“This work is not for sissies,” admitted Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz in reference to the work that Global Philanthropy Forum members do in philanthropy and impact investing. And she’s right: the problems we face in health, environment, education and poverty are ubiquitous and persistent. These problems are incredibly complex, and they require profound patience coupled with ingenuity in the way that we marshal our resources to solve them. Tuesday’s GPF speakers emphasized again and again that it will take all of us – governments, businesses, philanthropists and individuals  – pooling our resources in new ways, with new metrics, to solve these problems.

We opened the day learning about the ways in which this is happening in Latin America, Africa and Asia – philanthropy there is not just about writing checks. Nigerian social investor Tony Elumelu called for catalytic philanthropy with a long-term view that marshals private sector time and capital to create real growth in Africa. Brazilian philanthropist Carol Civita of the Victor Civita Foundation stressed that no matter where we work, it is imperative that we find strong local partners and bring their knowledge and input to every step of the design and implementation phases.

Impact investing, one form of catalytic philanthropy, was introduced by American impact investor Ron Cordes in a later session. He posed the question that while foundations have traditionally spent 5-7 percent of their assets in grants each year, what about the other 93 percent? How can philanthropists use all of their assets, not just their grant budgets, to produce economic, social and environmental benefits?

Jacqueline Novogratz picked up on this question as she launched the new joint report from the Acumen Fund and The Monitor Group, From Blueprint to Scale: The Case for Philanthropy in Impact Investing. She called on us to pool our shared knowledge to tackle these problems – for every single source of capital is needed to address these problems, as are new metrics that focus on the lives, policies, and systems changed.

An evening plenary on Egypt underscored that we must not forget young people in this work – they too are needed if we are to build better, more accountable systems. Egyptian emeritus professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim remarked that he will feel safe in a new Egypt if young people are in charge – they will make mistakes surely, but as he said, “to make mistakes is a human right.” Egyptian heart surgeon turned satirist Bassem Youssef closed the evening with a powerful message: “We can see the difference we made starting with one camera in one room. We cannot let anyone take our voice again. This is the real revolution – that we have found our voice.”

We invite you to watch highlights from today’s sessions below, or, even better, to watch the full videos online in our GPF video archive at philanthropyforum.org/video.

Check out Tweets from GPF on our Storify page here.

This afternoon at the GPF Conference, we welcomed Ben Affleck for a conversation with Laurene Powell Jobs. The actor, writer, director, activist, and philanthropist, premiered a short film he created to show both the tremendous tragedy and the incredible hope and resilience he’s seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The film opened with a Congolese proverb — “No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come” – that perfectly captured the essence of the film.

At Laurene’s prompting, Ben shared the history of his involvement in the region.  After being asked to lend his support for advocacy efforts regarding the crisis in Darfur, he sought to educate himself about the region. He was shocked by the tremendous level of human suffering in the eastern Congo, about which he had not known enough. He spent the next year making multiple trips to the conflict-torn republic learning all that he could about the issues and the actors involved. He jokingly reported that he set out to get a graduate degree in the region without having completed college.

Undaunted by the larger challenges of working in a failed state that have kept other donors away, Ben decided to make the DRC a focus of his philanthropy. He reached out to smart, seasoned philanthropists, such as Howard Buffet, Pam Omidyar, and Cindy McCain, to devise a strategy that combines advocacy with philanthropic investment. In March 2010, Ben founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), the first US-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of the eastern Congo. ECI grants directly support innovative Congolese-led community-based organizations that are working to create a vibrant, sustainable civil society in the long-troubled region.

A thoughtful, informed and committed philanthropist, Ben made a persuasive case. When asked how the lessons he has learned might inform the work of the many donors in the room, he spoke of the lack of shared learnings in philanthropy as one of its greatest failings. “It’s almost inexcusable,” he said. We must do better at transferring knowledge so that each does not have to reinvent the wheel. Convenings like the GPF and constant building of our learning networks are crucial for advancing philanthropic practice.

To conclude, Ben introduced the musical group Maisha Soul, four brothers from the DRC ranging in age 13 to 22. Prince, Eric, Achilles and Innocent chose music – a combination of R&B, blues, hip hop and traditional song – as their means of overcoming the pain in their lives. Their moving performance embodied the hope and promise of the youth of the DRC, and the future they will usher in for their country.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

One of the turning points we are exploring at GPF 2011 is connective technology. On a scale previously unimagined, the expansion of connective technology has enhanced communication within and among societies and empowered individuals previously isolated by geography, poverty or politics. This has enabled many to engage in commerce and to access information and services, improving their lives and livelihoods. But technology also can be a force for ill depending on the choices that we take. We explored this duality over several conference sessions.

