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403 posts categorized "International Affairs/Development"

Ending Violence Against Girls: Giving Innovative Leaders the Resources They Deserve

November 30, 2016

No_FGM_symbolMy great aunt, Georgeanna Gibbs Browne, born in 1876 in Philadelphia, was a victim of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Her upbringing was church-going and "upper crust." Newspaper clippings describe her twirling across dance floors at summer soirees and charity balls.

Old medical journals report that "clitoridectomies" were indeed performed in the United States and Europe well into the twentieth century, billed as a cure for female hysteria, nymphomania, and the perils of masturbation. In Philadelphia, at the same time that Georgeanna was nearing puberty, Charles Karsner Mills, a prominent neurologist and academician, was experimenting with the procedure.

My great-grandparents may have embraced Mills' pioneering medical approach in hopes that the procedure would somehow suppress Georgeanna's budding sexuality or help solidify the family's standing in Philadelphia's social hierarchy. I'll never know their rationale. All I have now are a few sepia-tone photographs: One of a young, smiling, cherubic girl with curly hair and twinkling eyes, and another taken about a decade later. Her hair is cropped and slightly wild, her eyes a bit dazed, her expression stricken.

Today, there are two hundred million survivors of FGM/C living around the world. Defined by the World Health Organization as "the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia…for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons," FGM/C can cause grievous harm and even death. Governments have banned it. United Nations resolutions have condemned it. But far too few foundations are funding efforts to end it. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than half a million women have been cut or remain at risk.

As with my great-aunt Georgeanna, each of the six thousand girls who endure "the cut" every day do so for complex and deeply rooted cultural reasons. FGM/C can mark a festive and essential transition from girlhood into womanhood; make women more likely to secure "good" husbands; or be perceived to enhance beauty and hygiene. Despite having no religious justification, the practice has been falsely invoked in the name of God.

Despite obstacles and opposition, FGM/C survivors and activists have risen up. FGM/C survivor and activist Jaha Dukureh founded an international nonprofit, Safe Hands for Girls, which empowers youth in Georgia and her native Gambia, where she played a pivotal role in winning a countrywide ban on the practice in 2015. Mariya Taher joined other young leaders to lift the veil of secrecy over "khatna," a form of FGM/C practiced in South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora. Their new nonprofit, Sahiyo, has been helping women tell their stories and emerge from the shadows. Kakenya Ntaiya struck a bargain with her Maasai parents in Kenya, agreeing to endure the cut, but only if she was permitted to pursue her education. She earned a doctorate and founded a Kenyan girls' school. The one key admission requirement at her school? Parents must vow not to cut their daughters.

These dynamic, creative, and innovative leaders have strategies and solutions, but they need resources. The Wallace Global Fund was a pioneer in this area due to the vision of Gordie Wallace, who began championing the rights of girls at risk in the 1970s. I have worked with the foundation on this issue for over a decade and see how much progress can be made with dedicated resources. But more philanthropic support is needed. Just as young women (and men) in the U.S. are mobilizing against campus sexual assault, more and more young women (and men) from Cairo to Banjul to Nairobi — and from Detroit to Phoenix — are rising up and speaking out against FGM/C. More philanthropic dollars are needed to amplify their voices and support their solutions.

This week, as I join more than two hundred participants from twenty-three nations at the first-ever End Violence Against Girls: FGM/C Summit, in Washington D.C., I'll draw inspiration from my great-aunt Georgeanna. I'll envision the sepia image of her as a teen magically transforming. The fear and confusion in her expression will melt away, and she'll emerge strong and confident and even a little bit fierce. I'll picture her joining with other survivors and activists from all over the world. Instead of just suffering, they'll soar.

Headshot_Susan GibbsSusan Gibbs is an advisor to the Women's Empowerment and Rights Program at the D.C.-based Wallace Global Fund.

