Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Philanthropy’

“I fear my own conscience on Africa. I fear the judgment of future generations,” former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is quoted as saying.  “I fear their asking how can wealthy people, so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away?”

While in office, that sentiment led Blair to commit British troops to quelling Sierra Leone’s civil war and to later establish the Commission on Africa to advance the continent’s growth and development. Now, as former Prime Minister, it has inspired him to create the African Governance Initiative (AGI), a non-profit foundation that offers African reformers Blair’s personal help and that of teams of up to 15 UK or US-trained technocrats who are embedded in their ministries. Neither Blair nor these teams comes with policy prescriptions, but rather their task is to help far-sighted leaders achieve their own goals—goals that have been vetted by the process of democratic elections.

Arguing that good governance “is not simply the absence of corruption, but the presence of capacity,” Blair and his AGI have worked with President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on matters as mundane as how to manage the president’s schedule to the harder political question of how to manage public expectations at a time of transition. Each country has made great strides in rebuilding its society and economy. While they are not without problems, they are both expanding their economies and broadening participation in the gains. Blair argues that as a result the citizens have a growing stake in their country’s future and an increasing reason to believe that hard work and merit—rather than political connections and favors—will provide the ticket to a better life.

Blair has now taken his model of philanthropy to Liberia, which its president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, says “is not a poor country” with its rich natural resources, “but is a country that has been managed poorly.” Fourteen years of civil war have decimated its infrastructure and impoverished its young population, 75% of whom are under age 25 and all of whom have spent more time in battle than in school.

But, soon after the country chose peace it also chose a remarkable leader in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. A former Assistant Minister of Finance (in the William Tolbert government), Sirleaf now leads a government committed to transparency and an ambitious Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Blair is not the first to invest in the capacity of Sirleaf’s reform government. Soon after Sirleaf’s election, philanthropist Ed Scott created the Scott Fellowship program, which places young professionals in Liberia’s ministries for one-year stints to work along side mid-level officials in carrying out the day to day tasks of governance.  While Scott fellows were initially Americans without familial ties to Liberia, they are now predominately Liberian-Americans returning to the country from which they, their parents or their grandparents came. Many are hoping to stay.

Philanthropist George Soros has similarly helped to strengthen governmental capacity. And, Pam Omidyar’s Humanity United joined forces with the Open Society Institute, the NoVo Foundation, the Daphne Foundation, TrustAfrica and McCall-MacBain Foundation in creating the Philanthropy Secretariat within the office of President Sirleaf. They did so as part of a 2008 Clinton Global Initiative “commitment” of which the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF) was also a part.

The grant-makers agreed to finance the creation of the Secretariat. The GPF agreed to expand the number of new philanthropists alert to Liberia’s cause. As part of that effort, I am now traveling with 19 GPF members, many of whom are also alumni and leaders of our close collaborators, The Philanthropy Workshop-West. We will be learning what we can and reporting to you along the way.

We’ll be cognizant that Liberia has a special history—having been settled by former American slaves—which may give us a special responsibility. But beyond that sentiment lies the practical recognition that if Sirleaf—a tough leader with integrity, vision and smart policies—does not succeed, that failure may stand as a discouraging lesson to all states struggling to emerge from crisis. Some might argue that it will tell them whether the outside world will be there for them, or whether we, despite being “so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away.”

– Jane Wales

Read Full Post »

Will the Supreme Court ruling giving greater political voice to corporations have the effect of focusing the minds of those funders who support policy advocacy?

Many foundations now appreciate that the impact of policy advocacy is not as hard to measure as once thought. Less clear, according to papers in the most recent issue of the Foundation Review, is how fully foundations appreciate the importance of their support for advocacy as part of a larger social change strategy, and how much investment they are willing to make in its evaluation. The recent Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend more money on political campaigns may change their perspective.

The latest issue of the Foundation Review offers a number of research papers with insights for foundations working in the public policy realm. In particular, one paper from Innovation Network’s Johanna Morariu and Kathleen Brennan notes that three-quarters of advocacy organizations have not evaluated their work, and more than 80 percent of them have never worked with an outside evaluator. What advocacy strategies are appropriate in what contexts? What combinations of organizational capacities are most important? What are the most meaningful interim indicators in the journey from grassroots organizing to sweeping social change? The authors say these and other critical questions can’t truly be answered without greater support from foundations for advocacy evaluation. Morariu and Brennan go on to identify the key qualities of an effective advocacy funder, which include the usual suspects of offering extended grant cycles, support for program evaluation, and general operating support to enable grantees to respond flexibly to changing circumstances.

