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390 posts categorized "International Affairs/Development"

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.

Fundraising

Looking to sharpen up you fundraising appeal emails? CauseVox' Kat Boogaard shares five useful email tips guaranteed to inspire your supporters to take action.

Giving

The act of "giving" any amount in any given moment when it is not necessary to do so almost always is considered to be an act of altruism. But should it be? Forbes contributor Jake Hayman explains why the act of giving needs to be contextualized.

Health

Kristin Jones, assistant director of communications at the Colorado Trust, explains why we must see, and address, gun violence as a public health issue.

The HBCU Digest, which bills itself as the "news resource of record for historically black colleges and universities," has reprinted the full text of a letter signed by thirty-three sitting presidents of America's historically black colleges and universities calling on all Americans to join in a series of actions designed to help address the scourge of gun violence.

Impact Investing

Interesting blog post by Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger, who notes that recent estimates put the dollar amount of "global investible capital" at north of $100 trillion, compared to around $80 trillion for global GDP. And with the amount of capital needed to operate the global economy falling because of "just in time manufacturing, faster electronic payments and better working capital management," that means "we have massive amounts of capital available to invest in new endeavors."

On the Devex site, Catherine Cheney chats with the Case Foundation's Jean Case about data, entreneurship, and impact investing.

International Affairs/Development

Bill Gates was in Johannesburg, South Africa, last week to deliver the 14th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture. The theme of this year's lecture was "living together," and, as Gates noted, it was "also the theme of Nelson Mandela's life...[in that the] system he fought against was based on the opposite idea — that people should be kept apart, that our superficial differences are more important than our common humanity."

What can philanthropy do to help make the Sustainable Development Goals resonate with foundations and nonprofits in the U.S.? Writing for the World Post, Natalie Ross, director for global philanthropy at the Council on Foundations, shares some ideas.

Nonprofits

In a post that has generated dozens of comments, NWB's Vu Le wonders why it is so hard for funders to grok the concept of general operating support.

What if instead of "overhead," asks Ben Paynter in FastCo.Exist, nonprofits used a different word or term to refer to their indirect costs? Would funders be more willing to fund those activities if they were re-branded with a less "semantically stifling" term such as "shared costs" or "critical infrastructure costs" or (as Vu Le suggests) "things-we-need-in-order-to-do-our-job-of-helping-people-dammit"?

Based on material from their Nonprofit Mergers Workbooks, the folks at La Piana Consulting have a new post up outlining the key characteristics of effective communications in nonprofit partnerships. 

Philanthropy

Our Foundation Center colleagues at CF Insights have released a new brief updating community foundation growth and related operational activity during fiscal year 2015.

The shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling  and of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge "have the potential to either deepen empathy and understanding among Americans, or divide us even more sharply along lines of race, ethnicity, and gender," write Brook Kelly-Green and Luna Yusai on the Ford Foundation's Equal Voices blog. Which is why, they add, that the foundation is more committed than ever to  be "a thoughtful, effective social justice funder" and is "eager to deepen and expand th[e] community of social justice funders,... nurture bold experiments and help the [Black Lives Matter] movement build the solid infrastructure that will enable it to flourish."

Social Entrepreneurship

And in a post on the Huffington Post's What's Working blog, Loukia Papadopoulos, business development director at UK-based SocialGrowth, explains why the future belongs to social entrepreneurs.

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....

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.

How can Global South funders (I'm guessing the Global East is not so different) deal with this mess? For starters, we can collaborate among ourselves, and with Global North partners, to fund grassroots resilience, empowerment, and solutions; support local/regional/national/international monitoring; and call for greater transparency and accountability with respect to international financial institutions' investments, and everything in between.

Building a culture of philanthropy in the Global South and East is a herculean job, and it is only through collaboration that results will be achieved. We must build different alliances to support different aspects of our work. CASA, for example, is part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA). Led by Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, Mama Cash, and Both ENDS, the initiative involves more than thirty women’s and environmental funds and NGOs in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America that have come together to strengthen the capacity of grassroots organizations to advocate for women's rights to water, food security, and a clean, healthy, and safe environment.

