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27 posts from February 2011

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February)

February 28, 2011

What a month. After decades of repression and stagnation under the rule of monarchs and military strongmen, the Arab world seemed to come unstuck in February -- and the world will never be the same.

As is our custom on the last day of each month, here's a short list of the most visited PhilanTopic posts over the previous thirty (minus two) days. Enjoy.

What's the best thing you've read/watched/heard this month?

Transitional Justice: Memory As an Instrument of Peace

(Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her previous post, she wrote about transitional justice in post-conflict situations.)

Unhcr_ transitional_justice In a post last week, I mentioned monuments and memorialization as one of the components of a successful post-conflict resolution process. Coincidentally, an upcoming event on this theme was announced Saturday.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience was founded in 1999 by nine groups dedicated to remembering crimes against humanity and the neverending struggle for justice: the District Six Museum (South Africa); the Gulag Museum at Perm-36 (Russia); the Liberation War Museum (Bangladesh); the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (United States); Maison des Esclaves (Senegal); the National Park Service (United States); Memoria Abierta (Argentina); the Terezin Memorial (Czech Republic); and the Workhouse (United Kingdom).

There are now seventeen member sites in the coalition and more than two hundred and sixty individual and institutional members. The mission of each of these sites is public education -- to promote understanding about past crimes against humanity and prevent their recurrence, partly by raising awareness of the contemporary legacy of such crimes. Support for the coalition is provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for Democracy, the Museums & Communities Collaborations Abroad (MCAA) program, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Oak Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, the Libra Foundation, and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 26 - 27, 2011)

February 27, 2011

Wisconsin_budget_sunday Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Stephanie Bluma -- SVP and creative director at Weber Shandwick, a NYC-based PR firm -- shares findings from a recent survey that looked at how corporations are using crowdsourcing to improve their philanthropic efforts. According to the survey, 44 percent of the two hundred executives interviewed use "crowdsourcing to provide ideas and help in decision-making. Among those executives, an overwhelming 95 percent reported that it was valuable to their organization's CSR programming."


On the Century Foundation's Taking Note blog, Richard Kahlenberg shares his (mostly critical) take on The Bee Eater, Richard Whitmire's new biography of former District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.


Guest blogging on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Beth Kanter shares a few network-weaving techniques and tools for grantmakers.


Sharon Schneider, philanthropic director at Foundation Source, a leading provider of support services for private foundations, suggests on her Philanthropic Family blog that most big-hearted individuals are doing "a terrible job of picking charities to receive [their] hard-earned money...."

"In the face of unprecedented social and global crises, and amidst the intolerance that now drives much of what passes for political discourse," writes Todd Cohen on the Inside Philanthropy blog, "we are fortunate indeed that philanthropy is stepping up to provide not only funding but also a marketplace in which people and groups with different perspectives can share ideas and work together to address critical problems that affect their entire community...."

Social Media

Guest blogging on the Tactical Philanthropy blog, American Red Cross director of social media Wendy Harman explains why she responded the way she did after an employee accidently tweeted about buying beer using the organization's Twitter account. Writes Harman,

If I were outside of the organization, I'd find this gaffe hilarious, not because I wish harm on the Red Cross or because I think their services were hindered, but for the same reason I might chuckle if a friend trips on a crack in the sidewalk. It's unexpected and therefore fundamentally funny to see a normally quite serious humanitarian organization tweet about craft beer using the lyrics to a popular song....

Every time I see a nonprofit or company using social tools, my brain reminds me that there’s no such being as nonprofits and companies –- there's only a network of people doing work under the same name with the same goals. Social media belongs to real humans doing a very human activity –- connecting with one another over shared interests. We’re honored that our mission can serve as a shared interest and that our community allows us to be part of their conversations and activities. In turn, our goal as an entity is to provide value and to empower people to get help and give help with these tools.

