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395 posts categorized "International Affairs/Development"

Weekend Link Roundup (August 20-21, 2016)

August 21, 2016

Rain-south-la-9a-jpgOur 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

On the Carnegie Corporation website, the corporation's Geri Mannion and Jay Beckner of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation chat with Carnegie Visiting Media Fellow Gail Ablow about how foundations can support voting rights litigation.

Community Improvement/Development

The Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute, which works to identify entrepreneurs with the potential to address social injustice at scale, have announced the launch of the Future Cities Accelerator, a $1 million urban innovation competition aimed at spurring next-generation leaders to develop solutions to complex urban problems. Though the competition, ten winners will receive $100,000 each and will participate in a nine-month intensive program giving them access to business leaders, investors, and technical support. Details here.

The Knight Foundation is bringing back its Knight Cities Challenge for a third iteration and will offer $5 million in grant funding for the best ideas in three areas that are crucial to building more successful cities – attracting and retaining talent, increasing economic opportunity, and promoting civic engagement. The competition, which is limited to the twenty-six Knight communities, opens Monday, October 10, at knightcities.org and will close on Thursday, November 3, with winners to be announced next spring.

As part of Generocity's "Leaders of Color" series, Tony Abraham profiles David Gould, a program office at the William Penn Foundation, who has a plan for leveling the playing field for people of color in Philadelphia. You can check out the rest of the series here.

What can we learn about creative placemaking from Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities)? As the Saint Luke's Foundation's Nelson Beckford reminds us, pretty much everything.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Think the concept of sustainability is a little too fuzzy to serve as a pillar of one's corporate strategy. Think again, argues the Environmental Defense Fund's Tom Murray.

Education

"Despite its evidently strong [Head Start] program, there is scant empirical evidence supporting Portland's success at improving the academic futures of its graduates beyond that first year of kindergarten entry. The same is true of Head Start as a whole. And lacking hard numbers, political thinking as to whether or not children's futures could be affected positively by Head Start has vacillated between certainty and skepticism." The Hechinger Report's Lillian Mongeau does a deep dive on the Great Society program so many people love to hate.

How big is the the “teacher pay penalty" — the difference between what teachers make compared to other public-sector employees? In 2015, writes Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss, "the weekly wages of public school teachers in the United States were 17 percent lower than comparable college-educated professionals — and those most hurt [were] veteran teachers and male teachers."

Higher Education

What do billionaires sound like when they try to explain why they donate huge sums to wealthy universities? Don't ask Malcolm Gladwell.

Impact/Effectiveness

In the fourth installment of a six-part series for the Huffington Post, Mauricio Lim, founder and CEO of the Family Independence Initiative, argues that the days of  "picking one strategy, implementing it and then evaluating it years later" is over. The social sector, he adds, is at a point in history "where ongoing learning, iterating and learning again should be the norm. Business already has the techniques we need. What is needed now is continuous analysis and adjustment to changing conditions for low-income populations."

International Affairs/Development

More than 60,000 people were murdered in Brazil last year, making it the homicide capital of the world. And many of the victims were young people. The Open Society Foundation's Robert Muggah reports on what one nongovernmental organization is doing to address the conspicuous lack of information concerning violence against children and youth in Latin America's most populous country.

Nonprofits

On the Nonprofits Assistance Fund blog, Curtis Klotz, CPA, argues that it's time to retire the "tired old view" of nonprofit overhead in favor of a more holistic view that takes into account "true program costs."

Philanthropy

In his monthly column for the Denver Post, the DeBoskey Group's Bruce DeBoskey explains why philanthropy continues to be a bright spot in disheartening and divisive times like these.

In the latest issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Center for Effective Philanthropy's Kevin Bolduc argues that the internal practices and culture of of foundations ripple out to grantees in meaningful ways and can directly accelerate or impede their effectiveness.

Sarah Bahn, a knowledge services fellow here at Foundation Center, explains how the center's new YouthGiving.org portal helps connect "members of the youth giving movement, elevates the stories of incredible young leaders, and provides a gathering place to propel the movement forward."

