29 posts categorized "SDGs"

Why don’t nonprofits have the tech they need?

October 08, 2020

Bootcamp+Jan19+1The world had big challenges — even before a global pandemic arrived. According to the Social Progress Index, we were on pace to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 no sooner than 2094, more than sixty years too late. And in the meantime, COVID-19 has set many efforts back.

Normally, when businesses imagine how they might do twice as much, or ten times as much, with the same money or the same number of people, they think about using technology as their engine of innovation. Why is it that the nonprofit sector behaves differently?

I've spent the last thirty years bringing technology to places and needs where Silicon Valley doesn't go because they aren't lucrative enough. In that time, I've recognized several recurring issues that have hampered the social sector from using technology to be more effective.

Lack of investment

A host of negative memes continue to circulate in the nonprofit sector among social sector leaders and the donors that fund them, leading to massive underinvestment in technology. Here are a few of them:

Money should be spent on helping people; tech is overhead. Most funders view tech as overhead, even when it has huge benefits for social mission outcomes. The message to NGO leaders is, Deliver more services. It's not unusual that a social sector leader dismisses spending even 10 percent of his/her budget on tech, even when such an investment would double the organization's impact.

Tech costs too much. Even though many makers of technology offer special nonprofit discount programs and most tech people working in nonprofits take big pay cuts, there is a widespread perception that technology and tech people are too expensive.

Tech doesn't work. The generally bad quality of advice given to nonprofits and foundations amplifies the idea that tech is expensive and doesn't work. I spend much of my time helping other nonprofits by doing "anti-consulting," which is talking them out of terrible ideas someone told them they should do. The average nonprofit does not need an app that no one will download or a magical blockchain solution.

Lack of strategic tech talent. Nonprofits generally lack the strategic tech talent they need to apply technology for maximum impact. Even in nonprofit organizations with a tech team, tech expertise is often seen as a support function, like accounting or facilities. Yes, IT services are important to a modern organization to keep the laptops operating and the email flowing. But segregating tech from core program activities results in huge missed opportunities to increase the social impact of a nonprofit.

An ambitious for-profit startup company wouldn't dream of launching without strategic tech talent on the senior management team, an individual (or individuals) who can help other members of the team understand what's working and what isn't and facilitate rapid learning.

While there are certainly some exciting nonprofits out there that, effectively, are software companies at their core, including Skoll Award-winning social enterprises like Benetech, Kiva, and Thorn, this is not an argument that every nonprofit needs its own team of software developers. However, every nonprofit that is ambitious about scaling needs its own strategic tech leader whose interests are fully aligned with the nonprofit's social mission. A strategic tech leader can advise where to apply technology to best effect and how to acquire it successfully.

Lack of infrastructure

When a modern for-profit company gets created, there is extensive technology infrastructure readily available. This includes common data standards that make it easy to connect different pieces of tech together. Just about every industry has dozens of cloud-based SaaS platforms that a new company can rent and that  compete on features, price, and ease of setup.

Outside of a few bright spots like public health, the nonprofit sector lacks this infrastructure. Underinvestment in tech means common SaaS platforms aren't built or available, which results in what I call the "cult of the custom." Too many nonprofits and agencies assume that their programmatic needs are unique and overpay to get custom or semi-custom tech solutions that generally end up being of poor quality. Can you imagine every dental office or golf course believing it needs to create its own unique software to operate?

If your nonprofit is the only customer for a unique piece of software built just for it, it's also the only entity paying for upgrades to that piece of software. As a result, your costs are generally higher because they are not spread over many customers.

With nonprofits already operating without enough funding, especially during the pandemic, all these dynamics lead to even more cycles of underinvestment in tech.

Advancing social change with tech

The time for technology in social change has come. The pandemic has underscored the need for tech capabilities. Fortunately, there is a new wave of nonprofits, donors, and coalitions who collectively realize that an integrated tech strategy is essential to achieving a social mission — just as it is essential for ambitious for-profit companies. Technology has immense untapped potential to help advance social innovation, benefiting humanity and the planet. It is time to tap that potential.

Jim-Fruchterman-squareJim Fruchterman is the CEO of Tech Matters, a nonprofit tech company in Silicon Valley that helps social change leaders understand what tech can and can't do and builds tech solutions that solve social problems. This post originally appeared on the Techonomy site and is republished here with permission.