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

November 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

Throughout the book she argues that solving the world's greatest challenges will require the partnership of all sectors — government, social, and for-profit. Whether it's climate change, poverty, or a humanitarian crisis, the problems we face in the twenty-first century are too complex to be tackled through the application of a single mind- or skillset. The examples she gives on that score suggest that answers do not always have to be complicated — and that often lessons from other contexts are helpful. "[F]acilitating exchange, reducing risk, and allowing for intertemporal transfer," she notes, are some of the core uses of finance. Insurance helps spread risk. Debt frees up resources today in exchange for regular payments in the future. And access to markets — say, with the help of a microloan — can lead to participation in a regional or even the global economy. While in the past such tools may have been ignored or impugned by social sector leaders working to address intractable problems, Keohane argues that they are indispensable today to achieving impact at a level commensurate with the challenges we face.

In often painstaking detail, Capital and the Common Good shows that financial tools, when used properly, can save lives and improve livelihoods for the poorest among us. Keohane declares, for example, that "[b]etter cash-flow management would go a long way toward meeting short- and long-term health needs" — and then shows this to be true beyond the healthcare sector. Citing various practices in innovative finance, she shows debt to be a basic yet invaluable tool when trying to raise capital for public goods. And she notes that while they are still in the early stages, social impact and green bonds both hold great promise. (Indeed, coffee retailing giant Starbucks just recently issued $500 million in green bonds in support of efforts to source its coffee beans sustainably.)

Throughout the book, Keohane engages with the evolving concept of impact investing, a subset of innovative finance focused on generating private capital for social enterprise. Impact investing does not, however, capture the entire story of the new ways in which innovative finance is being applied to address social ills, even though they both "share the same ultimate goal: a more equitable world in which we all have a role and stake." (For the reader interested in a more focused primer on impact investing, check out Impact Investing: Transforming How Make Money While Making a Difference, by Anthony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson [Wiley, 2011]).

Despite its modest size, Capital and the Common Good covers a lot of ground, eschews financial jargon (for the most part), and is accessible to interested readers wanting to learn more about the evolving nexus of finance and social good. As Keohane reminds us, the ultimate goal of innovative finance is to bring more resources to bear on efforts to solve our greatest challenges. Some of those experiments will succeed and some will fail; along the way, lesson will be learned. As Keohane admits, "[t]his book is neither the last nor the definitive word on innovative finance." The field is moving too quickly for that. It is, however, a valuable addition to the global development conversation and a useful resource for leaders in all sectors seeking to make, one innovation at a time, the world a better place.

Michael Weston-Murphy is a writer and consultant based in New York City. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 12-13, 2016)

November 13, 2016

Comedy-tragedy-masks Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. (And what a week it was.) For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Aging

First up, an open letter to the incoming Trump administration from Bruce A. Chernof, president and CEO of the Scan Foundation, laying out five action items it can take to make America great for older citizens.

Arts and Culture

On the Americans for the Arts site, Robert Lynch, the organization's president and CEOs, pledges to work with the incoming Trump administration to advance pro-arts policies and strengthen efforts to transform communities through the arts.

Climate Change

What does Trump's election mean for the Paris climate agreement? Humanosphere's Tom Murphy breaks it down.

Communications/Marketing

On the Packard Foundation website, Felicia Madsen, the foundation's communications director, reflects on some of the things the foundation has learned about how it uses communications to support grantees.

"Your branding efforts affect the bottom line, at least in terms of meeting goals for fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and signed petitions." So why is your logo so ugly? On FasctCoExist, Ben Paynter shares some thoughts on how to avoid a nonprofit branding nightmare.

Fundraising

#GivingTuesday is right around the corner. Is your nonprofit prepared for success?

Health

Does Trump's election mean automatic repeal of the Affordable Care Act? It's more complicated than that, writes Forbes contributor Bruce Japsen.

And be sure to check out this breakdown by the Kaiser Family Foundation of the president-elect's positions on six key healthcare issues.

International Affairs/Development

"To understand the dynamics of the current process of change we must also understand the history that gives it volume and reach," write Vassilis K. Fouskas and Bulent Gokay on openDemocracy's Transformation blog. "The long crisis that began in the 1970s remains unresolved as neoliberal globalization failed to provide a response within the remit of the Western-led global capitalist system." Bernie Sanders understood this fundamental truth, but "the declining liberal-financial establishments of Wall Street and Washington, D.C., that keep defending the bankrupt international order of neoliberal globalization prevented [Sanders' nomination]. It is for this reason that the prospects are quite bleak for the U.S. and the rest of the world. Will Le Pen and the xenophobic Right in Europe benefit from Trump's victory? Of course they will. But whose fault will that be?" And what might follow? openDemocracy editors from around the globe share their thoughts.

