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22 posts from June 2011

This Week in PubHub: Teacher Preparation

June 10, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that explore developments and issues involved in palliative and end-of-life care.)

As the debate over how to measure and improve teacher quality rages on, this week in PubHub we're featuring four reports that explore ways to strengthen teacher preparation programs.

One of the stated aims of the Department of Education's Race to the Top initiative is to help states implement reforms in "recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals" by linking student performance data to teacher education programs, publicly reporting program effectiveness, and scaling successful programs. The Center for American Progress report Race to the Top and Teacher Preparation: Analyzing State Strategies for Ensuring Real Accountability and Fostering Program Innovation (48 pages; 610KB; PDF) examines states' RTT-funded plans to adopt stricter accountability mechanisms for teacher education programs and finds that while all twelve states have committed to better reporting, only five intend to publish the effectiveness of program graduates as a measure of accountability. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli and Edythe Broad foundations, the report recommends maximizing the potential for change by developing high-quality data reporting systems, piloting stronger accountability measures, fostering innovative strategies, supporting promising practices in non-RTT-funded states, and monitoring state performance.

Measuring What Matters: A Stronger Accountability Model for Teacher Education (44 pages; 397KB; PDF), an earlier Center for American Progress report that was also funded by the Gates Foundation, proposes a framework for a more radically redesigned teacher education accountability model with the following components: a measure of whether program graduates help their students learn, measures of classroom performance based on reliable and valid observation instruments, public reporting of persistence rates up to five years post-completion, feedback from program graduates and their employers, and a new licensure process that includes common tests and policies across states.

Getting in Sync: Revamping Licensure and Preparation for Teachers in Pre-K, Kindergarten and the Early Grades (32 pages; 1.75MB; PDF), a report from the New America Foundation that focuses on teacher education for pre-K through third grade, argues that current teacher education curricula pay little attention to developmental science or early childhood-specific training. Funded by the Foundation for Child Development and the A.L. Mailman Family and W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone foundations, the report highlights a number of promising practices, including increasing applicant pool selectivity, an emphasis on frequent classroom experience and in-depth coursework, and the need for more rigorous licensure standards and policies.

The Elusive Talent Strategy: An Excellent Teacher for Every Student in Every School (16 pages; 776KB; PDF), a report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, also calls, among other things, for improving applicant pools. According to the report, top-performing education systems in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea hire only the top third of college graduates as teachers. If U.S. students are to compete globally in the twenty-first century, the report argues, the country needs to recruit better teacher candidates and improve their preparation; offer incentives to place them where they are needed most; utilize data to improve support systems and evaluation systems; and hold teachers accountable for their performance. Promising models that have emerged of late include urban teacher residencies -- apprenticeship programs that provide intensive classroom experience alongside a mentor teacher, supplemented by coursework -- and alternatives such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project that enable teachers to begin their careers while in the process of obtaining their certification.

What are your thoughts about accountability and teacher education programs? Know of any promising practices or policies? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than seven hundred reports on education-related topics.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Commercializing the Public Good

June 08, 2011

(Mark Rosenman, a longtime nonprofit sector activist and scholar, directs Caring to Change, an effort in Washington that seeks to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good. In his last post, he wrote about the need for foundations to think beyond advocacy. A version of this post appears on the Huffington Post.)

Rosenman_headshot A couple of decades ago, with the nonprofit sector approaching 5 percent of GDP for the first time, you didn't need a crystal ball to see that the market would eventually find ways to peel off some of the larger and more profitable parts of the "charity business." And it did.

The first to fall was nonprofit health care, with everything from medical insurance programs to hospitals and clinics being converted to for-profit status. Next came higher education, as colleges, universities, and vocational schools were acquired or started by for-profit corporations. After a while, one had to wonder how long program areas such as human services and anti-poverty efforts would be spared. We need wonder no longer.