Participatory design approaches to impact investing

July 15, 2020

Diversity_participants_around_table_GettyImagesAcross the social sector, impact investors are assessing the grave threats posed by COVID-19 — both the existential risk to the global economy and to the companies and funds in which we have invested. More than anything, we are aware of the need to listen, learn, and adapt to this moment.

Philanthropic funds have been investing for social impact since at least the 1990s, but it is only recently that the idea has caught on in the wider world. A 2019 report by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) found that some two hundred and fifty institutions, mostly in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, manage more than $239 billion in social impact investments around the world. At the end of 2018, GIIN estimated the full impact-investing market at $502 billion.

That's a lot of money, but who determines how it gets invested?

While the modern development-aid community places a premium on consultation with those who receive aid, impact investors do not necessarily do the same. Yes, most of the GIIN survey respondents link their declared objectives to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but conspicuously missing from their responses is any exploration of the question: How are affected workers, communities, and consumers involved in deciding where and how investments are made, in implementing the process, and in assessing the results? In other  words, can impact investing be made more democratic?

Currently, it is impact investors themselves who control the decision-making process, and the linchpin of their approach is an often-untested assumption that the benefits of the investment will trickle down to workers, communities, and/or consumers. That approach needs to change. While impact investing, with its profit imperative, is not the same as development aid or conventional grantmaking, it still seeks to deliver and measure social good. That's why we believe impact investors could take a few cues from philanthropic funds.

An effective participatory approach, which some call "user-design" or "co-design," could be integrated throughout the life-cycle of an investment — and the Open Society Foundation's Economic Justice Program has been supporting research by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex to map out how it might be done.

Our research team identified four key stages in which a participatory approach can make a difference:

Sourcing and approval: A number of impact investments made by OSF's Soros Economic Development Fund are testing out a participatory approach. In some cases, we have supported workshops, focus groups, and surveys through which the targeted community can outline its hopes and concerns. Impact investors can also require that assessment of community members' perspectives be included in all investment recommendations, while investment committees at funds focused on particular geographies or issues can include members of the community.

Managing: Impact investors can require that community members sit on an investee's board; or that communities be given some ownership of the investment through mechanisms such as "golden-share" arrangements (which come with enhanced voting rights); or that employees be offered stock ownership plans that give them a meaningful stake in both the operation and governance of the company. Investors could also consider adopting a participatory budgeting strategy that allows the targeted community to democratically allocate a portion of the intended investment.

Monitoring: There's a wide array of participatory methods for monitoring projects, including approaches involving "participatory statistics," in which local people generate their own data, or the "Most Significant Change" technique, which regularly asks those targeted by a program about its impact on their life. Such methods can be a complement to more traditional monitoring methods such as consumer surveys, town hall meetings, and focus groups.

Exit: The potential positive social impacts of an impact investment can easily be lost when an investor decides to pull out. To ensure the sustainability of an investment, investors should take steps to build a decision-making process that involves community members during a major transition such as a sale, an acquisition, or the bringing in of new investors. They can also think about offering the target community a say in any changes to the by-laws and/or a veto over any sale of the enterprise.

Many of these ideas are untested, but the field is changing fast. One of the most developed examples is the global Buen Vivir Fund, which was founded in 2018 by Thousand Currents, a nonprofit in California. Among its innovations, the fund invites local grassroots leaders to serve on the board with fund members and gives them equal voting rights in the fund's governance and management.

Clearly, a participatory approach can add costs and time for those on both sides of a deal. And it often makes an already difficult task even harder. We also understand that even in fields where it is standard procedure, community participation, when executed poorly, can amount to little more than expensive and time-consuming consultation. On the other hand, when done well it can leverage local knowledge in ways that benefit the investment process at every stage.

Despite the recent proliferation of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) funds, the potential costs of a participatory approach mean we should not expect the for-profit investment world to take the lead. But if philanthropy can show that such an approach actually generates positive impacts, we believe it's only a matter time before private funds take notice — and a participatory approach to impact investing becomes a differentiating factor they cannot afford to ignore. After all, isn't that what happened with social impact investing itself?

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

Sean_Hinton_John_Gaventa_PhilanTopicSean Hinton is co-director of the Economic Justice Program at the Open Society Foundations and CEO of the Soros Economic Development Fund.

John Gaventa is a professor at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). Background research was provided by Peter O'Flynn, now with New Philanthropy Capital, and Grace Higdon, IDS.

Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, the SDGs Are More Relevant Than Ever

May 10, 2020

SdgThe world is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and ruining livelihoods. The primary cost of the pandemic as calculated in the loss of human life is distressing, but the knock-on effects in terms of the global economy, people's livelihoods, and sustainable development prospects are even more alarming. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the global economy has already fallen into recession, and while the full economic impact of the crisis is difficult to predict, the ultimate cost is likely to be extraordinary and unprecedented.

That is why we must all support the United Nations' call to scale up the immediate health response to the virus, with a particular focus on women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector, and vulnerable groups who were already at risk. Working together we can save lives, restore livelihoods, and get the global economy back on track.

At the same time, the pandemic has utterly exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system of governance and demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt how poverty, inadequate health systems, underresourced educational systems, and sub-optimal global cooperation can exacerbate a crisis like COVID-19. These are exactly the kinds of challenges the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are meant to address.

The rapid spread of the virus has come at a time when the SDGs were beginning to get traction and a significant number of countries were making progress in implementing them. But with the world today consumed by the need to contain the virus and mitigate its many adverse and debilitating impacts, countries are resetting their priorities and reallocating resources to deal with the challenge.

Emerging evidence of the broader impact of the coronavirus crisis on efforts to achieve the SDGs should be troubling for all. UNESCO estimates that some 1.25 billion students globally have been affected by the pandemic, posing a serious challenge to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4, while the International Labour Organization (ILO) projects that some 25 million people could lose their jobs over the coming months, dealing a serious blow to progress on Sustainable Development Goal 8 — and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Crucially, in many parts of the world, the pandemic also is creating roadblocks to progress on clean water and sanitation targets (Goal 6), addressing pervasive inequality (Goal 10), and, perhaps most importantly, addressing the twin crises of global poverty (Goal 1) and hunger/food insecurity (Goal 2). Indeed, the World Bank estimates that pandemic will push an additional 11 million people into poverty.

In other words, what we cannot afford to do in this critical moment is to de-link the global response to the pandemic from action on the SDGs. Indeed, by continuing to make progress on the SDGs, we will be putting ourselves on a firmer path to dealing with global health risks and the emergence of new infectious diseases in the future. Achieving SDGs Goal 3, for instance, will mean that we succeeded in strengthening the capacity of countries to conduct early warning surveillance, reduce the risk of contagious pathogens from spreading, and manage the situation promptly and effectively should they be faced with such a situation.

As the global community strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up our actions to support and ultimately achieve the goals by 2030. The world has the knowledge and expertise to muster the full complement of resources needed to to do that. Buoyed by a spirit of solidarity, governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, and civil society have been able to raise and direct trillions of dollars to defeat the virus. We can do the same to defeat global poverty, reduce inequality, provide a quality education to all, protect the climate, and build a more just and sustainable global economy. All that is missing is the political will.

As governments, business, and civil society around the world respond to the impacts of the pandemic, it is incumbent on all of us to stay focused on the underlying factors that have exacerbated those impacts. We cannot relent in our efforts, even amid this painful pandemic, to address people's basic needs, protect the beauty and diversity of our planet, and build a fairer and more just world. COVID-19 reminds us that we face common, global challenges that can only be solved through united, global action. In a crisis like this, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Erna Solberg are, respectively, president of the Republic of Ghana and prime minister of Norway and co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General's Eminent Group of Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals.

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.

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'Future-Fit' Philanthropy: Why Philanthropic Organizations Will Need Foresight to Leave a Lasting Legacy of Change

April 10, 2019

Future_start_gettyimages_olm26250To be considered transformational, any philanthropic organization should aim for lasting impacts that go beyond their immediate beneficiaries. Yet, in the face of what the UK's Ministry of Defense recently characterized as "unprecedented acceleration in the speed of change, driving ever more complex interactions between [diverse] trends," the longer-term future of philanthropy, and the success of individual programs, are at risk as never before.

Philanthropy is already trying to deliver on a hugely ambitious vision of a better future. Taking the Sustainable Development Goals as one marker, this includes, within just over a decade, ending poverty, ending hunger, and delivering universal healthcare. Progress is struggling to match aspirations: the UN has found that globally, hunger is on the rise again and malaria rates are up due to antimicrobial resistance.

With the accelerating pace of change, new trends are set to bring huge opportunities — and threats — often both at once. Two examples: new technologies in the field of synthetic biology, and the fourth Industrial Revolution. Other trends — climate change, demographic shifts, democratic rollback — may be familiar, but their pace, trajectory, and impact remain radically uncertain.

