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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Six months after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti, much attention has shifted to other needs and other crises elsewhere. But the Caribbean nation is still very much in crisis, and, as the Wall Street Journal reports, there’s still too much rubble and too little progress. With a new hurricane season now bearing down on the region, the situation may very well get worse before it gets any better.

In addition to helping to provide for continued relief and humanitarian assistance, philanthropy will be an essential player in long-term rebuilding. And the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy has conducted research and analysis to identify some of the most fruitful long-term philanthropic opportunities. Haiti: How Can I Help? Models for Donors Seeking Long-Term Impact outlines ways in which donors can help Haitians develop the capacity they need to build a brighter future for themselves, their communities and their nation.

The guide focuses in three interrelated “pillars of socioeconomic development” – health, livelihoods and education – and notes that promising nonprofit models already exist in these three areas.

In health, the guide emphasizes supporting community-based primary care systems because the chief causes of sickness and death in Haiti – from infectious diseases to injuries to complications during childbirth – continue to be mostly preventable and treatable.

With regard to livelihoods, the focus is on enabling households to provide for themselves by building assets and promoting environmentally sustainable ways to make a living. Finally, in education, the focus is on addressing the needs of children. More than one million Haitian children currently have no access to schools, in part because schools are physically or financially out of reach. The community schools model, focused on rural residents, helps overcome these barriers, and it also helps address the high teacher turnover by recruiting teachers from the local villages.

Working in these three key areas of development may not only provide long-term help, but short-term signs of progress as well. Haitians, and the global community at large, are in dire need of some good news.

–Jane Wales

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School may be out for the summer, but there’s no break for ideas and debate about the best—and worst—ways for funders to help fix America’s education system. Certainly engaging with policymakers is critical. In a later post, I’ll discuss the issue of foundations’ increasing interest in and effort to influence education policy.

But one specific education idea that has gotten less attention than it deserves is the need to help those whose native language isn’t English.

It’s not just children of immigrants who are “English Language Learners,” but also those who live in linguistically homogenous communities. And it’s not just students in those states, including California, Texas and New York, with a history of immigration and multi-language environments. In fact, ELL populations are growing everywhere, and the fastest increase is occurring in states such as South Carolina, Indiana and Delaware, where school systems are less familiar and less equipped to help non-native English speakers. That’s according to 2009 data from the Migration Policy Institute as cited in a recent web seminar sponsored by Grantmakers for Education (GFE) and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR). The two organizations have teamed up for a two-day briefing to be held next week in New York, exploring how funders can address ELL needs at various stages of youth development, from pre-school to elementary and secondary education to out-of-school time.

The recent web seminar—from which presentation slides and an audio recording are available—specifically focused on a “two-generation” approach to literacy: working with parents as well as students. Parents are “their children’s first and life-long teachers,” and engaging them is the key to success. For example, Joanna Brown of Chicago’s Logan Square Neighborhood Association talked about how her association helped to develop lasting relationships between parents and teachers, through after-school workshops and evening meetings. Before such efforts, teachers were skeptical of how much parents could help them in their work. And many parents were suspicious that the teachers had ulterior motives, such as reporting on their immigration status.

Helping non-native English speakers become fluent both enhances their opportunities and enables them to contribute fully to society more broadly. Improved quality of life and enhanced social cohesion are among philanthropy’s most ambitious and important goals.

—Jane Wales

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Having returned from Islamabad only a month ago, Asia Foundation expert Jon Summers shared some of his knowledge and insights into the current situation in Pakistan with Council members last night. He laid out myriad challenges facing Pakistan, from governance and counterinsurgency to the economy and education, and he suggested potential strategies to deal with some of these issues. Despite the predominance of US media reports of violence and insurgency in the country, Summers noted that Pakistan indeed possesses many assets, from a strong human resource base to vibrant civil society.

For more on Pakistan, watch or listen to the recording of last night’s program with Jon Summers, or check out a couple of the articles and studies mentioned in the lecture (links below).

