506 posts categorized "International Affairs/Development"

Global Philanthropic Response to COVID-19 Approaches $3 Billion

March 31, 2020

On March 3, Candid identified almost $1 billion in pledges and donations in support of global relief efforts focused on mitigating the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In the weeks since, the virus has infected 719,758 people worldwide and resulted in the deaths of more than 33,673. As the relatively localized outbreak in Wuhan, China, rapidly morphed into a global pandemic, the philanthropic community stepped up to meet the challenge, with pledges and donations in support of relief efforts almost tripling, to $2.6 billion, by March 23.

As was the case during the first two months of the crisis, overall giving for COVID-19 relief in March mirrored historical patterns of disaster giving in every way except total dollar amount (i.e., giving in response to COVID-19 has been much higher). What has changed over the last couple of weeks is funding by country, which has closely tracked migration of the disease.

Fig.1.1Together, the United States and China (including Hong Kong and Macao, China’s Special Administrative Regions) continue to account for 87 percent of pledges and 83 percent of total dollar amount, but the U.S. total has increased almost 700 percent since March 3 and now accounts for more than two-thirds of pledges and almost half the dollars pledged globally for COVID-19 relief. Italy, where the philanthropic response was almost nonexistent two weeks ago, now accounts for 11 percent of total dollar value.

The position of grantmakers and their relative contributions also have changed. Whereas early on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $100 million commitment accounted for 55 percent of total U.S. pledges and contribution, it now represents just 9 percent of the more than $1.2 billion pledged by U.S.-based foundations. The largest single commitment now is the more than $175 million pledged by the Wells Fargo Foundation "to help address food, shelter, small business and housing stability, as well as to provide help to public health organizations." With its other announced commitment, Wells Fargo total announced contributions now total more than $181.2 million — or 15 percent of the U.S. total. Lastly, where there were only two U.S. grantmakers in our list of the top twenty funders globally at the end of February, there are now six in the top twelve.

Andrew_fg.1.2As total commitments and pledges have grown, so have relative contributions by funder type. Direct corporate giving still accounts for the lion’s share of contributions, but the percentage as dollar value of total contributions is down as commitments from corporate, family, and community foundations have increased, with the dollar value of contributions from corporate foundations increasing more than five-fold.

Fig.1.3Companies, both directly and through their foundations, represent 77 percent of the total U.S. philanthropic response to COVID-19. As Candid president Bradford Smith told the Chronicle of Philanthropy, after eleven years of a bull market many businesses have cash reserves. Broken down by industry, corporate giving also is following traditional patterns, with companies in the financial services sector — historically, the most generous sector in terms of its response to disasters — leading the way. With announced commitments totaling $421 million, banks, investment firms, and other kinds of lenders have contributed far and away the most to COVID-19 relief efforts, followed by the big Internet platforms (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix) at $343 million. Together, the two sectors account for 80 percent of the total dollar value of U.S. contributions. (The graph below captures 90 percent of U.S. corporate contributions.)

Fig.1.4Some random observations:

  • Approximately 65 percent of the dollar value of pledges announced in January and February came in the two weeks after January 23. In February, pledges for COVID-19 relief actually declined by more than 12 percent, as countries in various stages of delay and denial looked on as the virus began its relentless spread beyond China's borders. In the first three weeks of March, by contrast, more than $1.5 billion was pledged, accounting for 61 percent of the total since January 23.
  • Unknown and multiple recipients continue to account for most of the pledges and total dollar value, followed by various Chinese Red Cross organizations. For named recipients, we're seeing a relatively small but growing number of grants to organizations such as Feeding America, Direct Relief, and the CDC Foundation.
  • The largest gift from an individual was made by Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire and former Italian prime minister, who donated 10 million euros ($10.7 million) for a new hospital being built on the former fairgrounds in Milan. Here in the U.S., President Trump donated his Q419 salary of $100,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • In addition to the efforts of organized philanthropy, individuals and communities are coming together to help their families, friends, and neighbors. GoFundMe tweeted that more than 22,000 COVID-19 fundraisers have been initiated in the past few weeks by the global GoFundMe community, and that, collectively, they've raised more than $40 million.

In my first post, I speculated about whether private philanthropy would eventually step aside — as it did during the 2014 Ebola epidemic — as large-scale action and resources were brought to bear on the crisis by national governments. Back then (a month ago), I thought it would depend on how governments performed with respect to their fundamental obligations to guarantee public health and safety.