Philanthropy 2173's Lucy Bernholz interviews James Irvine Foundation CEO Jim Canales about why the foundation started using Twitter and what he hopes the foundation's social media efforts will accomplish.


And on the Harvard Business Review blog, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta suggests that someone create an iTunes-style Web site for charities.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Unions and State Budget Woes: A Reading List

February 26, 2011

Early Friday morning, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed Governor Scott Walker's budget bill, which calls, among other things, for eliminating the collective-bargaining rights of most public-sector workers in the state — a move Republican legislators argue is necessary to address the state's fiscal crisis and Democrats and their pro-union supporters decry as an attack on unions and the middle class. With most Democrats in the state senate opting to leave the state in order to deny senate Republicans the quorum needed to hold a vote on the bill, the stalemate in Wisconsin is likely to continue.

Meanwhile, Americans on both sides of the issue are holding rallies across the country to make their voices heard. What does recent public opinion research have to say about the perceptions of unions, private and public, in American life?

Labor Unions Seen as Good for Workers, Not U.S. Competitiveness, a new report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that the overall favorability rating of unions declined from 58 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2010, although it has inched back up slightly, to 45 percent, in recent months. The report also found that college graduates, those with family incomes of $75,000 or more, and Republicans were more likely to view unions unfavorably. At the same time, the report found that the percentage of Americans with favorable views of business had declined, even among Republicans, and that Americans remained evenly split as to which side they favored in disputes between labor and government or labor and business.

What do Americans think about state budget deficits and the measures needed to address them? Facing Facts: Public Attitudes and Fiscal Realities in Five Stressed States, a 2010 report from the Pew Center on the States and the Public Policy Institute of California, looked at how residents in five states -- Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, and New York -- viewed their states' budget woes, budget cuts, tax increases, and the prospect of more borrowing. Among other things, the report found that survey respondents were more likely to say that elected officials were wasting taxpayer money and that services were delivered inefficiently than to say that state governments were too big. The report also found that while taxpayers would prefer to see the wealthy, corporations, and smokers pay higher taxes, they'd be willing to see their own taxes go up to finance high-priority areas like public education.

The Pew Center on the States report The Trillion Dollar Gap: Underfunded State Retirement Systems and the Road to Reform ranks states according to their funding levels for pension, healthcare, and other benefits; unfunded liabilities; and contributions as of the end of fiscal year 2008. Interestingly, the State Fact Sheets give Wisconsin high marks for the way it has managed its long-term pension liabilities.

Public school teachers, a highly visible contingent among the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin, are the focus of Better Benefits: Reforming Teacher Pensions for a Changing Work Force, a report from the Education Sector. Funded by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, the report explains how defined-benefit pension plans create barriers to attracting, retaining, and assigning good teachers equitably. Proposed reforms outlined in the report include changing the benefit formula/structure, dialing down the political pressure on teachers' unions, and phasing in any changes mandated by new legislation.

Quiet No More: Philadelphia Confronts the Cost of Employee Benefits, a 2009 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, compares the financial difficulties of Philadelphia's pension and healthcare benefits system with those of nine other cities. The report looks at some of the restructuring plans that have been put forward, including a proposal to impose a partial but permanent takeover of distressed systems across the state and freezing all benefits at current levels. In a similar vein, the Boston Foundation report The Utility of Trouble: Leveling the Playing Field: Giving Municipal Officials the Tools to Moderate Health Insurance Costs projects how much municipalities in eastern Massachusetts would save in employee health insurance costs by joining the state's Group Insurance Commission. Recommendations include aligning state and local health benefits and giving municipalities more authority to change plan designs.

What are your thoughts about collective bargaining for public unions and the role it plays, or doesn't, in state budget shortfalls? Will the push to limit such rights in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio be adopted by other states? And how is this trend likely to affect the delivery of state and municipal services and the quality of public education? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Situations

February 25, 2011

(Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she wrote about the "art of memory.")