The trends of the coming ten to twenty years have the potential to reverse hard-won progress, distort the outcomes of interventions, radically change the geography and distribution of need, and outpace the philanthropy business model altogether.

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What's New at Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) (March 2019)

March 19, 2019

Candid logoMarch brings the first days of Spring and the beginning of new things. At Candid, we've been marking new beginnings with game-changing training programs and convenings, attendance at great conferences, and valuable research. Here are some of the recent highlights:

Projects Launched

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to capacity building, but a new series of GrantCraft case studies provides funders with networking and collaboration insights that can empower their grantees to invest in capacity building. Each case study has been developed in partnership with Community Wealth Partners and draws on that organization's capacity-building work with funders and grantees. Together, the studies showcase varied approaches to addressing the long-term capacity needs of grantees and provide valuable insights for foundations, consultants, and practitioners. The series also pilots a new approach for GrantCraft in which we tap the wisdom of technical assistance providers in making sure learnings from foundation projects are shared widely.
  • Glasspockets recently hit a milestone, publishing its one hundredth profile of a funder that has publicly participated in the "Who Has Glass Pockets?" self-assessment. To celebrate, Glasspockets has launched a blog series, the "Road to 100 & Beyond," featuring foundations that have played a part in the site reaching this milestone. In addition to helpful examples, the series highlights reflections on why transparency is important, how openness inside foundations evolves over time, and lessons learned.
  • We added a new infographic to the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy portal which shows the U.S. dropping to #71 on the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index — the first time since 2011 the U.S. has fallen out of the top 20. According to the infographic, about 3 percent of overall funding for democracy work goes to open government and transparency efforts. You can check it out and more at foundationcenter.org/infographics.
  • Grantmakers in the Arts published its annual Arts Funding Snapshot in the Winter 2019 edition of the GIA Reader. The snapshot looks at foundation giving for arts and culture for 2016, based on the most recent complete year of data for a set of the largest U.S.-based private and community foundations (by total giving). A webinar that explores the findings is available on the GIA website.
  • GuideStar launched updated APIs with new data and filters, as well as new internal administrative functions, meaning you can now get more data through GuideStar's Premier API that you can't find anywhere else, including nonprofit logos, demographic information, and due-diligence information. You can also search for organizations in new ways, thanks to new filters that enable users to sort by organizations that are in good standing with the IRS and by cause area.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Out in the community! On March 13, our San Francisco office kicked off a new series of monthly orientations at our nearby Funding Information Network partner location. The staff presentation at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library featured forty minutes of training, twenty minutes of Q&A, and an hour of one-on-one support for those who needed it, drawing a great crowd and generating rave reviews. Candid staff in San Francisco is excited to pilot this new program model, which among other things addresses how we can best partner with our Funding Information Network (FIN) partners in San Francisco (and beyond) in anticipation of our San Francisco library closing for good on June 30.
  • What's that, you say? In 2019, Candid will start shifting its efforts from maintaining regional direct-service locations to focusing more on our 400+ FIN partner sites, which are located in communities across the U.S.as well as several countries. Through deeper and closer collaboration with our FIN partners, we hope to make our Social Sector Outreach services available far and wide — services that include the same great programming and access to tools and expertise you’ve come to expect at our regional locations. Please check out this interactive map to find a FIN location near you. And read the full announcement from VP of Social Sector Outreach Zohra Zori.
  • We are working with Sustain Arts and See Chicago Dance on the first data-driven analysis of the Chicagoland dance sector since 2002.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 252,817 new grants added to Foundation Maps in February, of which 5,762 were made to 4,251 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Leverage insights from Foundation Directory Online to connect to funders: Connect Guide.
  • 12 participants from the Bay Area and beyond participated in a three-day Proposal Writing Boot Camp. Check out all 2019 boot camp dates here.
  • New data sharing partners: Aesop Foundation Australia, Colorado Plateau Foundation, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, InFaith Community Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, Klein Family Foundation, Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation, St Mary's Medical Center,Notah Begay III Foundation, Scriven Foundation, and the Steele-Reese Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world! Learn more about our eReporting program.
  • New customers: RoundUp APP, Tides Foundation, University of California, Santa Barbara, California State University, Los Angeles,F.B. Heron Foundation, Barr Foundation, Elevation Web, Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Data Spotlight