There are five billion mobile phones globally and approximately one billion are smart phones. Mobile telephony has become the primary means of communications in the developing world, providing an infrastructure to reach those who were previously invisible. With this connectivity we have a vast untapped platform for creating employment opportunities, advancing economic activity, and building wealth.

The adoption of mobile telephones is altering markets in unforeseen ways. Reuben Abraham, Executive Director of the Center for Emerging Market Solutions at the Indian School of Business shared with us how Indian fisherman are using cell phones to monitor prices across markets, make production decisions based on real time information, and manage their fishing practices to reduce time spent idle. As a result, high price dispersions have been reduced.

But Abraham cautioned that the majority of the benefits in this example are accruing not to the fishermen but to other supply chain actors—the boat owners and the commission agents. The technology also has enabled those at the top of the supply chain to coordinate attacks on the fishermen.

Leila Chirayath Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource, explained how connective technology is enabling her organization to bring dignified, digital employment to otherwise marginalized people around the world. Samasource disaggregates large contracts for content moderation and data entry into smaller tasks that can be executed by workers anywhere. Janah posits that micro-work is the reinvention of economic development and digital work centers are the factories of the future, enabling us to regard marginalized people as producers for the first time. To date Samasource has received contracts for more than $1.5 million in work from high profile companies, 85 percent of which goes to the workers themselves.

We also have seen the tremendous power of connective technology to provide a platform for the expression of popular discontent and political mobilization, unsettling and even helping to topple governments. Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, noted that the use of technology in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere has enabled the modern human rights movement; access to information has been essential for advancing change. Facebook and Twitter made an enormous difference in these cases, permitting “leaderless” revolutions and creating the opportunity for people to stand up and be counted, but with a sense of safety in numbers.

But in the face of the challenge to authority this technology allows, some governments have sought to limit access to information.  The Libyan government closed access to the Internet, but soon discovered this thwarted communications among its own security forces.  The Syrian government welcomed Facebook to allow for a higher level of monitoring of individual and collective behavior. The Chinese government is cracking down on access to information in ways that have not been seen in over a decade and it is clear they have the resources to overwhelm any uprising.

Is access to information itself a right and what is our responsibility as the connective network grows ever stronger? Social norms have not kept pace with technology. As a result, the rights and expectations of users are unclear.

Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, cautioned that we are giving up more and more information about ourselves, whether through our mobile phones tracking our movements, voluntary “check-ins” via applications such as Foursquare, or an ever-expanding presence of surveillance cameras. He warns that technology is becoming ubiquitous and inescapable, and repressive regimes will use this information to their benefit.

Throughout these discussions at GPF 2011 we have seen that connective technology is both a goldmine of opportunity and a potentially powerful tool for harm. This is truly a turning point for philanthropy and the choices individuals make will dictate whether technology is a driving force for good or for ill.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

Today we officially open the 2011 Global Philanthropy Forum—our tenth annual convening of donors and social investors committed to international causes. Over the last decade the GPF community has become a significant force for change. The members and early founders of the GPF have given “new philanthropy” operational meaning, testing novel approaches and infusing philanthropy with the same creative and experimental zest they bring to private enterprise. They have devised some of the most strategic, inspired and sustainable solutions to the challenges faced. As a result, the options have expanded, philanthropy is transformed.

This year’s conference takes stock of what we have learned over the last ten years. We are exploring the new fundamentals that have enabled success. We are considering philanthropy’s turning points, and exploring the issues and actors that are at a moment of inflection.  We look to share our lessons with growing economies to accelerate possibilities for social change.

One of philanthropy’s most promising new fundamentals that we will explore over the next three days is the tremendous growth in collaboration seen in the past few years. Today’s philanthropists are ambitious in their social goals and are taking on very large problems. They are leveraging not only one another but also other sectors, joining forces and aligning for impact. What can we learn from “networked” giving approaches and can they be replicated elsewhere?

One turning point we will explore is the expansion of connective technology, which has enhanced communication within and among societies and empowered individuals previously isolated by geography, poverty, or politics. These technological innovations are providing a larger set of tools for the social change toolbox. How will they change the work of philanthropy in the years to come?