Poverty Alleviation

Data scientists at Stanford are applying machine learning to satellite images to identify and map poverty-stricken regions of Africa. The Center on Food Security and the Environment's Michelle Horton reports

Social Entrepreneurship

"The truth is, while we've seen numerous good ideas in the philanthropy and nonprofit space, we've seen very few of them break through to capture the interest and action of the masses." Jean Case, president of the Case Foundation, explains how the foundation has, over time, come to focus its efforts on two major movements — impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship.

Social Media

Are you stumped about what to post or tweet next? This little tool from M+R might just be what the doctor ordered.

(Photo credit: Scott Threlkeld / AP)

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or in the comments section below..

Weekend Link Roundup (August 13-14, 2016)

August 14, 2016

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

African Americans

In a review of Mychal Denzel Smith’s new memoir, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watchingfor the New Republic, Jesse McCarthy reflects on "what has changed in our politics over the course of the Bush and Obama years, and in particular on the reemergence of an activist consciousness in black politics (and youth politics more broadly)."

In Fortune, a seemingly nonplussed Ellen McGirt reports on the Ford Foundation's investment in the Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF), "a pooled donor fund designed to support the work of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)...." And be sure to check out this profile of the Ford Foundation-led #ReasonsForHope campaign by Fast Company's Ben Paynter.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Is anyone in corporate America measuring the impact of their CSR programs? In Forbes, Ryan Scott shares a few considerations for companies that are approaching impact measurement for the first time.

Data

Intrigued (and a little alarmed) by the decision of the Australian department that manages that country's census to collect and store real names with its census data, Philanthropy 2173's Lucy Bernholz has some good questions for all of us.

Education

Committed reformer or Department of Education apparatchik? Newsweek senior writer Alexander Nazaryan, himself a former New York City school teacher, tries to make sense of the puzzle wrapped in an enigma that is New York City public school chief Carmen Fariña.

In The Atlantic, Emily Deruy reports on the nascent efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement to reshape K-12 education policy at the local, state, and federal levels.

At its recent annual convention, the NAACP approved a resolution that included language calling for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charter schools. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss takes a closer look at the issue on her Answer Sheet blog.

Giving

Can knowing something about the history of philanthropy help us become better givers? Amanda B. Moniz, associate director of the National History Center and program coordinator at the American Historical Association, reflects on that question on the HistPhil blog.

What have we learned about the efficacy of Giving Days? Beth Kanter shares some key takeaways from a new Knight Foundation report that attempts that questions. (See our coverage of the report here.)

Higher Education

Soaring student debt is a huge problem, but the real crisis in higher education, according to a series of studies by Third Way, a think tank, is "that many colleges and universities are leaving students with no better than a 50/50 chance of graduating or finding work that pays more than what someone with a high-school diploma can expect to earn." The Washington Post's Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports.

And in the New York Times, op-ed columnist Frank Bruni wonders whether the college admissions process is "creating strange habits and values in the students who go through it, telling them that success is a matter of superficial packaging and checking off the right boxes at the right time."

International Affairs/Development

"A shift in the summum bonum, or the highest good, towards loose humanism, where life is better than death, education better than ignorance, health better than sickness, is what I believe we are seeing currently." Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker tells the World Post things are not as bad as most of us think they are.

On the list of ill-conceived development projects, the Olympics and the World Cup are pretty close to the top. Humanosphere's Tom Murphy reports.

Nonprofits

So you've decided that maybe it's time to jump from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector. In the Wall Street Journal, Ted Beck, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, shares a short list of the major differences between the two sectors.

Beth K. (see above) shares a nice infographic and some good advice for trainers in the business of designing and delivering professional development for nonprofit professionals.

Philanthropy

In the Huffington Post, Kathleen Enright, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, suggests that "[p]rivilege can be a barrier to good philanthropy in a number of ways...[and that it] often shows up as attempts to do for instead of with those most affected." Which leads her to wonder: What would change if philanthropy broadly prioritized hiring people whose life experiences provide them with fewer blind spots and with the hard-won, gut-level empathy that comes from a lack of privilege?