We also work with major international funders to make cluster grants related to a number of mutually complementary strategies, from strengthening groups affected by mega infrastructure or energy projects, to supporting indigenous rights and legal defense, to investing in women's co-ops based in fragile ecosystems that produce oil and pulp sustainably at market rates. These solutions not only ensure indigenous land ownership and improve organizational capacity, they help maintain the integrity of communities. To help support the Brazilian philanthropic field, we are also co-founders of the Brazil Philanthropy Network for Social Justice.

What have we learned as a South American grassroots fund? Ten years, ten countries, and more than fourteen hundred grants later, we see some advances that point to useful strategies like those mentioned above. One of them relates to how local knowledge is crucial to making each dollar count.

In the Peruvian Amazon, for example, oil spills have contaminated thousands of miles of pristine rivers on which traditional people depend. Funding indigenous communities' access to legal advice so that they can demand reparations and compensation in court has proven effective time and again. In Bolivia and Paraguay, a strong agroforestry movement has worked quietly to help protect small farmers' lands from producers of commodities for export such as soy and cattle and has proven effective in securing land rights and income for indigenous communities in places where open confrontation is a not-infrequent, and often deadly, occurrence. Even locally produced film documentaries can force local governments to take action.

Global Witness published a report last month which found that, between 2010 and 2015, two hundred and sixty-six environmental and indigenous activists around the world had been murdered. The map shows that all those deaths happened in the Global South and East, led by Latin America, with Brazil topping the list with two hundred deaths.

In the last few weeks, the Munduruku people have won a number of battles. CASA was one of many funders of  a complex process that has dragged  on for nine years. And trough that engagement, we have clearly seen the impact that many small grants across the basin have had, not least in terms of enabling the Munduruku people to meet regularly with public attorneys and develop a formal protocol that protects their right to free, prior, and informed consent under the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (C169). In the most recent domino to fall, last month the Fundação Nacional do Índio (National Indian Foundation) issued a decision to recognize the Munduruku's ancestral territories, which led in turn to the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazil's environmental protection agency) to deny a license for the mega-dam that would destroy a major part of those territories.

Nothing is certain when the forces in a struggle like this are so strongly opposed. But it is important to celebrate small victories — that is what gives us the motivation to keep pushing. There can be no question about the critical role of targeted funding in this struggle. "There is no Planet B" is a cliché, but it is true. We must not destroy the priceless bounty that has been given us, nor can we afford to lose the knowledge preserved by our oldest and wisest caretakers — or those who put their lives on the line every day to protect the planet for future generations.

Headshot_Maria Amália SouzaPerhaps last year's Equator Prize was trying to signal just that.

Maria Amália Souza is executive director of the São Paulo-based CASA Socio-Environmental Fund, which works to promote environmental conservation and sustainability, democracy, and social justice by supporting and strengthening the capacity of civil society in South America.

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.

Nearly all the killings were pre-meditated homicides; nearly all the killers enjoy blanket impunity. In Cáceres' case, five men, two of whom have ties to the Honduran construction industry and one of whom is a former Honduran military intelligence specialist, have since been arrested — itself a rare development. It remains to be seen, however, whether justice will be served on the men who shot her or the more powerful, shadowy figures who may have ordered her assassination.

I began my Waterkeepers' talk with a confession. Early in my career, I was torn between working for social justice in "hard" places like El Salvador or environmental causes in familiar places like Montana. I chose the former, concluding that green issues were fundamentally "bourgeois" concerns. (In my home state of New Jersey, environmentalism was all the rage in both major parties back then due to widespread dumping of hazardous materials that was threatening home property values across the state.)

I realize now I could not have been more wrong. The murders of Cáceres and so many others prove beyond a doubt that not only are "green" activists on the frontlines of social justice and human rights struggles around the world, they are being targeted at a greater rate than journalists or human rights or LGBT activists.

This is going to be a long struggle, I told the audience, so prepare yourselves. But don't despair; there are reasons for optimism.