Another significant turning point is the expanded definition of philanthropy. Our members were bold enough to define philanthropy broadly to encompass all private means of financing positive social change, a definition that allowed them not only to explore but to expand the options and more fully align their assets with their intentions. We will explore the emerging impact economy, considering its first building block in microfinance to the requirements of an enabling environment for impact investing. How will the emergence of an impact economy amplify our ability to achieve social change?

We also will explore regions at a turning point. North Africa is experiencing sweeping change. Pakistan and Afghanistan are struggling under the weight of enormous political, economic and social challenges that can undermine social cohesion and state capacity. Mexico and Central America are threatened by organized criminal networks that are affecting both human security and state capacity, raising the prospect of a failed state on our border. While in Central Africa, conflict continues to rage in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the next three days we will discuss the challenges and opportunities in these regions and the ways philanthropy and civil society can help to address them.

Last, we will consider the globalization of philanthropy. GPF started with a core of American philanthropists, but we’re now increasingly international and extending our reach. How can we take the lessons learned from the last decade to “leap frog” traditional charity in two fast growing economies: China and India?

The agenda for the 2011 GPF is rich in content and features speakers at the cutting edge of social change.  I invite you to follow our GPF experience over the next three days through our webcasts, which can be viewed at http://www.livestream.com/gpf2011, via this blog, and on Twitter (@gpforg; #gpf2011).

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

Ah, to be a For-Profit

June 14, 2010

Life ain’t fair. Foundations pay full value to the for-profit consultants who advise them, but often fail to cover the true costs of the same services when offered by non-profits. How often have nonprofit leaders been tapped to provide advisory services to a foundation’s grantees or skills training for the foundation’s program officers, without thought of compensating the leader’s host organization for his or her time?  How many grants cover direct expenses but do not cover the true costs of a program or project by including indirect expenses? The Ford Foundation will pay 10% overhead. The Knight Foundation will pay none. Thus, each borrows from the grantee’s other sources of revenue, such as membership dues, registration fees or those increasingly rare general operating grants from other foundations or donors.

It turns out that governments do the same. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed nonprofits that receive federal grants and contracts and found that 88% are not reimbursed for their full costs. Some receive nothing at all for their indirect costs. Further, many of the federal grants managed by states are inconsistent in their treatment of indirect costs.

Federal agencies permit nonprofits to retain a share of contract funds for indirect costs, but when state and local governments administer the grants, each follows its own practices. The GAO offered the example of a US Department of Health and Human Services grant program, for which Wisconsin allows a reimbursement to nonprofits of up to 14% for indirect expenses, while Maryland provides no overhead at all.

In the meantime, for-profit contractors are usually able to recover true costs, while their non-profit colleagues may get as much as 20% less as a result of a government’s policy with respect to reimbursement to nonprofits.

Something is very wrong, especially given that many non-profits are often far leaner and more cost-conscious than their for-profit counterparts. Let us hope that the GAO report inspires a rethink at a time when governments are increasingly shifting their responsibilities to the social sector without the resources required to meet them.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

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

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

Did foundations do enough in the economic recession? Clearly it is too early to say.

But the Philanthropic Collaborative has found reason to crow. Its new preliminary report offers analysis of a limited set of data — a sample of 2,672 grants totaling $472 million made by foundations in response to the crisis between 2008 and 2010.  A full report is due in December, but Responding in Crisis: An Early Analysis of Foundations’ Grantmaking During the Economic Crisis suggests that the majority of foundation grants went to states facing the severest mortgage delinquency problems as well as those encumbered by especially high unemployment rates. Foundation support was based on need: “Foundations responded in a targeted and timely manner, with grants appropriately directed toward communities with the most need,” the report boasts, calling the development “even more exemplary” in light of the fact that the foundations’ own assets took a beating in the recession.

The report’s lead author, Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, served on a May 7 panel discussion at the Hudson Institute, where the Collaborative’s report was officially released. Also on the panel was Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, who called the report too sweeping in claiming success based on a sample that Dorfman said amounted to less than 1 percent of all grants over the period. He also took umbrage with the report’s assertion that foundations have been timely in responding to the crisis. Rather, Dorfman noted that the general grant application process seems as slow and cumbersome as ever, and in a time of economic uncertainty, foundations seem to be taking longer to make grant decisions. He went on to identify five things philanthropy should have done — and ultimately, could still do — to adequately respond to the crisis, from being more flexible in grantmaking to offering more support for advocacy and community organizing.