Scales_justice The events of the past several weeks in Tunisia, Egypt, and the broader Middle East-North Africa region have been riveting and, at times, appalling, particularly in Libya. As other commentators have noted, each uprising has been unique, emerging from that country’s history, culture, and demographics. The wildfire nature of the uprisings; the creative use of Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, and the Internet; and the role of youth have all contributed to an extraordinary moment in world history that has been in turn heroic, horrific, inspiring -- and, at the end of the day, familiar.

Take away the new media and other features peculiar to this time and place and the similarities with opposition movements in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, with independence movements on the African continent in the 1960s, and with other pro-democracy uprisings around the world over the last hundred years are striking.

As in those earlier conflicts, the big question today is what happens next. Although the story is far from over -- strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt may be gone, but economic issues and the political structure they created remain -- reformers in those countries are turning the page on a new chapter. Nongovernmental organizations that work in the social, economic, and political sphere know that what happens in the post-conflict period is crucial over the long run.

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A 'Flip' Chat With...Trista Harris, Executive Director, Headwaters Foundation for Justice

February 24, 2011

(This is the fourteenth in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat, with Demos co-founder David Callahan.)

How will you rock your nonprofit career in 2011? Are you having trouble coming up with ideas? You're in luck. Headwaters Foundation for Justice executive director Trista Harris has more than a few and graciously shared them during a special event in New York City last week.

Hosted by the local chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), in partnership with Resource Generation and the NYU Fundraising Students Association, the event and tips were based on How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career, a new book co-authored by Harris and fellow nonprofit rockstar Rosetta Thurman.

Before the event, I had a chance to sit down with Harris to discuss the book and some of the issues facing young nonprofit professionals.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.) 

(Running time: 4 minutes, 4 seconds)

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Journalism, Objectivity, and Foundation Funding

February 22, 2011

(David Jacobs is director of foundation information management at the Foundation Center. In his last post, he asked whether diversity can be legislated.)

Megaphone2 Last week, in an interesting article about how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's funding  of non- and for-profit media has made it a force in journalism, the Seattle Times asked the question: "Does Gates funding of media blur the line between journalism and advocacy?"

Citing recent Gates-funded pieces aired by ABC, PBS, and Public Radio International (among others), reporters Sandi Doughton and Kristi Heim suggested that the foundation's grants to media organizations "raise obvious conflict-of-interest questions: How can reporting be unbiased when a major player holds the purse strings?" But direct funding of media organizations, said Doughton and Heim,

is only one way in which the world's most powerful foundation influences what the public reads, hears, and watches.

To garner attention for the issues it cares about, the foundation has invested millions in training programs for journalists. It funds research on the most effective ways to craft media messages. Gates-backed think tanks turn out media fact sheets and newspaper opinion pieces. Magazines and scientific journals get Gates money to publish research and articles. Experts coached in Gates-funded programs write columns that appear in media outlets from The New York Times to The Huffington Post, while digital portals blur the line between journalism and spin.

The efforts are part of what the foundation calls "advocacy and policy." Over the past decade, Gates has devoted $1 billion to these programs, which now account for about a tenth of the giant philanthropy's $3 billion-a-year spending. The Gates Foundation spends more on policy and advocacy than most big foundations -- including Rockefeller and MacArthur -- spend in total....

That strategy has caused some experts to express concern about the ability of the world's wealthiest foundation to shape and influence public discourse related to areas in which it has a stake. "Even if we were to satisfy ourselves that the Gates Foundation were utterly benign, it would still be worrisome that they wield such enormous propaganda power," says Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media, culture, and communications at New York University.

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This Week in PubHub: Minorities

February 21, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she introduced several reports that explore aspects of democratization, political transition, and nation building in the Muslim world.)