Now that several governments have concluded that maintaining public health and safety requires the shuttering of businesses and a prohibition of most kinds of social interaction, we are facing much more than a public health emergency. Indeed, the rapidly cascading economic downturn in the U.S. (and many other countries) promises to affect everybody over the next few months.

As governments scramble to respond, private philanthropy, especially community foundations, are creating COVID-19 response funds to help the most vulnerable members of their communities weather the storm. Philanthropy cannot and will not replace government action, but it is well positioned to move quickly and compassionately to offer a helping hand to those in need.

Headshot_andrew_grabois_picAndrew Grabois is corporate philanthropy manager at Candid. A version of this post originally appeared on the Candid blog. For more information on philanthropy's response to the pandemic, visit Candid's Funding for Coronavirus (COVID-19) popup page.

The Arc of Justice: The World’s Religions Launch Strategic Priorities for Peace

March 09, 2020

DoveAs the coronavirus public health crisis grows increasingly urgent, prominent global actors and institutions, including the United Nations, are wrestling with the realization that all hands on deck are required to address the cross-cutting global challenges we face. The latest disease pandemic is but one of the major global challenges demanding coordinated and effective responses from diverse institutions and civil society networks. Another, income inequality, continues to widen, with the world's richest 1 percent in 2020 holding twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion of the planet's people. And while the political and economic will to combat climate change is needed more than ever, virtually every sovereign state is behind in its commitments to the Paris Agreement.

With communities ravaged by ongoing conflict, a record 70 million people have fled their homes. As calls for change echo across the globe, the percentage of people in 2019 living in countries where civic space is considered "repressed" more than doubled. Things fundamental to securing human dignity — the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society, the power to demand change, freedom from any and all forms of discrimination, and the ability to live within and nurture a sustainable environment — are rapidly being eroded. These challenges are striking at a time when multilateralism is threatened, space for civil society is shrinking, and calls for more walls of separation are getting louder.

On a more optimistic note, the opportunity to forge ahead despite the turmoil may well exist within the deepest and broadest infrastructures ever created and sustained by humankind: the world's religious communities, to which 80 percent of humanity claims some affiliation. In recent years, international attention has undeniably been focused on the rise in religiously motivated violence, furthering the focus on religion as (part of) the problem.

However, a relatively lesser known reality in parallel with these trends may offer solutions: a growing global network of believers working to address these challenges through a unique process of multi-religious peacebuilding. These religious leaders and constituents hail from religious and spiritual communities as diverse and complex as the world in which we live. They are collaborating on and implementing various development, humanitarian, and peace processes, guiding their societies toward cohesion, respect for difference, and a culture of peace.

By convening representative of these religious communities, as well as leadership at the national and regional level, Religions for Peace — a multi-religious peacebuilding coalition with interreligious platforms in ninety countries across six regions — has developed a unique and powerful mechanism for furthering multi-religious collaboration and peacebuilding.

At the Religions for Peace 10th World Assembly in August 2019, more than one thousand representatives from a hundred and twenty-five countries developed a framework for organizing future collaborative action to address these and other global challenges. Another global consultation in December 2019 engaged over two hundred and fifty religious leaders in focused and honest deliberations, ultimately emerging with a consensus to prioritize six strategic areas: peaceful, just and inclusive societies; gender equality; the environment; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; interreligious education; and global partnerships. Uniting religious and Indigenous leaders for the protection of tropical forests is key to nurturing a sustainable environment and is a matter requiring both moral urgency and action. Those in attendance also agreed to champion the universal right to thought, conscience, and religion within and beyond their own constituencies, including a commitment to coordinate faith-based responses to the rise in attacks on holy sites and places of worship.

Attendees also embraced a deeper focus on interreligious education — not to reinvent the wheel, but to bring together existing work and curricula from all corners of the world in an effort to facilitate knowledge, counter misperceptions, and dispel the ignorance  at the root of intolerance, hatred, and violence. Religions for Peace movement leaders also committed to develop innovative approaches, seek solutions together, and scale up multi-stakeholder partnerships with businesses, governments, and civil society.

These goals and actions correspond to the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals agenda and will be measured and assessed using the SDG indicators agreed to by all UN member states.

The priorities identified in our strategic plan are built on the legacy of many powerful and effective interventions. Over the half-century of Religions for Peace's existence, these interreligious platforms have amassed a solid record of multi-religious engagement, including mediating conflict and negotiating the release of child hostages in Sierra Leone, providing care and support for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS, mobilizing twenty-one million youth for global disarmament, and forging partnerships between religious and Indigenous communities for rainforest protection — to name but a few.