  • In honor of Women's History Month, we are highlighting data centered around support for women and girls across our research:
    • Funding directed for women and girls made up 23 percent of all foundation funding for human rights, some $2.1 billion, between 2011-15. Over the course of those five years, funding for women and girls increased by 43 percent, representing the greatest share of funding targeted to a particular population group.
    • Of all international giving by U.S. foundations between 2011-15, 13.8 percent, or $4.8 billion, was targeted to women and girls. And while overall giving increased by 36 percent over the five-year period, funding targeted to women and girls increased 77 percent.
    • Between 2014-15, 13 percent of all funding from U.S. foundations directed to Latin America targeted women and girls, including a grant of $1.3 million over three years from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to Mexico's National Institute of Public Health in support of research on the promotion of professional midwifery.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

New Study on the Role of Philanthropy in a Safe, Healthy and Just World

March 07, 2019

Globus-icon-300Candid (Foundation Center + Guidestar) and Centris (Rethinking Poverty) are conducting a study on the role of philanthropy in producing safe, healthy, and just societies.

At a time when many people are questioning the value of philanthropy, the study aims to clarify its role in creating peaceful and inclusive societies that provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and responsive institutions.

A survey designed to identify stakeholders, strategies, and outcomes across a variety of dimensions of social progress is the first component of the study.

Initial results of the survey will be published in the June 2019 issue of Alliance magazine, a leading source of comment and analysis on global philanthropy that is read by over 24,000 philanthropy practitioners around the world.

The June edition will include an in-depth feature exploring the role of philanthropy in peace building — thirty pages that illuminate philanthropy practice around the world, explore the merit and value of community-based approaches to conflict resolution, and profile some of the pioneering people and networks in the field. The issue is being guest edited by a new generation of practitioners working at the intersection of philanthropy and peace — Hope Lyons of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lauren Bradford of Candid, and the Dalia Association's Rasha Sansour. (For examples of the magazine's recent special features, see https://www.alliancemagazine.org/magazine/.)

A full report on the survey will be produced for discussion by the field at a variety of venues. All those who take part in the study will receive a copy of the report.

The survey has twenty questions and only takes seven to eight minutes to complete. Click here to take the survey now: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Candid_Centris

Barry_knightThe survey closes on Wednesday, March 27, and all answers will be treated in confidence.

Please take part. Your views are important to us.

Barry Knight (barryknight@cranehouse.eu)

Insights for U.S. Nonprofits From the Russia Donors Forum Conference

February 17, 2019

Russia_donors_forumLast fall, I was invited to speak about collaboration for social impact and corporate volunteerism at the annual Russia Donors Forum conference in Moscow. The conference brings together philanthropy and corporate social responsibility professionals from foundations, corporations, and nonprofits to share insights and lessons about how non-financial resources can support philanthropic activity. The invitation stemmed from my work with Global Impact, a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on growing global philanthropy to help the world's most vulnerable people, and my experience there helped broaden my perspective on the international philanthropic sector and the work we do.

My stay in Moscow was eye-opening. Not only did I gain valuable insights into current trends in Russian philanthropy, I also learned how U.S.-based nonprofits can engage with individuals and nonprofits operating within the ever-evolving international philanthropic space. In advance of my trip, I reviewed recent research and reporting on the state of Russian philanthropy, including the 2018 Giving Global Matrix: Tax, Fiduciary and Philanthropic Requirements developed by my organization in partnership with KPMG. The report highlights the complex and varied tax laws that incentivize or disincentivize philanthropic giving in sixty countries around the world, including Russia, and also addresses ten questions designed to shed light on the philanthropic climate in a particular country. Many of the insights from my time in Russia confirmed the findings captured in the report — namely, that a generally supportive climate for philanthropy does, in fact, exist there. Moreover, my conversations and interactions with professionals at the conference deepened my understanding of the international philanthropic sector, as well as how nonprofit organizations and corporations are addressing areas of critical importance through the commitment of both financial and non-financial resources.

In Moscow, I was greeted by a vibrant network of social sector professionals working to achieve greater impact, improve platforms and methods of measurement and evaluation, and address causes and focus areas relevant to their specific country context. And I was reminded repeatedly how important it is for us to follow the lead of country-specific philanthropic communities in providing support and sharing best practices.

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A Conversation With Ann Mei Chang, Author, 'Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good'

November 14, 2018

Poverty. Mass migration. Economic dislocation. Climate change.

The problems confronting societies around the globe are big and getting bigger. The resources available to address those problems, however, are shrinking, as governments burdened by huge debts and future obligations and corporations wary of controversy pull back from “feel-good” causes and collective action. And while countless foundations and civil society groups continue to fight the good fight, their resources seem Lilliputian compared to the magnitude of the challenges we face.