Throughout the month of February, PubHub is featuring reports about racial/ethnic minorities. ccording to Marrying Out: One-in-Seven New U.S. Marriages Is Interracial or Interethnic, a new report from the Pew Research Center, 14.6 percent of all new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between people of different races (i.e., white, black, Asian, American Indian, mixed race, or some other race) or different ethnicities (between a Latino/ Hispanic and non-Latino/Hispanic). The report also found that while intermarriage rates have gone up significantly since 1980 for whites and African Americans, they've declined slightly for Latinos/Hispanics and Asians. Trends vary by race/ethnicity and gender, with the rate of intermarriage for African-American men (22 percent) far outpacing that of African-American women (8.9 percent) and Asian women much more likely to intermarry (39.5 percent) than Asian men (19.5 percent).

Among those who often go unmentioned in such surveys or are subsumed into the "other race" category are Native Americans. Two reports from the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center, Investing in Tribal Governments: Case Studies From the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Investing in Tribal Governments: An Analysis of Impact and Remaining Need Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, describe how partnering with tribal governments can support policy innovations with the potential to spur economic growth in Indian country, even as they make the case that the stimulus funds, while helpful, only begin to address Native Americans' long-term needs. Among other things, the reports call for structural changes to give tribes greater access to federal funds on a consistent basis, more frequent direct engagement with tribal leaders, and better data collection to inform policy.

What about philanthropic support for Native peoples? The Ford Foundation report Native Arts and Cultures: Research, Growth and Opportunities for Philanthropic Support highlights the foundation's Indigenous Knowledge and Expressive Culture initiative and brings together the cumulative findings of three reports. One, a grantmaking evaluation, found that philanthropic support for Native arts and artists remained inadequate, even though grantees managed to leverage funding to achieve greater impact; a second revealed a need for more opportunities to deepen the knowledge and skills of Native leaders; and the third, a feasibility study, determined that creating a Native arts and cultures fund could help support artists at the community level. In response, the Ford Foundation, in partnership with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Wiyot Tribe, created the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation in 2009 to help develop and revitalize Native American artistic expression and foster indigenous arts in American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native communities.

What should be philanthropy's role in supporting diversity and minority communities? How is it doing, and could it be doing more? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than two hundred reports related to issues affecting minorities in the United States.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (February 19 - 20, 2011)

February 20, 2011

Social_media_group Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


After doing some more thinking about so-called cause competitions like America's Giving Challenge and the Pepsi Refresh Project, Networked Nonprofit co-author Allison Fine wonders how other groups might structure an effort that combines "the fun of competing without the detriment of causes competing against one another."

"I've always thought the catchphrase 'accounting is destiny!' that Clara Miller and George [Overholser] would throw around when they ran the Nonprofit Finance Fund was a little...nerdy," writes Sean Stannard-Stockton on his Tactical Philanthropy blog. "But it sure seems to me that our simplistic nonprofit accounting standards, paired with our moralistic views around spending money on fundraising, is a major culprit of our undercapitalized nonprofit sector...."

On the Harvard Business Review blog, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta suggests that we're all to blame for convincing donors that organizations with low overhead costs are more efficient than those with higher costs. Writes Pallotta:

We've been telling the donating public that good charities have low overhead, and bad charities have high overhead. Well, I don't know about you, but when I hear "good," I think, "makes a difference." So, if you tell me [that] good charities have low overhead, then I don't need to know whether the money I give makes a difference. If they have low overhead, I can assume that they do! The Nonprofit Overhead Cost Project at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy came to the opposite conclusion. Their report, "Getting What We Pay For: Low Overhead Limits Nonprofit Effectiveness," indicates that the charities that spend less on capacity tend to have inferior programs. The donating public might want to know that, don't you think?

We have, as a result of our timidity, managed to confuse a well-intentioned public into basing their giving decisions on the wrong data. That's not what they want. And if they knew that's what we've been up to they'd be pissed....


Still confused about why it's okay for for-profit microfinance lenders to charge exorbitant interest rates? Watch as Philanthrocapitalism author Matthew Bishop explains it to a skeptical Felix Salmon in this seven-minute video.