These priorities also herald a new era of resolve, and courage, among the world's senior-most religious leaders and institutions. For such a movement, built on and by traditional religious institutions, to make gender equality a strategic priority is historic. After electing the coalition's first woman secretary-general in 2019, Religions for Peace leadership is sending a clear message of commitment to action that includes a focus on increasing women's leadership and impact within the movement, and beyond.

It is this blend of renewed and bold resolve, together with skills steeped in decades of experience with multi-religious and -cultural engagement in the areas of development and human rights, which reinforces our belief that the world's people are ready to embrace alternative cultures of healing and peace. And interreligious councils not only drive the solution — they are a necessary part of the solution. On this 75th year of the United Nations system, Religions for Peace — through its global, regional, national, and grassroots interreligious council platforms — acknowledges and supports the call for more holistic responses to cross-cutting global challenges. With our five-year strategic plan in place and future actions co-designed and approved by representatives of all the world's religious institutions, we hereby call on the word's governments, civil societies, and multi-lateral institutions to come together to create more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies that leave no one behind.

Headshot_Azza Karam_Kyoichi SuginoDr. Azza Karam and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino are secretary general-elect and secretary-general, respectively, of Religions for Peace, a New York City-based international coalition of representatives from the world's religions dedicated to promoting peace globally.

Funders Respond to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 06, 2020

On the last day of 2019, China advised the World Health Organization that some people in the city of Wuhan (Hubei province) were infected with an unknown strain of viral pneumonia.  Those infected were traced back to the city's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. On January 7, Chinese officials announced that they had identified a new virus belonging to the coronavirus family, which was dubbed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Since then, the renamed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has killed more than 3,000 people, infected over 100,000 in at least 60 countries, and is present on every continent except Antarctica.

Candid has been closely tracking the global private philanthropic response to COVID-19 through news stories and other publicly available resources. Although the response to the virus has followed a familiar pattern, both in terms of funders and recipients, its scope has dwarfed funding for recent natural disasters in the United States and elsewhere. Since September 2017, Candid has identified pledges and donations for eight major hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires totaling more than $898 million; philanthropic funding announced in the last five weeks for COVID-19 alone has reached $980 million. [Ed. note: as of March 4, the figure had exceeded $1 billion.]

Fig.1.1 funding-for-recent-disasters

Obviously, epidemics and pandemics are not natural disasters, so if we want to compare funding for the COVID-19 response to a similar event, we have to go back to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In that situation, Candid identified pledges and donations totaling more than $363 million over a period of six months, which is only a third of the COVID-19 response to date.

Although COVID-19 is a transnational epidemic on its way to becoming a global pandemic, almost all private funding we've been able to identify from publicly available sources — 76 percent of the pledges and 93 percent of the dollar value — has come from China and the United States. If you count Hong Kong and Macao, both "special administrative regions (SAR)" of China, the two countries account for 84 percent of the pledges and 97 percent of the dollar value.

Fig.12

In the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation early on announced a commitment of up to $100 million to "strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts; protect at-risk populations; and develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics." The foundation's commitment accounts for 55 percent of all contributions to date from private philanthropic sources in the U.S. and is consistent with U.S. private funding in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, when contributions from Gates and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation accounted for more than 57 percent of the contributions from private philanthropy in the U.S. The only other U.S. funder in the top 20 is Chicago-based Citadel LLC, one of the world's largest hedge funds. The single most generous donor so far has been Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings, which has pledged $216.3 million, both directly and through its foundation, totaling 22 percent of private contributions globally. (Although the company's name might strike some English speakers as ironic, given the size of its contribution, it actually means "galloping fast information" in Chinese.)

Fig.1.3

As is usually true of the response to natural disasters, companies have responded first and disproportionately, accounting for 86 percent of all COVID-19 pledges and 81 percent of the total dollar value of the private response. When grants from both companies and their foundations are counted, those figures increase to 95 percent of the pledges and 86 percent of the dollar value.