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Austin Long, a director on the Assessment and Advisory Services team at CEP, looks at a few of the things regional associations of grantmakers and other philanthropy-supporting organizations are doing to strengthen the field.

Here on PhilanTopic, we've posted a nice Q&A with Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, in which Spruill explains how the UN's Sustainable Development Goals can be used by U.S. foundations to strengthen their anti-poverty and sustainability efforts at home, forge collaborations locally, regionally and globally, and learn from others.

Social Justice

In a podcast on the Tiny Spark site, W.K. Kellogg Foundation president and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron argues that if philanthropy hopes to advance racial justice in America, it has to be more courageous.

And taking a cue from Jay Smooth, the founder of New York City's longest-running hip-hop radio program, WBAI's Underground Railroad, NWB's Vu Le suggests that "[u]ndoing racism and other forms of injustice is a practice we must do every day, like brushing our teeth.... And like brushing, on some days, we’re better at it than on others." So we need to "give each other some grace. Let's admit we don't know everything and we can't be perfect. Let's all lower our defenses and see each other as imperfect human beings trying hard to do some good in a complex world...."

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or in the comments section below..

Vikki Spruill, President/CEO, Council on Foundations: Philanthropy and the SDGs

August 11, 2016

The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on September 25, 2015. The agenda includes more than a dozen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, designed to stimulate action in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet. More ambitious than the Millennium Development Goals, on which they build, the SDGs include a hundred and sixty-nine targets to be achieved over the next fifteen years, from eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere, to ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, to halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

Led by large, globally oriented foundations such as Ford and Hilton and key infrastructure groups like Foundation Center and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, philanthropy has rallied around the SDG agenda. In July, the Council on Foundations, another key infrastructure group, released a report that details how philanthropy can help achieve the SDGs in the United States. Based on lessons the council has learned from its members and other national and local partners over the last year, the report shares examples of how funders are using the SDG framework to structure their work domestically and offers suggestions for how others might use the goals to advance their mission.

Recently, PND spoke with Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the council, about the report, the council’s efforts to promote the SDG framework to its members, and why she believes the SDGs are good for philanthropy and the world.

Philanthropy News Digest: The council has released a report aimed at raising awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals among foundations and philanthropists in the United States. For readers who may not have heard of them, what are the SDGs, and why, as you put it in the foreword to the report, do they have the potential to be “revolutionary” for people around the world?

Headshot_vikki_spruillVikki Spruill: The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, represent a historic global consensus about the shared responsibility that all nations have in advancing a global development agenda. They tackle seventeen areas of develop­ment and set aspirational targets for the global development community to achieve over the next fifteen years so that "no one is left behind." The seventeen goals, which cover everything from eradicating hunger and poverty, to advancing environmental sustainability, to reducing inequality, to improving education and health, were agreed on by a hundred and ninety-three countries in September 2015, including the United States, which, with President Obama's encouragement, agreed to pursue the goals both here at home and through our development activities around the globe.

As you know, the SDGs emerged from a previous United Nations initiative, the Millennial Development Goals, or MDGs, which were more narrowly focused on human development, whereas the SDGs cover all dimensions of development, including the economic, social, and environmental. And they're not just intended for developing nations, as the MDGs were, they're meant to be guidelines for all nations, including the United States.

I think the SDGs have enor­mous potential. We all recog­nize that government can't solve the world’s problems by itself — the MDGs showed us that. To change the world, to fully realize philanthropy's goals, we have to work across sectors, and the SDGs contribute to that by more specifically calling out the philan­thropic and private sectors. That's very exciting.

PND: What kind of role did the private sector, and foundations specifically, have in developing the SDG framework?

VS: Founda­tions that are part of the global development community played a critical role in developing the goals and in stressing the importance of philanthropy to advancing the SDGs. There's a group called the SDG Philanthropy Platform that's led by the United Nations Development Program, your own organization, the Foundation Center, and Rocke­feller Philanthropy Advisors, and it has made enormous progress in raising awareness of the SDGs, increasing the resources available to support them, and helping to forge new partnerships.