Nice post here on PhilanTopic by economist Claude Forthomme explaining why Kenya is an excellent laboratory for the Sustainable Development Goals. And a good post by Devex contributor Amy Lieberman on why countries are moving ahead on the SDG front without a UN framework in place.

Nonprofits

In the face of the unthinkable, NWB blogger Vu Le reminds everyone working in the nonprofit sector why there's reason for hope. And in Slate, Jordan Weissman says, Don't be depressed, get to work.

One challenge for nonprofits that not enough people are thinking about? The rent is too damn high. Regina Hopkins, staff liaison with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, has some ideas that could help reduce the burden for nonprofits in the district.

In the Boston Globe (reprinted here in the Nonprofit Quarterly), Jim Schaffer asks: In what way is Dan Pallotta qualified to speak for nonprofits?

Philanthropy

How should philanthropy respond to the election of Donald Trump, given that the policies pursued by his administration are likely to have "drastic consequences in the realms of women's health, health care in general, civil rights, environmental protection, and social welfare"? Benjamin Soskis, a historian of philanthropy at the Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy and Policy at George Mason University and a co-editor of the HistPhil blog, shares his thoughts in an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

For more reactions to Trump's election and its implications for philanthropy and the social sector, check out these statements from Judy Belk (California Wellness Foundation), Henry Berman (Exponent Philanthropy), Daniel J. Cardineli (Independent Sector), Don Howard (James Irvine Foundation), Rip Rapson (Kresge Foundation), Lorie A. Slutsky (New York Community Trust), Antony Bugg-Levine (Nonprofit Finance Fund), Maxwell King (Pittsburgh Foundation), Christine Essel (Southern California Grantmakers), Tides, United Way Worldwide, and the World Resources Institute.

And if all that is not enough, check out this Q&A with Kyle Peterson, who joined the Walton Family Foundation as executive director in September and is only the third person in the foundation's history to hold that position. 

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or post it in the comments section below....

Weekend Link Roundup (October 29-30, 2016)

October 30, 2016

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

Aging

Next Avenue, a public media site dedicated to meeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans, has released its 2016 list of the "advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts who continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older."

Environment

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the NAACP is mounting an effort to convince African Americans that environmental issues are "closely intertwined with health and economic opportunity for black Americans." Zack Coleman and Mark Trumbull report for the Christian Science Monitor.

Fundraising

Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann has some advice about how foundations can overcome the biggest challenge they face: turning dues-paying members into committed donors.

Giving

For the first time ever, the top spot in the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual ranking of the nation's biggest-grossing charities has gone to a public charity affiliated with a financial services firm. What does that mean for charity in America? Caroline Preston reports for The American Prospect.

For Vauhini Vara, a contributing editor for The New Yorker, the Chronicle's finding "seems to symbolize how the wealth gap in the U.S. is having an influence on all spheres of public life." But Brain Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide (which slipped a notch in the Chronicle list after many years there), tells Vara that "[r]eal social change happens when millions of people get involved, average donors get involved, and work collectively on big issues."

Health

Over the first ten years of its existence, the New York State Health Foundation awarded $117 million to more than four hundred grantee organizations to improve the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. To mark its ten-year anniversary, the foundation has released a report with some of the lessons it has learned.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 15-16, 2016)

October 16, 2016

Fruits-Fall-HarvestOur 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

Contra Donald Trump, the majority of African Americans do not live in poverty or inner cities. Alana Semuels reports for The Atlantic.

In Yes! Magazine, Liza Bayless interviews Marbre Stahly-Butts, deputy director of racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, about why divestment from the prison and military industries is critical to a just future.

Climate Change

On August 7, Scotland, one of the windiest countries in Europe, generated enough electricity from wind turbines to power the entire country. And it's goal of running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2020 may be within reach. The Washington Post's Griff Witte reports.