Fig.1.4 funders-by-type

Other observations:

  • Most COVID-19 pledges and donations were announced over a period of two weeks. Between January 23, when the first pledge was announced, and February 5, funders committed 74 grants totaling $638 million, accounting for 42 percent of pledges and 65 percent of the total dollar amount.
  • Unspecified recipients in impacted areas of China received 57 percent of pledges accounting 75 percent of the total dollar value of all contributions; multiple named recipients received 8 percent of pledges and 13 percent of the dollar value; and among single-named recipients the Red Cross accounted for 15 percent of pledges and 6 percent of the dollar value.
  • A number of Chinese technology companies are offering to build "hot diagnosis maps," "pneumonia prevention channels," and infrastructure for video meetings and online education courses. One of the largest such commitments came from Squirrel AI Learning, an adaptive learning education company specializing in K-12 afterschool tutoring, which announced that it would provide $72.1 million worth of online K-12 education courses across China free of charge.

Will private philanthropy continue to fund the front-line response to COVID-19, or will it largely step aside, as it did during the 2014 Ebola crisis, in favor of mega-funding from a few well-endowed family foundations and large-scale actions taken by nation-states and transnational organizations? It's hard to say. A lot depends on how well governments and multilateral institutions perform. You can be sure of one thing, however: Candid will be watching.

Headshot_Andrew_GraboisIn the meantime, we're in the process of adding COVID-19 pledges on our free, publicly accessible Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy funding map, which was created in partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Andrew Grabois is corporate philanthropy manager at Candid. This post originally appeared on the Candid blog.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 8-9, 2020)

February 09, 2020

1203880819.jpg.0Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

The stock market is up and inflation is muted. It's the story of the last ten years. Or is it? In The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey reports on the affordability crisis breaking the back of America's middle class.

Global Health

The novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, dominated headlines for much of the last week, leading to a spate of all-too-predictable scare stories and conspiracy theories. For a solid statistical breakdown of what is actually happening, in Wuhan and the twenty-seven other countries and territories in which the virus has been detected, check out this useful site created by the folks at World-o-Meter.

Grantwriting

On the Candid blog, Susan Schaefer, founding partner of Resource Partners LLC, looks at three of the core skills needed by a grant writing professional in 2020.

Health

More than fifty years after the civil rights movement changed the way Americans think about race, there is still much to do to reduce discrimination and increase health equity. On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Dwayne Proctor, a senior advisor to the foundation's president, reflects on the role of stories in the search for solutions.

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When Numbers Fall Short: The Challenge of Measuring Diversity in a Global Context

January 31, 2020

Hands-Tree-Diversity-editAt the C&A Foundation we believe many of the challenges we seek to tackle are rooted in social exclusion. We are on a journey to deepen our approach to gender justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As part of our own effort to learn, we recently undertook a demographic survey of our sixty-plus employees worldwide to find out how "diverse" we are as an organization and what it might imply for our efforts to create an equitable organization. It was a first for us and we learned far more than the numbers alone reveal.

The process itself was both eye-opening and humbling. It forced us to reflect on what really matters for our global organization when it comes to diversity and it underscored some of our own implicit biases.

We worked with U.S.-based consultants to prepare the survey — which covered age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, disability, race, religion, and educational status. Unknowingly, the very act of selecting these categories imposed a U.S.-centric world view, particularly with respect to our understanding of race and ethnicity.

For example, the category "Latinx" was used in the initial survey; this category is very relevant in the U.S., but reductive in Latin America, confusing in Europe, and irrelevant in South Asia. An important category for Europe — Roma — was not available for selection.

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Looking Back on the Quest to Eliminate Trachoma

January 30, 2020

Recovered_trachoma_patient_Martin_Kharumwa_orbis_internationalThere are some patients you never forget — not because they are famous, but because of the story they have to tell and the everlasting impression it makes on you. 

In 1997, I was traveling through Africa as a young medical student and volunteer, teaching eye care staff at local clinics how to maintain microsurgical instruments and make some standard medical supplies themselves. I ended up joining the outreach project of an eye clinic I was visiting in the Jimma Zone of Ethiopia. One day while I was at the clinic, an older woman walked in. She explained to us that she had been blind for several years, but now, every morning when she woke up, she had to put margarine under her eyelid because, otherwise, she experienced unbearable pain every time she blinked.

I recall my brain working overtime in that moment but drawing a complete blank. This wasn't a common complaint I had experienced in clinics or something I had learned from my professors — it was something else. We examined the woman's eye. Her eyelid had completely turned in on itself, and her eyelashes were scratching her eyeball. The resulting damage and infections of the cornea and eyeball had caused her to go completely blind, but the agonizing pain caused by the scratching eyelashes remained. 