Likewise, the Council on Foundations is working to raise awareness of the SDGs. In fact, our report grew out of meetings we had in three cities, and we're planning to hold several more over the next few months. It's important to note that the meeting that took place in Addis Ababa in 2015, the Financing for Development summit, specifically stated that the private sector, including philanthropy, is needed to achieve the SDGs. So, it's really a historic moment for philanthropy, which hasn't been recognized as a partner in the same way by the United Nations before and now is being engaged in UN development activ­ities in new ways. At the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, for example, three hundred and fifty different companies were represented, and because of the SDGs there is now a real opportunity for philanthropy to join in and shape these conversations going forward.

PND: The SDGs include seventeen goals and a hundred and sixty-nine different targets. Do you share the concern of some that the SDG framework is too ambitious in scale and scope to serve as an effective roadmap for sustainable global development?

VS: There are a lot of goals, but there is also a lot of connectivity between and among them. I like to think about the SDGs as a kind of holistic approach to problem solving — that's what makes them so powerful. It's a global framework, and it's an aspirational framework. There is no one institution working on all the goals or all the targets. It's really a pro­cess through which every funder can find themselves. I see that as an opportunity, not as a constraint. The SDGs are intended to push our thinking, to make us think more comprehensively and broadly about how we view the world and how we view our own domestic development agenda. They are also a kind of problem statement, with seventeen problems clearly identified. It's up to philanthropy and the private sector and government and everyone who is engaged in this work to come up with the solutions to those problems. And we have to be ambitious, because the problems are big. I don't know how the framework could be anything other than bold and big.

PND: The report goes to some lengths to point out that the SDG targets are universal. What does that mean, and why is it important for foundations and corporations in the U.S. to understand that?

VS: Given the scope and ambition of these goals, and the magnitude of many of the problems facing our planet, as a sector we can't just sit on the sidelines, we can't be passive. Another way to look at it is to recognize that foundations and corporations are working in a lot of these issue areas and their work already connects directly to the SDGs. So, the Arkansas Community Foundation, which is working on affordable housing in Arkansas, is just as much a part of that particular SDG as a global humanitarian organization that has been working on the issue in the developing world. If you're involved in trying to effect social change, which is what foundations and corporate foundations are trying to do, then it's your obligation to learn what’s happening else­where.

By participating in this framework, foundations and corporate foundations have a real opportunity to collaborate more intentionally and to learn from their peers across borders. That's particularly true of funders in the United States, which can learn a lot from what's happen­ing in other countries. Something like the SDGs force you to look at the root causes of problems, and maybe, as a piece I wrote for The Guard­ian suggests, they can help shed light on the feeling of alien­ation in our country, which, I think, is partly the result of not having had this sort of comprehensive development agenda for our own people.

PND: As you mentioned, the council has hosted a number of convenings around the SDGs. What do you tell funders at those meetings who express concern that any buy-in they evince toward the SDG framework will commit them to something they're not prepared, or have the resources, to do?

VS: What we want to do is raise awareness and demystify the SDGs. This is a holistic, global framework agreed to by a hundred and ninety-three countries. Funders can find themselves in these goals, and, more importantly, philanthropy is already work­ing to advance them. I think there's a tendency among some U.S. funders to see the SDGs as something somebody else needs to be doing somewhere over there, that the development agenda isn't something that applies to the United States. But as I've already noted, that's just not true.

Committing to the SDGs or participating in the SDGs isn't about funding new areas, or committing your foundation to something it's not prepared to do. It really is about asking your foundation to question how the work you're already doing connects to this frame­work, how you might be able to do that work better, and how some of the other goals might actually strengthen the work you're currently doing. It's human nature to think in terms of silos, and the SDG framework forces you to sort of look up and out, as opposed to just down at the whatever you happen to be working on at the moment.

PND: Can you give us an example of what that might look like for a medium-sized or community foundation here in the U.S.?

