23 posts categorized "author-Laura Cronin"

Space Matters

May 05, 2011

(Laura Cronin is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she offered advice about how best to support relief and recovery efforts in Japan.)

Probono_cover Anyone who surfs cable television channels knows that design shows are popular with U.S. viewers. From renovations of luxury villas in exotic locales to expert advice on how to transform a small space on a budget, we've all become armchair consumers of good design.

But where does the design-conscious nonprofit manager go when she suddenly realizes her agency's daycare center walls have been the same muddy chartreuse for two decades? Where can a nonprofit board on a budget find their own design star to turn an empty lot into an outdoor classroom?

Public Architecture, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that bills itself as "a catalyst for public discourse" about issues related to the built environment, is a great place to start. Indeed, says PA founder John Peterson, the talents of the design profession have been "wildly under exploited" when it comes to the public interest.

Public Architecture brokers projects large and small and is committed to the idea that all NGOs should have access to high-quality design services, regardless of the scope or scale of the project. Through its 1% program, the organization links nonprofit organizations in need of design assistance with architecture and design firms that have signed up to donate at least one percent of their time to the public good.

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Giving 101 for Girls and Their BFFs

December 08, 2010

(Laura Cronin is director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation. In her last post, she spoke with Robert Pirani, executive director of the Governors Island Alliance, about the ongoing transformation of the 172-acre island and former military base in New York Harbor.)

Girl-up-logo For Americans of a certain age, charitable giving and the challenges facing children in developing countries usually meant a little orange cardboard box at Halloween. Of course, those UNICEF donation boxes were a kid-friendly way to raise pennies and awareness while we made our trick-or-treating rounds.

These many years later, parents and educators looking to break through the 24/7 consumerism of 'tween/teen culture and teach kids about philanthropy have more high-tech options.

One such effort is Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that gives American girls the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for UN programs that reach adolescent girls in other countries.

At the moment, funds raised through Girl Up provide badly needed resources for programs in Guatemala and three countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Liberia, and Malawi. In 2011, it is hoped that girls in additional countries will benefit from the program.

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NYC’s New Summer Playground Will Have Winter Tenants: A Conversation With Robert Pirani

November 05, 2010

Governors_island Robert Pirani is executive director of the Governors Island Alliance, a coalition of organizations and individuals working to realize the recreational and cultural potential of the 172-acre island and former military base in New York Harbor. The island, ownership of which was transferred to New York State and the National Park Service in 2003, received a record 443,000 visitors over the summer, a more than 60 percent increase over 2009. Innovative and largely free public programs, plenty of historic charm, and spectacular harbor views are transforming the island from a well-kept secret to one of New York’s most exciting civic spaces.

The following Q&A with Pirani was conducted by Laura Cronin, director of the Toshiba America Foundation.

Laura Cronin: For those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking the ferry out to Governors Island, can you give a brief description of what people will find there?

Robert Pirani: Governors Island is just a seven-minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn, but it truly is a world apart. The National Landmark Historic District on the island features massive stone forts that defended New York after the Revolution and nineteenth-century Federal and Victorian-style buildings that housed generations of military families. The two-mile waterfront esplanade is a mecca for car-free walking and biking, and offers fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, and rest of the harbor. Acres of shady lawns make it a great spot for a lazy summer picnic.

The Trust for Governors Island -- a city-led development corporation -- and the Governors Island National Monument have invited a wide range of partners to help create programming for the island. As a result, the island is becoming a venue for innovative art and creative public events. It's also an ideal platform for programs that showcase the harbor and its evolving role in shaping New York's economy and ecology.

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Bridging the Knowledge Gap About Grantmaking for People with Disabilities

October 27, 2010

(Laura Cronin is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. Her last post was a Q&A with Milton Chen, senior fellow and executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.)

Ada_diamond_color Every funder can, and should, be a disability funder.

A group of New York grantmakers and advocates gathered last week under the auspices of the Disability Funders Network (DFN) to discuss how to make that statement a reality and to galvanize support for a fuller embrace by organized philanthropy of the twenty-one-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to DFN, an estimated 54 million Americans have at least one disability, making them the largest minority group in the nation. As baby boomers age and more veterans return from war, experts estimate that number could double within twenty years. But less than 3 percent of philanthropic giving is directed to programs serving people with disabilities.