At that point, as a medical student trained in Europe, I was still clueless about what could have caused an infection with damage so painful that the patient had to resort to margarine for relief. The ophthalmologist running the clinic said nonchalantly, "Trichiasis due to trachoma. This is the end stage — nothing we can do anymore."

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Losing the Red Cross Would Be the Real Disaster

January 23, 2020

Red cross(Ed note: this post originally was published on PhilanTopic in November 2014 and is being republished as criticism of the Australian Red Cross for allegedly holding back donations for bushfire victims mounts.) 

As a disaster researcher and scholar of nonprofit management, I've followed the (well publicized) travails and (hardly publicized) successes of the American Red Cross over the years.

I've met its national staff at research conferences and local staff at state and county emergency management meetings, where I've served on the board of my local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). I participated with hundreds of other invited experts in the governance audit that resulted in the "American National Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007." I’ve monitored the commentary after a ProPublica/National Public Radio exposé of the Red Cross appeared last week. And based on my observations, I have developed a healthy respect and sympathy for the Red Cross.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

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Looking to Africa's Future: The Promise of Transnational Ties

January 14, 2020

African_gradNearly seven years ago, when I became president of Yale University, five of the top twelve — and eleven of the top twenty — of the world's fastest growing economies were in Africa, even though the continent faced serious challenges. Amid discussions of sobering events and hopes for the future, Yale took a stand for the promise of education, scholarship, and research — a promise that is particularly significant across Africa, home to a vibrant and growing population of young people. That year, 2013, I launched the Yale Africa Initiative as a way to create new partnerships between Yale and institutions on the continent. 

Africa's economic development remains impressive, but even more spectacular is the growth and promise of its youth. The continent's youth population is expected to increase by 522 million over the next three decades, while in the rest of the world, over the same period, it will decline by 220 million. By 2050, one-third of people on the planet age twenty-four or younger will call the continent home. As they come of age, these young people will take their place among the world's leaders and innovators — meaning we all have an interest in Africa's future.

As a university professor, I am focused on higher education, though primary and secondary education are, of course, critical. Higher education is essential to economic growth, and it also delivers a broad range of benefits, including progress toward gender equality, improvements in individual and public health, strengthened civic  institutions, and enhanced creativity and skills among those who serve society. 
 

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2020)

January 05, 2020

5W4htUpm6GwJkWfemfytV4-1024-80Happy New Year! Before you get back to work for real, check out our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

To see what climate change could portend for ordinary Americans, look no further than California, where over the last decade, as the Los Angeles Times' Deborah Netburn writes, "[t]he wildfires were more destructive. The drought was the longest on record. And the storms, when they finally came, unleashed more water than [the] dams could contain."

Fundraising

Ready for another year of fundraising? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks wants to help and has pulled together a list of his favorite fundraising blogs

And fundraising expert Pamela Grow shares eleven things you can do to make 2020 your most successful fundraising year yet.

Giving

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares the thinking behind the charitable donations he and his wife, Karen, made in 2019.

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit CEOs Alejandra Castillo, Susan Dreyfus, James Firman, Brian Gallagher, Gail McGovern, and Jonathan Reckford make the case that, after nearly two years of data, the evidence is clear: charitable giving is down, and changes in the 2017 tax law are to blame.

Global Health

There are only eight organizations on charity rating site GiveWell's list of top global charities and one of them is the San Jose-based Fistula Foundation. In a new post on the GiveWell blog, Catherine Hollander updates the organization's work on the foundation, which it continues to consider "a top charity contender."

Health

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal (with research help from Gabriella Aboulafia) reviews the top developments in health care in 2019 on the fund's To The Point blog. 

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Fit to Fund: Who Should Pay to Raise Standards for Good Financial Grant Practice?

November 08, 2019

Global standardsFunders have a right to expect that their nonprofit grantees have systems and structures in place to manage grants effectively and ethically. But does that right also imply that funders have a responsibility to invest in the grant management capabilities they expect from organizations they entrust with funds?

In the production of French cognac, nearly twenty million bottles, or 8 percent of the country’s annual production, is lost to evaporation after the distilled spirit has been put up in oak barrels; this is known, rather romantically, as "the Angel's Share."

A similar but far less romantic phenomenon occurs in the nonprofit sector. According to Caroline Fiennes, author of It Ain't What You Give, It's The Way That You Give It, roughly $125 million in the United Kingdom alone is "lost" by grant recipients in the production of reports required by funders and government agencies; much of that is spent on duplicate assessments as part of the submission of multiple grant proposals.