VS: We give three ex­amples in the report, and the Marin Community Foundation is one of them. It has a project focused on health, energy efficiency, and built environments, and as part of that effort it has looked at Goal 3, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages; Goal 7, ensuring access to afford­able, reliable, clean energy for all; Goal 10, reducing in­equality within and among countries; and Goal 11, making cities and communities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Any portfolio of work that a foundation might have is bound to connect to several of these goals, and MCF identified four goals where it sees potential for real synergies.

Then there's the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation's Expect More initiative, which is working on advancing skills training and education for Arkansans so that in ten years the state's current ratio of 70 percent low-skill, low-wage jobs to only 30 percent that require a postsecondary credential is flipped on its head. So the folks at WRF are looking at Goal 1, eliminating poverty; Goal 4, quality education for all; Goal 10, reducing inequality; and Goal 8, decent work and economic growth for all. Whatever the set of challenges you're working on, whatever initiatives you are funding, you're going to find that they intersect with one or several of the SDGs.

PND: Your report includes seven recommendations for funders working in the U.S., from educating stakeholders, to leveraging data and technology, to tracking progress. Do any of the recommendations stand out for you as being especially critical?

VS: All seven are important, but I would name three in particular that build on what we were just talking about. First, it doesn't matter where you start. Whatever it is you are working on, you need to figure out a way to connect it with one of the SDGs and then leverage the impact you are creating in that area to some of the other goals. When funders approach me and ask, How do I find myself in this process? that's what I tell them: Start with one goal and the rest will follow.

The second one is making sure you understand the goals and think about how they could benefit the work you're currently doing. At our recent gathering in New York, for example, there was a person there working on environmental sustaina­bility who admitted that he had been thinking rather narrowly about the issue. But after hearing others at the meeting, this person said, "Well, I'm never going to achieve my environmental sustainability goals if I don't start thinking about health and well-being." In other words, it's a recommendation to think about your work in a more holistic way.

And finally, we want to make it clear that the SDGs are intended to be inspirational as well as aspirational. We should be using and talking about the goals as something that force us to think up and to think bigger, both globally and domestically.

PND: Well, let's talk globally for a minute. Many people see the emergence of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, the Brexit vote in the UK, the political success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders here in the U.S. as the leading edge of a growing backlash against global economic integration and the role of the United States in leading that effort over the last half century. Should those who are working to advance the SDGs be concerned about globalization fatigue or what some are calling "peak globalization"?

VS: I don't think so. I want to emphasize that that our report is focused on the U.S. and what funders can and should learn from efforts in other countries to reach their goals domestically. Our focus is on how foundations in the U.S. can work on the SDGs here at home, and how the SDGs offer a framework that can be successfully adopted locally.

But I'd almost invert your question. And, again, remember that the goals don't come with pre-packaged policy solutions. It's up to us to take the goals and contextualize them locally, which means it almost doesn't matter what the sentiment with respect to globalization and global economic integration is, because the problems here at home are still problems, and we still have a responsibility to analyze and address those problems through a local lens.

PND: Has the council set any targets for its members around adoption of the SDG framework?

VS: You know, we're early in the process. We're only a few months into a fifteen- year effort, and I think it's safe to say we are still in the building-awareness phase. That said, it is exciting to see people getting excited about the SDGs and to see the momentum building. We're also hearing anecdotally some evidence to suggest that a growing number of foundations are looking at the goals and trying to figure out how they can inform their grantmaking. Again, it's early days, and while there may come a time when the council decides to set goals around SDG adoption, it's a little premature for that.

PND: Are you optimistic the SDG framework will work in the ways you’ve outlined for us? Fifteen years from now, will philanthropy be able to say it was instrumental in creating a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable global community and a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable America?

VS: Absolutely. Over the next fifteen years, we estimate that philanthropy's going to put $360 billion in grants toward the SDGs. That's significant. At the same time, the experts estimate that it is going to cost a trillion dollars to achieve all the goals. You don't have to be a math wiz to figure out that philanthropy can't do this alone. That said, I'm confident philanthropy can play a powerful, catalytic role in achieving the goals. And not just with dollars, but by facilitating connections, with leverage, and with the strategic thoughtfulness we so often bring to the table. That's just as exciting to me. I'm very optimistic we will succeed.