The Kessler Foundation, a DFN member, recently commissioned Harris Interactive to survey the impact of disability on national workforce participation.

Results from the survey reveal that while 70 percent of corporations polled have diversity policies or programs in place, only two-thirds of those with programs include disability as a component. In addition, only 18 percent of companies offer an education program aimed at integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. The findings are notable given that most employers consider the cost of hiring people with disabilities to be the same as hiring employees without a disability (62 percent). The panelists urged funders to design programs to explicitly consider disability.

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A Conversation With Milton Chen, Author, 'Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools'

October 19, 2010

(Milton Chen is senior fellow and executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Prior to joining GLEF, Chen was founding director of the KQED Center for Education in San Francisco and an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Laura Cronin, director of the Toshiba America Foundation, spoke to Chen earlier this month.)

Chen_milton Laura Cronin: Your new book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, is exceptional for a number of reasons. What's most striking to me, however, is how your decision to focus on successes in specific classrooms reveals so much new information about how teaching and learning works. It's a wonderfully hopeful and yet very practical book. Instead of revisiting the current system's flaws, you've become a sort of purveyor of education-related innovations and sensible solutions. How did that come about?

Milton Chen: Education Nation is really my attempt to curate a "best of" collection of education-related stories and films connected to our work at Edutopia. Our approach has always been to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. Shining the spotlight on innovative schools, classrooms, and other learning environments has been our strategy, one that appealed to George Lucas from the very founding of the foundation almost twenty years ago. I do feel that the solution to our education crisis lies in redesigning our system of public education, not pointing the finger at problems with the old system.

LC: Anyone interested in our nation's schools should read your book and get the full story about each of the six edges of innovation you describe. By way of introduction, can you talk about your chapter on the "Time/Place Edge"?

MC: One of the most exciting areas of innovation is in how learning time and places are expanding. By "learning time," I don't mean simply extending the school day or year with the same old, traditional types of learning that aren't working. As my colleague Milt Goldberg says, "A lousy eight-hour day is worse than a lousy six-hour day." That said, many districts and their partners are finding ways to capture more learning hours for creative, project-based, technology-infused learning during afternoons, evenings, weekends, and summers.

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A Conversation With Margaret Coady, Director, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy

October 07, 2010

Coady_cecp (In her role as director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, Margaret Coady leads the organization’s long-range strategic and operational planning, conducts research, and runs the annual Excellence Awards in Corporate Philanthropy Awards competition. CECP has just issued Shaping the Future: Solving Social Problems Through Business Strategy, a new report based on research by McKinsey & Co. The following Q&A was conducted by Laura Cronin, director of the Toshiba America Foundation. Cronin wrote about two new education-themed documentaries, Testing Teachers and Waiting for Superman, in her last post.)

Laura Cronin: Your latest report asks a really big question: What will corporate involvement in social issues look like over the next decade? Forecasting and generalizing across industries and national boundaries is pretty challenging, but you were able to come up with an organizing principle for business leaders charged with managing social engagement that you call Sustainable Value Creation. What does the term mean? And how is it being put into practice?

Margaret Coady: We define Sustainable Value Creation as a self-reinforcing state of corporate behavior that simultaneously delivers bottom-line results and community benefits. It's a dense definition, but the underlying concept is simple: Companies should take an active role in helping to solve social problems that are in the companies' best interests to solve.

In the report, Sustainable Value Creation is actually the best of four possible future scenarios that CECP and McKinsey think business and society face over the next decade. The three less-optimal scenarios we identify are called "Dangerous Mismatch," "Dual Capitalism," and "Vicious Circle." Which of the four scenarios comes to pass will depend on two things, in our view: the level and consistency of society's expectations of business; and the extent to which corporations take a leadership role in addressing societal problems.

A handful of cutting-edge companies have already taken the first steps toward Sustainable Value Creation, several of which are detailed in short case studies included in the report. One example is the Western Union Company, a global leader in money transfer services with locations in over two hundred countries and territories and winner of CECP's Excellence Award in Corporate Philanthropy in 2009. With over two hundred million people working outside their country of birth and sending billions of dollars to their families back home every year in the form of remittances, Western Union sees a clear business benefit from engaging in the immigration debate and helping these potential customers succeed in their new communities. The company convenes forums among policy makers, businesses, civil-society organizations, and academic institutions to advance the debate about immigration and migrant rights. It also supports leading-edge research that helps drive dialogue on the issue, which can promote positive effects on customers' quality of life, which in turn is good for business.