Rather than going to the angels, this $125 million could be seen as the "admin share," with both funders and their nonprofit grantees spending significant amounts of time and money on multiple due diligence assessments, diverting funds to needless administrative tasks that could be used to change lives for the better.

Most grant proposal forms use different criteria, leaving many would-be grant recipients unclear about what funders expect of them. This also means that many nonprofits end up spending hundreds of hours a year filling in different forms that ask for the same basic information in slightly different ways.

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5 Questions for...Bill Cummings, Co-Founder and President, Cummings Foundation

October 18, 2019

Bill Cummings thinks of himself as a serial entrepreneur. At the age of six, he would venture over to a construction site near his parents' house and sell bottles of soda. Decades later, after having worked in sales for a number of national consumer product firms, he bought his first "real" business, a century-old fruit juice syrup manufacturer, for $4,000. Five years later, he sold the company and used the seven-figure proceeds to establish Cummings Properties, which today manages more than ten million square feet of debt-free real estate in suburban Boston. Nearly all the properties are owned by and operated for the benefit of the Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, which was established by Cummings and his wife, Joyce, in 1986, with a focus on providing support for small nonprofits in the counties surrounding Boston. Much of the couple's giving over the years was done quietly and under the radar — a fact that changed when the couple decided to sign the Giving Pledge in 2011.

PND recently spoke with Cummings about his journey from entrepreneur to philanthropist, the evolution of the foundation's $100k for 100 program,  and the impact of the Giving Pledge on his thinking about and approach to philanthropy.

Bill_cummings_square_jpgPhilanthropy News Digest: Your foundation launched the $100k for 100 initiative in 2012 with the aim of providing a hundred nonprofits in the Massachusetts counties of Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk with grants of $100,000. Did you have any models in mind when you designed the program?

Bill Cummings: No, we had nothing in mind. We had operated independently for a long time, and we had a policy of reaching out to nonprofits that weren't high profile, groups that typically found it difficult to secure foundation support. I suspect it's that way wherever you go in the U.S, and it's a shame, because there are so many small, obscure nonprofits doing marvelous things in their communities. We try to give a few of them in our neck of the woods more visibility. That was our initial goal, at any rate, and it eventually evolved into what, for several years, was known as the $100k for 100 program.

We have since combined that program with our Sustaining Grant program to create what is now a $20 million annual grantmaking program. Separately, both were extremely successful, but we came to realize we were doing two sequential programs to be included in our Sustaining Grants Program, organizations needed to have been included in one of the $100k for 100 cohorts and so we decided it would be better to streamline them. By combining them, we also eliminated the gap year that had been programmed into the Sustaining Grants effort. Under the new model we're able to provide longer-term grants of up to ten years.

PND: What do smaller, local non­profits need to do to prove to the foundation that they're able to handle what, in many cases, is likely to be the largest gift they've ever received?

BC: The $100,000 we awarded through the $100k for 100 program typically was awarded over a period of three to five years. Under the new model, if an organization has an annual budget of $50,000, we can make a big difference in their sustainability if we give them even $10,000 a year over ten years. We're talking about things like food pantries or afterschool day care. Once we know them a little better, we can then determine how much of the overall grant amount should go out at any one time. Initially, we committed to giving out $10 million a year, and it took a while for us to scale up. But now we're paying out considerably more than that.

PND: You and your wife signed the Giving Pledge in 2011. Did that have anything to do with your decision to scale up your philanthropy and be more public about it?

BC: Yes, but it didn't really change our approach or philosophy. Making one's philanthropy more public is one of the goals of the Giving Pledge, and when we joined it wasn't long before an editor at the Boston Globe called and said, "I've never heard of you. How can you be doing all this, and I never knew you existed?" Then she called the Boston Foundation to see what she could learn about us, and they hadn't heard of us, either. She was a little skeptical about us for a while, but we steered her to a few people who knew us, and she did her due diligence. At one point, I recall her saying that she was thinking of calling our foundation "The Billionaires Next Door."

By Giving Pledge standards, we're small. The Cummings Founda­tion has about $2 billion in assets, compared to, say, the more than $50 billion in assets held by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The first Giving Pledge meet­ing my wife and I attended was a strange experience for us. We looked around the room and at the sixty or so other couples who were representing different foundations and organiza­tions and pretty quickly realized we were probably the least wealthy people there.