— Mitch Nauffts

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2016)

August 06, 2016

Sort of like that great little farm stand that pulls you in every time you drive by, our roundup of the most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in July offers lots of delicious food for thought. So pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade and dig in!

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.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 30-31, 2016)

July 31, 2016

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

Communications/Marketing

If you're like NWB's Vu Le, you've pretty much lost patience with colleagues and others who routinely make one of these mistakes in their written or verbal communications.

Community Improvement/Development

The League of Creative Interventionists, a global network of people working to build community through creativity, has posted a manifesto and is inviting people like you to join its movement.

Corporate Social Responsiblity

Can CEOs really drive their companies to be more sustainable? As Mary Barra's experience at GM would seem to suggest, it's harder than you think, writes Raz Godelnik, co-director of the MS in Strategic Design & Management program at the Parsons School of Design, on Triple Pundit.

Criminal Justice

Earlier this week, NBA great Michael Jordan announced gifts of $1 million each to two organizations working to build trust between African Americans and law enforcement. The organizations are the Institute for Community-Police Relations, which was launched in May by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. And here is Jordan's statement.

Diversity

As one of the major-party political conventions demonstrated, there are lots of areas of American life where diversity is more vague notion than reality. Another is the tech scene in Silicon Valley, where "[t]alented people are left behind every day, many simply because they don't have the same kind of access as Ivy League brogrammer." In Fast Company, Cale Guthrie Weissman reports on what a few organizations are doing to change that equation.

Education

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has introduced a bold new plan to disrupt the city's school-to-prison pipeline. The key element? Keeping kids from misbehaving by not suspending them for misbehavior. Amy X. Wang reports.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (July 23-24, 2016)

July 24, 2016

Bulldog-on-ice1Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Community Improvement/Development

In the New America Weekly, Heron Foundation president Clara Miller explains how the foundation's recent work in Buffalo, the fourth poorest city in the nation, "started as a response to a Heron board member's referral of the local community foundation" and led to the foundation becoming a trusted neutral convener and connector "for a number of contingents in the community."

On the Knight blog, Lilly Weinberg Lilly Weinberg, program director for community foundations at the Knight Foundation, shares three takeaways from a recent convening of twenty civic innovators who've received grants of $5,000 to implement a project in a calenadr year that improve mobility, a public space, or civic engagement in their home cities.

Criminal Justice/Policing

Reflecting on the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota, five police officers in Dallas, and three police officers in Baton Rouge, Open Society Foundations president Chris Stone suggests that the divide between black America and American policing is in part the "legacy of slavery, the legacies of Jim Crow, of lynching, of the repression of the civil rights and black power movements, the legacy of the war on drugs" -- and that efforts to close it must include solutions to racial disparities and the building of mutual trust between African Americans and local police departments.

Environment

Here on PhilanTopic, we featured a pair of great posts this week  -- one by Frank Smyth and the second by Maria Amália Souza -- on the noble, unheralded, and frequently dangerous work done by environmental activists in the global South.

Continue reading »

Defending Environmental Rights: Funding Priorities in the Global South and East

July 21, 2016

In December, the United Nations awarded its Equator Prize 2015 to two Munduruku leaders from the Brazilian Amazon in recognition of their struggle to protect ancestral territory and sacred rivers from a mega-dam. What caught my attention about the prize was the way it acknowledged a struggle that is ongoing, not a battle won. What inspired the UN to do that? And what message is it sending to the world as it recognizes the need to preserve the last intact forests in the Amazon basin and the knowledge possessed by their ancestral caretakers?

Report_ihrfg2016This year's edition of Advancing Human Rights: Update on Global Foundation Grantmaking offers an interesting in-depth look at the priorities of funders based in the Global South and East. The key findings shows that environmental and resource rights rank as the second-most funded issue area by Global South and East funders, compared to ninth for all funders. Another interesting — and, in my opinion, directly related — finding is that Global South and East funders dedicate a larger proportion of their support to capacity building, coalition building, and collaboration, compared to human rights funders overall.