It’s a moment that demands big thinking, bold thinking but also creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The kind of thinking we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of a certain kind of innovation and can-do spirit. The question, for many, is: What, if anything, can technologists teach nonprofits and social entrepreneurs about social change?

In her new book, Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, Ann Mei Chang, a respected social change-maker and technologist, tackles that question head-on. Based on interviews with more than two hundred social change organizations spanning almost every continent, the book distills the lessons learned by change-makers over the years into a set of "lean" principles for nonprofits looking to innovate their way to greater impact.

PND recently spoke with Chang about the genesis of the book, the sometimes testy relationship between tech and the nonprofit sector, and her advice for millennials and social entrepreneurs impatient with the slow pace of change.

AnnMeiChang-32Philanthropy News Digest: How did you get into social change work?

Ann Mei Chang: I studied computer science in college and then worked in Silicon Valley for over twenty years, at big companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as a number of start-ups. But I had known since my mid-twenties that I wanted to spend the first half of my career in tech, and the second half doing something more meaningful, something to make the world a better place. I hoped I would be able to make that change, and I was committed to it, although I didn't know exactly when or how. But as I got closer to that point in my career, in my early forties, I began to look around at all the things I cared about, and decided to focus on global poverty, as it seemed to be at the root of so many other problems I cared about.

I recognized there was a lot I needed to learn about a very different space. I ended up taking a leave of absence from Google and went to the State Department on a fellowship, where I worked in the Secretary's Office of Global Women’s Issues, with a focus on issues around women and technology. It didn't take long before I was hooked. I resigned from Google and signed on for another year. After the State Department, where a lot of the work takes place at the ten-thousand-foot level, I joined a nonprofit called Mercy Corps to learn how the real work was being done in the trenches.

Then I was offered my dream job — as the first executive director for the Global Development Lab at USAID, the agency's newest bureau with an inspiring two-part mission. The first part was to identify breakthrough innovations that could accelerate progress in the global development and humanitarian aid work that USAID does. And the second was to look at how we could transform the practice of global development itself by bringing new tools and approaches to table. The first was the "what," and the second the "how."

It fit exactly into the way I was beginning to think about what was really needed to make a difference. That's why it felt like a dream job — it was an opportunity to do this work at the largest aid agency in the world, in the belly of the beast, so to speak, but where I'd be responsible for thinking about how we could work differently and more effectively.

PND: It's an interesting career trajectory, in that it bridges the worlds of both technology and social change. In your experience, do technologists get social change? Or do they tend to see it as another problem that needs to be "engineered"?

AMC: That really depends on the technologist. As with everything, people in tech exist on a spectrum. I've known people in tech who think that technology can solve everything — we'll build a smart phone app and that will somehow end global poverty. There can be a naiveté and hubris, especially when you’re building products for people who live in contexts that you’re not that familiar with.

But there's also a thriving community of tech people in the global development sphere — we call it ICT4D, or information communication technologies for development — who are both technologists and development professionals looking at the intersection between the two. This community has developed something called the principles for digital development, which embody the best practices for the responsible use of technology in development.

One of the really exciting things that happened while I was in government was the creation of US Digital Services and 18F, where a lot of people from the tech sector came in to work for the govern­ment and saw that their skills could be put to use to help the government better serve people. It was catalyzed by the debacle with HealthCare.gov, which caused a lot of people to recognize that tech had something it could contribute that would really make a difference.

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Current Trends in Philanthropy: International Giving by U.S. Foundations

November 01, 2018

Global-giving-report-coverInternational giving by large U.S. foundations reached an all-time high of $9.3 billion in 2015, up some 306 percent, from $2.1 billion, in 2002, when Foundation Center first started tracking it on an annual basis. During the same period, international giving also increased as a percent of total giving, from 13.9 percent in 2002 to 28.4 percent in 2015.

While the number of grants to international organizations and causes has stayed relatively stable, up some 31 percent (from 10,600 to 13,900) since 2002, average grant size has increased more than three-fold, from $200,900 in 2002 to $604,500 in 2015.

Much of that growth can be attributed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which accounted for more than half (51 percent) of all international giving from 2011 to 2015. When Gates Foundation grantmaking is excluded, we see that international giving grew at a somewhat slower rate (21 percent) during the five-year period, reaching a high of nearly $4 billion in 2015.

Like foundation giving in general, international giving by U.S. foundations is largely project-focused: despite continued calls from nonprofit leaders for foundations to provide more general operating support, 65 percent of international giving by U.S. foundations from 2011 to 2015 was for specific projects or programs. (General support refers broadly to unrestricted funding and core support for day-to-day operating costs. Project support or program development refers to support for specific projects or programs as opposed to the general purpose of an organization. For more information, see https://taxonomy.foundationcenter.org/support-strategies.)

Data also show that U.S. foundations continue to fund international work primarily through intermediaries. From 2011 to 2015, 28 percent of international giving was channeled through U.S.-based intermediaries, 30 percent went through non-U.S. intermediaries, and just 12 percent went directly to organizations based in the country where programs were implemented. What’s more, just 1 percent of international giving was awarded in the form of general support grants directly to local organizations, and those grants were substantially smaller in size, averaging just under $242,000, while grants to intermediaries averaged just over $554,000.

It's important to note that these intermediaries vary in type and structure, and include:

  • International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) operating programs in a different country than the country where they are headquartered.
  • U.S. public charities re-granting funds directly to local organizations.
  • Organizations indigenous to their geographic region but working across countries (i.e., not just in the country where they are headquartered).
  • Multilateral institutions working globally (e.g., the World Health Organization, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).
  • Research institutions conducting public health research or vaccination programs targeted at specific countries that are not the country where they are headquartered.

Unsurprisingly, health was the top-funded subject area supported by U.S. foundations in the 2011 to 2015 period, with grants totaling $18.6 billion accounting for 53 percent of international grantmaking.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 1-2, 2018)

September 02, 2018

Labor-dayAnd...we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

Does farm-animal advocacy work? And what does its relative lack of success tell us about advocacy more generally? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares some thoughts.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

In a post on his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le shares twenty ways majority-white nonprofits can build authentic partnerships with organizations led by communities of color.

Economy

In honor of Labor Day and to celebrate workers across the country, the team at Charity Navigator has put together a list of five charities that are fighting for workers' rights.

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, Kay Sprinkel Grace shares four counterintuitive fundraising "truths." 

Giving Pledge

New York Times reporter David Gelles checks in with an inspirational Q&A with Turkish immigrant, Chobani founder, and billionaire Giving Pledger Hamdi Ulukaya. 

Health

Does the kind of data we collect and report ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to live their healthiest life possible? Absolutely. And as Tiny Kauh explains on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, a new report from PolicyLink (with support from the foundation) is "a first step toward identifying solutions for improving data and, ultimately, better health equity in our nation."

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 21-22, 2018)

July 22, 2018

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

Animal Welfare

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther reports on the return of Wayne Pacelle, the former Human Society of the United States CEO who was forced to step down from his position six months ago after "a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment led to revolts among donors and staff."

Civic Engagement

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, California Endowment president Robert K. Ross argues that what America disparately needs is a "shared vision for [the] nation that is born from our communities and [a] new social compact to support that vision."

Education

Researchers from Northeastern University have put numbers to something many of us suspected: geography largely determines access to quality schools. In Boston, where the research was conducted, a lack of good schools in predominately minority neighborhoods means that students in those neighborhoods had "fewer top schools from which to choose, had greater competition for seats in those schools, were less likely to attend them, and had to travel longer distances when they did attend them." Sara Feijo reports for Northeastern News.

Diversity

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, CEP's Ellie Buteau shares findings from a new CEP report, Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations, that was based on a survey of nonprofit leaders that asked them about diversity at their organizations and how foundations can be most helpful in this area.

Environment

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a leading funder of conservation efforts in the American West, has announced a refresh of its grantmaking strategy for the region that includes a couple of new imperatives: listen more to grantees, partners, and communities; prioritize equity, inclusivity, and diversity; and take a systemic approach to policy change. Click here to learn more.

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Foundations Have Invested $50 Billion in the SDGs, But Who’s Counting?

May 23, 2018

SDGs_logoThe Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious — as well as expensive — global development framework in history. The framework sets specific targets in seventeen areas, from ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1), to combating climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), to achieving gender equality (Goal 5). But with an estimated annual price tag of $3.5 trillion, it's clear that governments alone cannot finance the SDGs and hope to achieve the framework's 2030 targets. With that in mind, all stakeholders within the development ecosystem, including private and philanthropic actors, need to step in and step up their contributions. Our research shows that while the philanthropic sector has been doing its part, it can do much more.