Another paper in this issue of the Foundation Review offers specific insights for foundations working to influence policy across the U.S. Ann Whitney Breihan of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland focuses on a multi-state program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that has impacted national policies on care for developmentally disabled adults. Among her suggestions: To build momentum for a particular policy, resist a temptation to fund states scattered across the country and instead focus funding in a region. Her study bears out that states are more likely to “follow the pack” in their own region. She also says funders should focus funding in those states that have already demonstrated interest – by spending their own funds – in a particular policy area. They’re more likely to consider further innovation in the area.

In general, philanthropists may be less hesitant about helping to define the voice of the social sector. Noting the success of highly strategic politically conservative foundations, other funders across the political spectrum have come to believe that nonprofits and foundations need to gain a greater voice when it comes to public policy. Many have taken concrete steps to do so by hiring more communications and policy specialists and more frequently collaborating and engaging with politicians and government agencies. As borne out in the Foundation Review, evaluation of these efforts is necessary in order to gauge how effective the current strategies and programs are and what can be done to improve them. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the need for these steps has become ever more apparent.

For further reading, the book Seen But Not Heard: Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy (published by the Aspen Institute) presents the findings of a multi-year research project called the Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy Project (SNAP), conducted by OMB Watch, Tufts University, and the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest and offers specific suggestions that nonprofit leaders can take to strengthen their organization’s advocacy work.

-Jane Wales

Read Full Post »

Might trustees be the solution to the woeful lack of knowledge civically engaged Americans have about foundations?

That’s the hypothesis of an experiment underway from the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative. PAI is the foundation-funded organization that has reported in study after study that very few engaged Americans, those who represent the 12 percent of the adult population active in their communities as civic or business leaders could cite even one example of a foundation benefiting its community or addressing their concerns. As I noted in a post about PAI’s latest survey, it is the culture of private foundations to shun the spotlight and direct attention to the issues they advance or the grantees they support. This notion is seconded in another recent survey, this one from the Council of Michigan Foundations. According to this survey, foundation trustees tend to focus on their role as investing, growing and distributing foundation resources, not in communicating with other non-foundation leaders.

But what if that changed? Building on its survey, the Council teamed up with PAI to launch a pilot project with 14 members through which they have offered “message training” to trustees, focused on the value of foundations, well beyond their grant-making role. The goal is to encourage trustees to engage peers in their personal and professional networks – in essence, enlisting trustees as strategic foundation communicators. In a Jan. 20 post for the Communications Network blog, the Council’s Rebecca Noricks offered details about this Philanthropy 3-D-Michigan (3D) pilot, noting that its goal is to develop a new communications model for the field. It has the potential to radically change traditional foundation communications and the heavy reliance on press releases about grants, she said, as well as to boost understanding about the work of foundations. The organization is currently testing and evaluating the pilot, with plans to release a report this spring on its progress and adapt it for use among grant-making affinity groups in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Early comments from participants suggest the pilot is on to something. Noricks quotes Joseph M. Stewart, chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, saying that trustees should be “educating others to the important role that foundations play in society today and letting other leaders from other sectors know we want to work with them. Together we can make a difference. Better communication methods and techniques is one way that can be achieved.”

Given the renewed interest in collaboration across sectors, Stewart makes an important point. Leaders throughout society need to know that foundations are transparent, open and willing partners.  Foundation trustees are often employed by or have close ties with for-profit or nonprofit organizations.  There could be substantial, long-term payoffs if trustees were to directly talk to others in their networks about foundation missions, programs and successes. Foundation leaders worry that the story of philanthropy is not well told. Awareness of PAI’s project may spur some to discuss the idea with their trustees now.

-Jane Wales

Read Full Post »

Americans have been donating in record numbers through new means—from phone texting to social media links—to provide relief to the victims of Haiti’s earthquake. The outpouring has been impressive, as revealed by the combination of on-line giving, the response to George Clooney’s global telethon (including iTunes sales) and the Council on Foundations’ list of its members’ grants.