In Refugee Aid, Pakistan’s War Has New Front
A July 2nd New York Times article on the two million displaced people in Pakistani refugee camps and the fight between the United States and hard-line Islamist charities for their allegiance.

Power Dynamics, Institutional Instability and Economic Growth: The Case of Pakistan
A study, supported by The Asia Foundation, which analyzes economic development in Pakistan in the context of power and institutions in the country. It examines the causes of continuing development challenges, and it identifies seven strategic “Drivers of Change” that could address these root causes for a major impact on development in Pakistan.

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Associated Press writer Josh Funk reports on Peter and Jennifer Buffett’s NoVo Foundation, detailing their commitment to empowering women, collaborating with other groups to achieve their goal and the incorporation of Warren Buffett’s business ideas to philanthropy.

Peter Buffett will be a speaker at the upcoming Global Philanthropy Forum 2009 Conference in Washington, DC, April 22-24.

Full article: Peter Buffett’s foundation gives millions to girls

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The U.S. Senate yesterday passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.  This bill is expect to pass the House next week and should be signed by President Obama shortly thereafter.

The NonProfit Times detailed some of the highlights of the bill:

The Serve America Act updates and strengthens national service programs administrated by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency created in 1993. Among the highlights touted in the new legislation are:

  • Tripling the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 a year to 250,000 volunteers a year.Creating four new “corps” to address America’s most pressing challenges, such as energy conservation, healthcare, education and veterans’ issues.
  • Boosting the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, currently $4,725, to increase incentives for service and postsecondary education. Linking it to the maximum Pell grant in the future could make it reach $8,000 by 2014.
  • Creating a “Summer of Service” program to encourage middle and high school students to engage in a summer of community service and put them on a path to a lifetime of service.
  • Establishing “Encore Fellowships,” a one-year fellowship for Americans 50 and older. John Gomperts, president of Civic Ventures, a national think tank on Boomers, work and social purpose, described Encore Fellowships as “perhaps the biggest innovation in this bill.”

There may have been some confusion over the part of the legislation described below.  While it was included in the original Senate version of the Serve America Act, it appears as if it may have been left out of the version that actually passed the Senate on March 26, 2009.  We will keep you posted if and when we learn more.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the bill from our perspective is that it provides for the formation of a Commission on Cross-Sector Solutions.  According to the text of the legislation, the purpose of this Commission is –

  1. to examine and recommend ways in which the Federal Government can interact more efficiently and effectively with nonprofit organizations, philanthropic organizations, and business to achieve better outcomes with regard to addressing national and local challenges, accountability, and utilization of resources;
  2. to provide advice to the President and Congress regarding new, more effective ways for the Federal Government to address national and local challenges in partnership with the nonprofit sector; and
  3. to support research that will advance the impact and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector and the way that the Federal Government interacts with such sector.

The need for cross-sector solutions to global and domestic crises has long been a focus of the work of the Global Philanthropy Forum.  More significantly, this very subject is the theme of GPF annual conference coming up in less than four weeks in Washington, DC.  The eventual passage of this bill should add extra energy to the conference!

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Over at Tactical Philanthropy, Sean has sparked a great conversation about the role of foundations in driving social change.  Instead of giving the post our own interpretation, we’ll just share the opening paragraph:

“Recently I’ve been consumed with thinking about the implications for    philanthropy of a mindset where donors want to achieve a certain goal they think is valuable (such as provide mentors to low-income students) and then go looking for nonprofits to help them do this vs. a model where donors go looking for great nonprofits in a general focus area (education) and the nonprofit focuses on the tactics. In the first model, funders spend most of their time studying how social good is created. In the second model, funders spend most of their time finding and analyzing nonprofit organizations.”

Later in the post, Sean offers his own opinion on the matter:

“I am arguing that the goal of philanthropy should be that of a social capital market. A system for providing capital to nonprofit organizations. … I’m simply talking about a shift in emphasis from one in which foundations think of themselves as social impact engineers to one in which they think of themselves as social capital investors.”