Led by the United Kingdom's Conservative government and mimicked by some in the Obama administration and various state governments, there is growing interest in something called "social investment bonds," which are intended to replace government funding for social problems with newly created opportunities for private capital looking for significant returns. As a quick look at the recent history of capital's efforts to do good while also doing well makes clear, it's but the latest in a series of efforts to substitute market models -- and values -- for altruism, philanthropy, and government responsibility for the common good.

The first of these was cause-related marketing -- arrangements in which for-profit enterprises try to boost sales and brand equity by tying some small portion of their profits to a charity or social need. Arrangements like Product RED, while generating some good, always seem to benefit the commercial enterprise more than the nonprofits they were intended to help. Indeed, studies have shown that many such arrangements actually reduce individual consumers' donations to the causes they ostensibly support, as well as altruism in general. As tax-evading Product RED spokesperson Bono once famously said, You don't have to give money anymore, you can just shop. Similarly, when corporations try to build their customer base by crowd-sourcing their contributions programs, it is only the corporations and, for the most part, tech-savvy charities that win.

Continue reading »

Investing for Impact: Education Reform

June 07, 2011

(Ashley Allen is a partner at the Endeavor Group, an innovative consultancy offering an integrated suite of strategic, legal, and communications solutions to advance its clients' complex global agendas. In her previous post, she wrote about combining social and financial returns.)

Ed_reform_politics-progress Education reform represents one of the most compelling opportunities for philanthropists and foundations interested in maximizing and leveraging efforts to drive sustainable social change. Clear-eyed, results-oriented philanthropists such as Edith and Eli Broad, the Walton Family, Bill & Melinda Gates, Julian Robertson, and Laura and John Arnold view their wealth "not as an end in itself, but as an instrument to effect positive and transformative change" and have made investing in education reform a cornerstone of their philanthropic strategies.

And not a minute too soon. The United States has fallen behind many of the world's industrialized countries in educational achievement, ranking 25th in math and 21st in science. Almost 70 percent of 8th-graders cannot read at grade level, 25 percent of high school freshmen do not graduate on time, and more than 1.1 million Americans drop out of high school every year.

Grim statistics like these have helped to catalyze the emergence of a new breed of philanthropist with large ambitions and little patience for the status quo. In keeping with those ambitions, these funders hope to transform education at its core by reshaping expectations, expanding and testing new models, influencing policy, and driving better outcomes for the nation's most vulnerable youth.

Five investment themes highlight the potential for high-impact work in the field:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (June 4 - 5, 2011)

June 05, 2011

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


Hosting this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival, Nancy Schwartz shares the "life changing" book recommendations of fifteen nonprofit bloggers on her Getting Attention blog.

Corporate Philanthropy

Over at the Stanford Social Innovation Review site, FSG co-founder Mark Kramer and managing director John Kania facilitate a roundtable discussion with executives from ten major corporations on the topic of "creating shared value" -- an FSG coinage that refers to a business paradigm in which "companies generate economic value for themselves in a way that simultaneously produces value for society by addressing social and environmental challenges."

Disaster Relief

In a recent post on her blog, Brigid Slipka points out how the response of Proctor & Gamble to the massive tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri -- a response that included setting up a Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry trailer -- was nothing more than a marketing ploy. Writes Slipka:

This scenario is entirely driven by what meets Proctor & Gambles needs: good face to customers, good marketing, good PR. Any effect on victims is measured only in terms how they feel about Tide, not if they actually get their real needs met.

P&G sorta kinda admits this: "I guess you could call it a marketing expense because it's run by our marketing team" says a Tide spokesperson. I guess you could call it whatever you want, just don't pretend it's done in service of the beneficiaries....


On the Tactical Philanthropy blog, Guidestar president and CEO Bob Ottenhoff announces the launch of Charting Impact, a new initiative designed to help nonprofits "communicate more effectively with their stakeholders." As Ottenhoff explains,

Charting Impact isn't just another good way to share an organization's impact, but is rather a new, common format that all organizations can use, regardless of type, size, or mission. Charting Impact allows the sharing of assessment information in a concise, standardized way, which ultimately enables new collaborations and resources to be directed to effective organizations....

International Affairs

Maryam Pasha, co-founder of UK-based Young Professionals in Human Rights, responds to Rosetta Thurman's May 27 post in which Thurman criticized Hispanics United of Buffalo and the Connecticut YMCA for treating their employees poorly. In her post, Pasha shares five of the "most common and worrying issues" raised by young nonprofit workers.

Social Justice

To commemorate its thirty-fifth anniversary, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has created a playlist of songs that "convey something of our vision of a fair, just, and democratic society."

Social Media

In the latest installment of her Social Good podcast series, Allison Fine chats with Tracy Viselli of ACTion Alexandria and Aaron Steinberg of SAR Academy about how nonprofits can leverage their social networks to improve their online fundraising results.

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

-- Regina Mahone

Facing the Future: Millennial Philanthropy

June 03, 2011

(Reilly Kiernan is most of the way through a year-long Project 55 Fellowship at the Foundation Center. In her last post, she wrote about graduating into one of the worst job markets in recent history.)

Millenium-generation Before I started working at the Foundation Center, the word philanthropy conjured up a particular image in my head: rich (usually white) men of a certain age who’d made millions of dollars in business and could afford to give, on a large scale, to charities and institutions of their choosing.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned during my fellowship here is that philanthropy is much more complicated and dynamic than that. Generational change, economic disruption, globalization, and technological developments have all contributed to the emergence of a more global and collaborative philanthropic sector.

In a recent guest post at the Social Citizens blog, Andrew Ho, manager of global philanthropy for the Council on Foundations, argued that the "acceleration" of global philanthropy is very much linked to the rise of the Millennial generation:

It is no coincidence that the rise of global philanthropy mirrors the growth of the Millennial generation. Millennials are more connected, cognizant, and committed to tackling society’s ongoing challenges of a global scope than any generation before them....

Ho's post is one in a series leading up to the June 22nd Millennial Donor Summit, a virtual conference dedicated to the role Millennials will play in philanthropy over the next few decades. The conference is "for the nonprofit leaders and professionals who want to know new methods to involve Millennials; new technologies to increase engagement of Millennials in a cause; new approaches to raising support while spreading messages...."

In thinking about how my generation approaches philanthropy differently than previous generations, I came up with a list of three ways Millennials are changing the face of the field:

1. Everyone can participate. Millennial philanthropy could not be further from my previously uninformed notions of philanthropy as a rich, white man's game. With the influx of younger people into the field, philanthropy is becoming more diverse in terms of gender, race, and geography. And the rise of crowdsourcing as a strategy means you no longer have to be a high-net-worth individual to participate; when crowds are mobilized, every donation counts.

2. We recognize that complex problems call for collaborative solutions. As Ho notes in his post, my generation increasingly identifies with the concept of global citizenship. Thanks to the globe-spanning Internet and satellite communications, we're more aware of the world around us than our parents and grandparents may have been, and we are fully aware of the depth of the challenges that confront us. The same technologies that feed and reinforce our global identity also make it possible for us to work with our contemporaries in other countries to find solutions to the problems we face. We talk to each other through social media, including virtual networks like the Nonprofit Millennials Bloggers Alliance and OnlyUp. We get involved in advocacy efforts on Jumo and Facebook Causes. We love to volunteer and aren't afraid to collaborate. We use aggregator technologies like Idealist.org, Kickstarter, and Sparked to amplify our individual voices and impact. And we are eager to use Web-based platforms to tackle inefficiencies and lower transaction costs.

3. "Social" drives our participation. For many members of my generation, the things we care about in terms of philanthropy are integral to our social lives. As "digital natives," it's only natural that our passions are reflected in our social media profiles and networks. As Sarah Koch, manager of Nonprofit Services at Facebook Causes, explained at a recent Foundation Center event, being able to say you "like" a nonprofit is just as important as being able to list your favorite movies, books, or foods. For me, including links to my favorite charities and discussions about social issues is just as important to my personal online identity as the pictures I share with friends. The upshot is that young people in the field are completely transparent about the issues and passions that move and engage them. The potential for that to spark action is tremendous.

In his post, Ho writes, "Global philanthropy is no longer only writing a check or making a grant and sitting back to wait for the results -- it is becoming much more involved than that. Global philanthropy is drawing from the best of the sectors, and collaborating to find solutions." I'd like to believe my generation is uniquely poised to take up the challenge.

-- Reilly Kiernan

This Week in PubHub: Palliative/End of Life Care

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that examine how structural racism, environmental conditions, and inadequate health inputs reinforce one another, perpetuating racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes.)

For the final week of our month-long focus on health-related topics, we're highlighting four reports that explore issues involved in palliative and end-of-life care. Earlier studies showing that a majority of patients would rather die at home than in a hospital have resulted in calls for increased access to palliative and hospice care as well as more open discussion of patient preferences.

In Trends and Variation in End-of-Life Care for Medicare Beneficiaries With Severe Chronic Illness (44 pages, PDF), the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice documents how Medicare beneficiaries with chronic illnesses spent fewer days in the hospital, were less likely to die there, and were more likely to receive hospice care in 2007 than in 2003. The report also found that hospitalized patients saw more specialists and spent more days in intensive care units, and that the pace of health system change varies greatly by region and by hospital. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report emphasizes how local healthcare delivery systems shape the care patients receive more than patient population characteristics or preferences.

So what are some of the promising developments in the palliative and end-of-life care field? Improving Care at the End of Life (42 pages, PDF) offers a retrospective analysis of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's investments in and impact on the field between 1991 and 2005. Lessons learned include the need to articulate a strategy and objectives that integrate an entire body of work, tie strategy to policy changes and incentives, link communications and evaluation synergistically, and leverage and collaborate with other change agents.

According to the California HealthCare Foundation report Be Prepared: Reducing Nursing Home Transfers Near End of Life (10 pages, PDF), a relatively easy way to improve end-of-life care is to reduce needless transfers of nursing home residents to hospitals. The report describes a regional initiative in which clinicians educated nursing home staff about reducing such transfers, and while the project resulted in a statistically significant increase in the number of patients at the end of life cared for in nursing homes, barriers to change remain. These include a financial incentive system that rewards patient transfers, lack of administrative and physician support, and inadequate staff training.

As described in the report Easing the Pain: Successes and Challenges in International Palliative Care (96 pages, PDF), the Open Society Foundations' International Palliative Care Initiative (IPCI) focused on treating "total pain by treating the total person." Using examples from the initiative, the authors illustrate the need to reform national drug policies, build out the regulatory palliative care infrastructure, support public and professional education, and push palliative care as an essential component of public health systems, including advocating for such care as a human right. The report lists a number of priorities, including putting palliative care on international donors' agendas, coordinating funding for palliative care efforts, promoting and improving clinical training, supporting World Health Organization efforts to develop policy guidelines, and fostering patient advocacy.

What's your take on the issue? Do you know of any promising strategies or practices for improving end-of-life and palliative care, in the U.S. or developing countries? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than eighteen hundred reports on health-related topics.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Commentary: Now Is Not the Time to Forget About AIDS

June 01, 2011

(Dr. Vignetta Charles is vice president of programs and evaluation for AIDS United, where she leads efforts to measure and document program outcomes in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS in the United States. She is an alumna of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.)

AIDS30_logo Too often, I hear AIDS referred to as the "forgotten epidemic." With more than one million people living with HIV in the United States, nearly 60,000 new infections occurring each year, and nearly 640,000 people living with HIV/AIDS without the care they need, now is not the time for forgetting.

Fortunately, the July 2010 release of the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy offered long sought-after hope that our nation was finally buckling down and tackling HIV/AIDS on its own soil. The three pillars of the NHAS -- Reducing Incidence, Increasing Access to Care, and Reducing Health Disparities -- offer a blueprint for an effective response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and an opportunity for all of us in the corporate, philanthropic, and HIV communities to come together to establish clear goals and measurable outcomes to affect real change.

Earlier this year, on the White House blog, Melody C. Barnes, assistant to the president and director of the domestic policy council, reiterated this point in a post about the importance of leveraging private sector support for the NHAS. In her post, Barnes stated, "We know that some of our biggest successes in fighting HIV/AIDS have come about because of private-sector initiatives, and we've called on businesses and foundations to provide that next level of leadership by stepping up their efforts in a few targeted areas."

At AIDS United, we wholeheartedly agree. As do our private and public-sector supporters.

Together, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), and the Walmart Foundation have committed millions of dollars to community-driven programs that work to help people living with HIV/AIDS in our country's most vulnerable populations and communities access the life-saving HIV/AIDS care and support services that they need and deserve. These investments are a pivotal step toward real-time implementation of the NHAS, specifically the Increasing the Access to Care pillar.

Bristol-Myers Squibb's multimillion-dollar, multiyear investment was the private-sector catalyst for this unprecedented, laser-like focus on reducing societal and structural barriers to HIV care, supporting the work of five communities highly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Walmart Foundation also stepped up as a key private-sector investor, enabling two other significantly affected U.S. communities to join in this critical access-to-care work.

But it was the $3.6 million public-sector investment of the Social Innovation Fund that has helped forge a true public-private partnership between all access-to-care funding partners, significantly expanding the scope of the initiative. In February, ten U.S. communities received a combined $2.7 million to develop innovative collaborative programs to improve individual health outcomes and strengthen local services systems, connecting economically and socially marginalized individuals living with HIV to high-quality support services and health care.

As the largest infusion of cash into the HIV/AIDS fight since the Ryan White Care Act, these SIF dollars promise to deliver a renewed sense of urgency in support of innovative, community-driven interventions and to change how we invest in improving the health outcomes of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

These innovative collaborative approaches rolling out in communities across the U.S. include:

  • Mobile engagement teams: These teams will reach chronically ill HIV-positive people through street-based outreach and a full spectrum of support services, including psychiatric and housing support.
  • Handheld technology: For outreach workers who need to record client data and contact information, the use of cutting-edge handheld technology will result in quicker service delivery, more immediate contact information, and better tracking of outcome data. At the same time, it will help eliminate several steps related to data entry, creating a leaner system of service delivery.
  • Center of Excellence in HIV-positive women's care: Clinical care for women living with HIV will be integrated to address behavioral health needs, bilingual information and care, and childcare services. The Center of Excellence will be linked to clinical research, addressing a gap in existing research specific to women living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Telemedicine: A ground-breaking approach to serving people who face a shortage of nearby HIV medical providers, one program will use video technology to allow local nurses to communicate and collaborate with medical providers at permanent HIV treatment sites.

The 2:1 match required by SIF creates an annual funding pool of nearly $10 million for these critical new programs. Each of the ten sub-grantee communities must raise its own match dollar-for-dollar from local private-sector resources, infusing that community with hundreds of thousands of dollars for innovative access to care partnerships that had not previously been available. It's a win-win for each SIF-supported community and funding partner and a sound investment in the "healthy futures" of each community as well as the health of our nation.

However, it's simply not enough that one organization is committed to change, that ten organizations are implementing change, or that our national governing body mandated a strategy for change. It's that we are working together -- public and private -- to roll out innovations that improve health outcomes for those who need it most.

Yes, we have secured unprecedented support for programs that have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. But we must continue our momentum and bring more public and private investors to our work so as to forge even more effective and innovative partnerships committed to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic right here at home.

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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