Because my organization, CASA, is what we call a "socio-environmental" funder, the report really speaks to us. And as we've reviewed the findings in it, a few things have suggested themselves. We operate within a fragile global system held together by increasingly frayed  threads, and what seems to keep it from collapsing altogether is a clever subterfuge in which:

  • Capital flows continue funding the cheapest raw materials that can be found (often in the Global South and East), with a premium on minimal extraction costs (i.e., unregulated and exploited labor) and easy-to-access lands (territories that can be clear-cut, mined, or drilled no matter their environmental importance or who lives there).
  • Capital develops infrastructure to enable the extraction and export of those materials — including mega-dams, pipelines, roads, rail- and waterways, and ports.
  • Pliant local political structures facilitate the removal and transport of these materials as quickly as possible to global markets, regardless of who or what might object (i.e., poor countries with weak institutions, a history of corruption, and leaders whose territories hold the great majority of what is left to extract on the planet).

Add to this the insecurity that climate change is producing around food supplies and access to fresh water, and you have an ugly, and increasingly unsustainable, picture.

Continue reading »

The Legacy of Berta Cáceres: What Environmentalists Can Learn From Human Rights Groups

July 19, 2016

Photo_bertacaceresThe murder of the environmental activist and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres in Honduras in March came as a shock. Shortly after, I was asked to address the question of security for environmentalists at the annual meeting of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a U.S.-based conservation group started in New York's Hudson River Valley that today includes members from Colombia to Bangladesh.

Waterkeepers asked me to address the meeting because of my experience in advising journalists, human rights defenders, and activists on security matters. And the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to realize how much the environmental community can learn from press freedom and human rights groups.

Cáceres was shot dead in her own home and a fellow activist was wounded in the same attack. Less than a year before, she had been honored in San Francisco and Washington with the prestigious Goldman Prize, giving her a measure of international recognition and, one might have hoped, a measure of protection from such a brazen attack.

Alas, no form of protection or deterrence has worked. In fact, no fewer than a hundred and eighty-five environmental activists around the world were murdered last year — more than three a week — according to a report issued last month by the group Global Witness. That's more than double the number of journalists killed worldwide over the same period of time. Nearly two-thirds of the murdered environmentalists were indigenous activists like Cáceres. Brazil, host of the Summer Olympic Games, the Philippines, and Colombia topped the list of countries with the most environmentalists killed, followed by Peru, Nicaragua, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Last year's death toll represents an increase of 59 percent from the year before, and the trend has been moving in the wrong direction. Indeed, Global Witness reports that no fewer than 1,176 environmental activists worldwide have been killed since 2002. Even the conservative figure is more than the number of journalists documented to have been murdered over the same period. Mining, logging, and other extractive industries were the focus of many of the murdered activists, along with government-backed development projects like the proposed dam in Cáceres' case that would have destroyed a pristine river and the indigenous lands through which it flows.

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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.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 25-26, 2016)

June 26, 2016

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

Civil Society

The Huffington Post's Eleanor Goldberg shares this tidbit: During the last presidential election cycle in 2012, more Americans gave to charity (59.7 percent)  than voted (53.6 percent). What's more, the U.S. lags most of its OECD peers when it comes to voter turnout. According to Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, that's because giving is seen as "more direct, more tangible,” whereas "there are lots of gaps between what any one politician promises and what he or she can deliver." 

Digital Divide

A study commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance to mark World Wi-Fi Day (June 20) finds that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the people in North America, which boasts the world's highest average monthly income, do not have a broadband connection.

Environment

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther talks with Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, about how NGOs can pressure companies to change, why environmental nonprofits should not take money from corporations, and how NRDC is working Ma Jun, China’s best-known environmental leader, to bring about change on the environmental front in that country.