On the Case Foundation blog, Change Your Career author Laura Gassner Otting looks at the pros and cons of working in the nonprofit sector.


Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz recaps a recent Guidestar webinar based on her ten predictions about how philanthropy is likely to change over the next decade.

Social Entrepreneurship

Sasha Dichter shares a few reflections on Generosity Day, a twenty-four-hour version of his Generosity Experiment. Organized by Dichter, Network for Good's Katya Andresen, and Malaria No More's Scott Case, the effort sought to "make [Valentine's Day] about love, action, and human connection -- because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly."

Social Media

On the Chronicle's Social Philanthropy blog, Cody Switzer explains how the American Red Cross went "from #gettngslizzerd to getting donations" last week. After a young employee accidently posted a tweet about drinking using the organization's Twitter account on Hootsuite, a social media application that allows users to send updates from multiple accounts, the Red Cross quickly deleted the tweet and owned up to it on various social media channels. Writes Switzer:

The results were overwhelmingly positive. At one point on Wednesday, the phrase #gettngslizzerd was a trending topic on Twitter. Dogfish Head Brewery asked people to donate to the Red Cross, and several donors responded by posting that they had donated either money or blood. HootSuite pledged to donate $100. [Red Cross social media director Wendy] Harman said it's impossible to calculate the total direct impact of the tweet, but donations were up slightly above average....

And on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Greater New Orleans Foundation president and CEO Albert Ruesga explains how his foundation uses social media to communicate with local residents, especially during a disaster like last year’s BP oil spill.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

What Lies Ahead for the Egyptian Philanthropic Sector?

February 17, 2011

(Nick Scott is the assistant to the publisher at Philanthropy News Digest. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Egypt_crowds While it remains to be seen whether widespread hopes for a more inclusive, democratic Egypt are fully realized, there are reasons to be optimistic. Assuming a positive outcome, the legal environment for foundations and nonprofits could become much more favorable in the coming years. Even with the political obstacles erected by the Mubarak regime, however, philanthropy in Egypt has been growing over the past decade or so. With that in mind, now seems like an opportune time to take a look at what has been going right in Egyptian philanthropy, obstacles to the sector's continued growth, and what the future may hold.

Success Stories...

Long thought of as a leader in the Arab world, Egypt is emerging as a leader in the Arab philanthropic world as well. It is home to the Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo and boasts long-established and effective foundations like the pioneering Sawiris Foundation, established by the Sawiris family after the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 to address the country's unique development goals. And while more money overall may be awarded in oil-rich states like the UAE, Egyptian philanthropy has made significant progress in recent years.

Charity is not a new concept in Egypt. The country -- indeed, the entire Islamic world -- has a long tradition of religious charity. Individual giving in the form of zakat -- a type of religiously mandated alms-giving -- totals an estimated $1 billion (USD) annually in Egypt, making it far and away the country's largest charitable outlet. Charitable foundations are a much less established tradition, although the sector has been expanding rapidly. There are currently well over four hundred registered foundations in Egypt, and the number continues to grow. But while the field is relatively young, with many Egyptian foundations still finding their way, a more open political system would remove many of the roadblocks preventing them from realizing their full potential.

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A 'Flip' Chat With...David Callahan, Co-Founder, Demos

February 15, 2011

(This is the thirteenth in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat, with Foundation Center president Brad Smith.)

On a snowy January morning, a dozen people convened at the offices of Philanthropy New York to discuss David Callahan's new book, Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America. During the discussion, the Demos co-founder and senior fellow explored a number of topics covered in the book, including the westward shift of wealth creation as the United States has transitioned from a manufacturing- to a knowledge-based economy. Callahan -- who in 2000 co-founded Demos, a public policy think tank dedicated to pursuing a more equitable economy and vibrant, inclusive democracy -- is the author of several books, most recently The Cheating Culture (2004) and The Moral Center (2007).