Communications/Marketing

"Most people are uncomfortable talking about race, discrimination, privilege and power," writes the Knight Foundation's Anusha Alikhan, who moderated a panel on diversity and inclusion at the Communications Network annual conference in Detroit in September. "[W]e get tripped up by the need to be nonpartisan, while balancing the interests of a variety of groups and even our own upbringings.... [But how] do we produce real change in these areas if we don’t acknowledge their roots?" Alikhan shares some takeaways from that conversation that communications teams can use to "advance hard conversations and create deeper connections with their communities."

Disaster Relief

Relief efforts for hurricane-battered Haiti gained some traction during week, with the United Nations launching a $120 million appeal to fund its activities there, the World Health Organization gearing up to send a million cholera vaccine doses to prevent a more serious outbreak of the disease, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announcing a gift of $2 million in cash and product donations, and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt announcing he will donate $10 million through his foundation for recovery efforts. To learn more about recovery challenges and opportunities for donors, check out this webinar hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Haitians need all the help they can get. But according to the Washington Post's Peter Holley, they don't trust the American Red Cross to provide it.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 8-9, 2016)

October 09, 2016

Haiti Hurricane MatthewOur 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

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has some good advice re the dangers of committee writing and the three-verb fumble.

Disaster Relief

Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, killed more than seven hundred people in Haiti and ravaged the southwestern tip of that impoverished nation. On the Center for Disaster Philanthropy blog, Regine A. Webster answers three questions for donors: When should I give? How should I give? And where should I give?

Derek Kravitz and a team from ProPublica have uncovered documents that purport to show local officials in Louisiana were "irate" over the American Red Cross’ response to the August flooding in that state, the country's worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Education

On Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, author and education expert Alfie Kohn explains why pay-for-performance schemes for students and teachers are counterproductive.

International Affairs/Development

According to the World Bank, "[t]he number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than 100 million across the world despite a sluggish global economy," with 767 million people were living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, down from 881 million people the previous year.

On the UN Foundation blog, Aaron Sherinian shares thumbnail bios of seventeen young people who are working to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nonprofits

With pension costs rising and stock market returns flat, a growing number of municipalities are "looking for ways of taxing what until now have been tax-exempt sacred cows." Elaine S. Povich reports for the Pew Charitable Trust's Stateline initiative.

Beth Kanter has officially announced the launch of her third book, The Happy Health Nonprofit (with Aliza Sherman), which "explores why burnout is so common in the nonprofit sector and simple ways to practice self-care and bring a culture of well-being into the nonprofit workplace." 

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 1-2, 2016)

October 02, 2016

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

Corporate Social Responsibility

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

First Amendment

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

Global Health

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

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

Higher Education

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

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

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You Can Connect the Dots for Global Philanthropy

September 16, 2016

ConnectthedotsData is something we all want. Data, though, is not something we can all have... not right now, at least. In order for data to be collected, processed, analyzed, and shared — all while taking into account individual country contexts around the world — the data has to exist in the first place. This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked, especially in a global context. For example, we simply don't know what kind of impact foundations in Kenya are having in a sector like health, or what funds they are directing to various issues and how that compares to the impact and spending by government programs or international aid. As a result, we have no way of knowing whether philanthropy is making a difference or if there's a way those dollars could be used more effectively. That's the case not just in Kenya, but in countries across the global North and South. And the reason we don't have a complete picture of the philanthropic sector's contribution to and role within the development ecosystem is because there is a lack of data skills and a data culture in philanthropy. Not just a small gap; it's a pretty big one.

In order to tackle these issues, Foundation Center has developed a program to partner with philanthropic infrastructure organizations around the world to create a culture of data, build much-needed data management capacity, and create and use data to drive more effective development and grantmaking outcomes. The program also aims to strengthen the efforts of local foundations and associations of foundations to develop their own long-term, sustainable, in-country data strategies, better understand and fill their capacity needs through skills development, and highlight and provide tools to help foundations work with data more effectively.

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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.

Continue reading »

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Quote of the Week

  • "The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own...."

    — Lao Tzu (605-531 BCE)

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