After we visited Africa for the first time, we decided we wanted to expand our philanthropic work beyond the three counties here in Massachusetts and decided to support some things in Rwanda. It was reassuring to be able to talk to other Giving Pledgers and be told that what we had seen and learned while we were in Rwanda was accurate, and that it was a good place in which to invest philanthropically. It's that kind of access to smart people, people who have done this and are happy to have us run ideas by them, that makes the Giving Pledge so valuable .

PND: Are you looking at other opportunities in Africa, or anywhere else, for that matter?

BC: For now, we're limiting our international giving to Rwanda. But we've learned about other organizations there through members of the Giving Pledge, and we've encouraged some of them to support organizations there that we're familiar with organizations like Uni­versity of Global Health Equity, which opened its new campus in January. We're also looking at expanding our activities in Rwanda in ways that better connect them to each other. The organizations we support there really could do more working together than alone, and we've encouraged them to apply to us for joint grants. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is one example.

PND: This is a moment of pretty intense political polarization in the United States. Do you have any thoughts about where we are as a country and how we got here? And are you optimistic about the future?

BC: I wish I were more optimistic than I actually am. In general, I'm an optimist, but I'm beside myself with some of the things I see going on in Washington these days. In our company and our foundation, we have always worked to build trust and accountability. Sadly, our country has a chief executive who openly talks about how one can profit from bankruptcy and how it's easy to cheat people. That's not good; that's discouraging. But I'm hopeful we will get beyond that.

I've been traveling a lot over the past year to promote my book. And that has led to some interesting opportunities. For instance, we worked with Harvard Business School recently on a Cummings Properties case study. I applied to the business school as a 21-year-old just out of Tufts and was effectively rejected and told to reapply in two years. So it's great fun, as you might imagine, to have a case being studied at Harvard.

Recently, I gave a book talk to a thousand people in Rwanda. I didn't sell a lot of books, but I was able to give audience members free access to a copy of it on the Internet. I also spoke at the Saïd School of Business at Oxford University and to another eight hundred people at the University of Alabama. Giving a talk like that is a lot of fun, and it helps to promote philanthropy. It's been an interesting sidebar to my career. Yes, the runway is getting shorter, but I don't see any reason to stop looking forward.

Matt Sinclair

How to Ensure Your Data Science Is Inclusive

October 16, 2019

Tanzania-citizen-priorities-767The potential of data science to support, measure, and amplify sustainable development is undeniable. And as public, private, and civic institutions around the world come to recognize the role that data science can play in advancing growth, an increasingly robust array of efforts aimed at fostering data science in lower-income countries has emerged.

This phenomenon is particularly salient in sub-Saharan Africa, where foundations are investing millions in building data literacy and data science skills; multilaterals and national governments are pioneering new investments in data science, artificial intelligence, and smart cities; private and public donors are investing in data science centers and local data science talent; and local universities are launching graduate-level data science courses.

Despite this progress (and the attendant hype) lurks an inconvenient truth: As a new generation of data scientists emerges in Africa, there is relatively little trusted, accurate, and accessible data available to them.

We often hear how data science can be used to help teachers tailor curricula according to student performance, but the fact remains that many school systems on the continent don't collect or track performance data with enough accuracy and timeliness to perform data science–enabled tweaks. Many firmly believe that data science can help us identify disease outbreaks early, but healthcare facilities often lack the patient data and digital capabilities needed to surface those clues.

Fundamental data gaps like these invite a question: Precisely what data do data scientists need to advance sustainable development?

There are, of course, compelling examples of data science being put to use for the public good. Emerging use cases include exploring call detail records to improve mobility and urban planning, using remote sensors to measure agricultural or economic growth, and mining online content to monitor election violence. These and other examples prove beyond a doubt that data science has a role to play in advancing sustainable development.

But obtaining call detail records requires time, money, and (often) political connections. Online content (like tweets) typically reflects the views of the relatively small number of people in lower-income countries who have Internet access and avail themselves of social media platforms. Even though we're working hard to make data science accessible to everyone, data scientists are left to work with information that remains either inaccessible to most technologists or is unrepresentative of the most marginalized populations.

The lack of good data has consequences. As leaders and influencers increasingly rely on data science to guide their decision-making, they risk making decisions that ignore the needs, perspectives, and values of the people they serve who are not online (more than half the world's population), or who don’t use a mobile device (which are used more by men than by women).

