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127 posts categorized "Health"

Helen Brunner, Founding Director, Media Democracy Fund

April 27, 2016

Helen Brunner, founding director of the Media Democracy Fund and an advisor to the Quixote Foundation, recently was awarded the Council on Foundations' 2016 Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking for her efforts to protect the public's basic rights in the digital age and to secure universal access to a free and open Internet. Central to that work was funding and organizing the successful campaign to preserve net neutrality that culminated in the Federal Communications Commission's 2015 decision to prohibit broadband providers from blocking or "throttling" — intentionally slowing — the flow of legal content or services and from offering "fast lanes" for a fee.

PND spoke with Brunner about the role of philanthropy in the ongoing debates over freedom of expression, data privacy, and the impact of social media on civic discourse.

Helen_brunnerPhilanthropy News Digest: The supporters of net neutrality seemed to have won a decisive victory last year, but the issue is being adjudicated again, with Internet service providers suing the FCC over the rules it issued in 2015 to protect the "open" Internet. Given that the court hearing the complaint is the same one that blocked the commission's earlier rules on net neutrality, how hopeful are you the new rules will be upheld?

Helen Brunner: I'm extremely hopeful they will be upheld, because I think this time we got it right. One of the things the commission didn't do in 2010 was to actually reclassify the Internet so that it could be regulated the way the commission regulates telephony. The Internet originally was regulated as a telecommunications service, but then the FCC decided, for a brief period, to regulate it more as an information service. But then they realized the Internet was far too important in terms of driving the economy — and innovation — to hamper it in that way, that the openness and innovation engendered by the Internet wasn't as well protected as when it was regulated as a common carrier. So they switched back, and that is, in fact, the current classification that enabled us to argue for "open" Internet, or net neutrality rules, under the rule of law properly.

So I'm hopeful the court will come back with a positive ruling. We had an extraordinarily good attorney arguing in court for the public interest petitioners, but the one thing that might come back for further review is mobile, which we care very much about because so many vulnerable populations rely on it for their Internet access. If the court feels that adequate notice wasn't given for that rule to be tasked, then the FCC will just go through the procedure again and get it right. That might be a concession the court would make in order to give more time for the big mobile companies to respond as to why they think it's a bad idea. And, of course, it would also give advocates of net neutrality another chance to respond as to why it's so important for the public interest and vulnerable populations for mobile to be neutral. There's a great deal of sympathy at the commission for that position.

PND: Social media played a major role in galvanizing public calls to preserve net neutrality and keep the Internet open. At the same time, social media seems to have had a pretty corrosive effect on civic discourse and the expectation of a right to privacy. Are those the kinds of inevitable trade-offs we all must accept as the price of the democratization of communication in the digital age? Or can something be done to slow or even reverse those trends?

HB: These are societal issues as well, whether we're talking about the coarsening of civic discourse or the aggressive tone of pundits in mainstream media. Social media is indeed amplifying all that, but I think we see polarized discourse everywhere, so it's something we need to address on a broader level. That said, there are some technical innovations that can cause social media to go off on a bad track, including something called "bots" on social media that can be used to drive discourse in a highly polarized direction, as well as techniques that enable companies to create false narratives. Now that isn't to say there aren't real dialogues and genuine arguments on social media, but there are things we can do to address the problem of bots, and there are several projects that different people are working on with the goal of at least eliminating the artificial hyping of phony debates.

PND: The Scrivner Award recognizes your "creative grantmaking" in fighting "for the public's basic rights in the digital age and to secure universal access to a free and open Internet." How did your earlier work with nonprofit arts organizations shape your strategies to help protect freedom of expression in the digital age?

HB: Well, I'll give you an example. When I was involved in the arts and the National Association of Artists Organizations, I was on the Hill lobbying for freedom of expression and the protection of the National Endowment for the Arts artists' fellowships and realized that the Telecom Act had the potential to open the door for an enormous number of mergers and the homogenization of voices. Before that, through a grant from what later became the Open Society Foundations, we were conducting a multi-time-zone panel — it was the very early days, and we were doing it on bulletin boards and things like that, very primitive. Nonetheless, when I saw fourteen artists living in fourteen different countries, from South America to Africa to Europe and Asia, debating the issues of the day and who would be the best artist to forge an exchange between the former Eastern Bloc countries and the United States, the hair stood up on my arms. I realized then the extraordinary importance of growing and protecting this platform and network for movements around the world.