Ultimately, Haiti’s recovery will be enabled by a similar mobilization of dollars and talent on behalf of Haiti’s long-term needs, for this is a country that has suffered from generations of mismanagement, endemic poverty, political instability, a weak civil society and autocratic governance. Its citizens deserve a better future. Perhaps new donors, inspired by this tragedy, will not only represent the “long tail” of philanthropy’s graph, but will have long memories as well and will be there ten years hence.

Our own country’s stance toward the small nation, which in 1804 produced the world’s first successful slave rebellion, has been wary and ineffectual, according to Mark Danner in a January 21 op-ed in The New York Times. A very different future for Haiti requires not only strategic philanthropy, but also sound U.S. policy, including the opening of our markets to Haitian agricultural produce and manufactured goods, and aid that translates into jobs for the Haitian people rather than patronage for its government.

Private philanthropy can complement good policy if the initial outpouring of support for relief efforts is matched by a longer-term commitment to sustainable development, a need most recently identified by Haiti’s Prime Minister. But re-imagining Haiti is more easily said than done. The U.S. is engaged in state-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each offers its own opportunities for public-private partnerships. And each offers is own best practices, and discouraging lessons. Philanthropists point to remarkable and courageous social entrepreneurs, especially among women, such as Afghanistan’s Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, who secretly taught girls throughout the Taliban’s rule. But the enterprise of poppy growing continues to outpace that of schooling young girls. Corruption not only precedes crises. It often follows as well.

How to pivot from immediate disaster relief to a long-term plan for what Secretary of State Clinton refers to as a Haiti that has come back “stronger and better” than before will be on the minds of “new philanthropists” as they gather for their ninth annual Global Philanthropy Forum from April 19-21 in Silicon Valley. This year’s focus on global health, food security and access to safe drinking water and sanitation seems especially apt in the wake of the earthquake’s shocks. Each represents a particularly crying need in Haiti. The philanthropists’ focus on results will likely make them sympathetic in the near-term to the argument made in a post to the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy blog, which called for support of organizations offering impact, rather than low overhead, as their metric for success. As for the medium-term, the recommendations in Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors’ Haiti Emergency Update, stressing the importance of the later stages of disaster recovery may resonate. And the Inter-American Development Bank’s President, Luis Alberto Moreno, will surely make the case for investing in Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure, education system, housing and building stock, access to healthcare and other needs identified by the Bank over the years. Former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour of the Crisis Group, will speak to the linkages between civil conflict on the one hand, and state failure on the other. Peter Gleick will shed light on the role that water management or mismanagement can play. Actor Jim Carrey will speak to breakthroughs in sustainable agriculture. David Aylward of mHealth Alliance will speak to new ways to deliver heath care in stressful conditions where infrastructure is lacking. And former Ghanaian President, John Kufuor, will speak to the responsibility of neighbors and regional organizations to strengthen societies before crises occur, so that those societies are able to prepare for or rebound from inevitable shocks.

As they consider the opportunities available to them, the gathering’s new philanthropists and political office holders will consider ways to partner with more recent entrants into the world of giving—the on-line donors, cell phone texters, twitter followers, iTunes purchasers—who are now part of the world of philanthropy. If those who represent the long tail of the giving graph also have long memories, then the tragic past of Haiti, and countries that are similarly weak, need not be their future for generations to come. Instead they can be among those societies that have the resilience to absorb and overcome the shocks that nature has to offer.

—Jane Wales

Read Full Post »

Jane Wales, World Affairs Council President and CEO, has two new blog entries up on Huffington Post. The first addresses the expectations Americans have for foundations while the second looks at the new book by Alicia Epstein Korsten, Change Philanthropy: Candid Stories of Foundations Maximizing Results through Social Justice.

Read Full Post »

Jane Wales, World Affairs Council President and CEO, is now blogging for the Huffington Post. Read her most current blog, about what philanthropists can do to meet the needs of lower-income Americans, here.