They also risk disenfranchising a new generation of African data scientists who lack the financial resources to access large and reliable datasets, or who have to watch as better-funded organizations an ocean away — for example, universities in the Global North — conduct data science and analytics focused on their communities.

The good news? There are steps we can take that will help data science achieve its full potential in the realm of sustainable development. Here are three:

1. Be wary of encouraging a generation of data scientists who must rely on expensive, hard-to-access data in order to meaningfully apply their skills. We should couple our data science training with efforts that build data collection skills through methods such as community mapping or data-sharing initiatives like data collaboratives.

2. Be conscious of the risk of reinforcing dependencies on companies whose technologies, platforms, and datasets comprise the bulk of data science case studies. We should intentionally pair our investments in data science with investments in indigenous innovations that produce data for data science. Low-cost, locally-built technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and initiatives that produce locally relevant training datasets can help mitigate such dependencies.

3. Be mindful of focusing too much on data science and not enough on data literacy. We should double down on building fundamental data skills — collecting, cleaning, analyzing, sharing — within health clinics, schools, and local government agencies, where so much valuable information is actually produced. Doing so will improve the availability and reliability of large datasets for use by homegrown data scientists.

Fortunately, momentum is beginning to shift in favor of indigenous data science. Entrepreneurs are rolling out innovations designed to address language gaps. Initiatives such as Data Science Africa and Deep Learning Indaba are nurturing communities of machine-learning experts. These are steps in the right direction.

Five years from now, a new generation of socially-conscious impact-driven African data scientists will have emerged, and many of them will be driven to use their skills to address sustainable development challenges. We must ensure that the information that powers their efforts isn't limited to expensive, inaccessible, or unrepresentative data that sits primarily in the hands of a few mobile operators, banks, or tech companies.

Getting there means complementing the hype of data science for global good with the long, difficult work of improving data quality at the local level, investing in indigenous technology and content, and investing in fundamental data skills. Only then will the data science revolution be primed to achieve its full potential.

Samhir Vasdev is an advisor for digital development at IREX's Center for Applied Learning and Impact. A version of this post originally appeared on the IREX website.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2019)

September 06, 2019

Labor Day has come and gone, the days are getting shorter, and you're probably feeling the urge for goin'. Before you do, check out some of the posts that were popular with our readers in August. Enjoy!

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at Mitch.Nauufts@Candid.org.

[Review] The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry

July 10, 2019

Gone are the days when major donor governments and multilateral agencies poured large sums into international development projects that were evaluated mainly by the level of the donors' generosity. As Raj Kumar explains in The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry, the foreign aid industry, in the United States and elsewhere, is undergoing a huge transformation: once dominated by a handful of players, the sector is being reinvented as a dynamic marketplace hungry for cost-efficient, evidence-based solutions.

Tbcw-book-coverAs the co-founder of Devex, a social enterprise and media platform for the global development community, Kumar has a unique perspective on the emerging trends, key players, and new frameworks and philosophies that are shaping the development sector. And as he sees it, the sector is undergoing three fundamental changes: first, an opening up to diverse participants; second, a shift from a wholesale to a retail model of aid; and third, a growing focus on results-oriented, evidence-based strategies.

According to Kumar, the diversification of participants and, consequently, of strategies, both characterizes and is contributing to the growing success of this new era of aid. Prior to the twenty-first century, the sector was dominated by large agencies such as USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and the World Bank functioning as an oligopsony in which aid strategies were relatively homogeneous and any latitude to innovate was limited. Thanks in part to the wealth accumulated by tech billionaires such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, however, that is changing and the sector today operates and is informed by a much broader range of perspectives.

One result of the influx of tech dollars and expertise into the sector has been a demand for results, often in the form of a measurable return on those investments. But despite the broader diversity of approaches, failure is still part and parcel of the field, and Kumar offers some insights into why. An example he cites repeatedly is Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Initiative, which never fully delivered on its thesis that providing laptops to children in the developing world would go a long way to closing education gaps. As Kumar notes, past evaluations of the program have found that laptops did not do much to improve children's learning — in part because the initiative failed to adequately train teachers or develop curricula tailored to computer-based learning — and he uses the example to highlight the importance of pilot-testing projects to determine their efficacy before implementing them at scale.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2018)

July 01, 2019

Is it us, or does chronological time seem to be accelerating? Before the first half of 2019 becomes a distant memory, take a few minutes to check out some of the most popular posts on the blog in June. And remember: You're not getting older, you're gaining wisdom.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

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