Similarly, the campaigns we did early on around the AIDS pandemic — Day Without Art, Red Ribbon, those kinds of things — also showed me the power of symbols and of direct constituent-to-policy maker discourse that circumvents traditional lobbying. And so when we did things like the Internet blackout to prevent the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act, that was very much in my mind and connected to Day Without Art, in that it focused attention on what might happen if we didn't have the Internet.

PND: The FBI's demand that Apple unlock the iPhone of a suspect in the San Bernardino terrorism attack underscored, as few things in recent memory have, the delicate balance between data privacy and national security. Which party was correct in that dispute? And in an open, pluralistic society that depends on its digital devices for almost everything, where should that balance be struck?

HB: Well, it is a delicate balance, and it is something that needs to be examined rigorously from all sides. In this particular case, I strongly believe Apple was right, because if the government is able to establish a precedent with respect to unlocking phones, it will make everybody less secure, including the Department of Defense, which has been uncompromising in saying that encryption is actually a critical component of national security. I mean, if backdoors are put in, that means the backdoors are there for everybody, including the bad guys. Is that what we want? I don't think so. There are so many cyber-security experts who have come down on the side of encryption, and it's really law enforcement that is not quite understanding the technology enough to understand that what it is asking for would create many more possibilities for terrorists and others to be able to get in and get what they need to plan things that would harm us.

So as we go forward and it all gets more layered and more complicated, as it will, because that's the nature of technology, we need to look at how we structure our technology so that societies are protected. In fact, we're now working on a program with [Harvard University professor] Latanya Sweeney and [Federal Trade Commission chief technologist] Ashkan Soltani that is aimed at building and diversifying the pipeline of technologists. The Ford, Open Society, and Knight foundations pooled resources in order to increase the number of technologists who understand public interest technology and who would be willing to work in government and to advise policy makers. And the Hewlett Foundation, under the leadership of Larry Kramer and program officer Eli Sugarman are taking a leadership role in looking at the cyber security space. I was just at a meeting they convened where many different points of view were expressed, and it was, I think, a step forward in the broader discussion.

The other thing that our grantees are attempting to do is to change the rules in terms of who is allowed into the security briefings for the members of Congress. As it stands now, members of Congress go into briefings without their aides, because their aides don't have high enough security clearance. What that means is members of Congress have no backup in terms of staff or others who can explain the technology, and so they only hear law enforcement's or Homeland Security's side of the issue. As you might guess, we see this as an important structural change that would help a lot in terms of policy maker education. And there are other programs folks are putting together that directly address policy maker education at the city and federal levels, although I don't know that we have enough resources to address the issue at the state level yet, which is a problem. It's an ongoing need, and if we fail to address it there will be unintended consequences for all of us.

PND: In a video on the Media Democracy Fund website, you address the question, "What would the future look like without the open Internet" by asking, instead: "What kind of world is possible if we actually had a robust and healthy communications system that enabled any individual, anywhere, to learn anything, start a business, and establish a rich network of contacts across the globe?" How would you answer your own question? And what should philanthropy be doing to bring about such a world?

HB: There are any number of protections that need to be put in as we understand things like big data and how it is used or not used in the society we live in now. At a session on big data at the Council on Foundations earlier this month, I realized that philanthropy's understanding of big data is about ten years behind where it should be, so there's room for a lot of education in philanthropy. It's critically important.

To answer your question about what kind of world an open Internet makes possible, let me say it would mean, to give you one example, that we would be able to address the "homework gap" for young people in this country who do not have connectivity at home and who sit outside libraries at night trying to pick up a Wi-Fi signal so they can get their homework done, or who drive sixty miles to the one place on the reservation with Internet, waiting in line for an hour to get ten minutes on the computer, and then driving back home. It's a huge problem in terms of educating our kids, especially our least advantaged kids.

It's also a huge problem in terms of health care. Without a fat pipe, we can't have telemedicine that would allow a world-class stroke center to look at the scans of someone in rural America who's had a stroke and determine the type of treatment that person needs to keep them from becoming permanently paralyzed. We only have 49 percent broadband penetration in rural areas, and it's even worse on tribal lands.