Fortunes of Change centers around the shifting demographics of the ultra-wealthy in the United States. As the number of tech billionaires and computer-savvy financiers on the Forbes 400 list continues to grow, the "typical" billionaire, says Callahan, is both more educated -- and more liberal -- than ever before. What's more, because many of the new billionaires have come into wealth at a young age, a growing number are adopting a "giving while living" approach to philanthropy. This, in turn, is having an enormous impact on the amount of money flowing into American politics generally and "liberal" causes more specifically. Indeed, during the 2008 election, "Obama...raised more money than McCain in eight of the ten wealthiest zip codes in the United States and...outraised him in any number of industries, including hedge funds, venture capital, private equity, corporate law, investment banking, and high tech," writes Callahan in Fortunes of Change. "In a first for Democratic presidential candidates, Obama even raised more money than McCain did from commercial bankers."

After the event, we had a chance to sit down with Callahan to discuss how the composition of the country's ultra-rich has changed over the past decade and what the implications are for philanthropy.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)


(Running time: 5 minutes, 48 seconds)

What do you think? Does philanthropy give the mega-wealthy outsize influence in a democratic society? Should government do more to regulate the way private dollars are used to create public good? And what, if anything, should we do to ensure that tax-advantaged dollars are used to address issues of fairness and social justice?

-- Regina Mahone and Nick Scott

Weekend Link Roundup (February 12 - 13, 2011)

February 13, 2011

Egypt-freedom Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Social Citizens blogger Kari Dunn Saratovsky wonders why more Fortune 500 companies haven't followed Pepsi's lead and used their Super Bowl ad budgets to promote the idea of "doing well by doing good." "Taking a step back from the commercials that made you laugh out loud or evoked your inner child," writes Saratovsky, "were you compelled [during the Super Bowl] by a brand or product because you recognized that it was a good company or that it cared about more than selling a product?"


On his Six Pixels of Separation blog, Twist Image president Mitch Joel argues that AOL's acquisition, for $315 million, of fast-growing content aggregator The Huffington Post is all about "the new way content flows in a digital world."

What Would Google Do? author Jeff Jarvis offers his own take on the merger on his BuzzMachine blog:

I was just thinking yesterday that though AOL has lots of content and plans to make a lot more, I never think to go there, apart from heading to one of its brands, such as Engadget. Portals are burned toast. Making content for search is not, I believe, a growth strategy, as the more Google becomes personalized and successfully seeks out signals of quality and originality, the more SEO will die as a black art. So to execute on its content-and-advertising strategy, AOL needs brands with engagement. Huffington Post is that. Armstrong needs someone who understands that the critical sphere of discovery for content will more and more be people: peers links, not algorithms; Arianna [Huffington] gets that. The company was bought at a high multiple to its revenue but I think the price is not insane. [AOL chief Tim] Armstrong didn’t buy pageviews (how 2005); he bought a content and distribution strategy....

"I'm a blogger. And a journalist. I report on the news but am also supposed to be more personal, more conversational. So is what I do news or opinion, or neither?" asks Humanosphere blogger/journalist Tom Paulson. While nobody seems to be able to answer the question, adds Paulson, "more important to the future of global health journalism...is what I would argue is the lack of a clear definition of what we mean by 'global health'."


Philanthropy Action's Tim Ogden admits that a few "troubling developments" over the last week have left him feeling "deflated" since he forecast in a previous post "sunny days" ahead for the microfinance industry.


Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz wonders whether "the many small trends, ideas, and changes in philanthropy and society" that have caught her eye recently are harbingers of bigger trends or just a bunch of one-offs.

Social Innovation

On his World Affairs Commentary site, Rahim Kanini chats with Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin about the evolution and promise of social innovation.

Social Media

On the McKinsey Quarterly site, McKinsey's Dan Singer talks with Jennifer Aaker and Andy smith, authors of The Dragonfly Effect, about the power of social media and how social-media engagement differs from traditional marketing and advertising.