First, however, we need to understand that if environmental activists are going to do their work, and do it well, they need to be safe. And safety begins with solidarity. As the director of the leading U.S.-based hostile environments training provider, I could simply tell you the solution to enhanced safety is to hire my firm. Training, along with the use of security cameras and other technologies, can and does make a difference. But no amount of training or technology can ever do as much to protect frontline environmentalists as the kind of protection that comes from collective advocacy, both inside and beyond the countries where the problem is most urgent.

Second, solidarity, as important as it is, is no panacea. Take the enterprising Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, the subject of a Hollywood film by the same name. Guerin was shot dead in her car in 1992 just seven months after she had been honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Recognition can help protect the lives of those who are in danger, but it isn't enough. Instead, advocates must build networks and promote green activism in ways that raise the profile of at-risk activists — both within their own communities and abroad.

Third, we must recognize that the root of the problem is the impunity of powerful interests, as well as the corruption and incompetence that undermines functioning judiciaries in almost every developing nation.  Less than two weeks after Cáceres' murder, one of her fellow activists, Nelson Garciá, was shot dead near his home. Last week, the body of another of Cáceres' colleagues, Lesbia Janeth Urquía, was found in a trash dump with signs of blunt trauma injury to her head.

In such a lawless environment, and even in the face of seemingly incontrovertible evidence, powerful actors, especially those with ties to government, can stop a case before it gets started. In Colombia in 2001, a team of prosecutors brought charges, based on eyewitness testimony and documentation, against an Army general accused of okaying the use of paramilitary groups to commit massacres in remote villages and assassinate trade unionists, community leaders, and human rights activists. By the time the case collapsed, six regional prosecutors and twenty-two investigators had been murdered and the two lead prosecutors on the case, along with twenty other prosecutors and investigators, had fled the country.

Mustering the political will to compel institutions to change can take decades. It can, and has been, done, however. Guatemala was long one of Latin America's most violent and corrupt nations. But in recent years, in a sharp break from its past and with the support of a UN-backed anti-crime commission, the Guatemalan government has managed to prosecute two former presidents, albeit with mixed results, and a host of other once-powerful figures for crimes ranging from money laundering to sexual slavery.

Bringing change to other nations will be harder. Take Bangladesh. There, environmentalists are up against the same kind of collusion between powerful private interests and corrupt government officials faced by activists elsewhere. But in Bangladesh it occurs in a climate where independent bloggers, human rights activists, foreigners, and LGBT Bangladeshis are routinely bombed, shot, and hacked to death in the name of Islam.

How can we protect them? asked one Waterkeeper. I told them about Peace Brigades International, a UK-based NGO with an office in the United States that for decades has deployed teams of observers from the U.S. and Western Europe to provide "protective accompaniment" for threatened human rights activists in areas of conflict. The mere presence of the observers has kept many local activists and their families alive — without a single foreign observer having been lost in the process. And while I wouldn’t recommend that kind of assistance in a country like Bangladesh at the moment, in many countries around the world protective accompaniment for frontline environmentalists is an idea whose time has come.

The effectiveness of many environmental groups is predicated on their ties to, and passion for, the waterways and lands they work so hard to protect. Too often, however, these groups seem to exist in a bubble. The Waterkeepers publish a glossy print magazine for donor-subscribers. But unless every issue is searchable online, where other passionate environmentalists can find them, the magazine isn't going to be much help in terms of building a global solidarity movement. Similarly, no environmentalist wants to spend more of her time indoors than she has to, but Twitter and other social media platforms need to be embraced on a 24-7 basis if a movement hopes to cut through the noise and maintain and grow its presence.

The environmental movement also needs more groups capable of providing the kind of rigorous documentation we have come to expect from the likes of Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

For sure, Global Witness deserves credit for stepping up and pioneering the documentation of threats and violence against environmental defenders. But the initial data it has generated raises as many questions as it answers: Why are activists killed? Who are the suspected perpetrators? What is the status of government investigations into the murders? And which international interests are doing business with national or regional entities suspected of having ties to the murderers? Small grassroots groups such as Canadian-based Rights Action are doing their best to answer these questions in countries like Guatemala and Honduras and, together with Global Witness, have begun to shine a spotlight on the work that needs to be done.