Read Full Post »

Some of the best nonprofits have been prevented from growing as large or becoming as capable as they should be. What’s needed, according to Steven Goldberg, a consultant to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs, is a new nonprofit capital market that would take the form of a prediction, or information, market, akin to political polls. In a new book, Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn’t Advance Social Progress, Goldberg argues that such a market, while not a silver bullet, would increase social impact by fundamentally restructuring the sector, turning philanthropy from being loyalty-based – guided by fundraising and relationships – to merit-based – guided by performance. The idea of a nonprofit capital market has been mentioned by many thought leaders in the sector, Goldberg acknowledges. Nonetheless, he feels it has not received sufficient attention to date. Such a virtual stock market or “Impact Index” would allow philanthropists to know what various nonprofits accomplish, through evaluation and transparency, and not just what nonprofits are trying to accomplish, through anecdotal reporting. Such data will help make the most promising nonprofits, with the greatest likelihood of “transformative social impact,” stand out from the “weeds,” he writes.

Goldberg is not alone. Most established foundations are making the case for improved impact assessment — and for a decision-making process that is based on objective measures. And most organizations that study or support the sector — including GEO,  FSG, Independent Sector, the Foundation Center and UPenn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy — have made the case as well. But, we may be better at devising viable metrics than we are at changing behavior. And so Aspen’s program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation will convene thought leaders, practitioners and funders to consider how impact measures and other data can lead to field-wide learning — and changed behavior. Engaging in this workshop series will be members and partners of the Global Philanthropy Forum.

Before detailing his plan for this Impact Index, Goldberg writes about the problems of the current financial structure governing the sector. Traditional fundraising takes too much time and offers too little money, as foundations offer too many small, short-term grants with lots of strings attached. This practice reduces foundations’ risks of failure, he writes – but may also lead to less significant achievement. The sector’s most critical flaw, he says, is the fact that funding is tied to relationships, not performance.

The release of Goldberg’s book is timed to take place when the discussion of metrics and evaluation is taking place in all corners of the sector — but has not yet exhausted us. Superb work has been done and is being undertaken by many organizations on both the local and the national levels. For some, this is the time to take the discussion the last mile, from thought and successful experiment to field-wide change. But, in trying to do so, we might want to bear in mind the resilience of human nature. Both performance and relationships will surely play a role.

–Jane Wales

Vice President the Aspen Institute

President & CEO, The World Affairs Council/ The Global Philanthropy Forum

Read Full Post »

Jane Wales, World Affairs Council President and CEO, will be the featured speaker at the Schwab Charitable Philanthropy Speaker Series on September 15. The series is a partnership between Schwab Charitable and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, which unites Haas students and alumni with leaders from the philanthropic community.

Read the press release here.

Read Full Post »

Jane Wales, World Affairs Council President and CEO, is honored as one the NonProfit Times Power & Influence Top 50 in their 12th annual celebration of the sector’s top leaders. See the full article on the NonProfit Times website or download the pdf.

Read Full Post »

The Chronicle of Philanthropy will host a discussion this Thursday, June 11th, on how foundations can manage themselves in this recession with an eye for long-term health.  Follow the discussion live, this Thursday at 12 noon Eastern Time here.

Read Full Post »

Today, the Global Partnership Initiative, launched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at our Global Philanthropy Forum conference in April, hosts the first ever US Government sponsored TED event – “TED@State.”  Speakers will include philanthropist Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acumen Fund and economist Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion, among others. Videos from the event will be posted on the TED website.  Exciting to see our government keeping its word on seeking innovative ideas from new sectors!

Read Full Post »

The Chronicle of Philanthropy published an interview today with Sonal Shah, director of the new White House Office of Social Innovation, and Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.  Although the office was officially established a few months ago, little in the way of official news has come through until now. The interview provides some interesting updates on what the office has planned, and where they hope to make an impact.

Much in line with our recent GPF conference theme, Melody Barnes describes the catalyzing role of the office:

“This fits into the president’s larger goals of doing business in a different way in Washington, the idea that every good idea does not come from government. Government should be effective and efficient and should handle its responsibilities well, but it also should be a partner with the philanthropic and business communities and the social-entrepreneurial community to address our largest challenges and meet those goals, whether it’s health care or education, energy, housing, the list goes on and on.”

Sonal Shah elaborates:

“As we see ideas that may not necessarily fit into one agency or another, we can also help direct and create partnerships that might not otherwise have existed. A lot of the foundations will come here and we’ll know about projects or programs taking place in different agencies and being able to link them up with the right groups that are working on it and figuring out ways that partnerships can happen.”

Looking forward to more updates as the new office gathers momentum.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »