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Weekend Link Roundup (November 7-8, 2015)

November 08, 2015

AcornsOur 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

It would seem as if we have only two unattractive options when it comes to climate change, writes Ross Anderson in The Atlantic. "We can continue pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. We can cross our fingers that we adapt to a warming climate, and that earth's natural systems adapt too. Or we can transition to a cleaner global energy system, at a speed that is unprecedented, across all of history." But what if there's a third option? Anderson talks to Oliver Morton an editor at The Economist and the author of The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World about what might be humankind's last best hope.


Did the government of Rwanda manipulate data to show that poverty in the small central African country fell, when, it fact, it rose? Humanosphere's Tom Murphy takes a closer look and uncovers a fundamental truth about data: It's not so much having it that matters, it's how you use it.

How important is "open data" to the success of the recently ratified Sustainable Development Goals? Pretty darn important, argue William Gerry and Kathryn Pritchard.

"We spend tens of billions of dollars on social services for low-income households each year, but we have only the vaguest ideas of where those dollars go, what impact they have, and where unmet needs exist," writes Scott Allard, a professor in the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, on the Brookings Institute blog. To address this "information void," the Salvation Army and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University have developed a Human Needs Index drawn from service provision tracking systems maintained by more than seven thousand Salvation Army sites nationwide. With a little luck, adds Allard, the index will be both "a cool data visualization tool or source of information for academic inquiry into the measurement of need" and a  model of "how communities and philanthropy might collect, share, and use data to improve outcomes for clients, organizations, and community residents."


At a panel hosted by NCRP in October, Lori Bezahler, president of the Edward Hazen Foundation, was asked to consider whether market-driven strategies can be expected to drive equity in education. Her thoughts are here.

Higher Education

Findings from the Chronicle of Higher Education's annual report on the fundraising results of the top ten public and private colleges and universities in America are both "sobering and instructive." Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, director of the Edvance Foundation, explains.

In an op-ed in USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself, has a few suggestions for "ending" the Ivy League and, at the same time, mitigating the inequality that America's favorite "bastion of elitism" contributes so significantly to:

  1. Eliminate the tax deductibility of contributions to schools having endowments in excess of $1 billion.
  2. Require that all schools with endowments of more than $1 billion spend at least 10 percent of their endowment annually on student financial aid.
  3. Require that university admissions be based strictly on objective criteria such as grades and SAT/ACT scores, with random drawings used to cull the herd further if necessary.

Yale has announced that it is committing $50 million over the next five years to diversify its faculty.

What would you do if a stranger left your organization $125 million?KQED's Judy Campbell and Amy Standell report.

Nice piece by Quentin Hardy in the New York Times on Microsoft co-founder's Paul Allen's philanthropy. And one in Bloomberg Business, by Betty Liu, about Howard Buffett's philanthropic efforts to end global hunger.

Are foundations more effective when they "go big" with a living donor at the helm (like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or Chuck Feeney's Atlantic Philanthropies ), or when they're designed for the long haul (like a Carnegie, Ford, or Rockefeller foundation)? Linsey McGoey, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Essex and author of the recently published No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, shares her thoughts in the Guardian.

The minimum threshold for getting your name on a college or university building in Michigan? At least $1 million, writes Bill Shea in Crain's Detroit Business — though, based on a spate of recent naming gifts to higher education in the state, it's probably a whole lot more.

On his personal blog, the Ford Foundation's Chris Cardona continues his series on foundations, failure, and risk aversion.

In Alliance magazine, Andrew Milner asks: At a time when we urgent problems such as climate change and mass migration from failed states in Africa and the Middle East are on everyone's radar, how defensible are the small payouts (5 percent) that are mandated of private foundations?

Is Silicon Valley's "new" philanthropy as disruptive as those singing its praises like to think it is, or are the valley's tech entrepreneurs as averse to "radical change [as] their more conservative predecessors"? The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley weighs in with a piece that tries to separate hype from reality.

In 2007, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), then chair of the Senate Finance Committee, called for a doubling of philanthropic investment in rural communities. In the almost decade since, philanthropic investment in rural communities has actually declined. It's time, writes NCRP's Ryan Schlegel, for leaders in both the private and public sectors to step up and "build a campaign that will make philanthropy pay attention" to America's long-suffering rural communities.

And in the Wall Street Journal, Tom Herman takes a closer look at donor-advised funds and finds many reasons to recommend them to taxpayers looking to reduce their tax bite and do some good at the same time.

That's it for this week. What have you been reading/watc"hing/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments section below....


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