At the same time, today's environmental movement has one advantage that, if nurtured, could provide frontline activists with a measure of the solidarity and protection they so desperately need. The movement to curb climate change is still an amorphous and largely leaderless jumble of competing interests (as was so wonderfully on display in Paris last fall), but it enjoys the backing of most Western governments. It is also the largest movement of its kind the world has seen.

Does anyone doubt that there is a direct link between the work of frontline environmentalists and the campaign to slow global warming? Yet how many climate change activists, let alone the public at large, are aware of the intimidation and violence that has been brought to bear against local environmental activists in recent years? Running a poll or two along these lines would be illuminating and a good place to start. But raising awareness about these slayings and the ongoing threat to environmental and indigenous activists is essential.

I have long thought of myself as an environmentalist, and I pay close attention to conservation issues. And yet I had no idea that so many environmentalist activists were being murdered until I was alerted to that fact by mutual friends' status updates about Berta Cáceres' murder on Facebook and then a call prompted by her murder from the Waterkeepers.

One way we can honor Cáceres' legacy is to take the hard but necessary steps needed to bust open our comfortable cocoons and forge alliances between environmentalists, climate change activists, and the donors, foundations, and governments that support them. Only by building a unified international movement will we be able to protect fearless activists like Berta Cáceres who are doing the kind of work that inspires and benefits us all.

Headshot_FrankSmythFrank Smyth is the founder and executive director of Global Journalist Security, the leading U.S.-based hostile environments training and consulting provider. A former arms trafficking investigator for Human Rights Watch and the author of the HRW report Arming Rwanda, Smyth has written for The Nation, The Village Voice, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal and has testified before the U.S. House and Senate, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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

May 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 30-May 1, 2016)

May 01, 2016

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

Arts and Culture

On the Americans for the Arts blog, Sharbreon Plummer offers some "suggestions for ways that employers can support emerging leaders...of color, along with ways that individuals can begin to explore self-care and agency within their institutional structures and everyday lives."

Climate Change

The Paris Agreement to limit emissions of global greenhouse gases will go into effect when 55 countries  —  comprising at least 55 percent of annual global emissions — ratify it domestically. Making sure individual countries live up to their commitments is going to be a challenge. Pacific Standard's John Wihbey explains.

Community Improvement/Development

"In the wake of Freddie Gray's fatal encounter with the police, subsequent tumultuous protests, a mistrial for one of the officers charged in connection with [his] death, and a crime spike, Baltimore, for better or worse, has become a poster child for government failure," writes Clare Foran in The Atlantic. With Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake having announced she will not run for reelection, what happens in the city's Democratic primary "could shed light on the complex challenge of how to rebuild a fractured city — or how not to."

Corporate Philanthropy

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther considers the growth of global pro bono programs and argues that, as well intentioned as they may be, "without independent evaluations, feedback from clients and transparency about results, [such] practices won't do nearly as much good as they could."

Education

On the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog, Frederick James Frelow, a senior program officer in the foundation's Youth Opportunity and Learning program, looks at some of the restorative justice practices the New York City Board of Education has implemented to help address "the root causes of the conflicts and misunderstandings that undermine trust and respect between youth and adults in school as well as in the world at large."

Environment

A massive 40,000-acre seagrass die off in the waters of Florida Bay is raising alarms about a serious environmental breakdown. The Washington Post's Chris Mooney reports.

In the first post of a four-part series, Mongabay reporter Jeremy Hance explores how the world's biggest conservation groups have embraced an approach known as "new conservation" that is roiling the field.

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Why Fund 'Insignificant' Populations?

April 28, 2016

Two-spirit-LGBTRecently, I was invited to speak on a panel concerning the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and Two-Spirit Native peoples at a grantmakers conference co-sponsored by Funders for LGBTQ Issues and International Funders of Indigenous Peoples. When we entered the Q&A portion, someone in the audience stood up and asked, "Given that LGBT people are a small minority and Native Americans are an even smaller one, isn’t the population of LGBT Native Americans statistically insignificant?"

The attendee then added, "Why would you say to a foundation that they should fund statistically insignificant populations when they want their funding to have a big impact?"

It's a fair question.