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Back to School With Superman and Friends

September 02, 2010

(Laura Cronin is director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation. In her last post, she chatted with Boston College Law School professor Ray Madoff.)

Need_you Later this month, Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim will release a new documentary, Waiting for Superman, that aims to bring the contentious education reform debate to a broader public.

The filmmaker and his foundation backers are also using social media to invite viewers into the discussion. The Web site created for the film's launch features a clever tie-in with DonorsChoose, an online giving platform, that enables people who pledge to see the film to direct $5 to a classroom project of their choice. The site also calls viewers to action by urging them to write to their governor, state representatives, etc.

But while you're waiting for Superman to come to a theater near you (it opens September 24), don't overlook another foundation-funded peek behind the classroom door: Testing Teachers, a new radio documentary from American Radio Works that aired last week and is now available online as a podcast, radio stream, or in transcript form.

For me, the most compelling segment of the hour-long documentary, which was funded by the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, is the description of reform efforts in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that've been spearheaded by the locally based Benwood and Public Education foundations. Among other things, the segment introduces us to Joe Curtis, a master teacher at a local elementary school, and gives us a glimpse of the many factors that get in the way of good teaching.

Kids all over the country will be heading back to school next week. Many of those schools and the teachers in them are excellent; too many others are not. We owe it to our kids to do better. So this Labor Day weekend, take an hour to listen to Testing Teachers and hear what some foundations and education reformers have learned about good teaching and what they are doing to boost teacher effectiveness, in their districts and across the nation.

-- Laura Cronin

A Conversation With Ray Madoff, Author, 'Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead'

July 12, 2010

Ray Madoff is a professor at Boston College Law School, where she teaches trusts and estates, estate planning, and a seminar on immortality and the law. She is also the author of Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead (Yale University Press, 2010), which includes a lively account of the legal framework behind today’s charitable trusts and foundation. An op-ed by Madoff in today's New York Times explains how the growing use of so-called "dynasty" trusts is helping to create a monied aristocracy in America.

The following Q&A was conducted earlier this month by Laura Cronin, director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation.

Madoff_2010 Laura Cronin: Let me begin by congratulating you on writing such an interesting, and often quite funny, book about the serious topics of death and taxes. In addition to being surprised by all the humor in a book on this subject, many readers of this blog might be startled to learn that much of what seems like long-standing tradition in the field of charitable trusts and foundations is relatively new. Can you start with a bit of history?

Ray Madoff: Thank you for your kind words.

This is one of the many surprising things I learned in my study of how the law treats interests of the dead. Private charitable trusts are so ubiquitous and many of them have been around for so long that I assumed this had always been the case.

However, it turns out that for much of this country's early history, while a person could give outright to an existing charitable entity, the law did not grant -- to quote a case of the time -- "every private citizen the right to create a perpetuity for such purposes as to him seem good."

The private charitable trust had been well established in English law and was brought to this country by English settlers. However, after the Revolutionary War, the new American states had to reconsider whether they were going to continue to follow the law of England or to create rules that better reflected the values of the new republic. As historian Lawrence Friedman has described it, the charitable trust, associated as it was with privilege, the "dead hand," and massive wealth held in perpetuity was viewed with particular suspicion.

"Dead hand," of course, refers to the phenomenon of people's wishes continuing to be honored after death. This issue was of great concern to the founders -- particularly Thomas Jefferson -- who felt strongly that worldly goods should be controlled by the living and not the dead.

For much of the nineteenth century courts regularly set aside bequests to establish new charitable purposes. In one of the most notorious cases, a New York court set aside a four-million-dollar bequest from Samuel Tilden, former governor of New York and almost-president of the United States, to establish the Tilden Trust to fund a public library in New York City. The New York courts refused to give effect to the bequest and instead awarded the money to Tilden's heirs. There was such a public outcry over the decision, however, that the New York legislature responded by enacting the Tilden Act in 1893 validating charitable trusts in New York.

It was not until the late nineteenth century when a confluence of events -- including the rise of a new class of wealthy industrialists and growing societal problems in need of resources -- caused people to rethink the value of perpetual private charitable trusts and they regained favor.

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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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