It would enable us to communicate and organize across the globe for water rights, which is becoming an increasingly important issue, as well as other human rights. The open Internet is central to the ability to fulfill human rights around the globe, and it would help give us a world where people can access world-class health care, a world-class education, where they could express themselves and mobilize, where they could vote and be much more civically engaged, at every level. We can see that in cities that have built their own municipal networks, cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, or Lafayette, Louisiana. I think we need to do a longitudinal study that looks at communities that are putting in muni-broadband and study the impact over five, ten, fifteen years to make sure we've actually moved the needle on people's quality of life and ability to engage with elected officials and others in positions of power.

As copper phone lines are eliminated and people are no longer able to call 911 unless they have broadband, we need to be thinking about how we are going to address issues like that. And if we come together to create a healthy communications system, we will be more connected and cohesive as a society, every individual will be able to express him- or herself, every individual will be able to get the information they need and access quality health care. It will make it much, much easier for people to age in place, and that, in turn, will create enormous benefits for those communities and the people who call them home. We can do this, and there's no reason we shouldn't.

— Kyoko Uchida

Flint’s Crisis Raises Questions — and Cautions — About the Role of Philanthropy

April 08, 2016

Dirty-bottled-waterThe public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues to unfold before the eyes of the world. For nearly eighteen months, water drawn from the Flint River was sent without proper treatment into the city's infrastructure, corroding aging pipes and fixtures. Lead leached into the water supply and flowed to local homes, schools, and businesses. The results: a near doubling in the number of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, a wave of other health concerns throughout the community, severely damaged infrastructure, and despair regarding the city's prospects for economic recovery.

This terrible situation in the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation's hometown has sparked numerous questions, including one that should be of interest to every foundation: What is the role of philanthropy in responding to a community in crisis? At Mott, we've felt the need to act immediately on some issues and with great deliberation on others. We've also been called upon to discuss the role of philanthropy in funding infrastructure projects. It's my hope that our experiences thus far might be helpful to other philanthropies that could face similar challenges in the future.

When the high levels of lead exposure among Flint children were revealed in September of 2015, Mott acted quickly to begin the long process of bringing safe drinking water back to our hometown. In addition to a grant of $100,000 to provide residents with home water filters, we pledged $4 million to help reconnect Flint to the Detroit water system. With an additional $6 million from the state of Michigan and $2 million from the city of Flint, that switch took place on October 16.

Our decision to help pay for the switch was a no-brainer. Since our founding ninety years ago, we've had a deep and unwavering commitment to our home community. We couldn't sit on the sidelines while the children of Flint were being harmed. Our role as a catalyst for the return to safer water speaks to one of philanthropy's most valuable attributes: the ability to respond swiftly when disaster strikes to help people meet their basic needs.

But after taking swift action, the question then becomes "What next?"

As important as it was to act quickly to reconnect Flint to the Detroit water system, we also realized that it sometimes makes sense for philanthropies to fight the impulse to make major commitments while a disaster is still unfolding. Two aspects of Flint's water crisis show us why.

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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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[Review] The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World

March 16, 2016

The story Steven Radelet tells in The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall at the end of 1989. Marking the end of the Cold War, the wall's fall ushered in an era of unprecedented development progress across much of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But as the event itself faded into history, many viewed the breakdown of global order into ethnic cleansing, economic instability, the emergence of Islamist terrorism, and an upswing in refugee crises with growing alarm — a pessimistic view that, Radelet argues, was and is misplaced.

Cover_the_great_surgeIn his book, Radelet, who chairs the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University and serves as economic advisor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, highlights progress in more than a hundred developing countries across "four critical dimensions" of development: poverty, income, health and education, and democracy and governance. Between 1993 and 2011, Radelet notes, the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day) fell from nearly two billion, or 42 percent of the global population, to just over one billion, or 17 percent. Meanwhile, GDP per capita in developing countries grew more than 70 percent on average, with population-weighted real incomes rising some 90 percent since 1994.

Over roughly the same period, the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 fell from 10 percent to 4.7 percent. With maternal mortality and fertility rates also down significantly, children in developing countries today are far healthier and better educated than they have been at any time in memory, while the percentage of girls finishing primary school has risen from 50 percent to 80 percent and the percentage of girls completing secondary school has doubled, from 30 percent to 60 percent. Whether as cause or product of these trends, it is no coincidence that the number of democracies globally has jumped from seventeen in 1983 to fifty-six in 2013 (not counting countries that claim to be democracies but merely pay lip service to fair and open elections).

