3 million in additional donations....[A] win-win, right?" Not according to MacAskill, whose own nonprofit, Giving What We Can, champions the principles of the effective altruism movement. The problem, writes MacAskill,
is funding cannibalism. That $3 million in donations doesn't appear out of a vacuum. Because people on average are limited in how much they're willing to donate to good causes, if someone donates $100 to the ALS Association, he or she will likely donate less to other charities....
This isn't to object to the ALS Association in particular. Almost every charity does the same thing — engaging in a race to the bottom where the benefits to the donor have to be as large as possible, and the costs as small as possible. (Things are even worse in the UK, where the reward of publicizing yourself all over social media comes at a suggested price of just £3 donated to MacMillan Cancer Support.) We should be very worried about this, because competitive fundraising ultimately destroys value for the social sector as a whole. We should not reward people for minor acts of altruism, when they could have done so much more, because doing so creates a culture where the correct response to the existence of preventable death and suffering is to give some pocket change....
Before you get too upset, read the entire piece. (MacAskill is a thoughtful young critic who, like many other people in the sector, has grown impatient with the status quo.) Then come back here and tell us why he's wrong — or right.
For an entirely different take on this question, take a look at this recent post by Philanthropy Daily contributor Scott Walter, executive vice president of the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C., which is unsparing in its criticism of effective altruism (and Peter Singer, who inspired the movement).
In a short post on the BoardSource site, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions' Tom Ralser looks at the important distinction between a donor and an investor.
As Atlantic Philanthropies makes its final philanthropic investments, it is asking some important questions, including: "How can we all build on the advances and lessons learned from our thirty-plus years of grantmaking?" and "How can we make sure that valuable knowledge on issues that matter to us is not simply lost when we close our doors?"
The Foundation Center has partnered with Atlantic to help answer these questions, starting with an issue that crosses every physical, political, and social boundary in the world: improving access to palliative care.
The result of our partnership is IssueLab's newly launched "Improving Access to Palliative Care," a special collection of more than eighty documents that provides valuable insight into why millions of people cannot access the care they need. Gathered from nonprofits and foundations around the world, the documents in the collection are easily explored through an interface that lays out the key barriers to access and some of the recommended solutions.
As we began work on the collection, I asked Gail Birkbeck, strategic learning and evaluation executive at Atlantic, why the foundation chose access to palliative care as an important topic to address in this way. "Since 2004, Atlantic has invested $58.5 million in palliative care covering a broad spectrum of activities, from building hospice facilities to funding professional staff associations and research institutes," said Birkbeck. "It's apparent from our work that, in general, how you die is a function of where you live. Especially in developing countries, there is limited access to palliative care."
By October 2, 1985, the morning Rock Hudson died, the word was familiar to almost every household in the Western world.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome had seemed a comfortably distant threat to most of those who had heard of it before, the misfortune of people who fit into rather distinct classes of outcasts and social pariahs. But suddenly, in the summer of 1985, when a movie star was diagnosed with the disease and the newspapers couldn't stop talking about it, the AIDS epidemic became palpable and the threat loomed everywhere....
So begins And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, Randy Shilts' masterful 1987 account of the epidemic's early days -- and the federal government's feckless response to the unfolding crisis.
Much changed in the decades that followed the publication of Shilts' book. The virus spread to every corner of the globe. Scientists and researchers, backed by foundations like the Aaron Diamond Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, raced to find a vaccine. Governments woke up to the threat. And, with the advent of anti-retroviral therapy, infection rates finally began to slow and then stabilize.
Today, as the infographic below illustrates, the news on the HIV/AIDS front is mostly positive. Indeed, over the last ten years, the global community, working together, has managed to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS by more than 50 percent for fully one-third of the people on the planet:
"The past is never dead. It's not even past...."
— William Faulkner
Copyright © 2013 Foundation Center, All Rights Reserved