While the post is thought-provoking itself, what has made it an even more interesting read are the comments that have been offered over the past week by leaders of foundations who are attempting to invest in the most effective manner in social change.  We encourage you to read the post and the comments here.

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This morning, we were swept onto the campaign trail as Senators Obama and McCain shared their plans for US policy in each of CGI’s four focus areas: education, poverty alleviation, climate change, and global health. Each addressed the current financial crisis, and the international cooperation that we need going forward to overcome it. Both also discussed the imperative of addressing malaria, diversifying our energy use, and improving education. Senator Obama emphasized the role we each have to play – “the scale of our challenges may be great; the pace of change may be swift, but we know that it need not be feared. The landscape of the 21st century is still ours to shape.”

Each candidate touched on the rise of food prices globally. Over the past 24 months, grain prices have doubled, prices of fertilizers and fuels have tripled, and 30 countries across the world have seen food riots. Today in areas as distinct as Haiti, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia, millions of people face starvation. Devastation wrought by drought, misguided corn ethanol subsidies, and protectionist agricultural policies have skyrocketed world grain prices, spiraling many of the worlds poor further into poverty.

In light of this relationship between food security and poverty, the Poverty Alleviation Track started the day with a panel on this topic. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright argued that we must frame the food crisis as an issue of national security if we are to overcome our ‘crisis fatigue’ and drive our leaders to take action. There is the danger of a ‘billiard ball effect’, of domestic policies that worsen the situation in neighboring countries, leading to heightened tensions and the risk of conflict. Amos Namanga Ngongi of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) explained the need to focus on small-holder farmers, for they constitute the vast majority of farmers in Africa. He emphasized taking a comprehensive approach to smallholder agricultural development, improving seeds, soil, production, and transportation to market. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, believes commodity exchanges bring necessary order, integrity, efficiency and transparency to all market actors – and thereby reduce risk. She has set up electronic price boards throughout Ethiopia to instantaneously provide crucial price information to farmers, consumers and traders. Ken Lee, co-founder of Lotus Foods, described the labor intensity required to educate US consumers about the value of traditional agriculture sourced from developing countries, pointing out that customers are willing to pay a premium for these products. At table discussions, CGI members identified the importance of increasing small farmers’ access to finance, leveraging information technology to strengthen the entire value chain, and instituting legal protection for land ownership.

Nick Kristof of the New York Times built on these early themes with our post-conflict panel, where speakers emphasized the risk of falling back in to conflict, and the need for post-conflict leaders to provide immediate results in improving livelihoods and opportunities, giving former combatants a stake in the new order. One in two countries that has emerged from conflict will return to violent conflict within five years, and thus immediate and sustained action is crucial. Peter Buffett of the NoVo Foundation, Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank, and Mayu Brizuela of HSBC El Salvador, all underscored that women must be central at all stages — from ending conflict, to restoring trust and to securing longer term stability and development. Peter warned against ‘philanthropic colonialism’, or assuming that we know best – instead we must see, experience, and listen to the people we are trying to help, because they know best.

We concluded the day with a joint panel with the Climate track to explore the interplay between the climate crisis and poverty. We learned that while climate change will have the most devastating effect on the poor, addressing this crisis poses an opportunity for lifting the poor from poverty through millions of new green jobs. The panel urged outside-the-box thinking when it comes to addressing these challenges simultaneously. Dr. Pachauri, Director General of TERI – The Energy Resources Institute– provided the example of his “Lighting a Billion Lives” initiative whereby women entrepreneurs rent out solar powered flashlights to communities in India that are not currently electrified, enabling school children to study at night and villagers to eke out a better living. President Calderón of Mexico called for the creation of a Green Fund that all countries could contribute to and take from to respond to consequences of climate change. And Oakland’s Van Jones and Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation put forward the need to bring new partners to a “Green Growth Alliance” to realize the economic potential for creating millions of new green jobs.

All in all, a whirlwind day – brimming with ideas and opportunities in the face of crisis.

Jane Wales
President & CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California
Working Group Chair, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative

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