To be sure, some of this progress occurred before the late 1980s. But burdened by the legacy of colonialism and factors such as unfavorable geography, inadequate resources, and endemic disease, many developing countries found themselves struggling to break free of the "poverty trap." What made their "sudden" ascent possible, Radelet argues, was the convergence of three post-Cold War factors: global geopolitical conditions becoming more conducive to development; increased opportunities provided by a new wave of globalization and the spread of new technologies; and the rapid development of the skills and capabilities needed to take advantage of those opportunities.  

Take the first. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and a rump Russia lost their appetite (at least temporarily) for proxy wars in the developing world as well as their costly habit of propping up Communist and right-wing dictatorships in countries like Bangladesh, Benin, Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Panama. Moreover, as Communist and authoritarian ideologies lost their credibility among much of the world's population, a consensus began to form around the efficacy of market-based approaches to economic growth and development, an emphasis on individual freedoms, and respect for basic human rights. In time, "[d]eveloping countries around the world began to build institutions more conducive to growth and social progress," Radelet writes. "The doors opened to new possibilities."

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5 Questions for...Gregorio Millett, Vice President and Director of Public Policy, amfAR

February 22, 2016

National Black AIDS Awareness Day, February 7, was established in 1999 in response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in African-American communities. More than fifteen years later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that while the number of new HIV diagnoses in the general population fell 20 percent between 2005 and 2014, the prevalence of HIV among African Americans remains significantly higher than it is for other racial/ethnic groups, while the rate of new diagnoses among young black men is rising.

Earlier this month, PND spoke with Gregorio Millett, vice president and director of public policy of amfar, the Foundation for AIDS Research, about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the African-American community and ongoing efforts to address it.

Gregorio_millet_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: What is the most striking finding in the 2014 HIV Surveillance Report, as well as the finding that surprised you the least? And what do current trends in the HIV data mean for the African-American community?

Gregorio Millett: What surprised me the least was the fact that the number of new HIV diagnoses is falling among injection drug users; that's something we've known for quite some time, and it's incredibly encouraging to see that trend continue nationally. And there were two things that surprised me: The first was the 42 percent decline in HIV diagnoses among African-American women nationally between 2005 and 2014; we knew that diagnoses were decreasing, but we didn't realize they were falling that rapidly. The other interesting thing is that, in the last five years, diagnoses have remained stable, for the most part, for African-American men who have sex with men — though for the ten-year period it actually increased — while the number of diagnoses has been increasing for Latino men who have sex with men. So the fact that we really need to start focusing more on Latino MSM was interesting.

That said, the overall prevalence of HIV is greater among African Americans compared to all other racial and ethnic groups; we've had a higher prevalence in the black community since the mid-1990s. The good news is that for most African Americans, HIV rates are declining at a rapid rate. The bad news is that rates are not declining among gay and bisexual men, who comprise most of the new infections in the black community. Another issue for the African-American community is that even though HIV rates are declining, African Americans overall are still more likely to die from HIV/AIDS compared to whites or Latinos, even though we now have very effective medications that enable people with HIV to live a normal lifespan.

PND: What are the key factors behind the persistently higher rates of HIV prevalence among African Americans?

GM: There are several. The first is that HIV prevalence is just higher in black and Latino communities, particularly among gay men, and when you have more people living with HIV, it means there are more opportunities to transmit HIV, so higher prevalence begets a greater number of diagnoses. Another huge issue is healthcare access; we know that whites are more likely to have access to health care in the United States compared to Latinos or African Americans, and if you don't have access to health care and you're HIV-positive, you're less likely to be on medication or virally suppressed, and therefore you're more likely to transmit HIV to your partners.

A third issue is that, quite frankly, we haven't focused on where HIV is really hitting the black and Latino communities. When you take a look at the cumulative dollars for research, for care, for prevention, they're going primarily to heterosexual communities and injection-drug-using communities. Unfortunately, from the very earliest days of the epidemic, that's not necessarily where HIV has hit hardest. A lot of that has to do with our society not being able to talk about HIV, which has been concentrated among gay and bisexual men, honestly, because our politics didn't allow us to talk honestly about gay and bisexual men. Instead, we say that everybody is at risk for HIV, which just isn't true; some groups are at far higher risk. So, from a historical perspective, there has been less money to address HIV among Latino and black gay men, and there has been less press and attention from black and Latino leaders. And you see that in the rates of HIV infection for those groups. In the African-American community, for instance, the overall infection rate is about 2 percent; among black gay men, it's about 30 percent. In other words, one in three black gay men is living with HIV. And if you look at the campaigns and initiatives led by black leaders, members of Congress, celebrities, and so on, they're doing wonderful work but they're talking about HIV among women or babies — U.S. populations where there is actually very little HIV. What we need is a realignment of those efforts to focus on dealing with HIV where it is still a problem in the black community.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 13-14, 2016)

February 14, 2016

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

Civic Engagement

While the Latino population of the United States has quintupled over the last forty years, Latino voter registration has not kept pace. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Ryan Schlegel argues that foundations committed to long-term systemic change can do more than they have been to close the gap and shares four things they should bear in mind as they consider investing in civic and electoral participation.

Disaster Relief

Things are not looking good at the American Red Cross. ProPublica's Justin Elliott files the nonprofit news outlet's latest report on the beleaguered relief organization and its embattled CEO, Gail McGovern.

Education

As teach for America celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, Kristina Rizga, an education reporter for Mother Jones, looks at how America's "most controversial" education organization is changing its ways.

Health

Writing on Quartz, Allison Schrager notes that the future is looking increasingly scary for the world's richest countries, and that's because their success in combating the traditional causes of death among the elderly — heart disease, cancer, and strokes — means degenerative diseases that impair cognition, particularly Alzheimer's, are on the rise. Indeed, Alzheimer's, the flip side of people living longer,  "is the third most common cause of death among Americans older than 85. And it's not just heart-wrenching for its victims and their loved ones; it has consequences for the economy."

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 6-7, 2016)

February 07, 2016

Black-history-month-1Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

In The Atlantic, Andy Horwitz, founder and publisher of Culturebot, examines the recent history of funding for the arts in America and concludes that while the arts themselves aren't dead, the system by which they are funded is increasingly becoming as unequal as the country itself.

Criminal Justice

On the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog, Ben Barge, a field associate at the NCRP, shares highlights from a recent panel discussion, "Mass Incarceration: The Rural Perspective," featuring Lenny Foster, director of the Navajo Nations Correction Project; Nick Szuberla, executive director and co-founder of Working Narratives & Nations Inside; Kenneth Glasgow, executive director of the Ordinary People Society and co-chair of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People's Movement; and asha bandele, director of grants, partnerships and special projects at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Giving

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds that "women give more than their male peers at virtually all income levels, even though women in general earn less and have less money in retirement than men." In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Debra Mesch, Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy and director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute, discusses the findings.

Health

Good post by Marc Gunther (Nonprofit Chronicles) on why this Super Bowl is likely to be the last one he ever watches.

International Affairs/Development

On Monday, the World Health organization declared the outbreak of Zika virus a global public health emergency. The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernese and Donald G. MacNeil, Jr. report.

According to UNICEF, more women and children are now migrating to and through Europe than adult males -- and many children are traveling alone. In related news, organizers of the annual Syria pledging conference are requesting a record $9 billion from the international donor community by the end of 2016. In comments to the New York Times, Jan Egeland, a former Norwegian diplomat who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, characterized the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis as grossly inadequate and said, "What we are witnessing now is a collective failure to deliver the necessary support to the region. We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of war victims."

"If social scientists and policy makers have learned anything about how to help the world's poorest people, it's not to trust our intuitions or anecdotal evidence about what kinds of antipoverty programs are effective, write Dean Karlan,a professor of economics at Yale and founder of the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action, and Annie Duflo, the organization's executive director, in the New York Times. Rigorous randomized evaluations, on the other hand, "can show us what works and what doesn't....Hope and rhetoric are great for motivation, but not for figuring out what to do."

There was some good news on the global public health front in January. The UN Foundation's Jenni Lee has a roundup.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 30-31, 2016)

January 31, 2016

Woolworth_sit-inOur 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

According to Jessica Leber, a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist, Al Gore, at one time "possibly the gloomiest man in America," is feeling somewhat hopeful for the future of the planet, thanks in part to what he sees as the success of the recent Paris climate change talks.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Hey, you CSR types, looking to achieve more social good in 2016? Saudia Davis, founder and CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, shares some good advice.