On a strictly mathematical basis, the questioner is right: we are talking about small populations. In the 2010 U.S. Census, 2.9 million people identified as Native American/Alaska Native (AI/AN) alone. This puts the percentage of solely AI/AN people at approximately 1 percent of the total U.S. population. Unfortunately, the Census does not officially collect data on the number of LGBT people, but outside surveys peg the number around 6 percent of the total population. So if we are talking about absolute numbers, the questioner is technically right.

That said, I would argue that the question misses the point for three reasons:

Disparate impact. Seemingly small populations can be over-represented when it pertains to issues of particular concern to funders. Take homelessness. While LGBT-identified youth make up only 6 percent of the general population, they also constitute about 40 percent of the homeless youth population. Another fitting example would be educational outcomes. In South Dakota, which is home to a relatively large Native population, 91 percent of white fourth-graders are reading at grade level compared to only 34 percent of Native American students. How are we going to solve problems like homelessness and poor educational outcomes if we are not willing to address why some populations are faring more poorly than others? If you do not address the over-representation of so-called "insignificant" populations within larger, systemic issues, you’re less likely to make a significant dent in solving them.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 2-3, 2016)

April 03, 2016

Baseball_3Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Education

StudentsFirst, the education reform organization started by controversial former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is being merged into education advocacy organization 50Can. "Rhee's group launched on Oprah Winfrey's talk show in 2010, with the goal of raising $1 billion dollars in its first year," writes Joy Resmovits in the Washington Post. "The goal was then revised to $1 billion over five years; in its first year, it brought in only $7.6 million."  Rhee stepped down as CEO of the organization in 2014, after which it closed a number of state chapters, downsized its staff, and lowered its profile.

Environment

Two-thirds of the environmentalists who have died violently since 2002 were activists in Latin America. And for the five years ending in 2014, more than 450 were killed -- over half of them in Honduras and Brazil. Darryl Fears reports for the Washington Post.

On March 15, the World Health Organization released the second edition of a report on the health challenges that arise from living and working in unhealthy environments. The UN Foundation's Analise McNicholl shares five takeaways from the  report. 

A recent state task force report called the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, an "environmental justice." But what does that mean -- and what can we do to ensure that instances of similar injustice are eliminated? Brentin Mock examines those questions for The Atlantic's City Labs portal.

Higher Education

Phase-one results from College Count$, a joint research project established in April 2015 by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation, demonstrate that low-income students who've participated in the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) earn associate degrees or technical certificates at more than double the rate of the general community college population in the state and experience a boost in wages. College Count$ itself currently is seeking funding for the next phase of research to measure the return on investment (ROI) to the state generated as a result of expanded employment, increased tax revenues, and a decline in the need for public assistance. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 26-27, 2016)

March 27, 2016

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

Climate Change

Forty-one percent of Americans — a record number — believe global warming poses "a serious threat to them or their way of life." Aamna Mohdin reports for Quartz.

Another sign of the times: The Rockefeller Family Fund, a family philanthropy created by Martha, John, Laurance, Nelson, and David Rockefeller in 1967 with money "borne of the fortune of John D. Rockefeller," America's original oil baron, has announced its intent to divest from fossil fuels, a process that "will be completed as quickly as possible." You can read the complete statement here

And the New York Times' coverage of new findings warning of the potentially devastating consequences of unchecked global warming, in a much more compressed time frame than previously thought, should get everyone's attention.

Conservation

What is the most effective way to protect wild lands? Traditional place-based conservation? Or through efforts to reshape markets and reduce demand for the development of those lands? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther explores that question with Aileen Lee, chief program officer for environmental conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, one of the largest private funders of environmental conservation efforts in the world.

Corporate Social Responsibility

"What we are seeing," write Brigit Helms and Oscar Farfán on the Huffington Post Impact blog, "is not just a passing trend, but the beginning of a new form of business — a business that looks beyond profits to generate social value, the business of the future. Tectonic forces are accelerating this movement. At the global level, the most important one involves a cultural shift driven mainly by millennials. The new generation sees the main role of business as that of 'improving society', and not just generating profits...."

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    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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