And in a world in which the act of connecting has been commodified, what matters most, argues Assetmap founder Nathaniel Whittemore, "is the weight of the reputation behind the connection and in turn, the likelihood that all parties will engage with it seriously."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Weekend Reading: Egypt's Transition?

February 11, 2011

Egypt_celebration With President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, the popular uprising in Egypt enters a new phase of what everyone hopes will be a peaceful transition to a more democratic form of government. Here are a handful of foundation-sponsored reports in our PubHub catalog that explore aspects of democratization, political transition, and nation building in other countries around the globe.

But first: From the organizing of protests via social networking sites, to the Internet shutdown that reportedly sent more people into the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, to the outcry over the detention and abuse of journalists by the state security apparatus, the role of the media in recent events in Egypt and Tunisia cannot be ignored. Against that backdrop, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has posted an extended version of the article "Arab Media: The Web 2.0 Revolution," which originally appeared in 2008 in the Carnegie Reporter.

Also worth a second look is Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah, which is based on a spring 2010 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Among other things, the survey found that 59 percent of respondents in Egypt said democracy was preferable to any other kind of government, while 22 percent said in some cases non-democratic governments might be preferable. The survey also found that 61 percent of Egyptians were either very concerned (20 percent) or somewhat concerned (41 percent) about Islamic extremism in their country, while 31 percent agreed that there was a struggle in their country between modernizers and fundamentalists.

An earlier analysis from Carnegie, Russia: Facing the Future, looks at Russia's economy, military, and democratic reforms, societal problems, and possible futures, ranging from the fragmentation of the Russian Federation to the reimposition of Soviet-era totalitarianism.

Often held up as a model of a peaceful transition, South Africa is the focus of Local Democracy in Action: A Civil Society Perspective on Local Governance in South Africa, a report from the Good Governance Learning Network, with support from the Mott and Ford foundations. The report evaluates South Africa's municipal governments in terms of democracy, responsiveness, and accountability; planning and budgeting; and poverty reduction; discusses priorities and challenges; and offers alternatives.

Developing a Strategy for Kosovo’s First 120 Days: Conference Summary Report, a report from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, with support from the Mott Foundation, summarizes discussions from a conference convened to help the new government of Kosovo develop a strategy for governance during a 120-day transition period following the United Nations Security Council vote that transferred administrative control from Serbia to the government.

Reconciliation after the fall of a brutal regime is the subject of So We Will Never Forget: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a report from the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The report, which was funded by the German Civil Peace Service, German Development Service, and Open Society Institute, analyzes the findings of a survey that asked Cambodians about crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge, the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the outlook for reparations and justice in that Southeast Asian country.

Two other reports from the Human Rights Center, Transitioning to Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Accountability and Social Reconstruction in Northern Uganda and Building Peace, Seeking Justice: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Accountability and Social Reconstruction in the Central African Republic, examine citizens' views with respect to transitional justice, accountability, and conflict resolution in those two African countries. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Humanity United, and USAID, the reports offer recommendations in a range of areas, including reconstruction and development, national dialogue, and regional security.

What has been the philanthropic sector's recent contribution to the building of civil society globally? Peace and Security Grantmaking by U.S. Foundations, 2008-2009, a report from the Peace and Security Funders Group that was funded by the Carnegie Corporation, provides an overview of trends in grantmaking by U.S. foundations for civil society peace and security initiatives worldwide by issue area, strategy, and foundation and grantee characteristics.

The Baltic-American Partnership Fund: Ten Years of Grantmaking to Strengthen Civil Society in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, a report from the Open Society Institute and USAID, reviews the outcomes and lessons learned from the fund's efforts since its creation. In addition to a grant summary and grantee profiles, the report includes essays by some of the fund's officers and partners.