Immigration

"The Brexit vote," writes Dara Lind in Vox, "has proven that anti-immigrant anxiety is an incredibly powerful force: powerful enough to, in certain circumstances, ensure an electoral victory. But the thing about running on people's anxieties is that once you get into office, you have...to alleviate them." Otherwise, you're just another failed politician "who couldn’t keep [his/her] promises."

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 18-19, 2016)

June 19, 2016

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

Communications/Marketing

Getting Attention! blogger Nancy Schwartz offers some good advice to nonprofit communications professionals about the right (and wrong) way to respond in the wake of the unthinkable.

Democracy

The editorial board of the Guardian captures perfectly why the public assassination of British MP Jo Comer by a right-wing extremist was such a cowardly, heinous act — and why it should be a wakeup call for everyone who cherishes decency, open debate, and a commitment to both democracy and humanity.

Education

How did a Montana-based foundation help boost the high school graduation rate in that state to its highest level in years? The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation's Mike Halligan explains.

Big data and analytics were supposed to "fix" education. That hasn't happened. Writing on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of the best-selling Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?, and Jonathan Hasak, a Boston-based advocate for disconnected youth, explain why and look at something that actually could make a difference.

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Mission-Driven Architecture

June 08, 2016

Womens-opportunity-centersIt's not unusual for architecture and engineering firms to work on a pro-bono basis or for a reduced fee on "mission-driven" projects. In such cases, firms often are willing to trade profit for the reward of doing work that is rewarding in other ways. Some firms also take on such projects because the work is likely to raise their profile and, down the road, benefit their bottom line. Most importantly, populations in need also benefit. Schools and clinics are built where there were none, local people are employed and taught marketable skills, and the project — if planned well and executed efficiently — gives a boost to the local economy that is felt long after the construction dust has settled and the architects and engineers have moved on.

That said, I believe communities in developing countries would be better served if my fellow professionals and their NGO partners approached many of these projects differently and incorporated, from the outset, new thinking about how they are budgeted.

In the traditional budgeting model, firms wait for an RFP to come in over the transom or for an organization to come calling with a project (and budget) in mind. The problem with that, more often than not, is that the budget is woefully inadequate: whether it's a school, a clinic, or some other piece of critical local infrastructure, it typically includes only enough for the "basics," with little or no thought given to the kinds of "nice-to-haves" that would enable the project to serve the community in a more sustainable way. Systems for recycled rainwater, thoughtful waste management, proper siting to take advantage of passive solar — all too often, such considerations are non-starters in the budgets we see.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2016)

June 04, 2016

Greetings from Northeast Ohio, where the seventeen-year cicada are vibrating their tymbals to beat the band. We're pretty excited, too — about our lineup of popular posts from May featuring pieces by a whose who of social sector luminaries. So grab a cold beverage and your noise-canceling headphones and let us know what you think in the comments section below....

Got a submission you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 21-22, 2016)

May 22, 2016

Arthur-conan-doyleOur 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

Just as we often hear that it's easier to make money than to give it away, it seems as if donors and foundation leaders are learning that it's easier to divest from fossil fuel companies than it is to invest in clean energy. Fortune's Jennifer Reingold reports.

Economy

America's middle class is shrinking. The Pew Research Center lays it out in depressing detail.

Giving Pledge

So you've amassed a few hundred million or even a billion dollars and now want to help those who are less fortunate. A good place to start, writes Manoj Bhargava, founder of Billions in Change and Stage 2 Innovations, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is to understand the problem before funneling money into a solution, stop relying on traditions and assumptions, and make your philanthropy about serving, not helping.

Health

In a post on RWJF's Culture of Health blog, the foundation's Kristin Schubert says it's time for public health officials, school administrators, and parents to reframe the way we think about the links between health, learning, and success in life.

International Affairs/Development

Why should U.S. foundations take the global Sustainable Development Goals seriously? Because, writes NCRP's Ed Cain, they "constitute the broadest, most ambitious development agenda ever agreed to at the global level for getting the world off of its self-destructive, unsustainable path. [They] reflect the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental challenges and solutions. [And they]...tackle inequality, governance and corruption."

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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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