Foundation Center has been tracking philanthropy's support for the Sustainable Development Goals since the beginning. Our data shows that foundations have contributed more than $50 billion toward achieving the SDGs since January 2016, when the SDG agenda was formally launched, and we are tracking that number in real time — i.e., as more grantmaking data becomes available, we immediately make more SDG-related funding data available. Pretty cool! (NB: We can only track what we can collect, so if we don't have your data, we can't account for your contribution.) Using this "latest available data approach," we can confirm that philanthropy has been and will continue to play a crucial role in financing and driving the SDGs.

In a blog post in 2016, Foundation Center president Brad Smith predicted that foundations would contribute $364 billion toward achieving the by 2030. While it's too early to say whether Brad will be proved correct, the initial trends are favorable. Of the $50 billion in foundation giving we have tracked, roughly $40 billion is based on 2016 data while the rest ($10 billion) comes from foundation giving data collected in 2017 and 2018. As more data from both domestic and international foundations comes in, we estimate that total foundation giving for 2016 will increase by another 15 percent or so by December, when we'll have a more complete data set, and as more international foundations share their data for research purposes. If that trend holds through 2030, it's quite likely that foundations will contribute more than the $364 billion originally estimated by Brad.

Picking winners

It's not a surprise that Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) have received the lion’s share of the funding to date (both more than $18 billion). In addition to regular health-related spending, foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies, both natural and man-made. That list includes avian influenza, Zika virus, Ebola virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and outbreaks of yellow fever, as well as public health emergencies caused by war, cyclones, and earthquakes. At the same time, the goal to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all has long been important to many funders and continues to attract significant funding, even in the SDG era.

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How to Fix Our Food System

April 30, 2018

AgorecologyA good idea doesn't stay buried forever. Even with a $5 trillion agrochemical industry shoveling their propaganda on top of it.

Ten years ago, the World Bank and the United Nations initiated an assessment of the state of global agriculture by some four hundred experts around the world. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASTTD), as the final report was titled, concluded that gains in agricultural productivity have come at a high cost, including "unintended social and environmental consequences," and that investments in biological substitutes for agrochemicals, and in programs that support agroecology, are needed to address the situation.

At times oversimplified as "sustainable agriculture," or confused with organic agriculture, the definition of agroecology is found in in its constituent parts — agro and ecology. Agroecology puts ecological science at the center of food production. With a focus on the stewardship of soil, water and biodiversity, agroecology seeks to heighten soil fertility and moisture and regenerate ecosystems by encouraging farmers to reduce their use of chemical inputs — a leading source of pollution, soil degradation, and farmer debt.

And yet, despite lifting up the many benefits of agroecology in terms of food safety and watershed health, not to mention endorsements from fifty-eight governments, implementation of the IASTTD report has been slow, at best. Whatever the cause, many of us within the growing agroecology movement are disappointed, and angry.

Earlier this month, however, there was a glimmer of hope. At the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Second International Symposium on agroecology, change was in the air.

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'100&Change' Solutions Bank: A Unique Resource for Funders

March 28, 2018

100&Change_Solutions_BankOur original goal for 100&Change, an open competition for a single $100 million grant, was fairly simple: identify a project outside our usual networks that with substantial resources disbursed over a compressed time period (three to five years) could make significant progress in addressing a critical problem. And we succeeded. In December 2017, MacArthur's board of directors selected an early childhood intervention project, a collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee, as the recipient of the $100 million grant. The other three finalists — Catholic Relief Services, HarvestPlus, and the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health (Rice University) — were each awarded grants of $15 million and a commitment from MacArthur to help identify additional sources of funding.

After we launched the competition, however, we realized that 100&Change's open call had an important side benefit: the surfacing of a wealth of ideas for solving problems around the globe, ideas at various stages of development but good ideas nonetheless. We were logging those ideas into a database here at the foundation but soon recognized the database could be a public resource serving other funders who might find interesting projects to support, communities looking for innovative solutions to their challenges, and problem-solvers and researchers looking for others with similar interests. So, after a number of conversations and phone calls, we found ourselves collaborating with Foundation Center on the 100&Change Solutions Bank, a searchable (by geography, subject area, keyword, and Sustainable Development Goal) repository of submissions to the 100&Change competition.

Interesting, right? But maybe you're not sure how the Solutions Bank can help you. No problem. Here are four sample use cases:

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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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