This is just a sampling of reports related to civil society and national reconciliation, broadly defined, that you can find in PubHub. If you know of others, foundation-sponsored or otherwise, feel free to share them in the comments section, or drop me a line at pubhub@foundationcenter.org.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Catalytic Philanthropy: Investing in Policy Advocacy

(Ashley Allen is a Partner in the Endeavor Group, an innovative strategy and legal consultancy based in Washington, D.C. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Policy_advocacy Policy advocacy -- a concept frequently invoked but often misunderstood in the social sector -- presents a powerful opportunity for philanthropists and foundations to maximize and leverage their investments in order to drive social change.

Ambitious philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates, George Soros, and software entrepreneur Edward W. Scott, along with bold foundations like Atlantic Philanthropies, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Nike Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have made policy advocacy a cornerstone of their philanthropic strategies. These individuals and foundations have realized that the enormity of the challenges in education, global health, and the environment exceed the capacity and resources of the social sector to solve alone. Accordingly, they have launched campaigns, funded coalitions, and created powerful messaging in order to directly influence legislative outcomes.

Research shows that advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement by nonprofit groups makes a substantial, measurable difference in the lives of families and communities -- generating returns on investment of up to $100 for every dollar invested. Nevertheless, many philanthropists harbor the view that working with government is not an effective or appropriate role for them to play, and they mistakenly believe that U.S. law prohibits them from doing so.

Influencing public policy at the state, federal, or international level involves an interrelated set of activities, including:

  • Research and dissemination: development of user-friendly, data- and evidence-based analysis about complex social issues;
  • Awareness raising: alerting the public via print, television and social media campaigns, and public forums about an issue and suggesting specific ways to approach the issue;
  • Grassroots mobilization: recruiting and engaging relevant communities to support the campaign;
  • Policy development: crafting specific policy positions that are grounded in research and reflect the realities of those facing the issues;
  • Legislator education/lobbying: conveying explicit information, via written or spoken communication, to policy makers and their staff members; and
  • Litigation: Taking legal action to tackle undesired policies and practices or achieve desired changes in policy.

These activities should be executed simultaneously.

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‘Tunisami’: Some Insights Into Events in the Arab Region

February 10, 2011

Flag-Pins-Tunisia-Egypt As the popular uprising in Egypt reaches a fever pitch (watch live here), many people are asking what lies behind the mass protests and whether the fall of the corrupt, often-brutal Mubarak regime will give rise to other democracy movements in the region. Writing in Alliance magazine, Atallah Kuttab, founder of the Arab Foundations Forum, sheds some light on the fluid, fast-moving events there:

The wave of protests across the Arab region triggered by events in Tunisia has become a "Tunisami." Having denied them for many years, governments are allowing reforms to establish the basic rights of citizens, to ensure their fair and equal treatment and to establish greater opportunity.

Youth (aged 15 to 24 years old), representing more than a third of the total citizens of the Arab region, have been at the eye of this Tunisami. They are frustrated with the lack of opportunity, education systems that do not help them to start a career, and a lack of transparent governance and widespread corruption. While the horizon is narrowing for them, the information revolution has helped them see what their peers around the world are experiencing and therefore the opportunities that they are missing.

Most people in the region had felt that "revolt" was impossible because of the tight security measures imposed by Arab governments. Not only did the recent events cause people to lose their fear of demonstrating but the location and timing of the demonstrations clearly announced the popular mood (Fridays and Sundays had nicknames like Day of Anger, Day of Departure, and in memory of those killed and injured). This lack of fear at such a popular level is empowering and has created a dream coming true that no government can easily reverse irrespective of what happens next....

In his post, Kuttab summarizes some of the changes that already have taken place in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the region; touches on the implications for the business and philanthropic sectors; and suggests a number of things that foundations, NGOs, and CSOs (civil society organizations) can do over the coming weeks and months.

Good reading on what may well turn out to be the most eventful day of what has been a truly memorable three weeks.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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