And Ryan Scott, founder and CEO of Causecast, a platform for cause engagement, weighs in with six reasons businesses need to increase their CSR budgets.

Criminal Justice

"It is clear," writes Sonia Kowal, president of Zevin Asset Management, on the NCRP blog, "that our justice system is designed for control rather than healing. And with the alarming demographics of national incarceration rates, it's also clear that it helps facilitate an economy of exclusion that considers many people of color to be unemployable and disposable." What can foundations and impact investors do to change that paradigm. Kowal has a few suggestions.

Education

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has announced the launch of EDInsight, a new education-related blog that will  "provide a forum for discussing a variety of topics related to education — including teacher preparation, school quality, postsecondary attainment, use of education data and other education news and trends."

Giving Pledge

The New York Times reports that, since July, investor and Giving Pledge co-founder Warren Buffett has gifted $32 million worth of stock in Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company he controls. The Times also notes that the total represents "a relatively small part of Buffett's plan to give most of his $58.3 billion fortune to charity." Interestingly, despite giving roughly $1.5 billion a year (mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) since launching the Giving Pledge in 2010, Buffett's personal net worth, most of it tied to Berkshire stock, has increased by more than $10 billion, while Bill Gates's net worth has grown by $27 billion, from $53 billion to $80 billion. In other words, neither man is giving his fortune away as quickly as he is adding to it.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 2-3, 2016)

January 03, 2016

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

African Americans

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

Children and Youth

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

Education

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

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

Environment

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

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

Food Insecurity

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

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2015)

December 03, 2015

Recent events are a sobering reminder that life is short and the future a mystery. But as Gandhi tells us, throughout history, the way of truth and love always has won out in the end. In that spirit, here are links to half a dozen or so of the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in November....

What did you read, watch, or listen to over the past month that made you feel hopeful? Feel free to share in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust: Five Lessons Learned From Redefining Our Role

November 11, 2015

Healthy_places_ncWhen we decided to shake up our role as a funder four years ago, the concept of philanthropy took on new meaning at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Our message was clear: "We are moving from grantmaking to changemaking. We will spend less time identifying fundable projects and more time immersing ourselves in the communities we serve." To that end, we charged our program officers with thinking and acting differently — with going beyond the usual partners and funding requests, listening to communities in our state, and exploring new relationships and ideas.

It was a seismic shift, and we experienced some program staff turnover because of it. But those who stayed — as well as those who have joined us since — remain steadfast in their belief that this model is an essential part of how we can impact entrenched, community-wide problems. It also played a crucial role in the 2012 launch of Healthy Places NC, a ten-year, $100 million investment that put the responsibility for improving community health and quality of life squarely in the hands of the communities themselves.

Here are five lessons we have learned in the course of that journey:

1. Give Up Control. At its heart, Healthy Places is about a large regional funder giving up control of its processes in favor of outcomes. The trust works with communities to identify high-level goals but takes a back seat in the discussions of how best to achieve them. There are no specific models and no prescribed solutions. Instead, our program officers focus on helping communities convene discussions; align disconnected efforts; connect with statewide, regional, and national experts and services; and supply funding for many — but not all — projects a community wishes to undertake. The trust is willing to take risks, learning continuously from our successes and from the places where we have stumbled.

2. Invest in Unusual Relationships. A hallmark of Healthy Places is that it reaches beyond the network of "usual suspects" with regard to health. Trust program officers recruit new voices to the conversation and encourage diverse perspectives on community successes and challenges. There are health centers and hospitals engaged in this work, but the vast majority of those working under the Healthy Places umbrella are community organizers, faith leaders, nonprofit organizations, child care centers, housing authorities, local government officials, recreation enthusiasts, school systems, and a wide variety of people from outside the traditional health arena.

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

August 29, 2015

Investing in Fundamental Science: A Grantmaker's Perspective

May 26, 2015

Harvey_v_fineberg_for_PhilanTopicA 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.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2015)

May 02, 2015

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 mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Want to Improve Health? Help People Use and Share Their Data

April 10, 2015

Withings scaleIn 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.

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