Actually, all panelists — which also included Steven Lawrence of the Foundation Center — agreed with one audience member, a foundation representative, that foundations are likely to be more skittish about offering multi-year grants as a result of the crisis because such longer commitments limit flexibility. That’s not promising.

The Collaborative’s report indeed may be a case of being too sanguine at a time when society is just emerging from recession. But it does contain useful examples of important work undertaken in times of economic stress. And, from that we may draw lessons.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

Mistakes Matter

May 6, 2010

Hats off to Jean Case, who like Bill Gates has come forward to share mistakes made and lessons learned in her recent blog http://www.casefoundation.org/blog/painful-acknowledgement-coming-short.  As two of the biggest names in philanthropy, one could argue that it is easy for them to make admissions of error. After all, who is going to fire them? But their very stature makes them easy targets, and their assets mean that their bets matter.

Philanthropists often prefer anonymity and their giving can be quite personal. But the challenges strategic philanthropists are trying to solve are public ones. Their grantees are expected to be transparent and these foundation leaders are modeling that behavior. Efforts like the Foundation Center’s Glasspockets initiative can help, but even more so can the words of those philanthropists who dare to – even feel obliged to — share their experiences.

If we all took a page from the book of Bill Gates and Jean Case – and the many Global Philanthropy Forum members who eagerly share errors made — we can make mistakes matter. Each offers a teaching opportunity. A commitment to learning is a distinguishing feature of strategic philanthropy; tales of failure can be the source of its future success.

While acknowledging that crowing about flops remains rare in any sector, let’s celebrate and emulate those who share triumphs and failures.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

Donors & Do-ers

April 21, 2010

What the world needs most today is an awareness of its own unity. So said Conrad N. Hilton in a quotation repeated at last night’s dinner for his foundation’s Humanitarian Prize, awarded by the foundation’s President and CEO Steve Hilton at the Global Philanthropy Forum. The largest prize of its kind, the Conrad N. Hilton award grants 1.5 million dollars to an organization that has done extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. Members of the GPF were privileged last night to join jurors and past prize-winners in celebrating the 2010 recipient, the Aravind Eye Care system. This India-based organization is now the largest eye care provider in the world. With a business model inspired by the McDonalds fast-food franchises, Dr. Venkataswamy replicated quality and efficiency worldwide in eye care at one-fifth the cost of traditional eye hospitals.

The moving event, designed by the Hilton Foundation’s Judy Miller, was made all the more powerful by the remarks of Bill Foege, MD, who, along with D.A. Henderson, led the successful effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. With a mixture of humor and pathos, Bill reminded the assembled philanthropists and activists of the importance of and motivation for their work. The award was accepted by the late Dr. Vs sister and brother in law.

Energized by the celebration of the night before, GPF members started this morning with a new format for the Forum: two “fishbowl” sessions in which principals of family foundations looked on as social entrepreneurs pitched to investors, and analysts presented their findings on outcome measurements to foundation presidents. In the first fishbowl, leaders of four young enterprises made their case to the three VCs and social investors seeking both financial and social returns. Matt Bannick of the Omidyar Network noted that investors place as high of a value on the talent of the leadership team as they do on the viability of the business plan. MayField Fund Founder Gib Meyer urged entrepreneurs to maintain their passion for their work–but to find balance in their lives.

Our second fishbowl brought together leaders who have built consensus around shared metrics in different issue domains: Jeff Edmondson of Strivetogether, Marion Godfrey of the Cultural Data Project, Valerie Threlfall of YouthTruth, Brian Trelstad of Acumen and IRIS, Elizabeth Boris of the Urban Institute, Kat Rosqueta of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, Roxie Jerde of the Greater Kansas City Foundations DonerEdge, Kathleen Enright of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Brad Smith of the Foundation Center and Mark Kramer of FSG. When moderator Jeff Bradach of Bridgespan asked whether shared metrics move the needle in terms of how money flows, many agreed that, while they had confidence in their ability to find agreement among practitioners as to what constituted appropriate measures of success, they were less certain of their ability to communicate those results in ways that influence donor choices. Paul Brest of the Hewlett Foundation put philanthropic evaluation on a spectrum – with the randomized control trials of MITs Poverty Action Lab as the gold standard on one end and more qualitative assessments useful in the arts at the other. To this point, Marian Godfrey noted that some donors asked how one can measure joy, “the truth of the imagination”. Carol Larson noted that language of evaluation may create unnecessary divides. Foundations may not all make “evidence-based decisions, but they do make evidence-informed decisions”. And Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen noted that principals of family foundations that lack staff can gain from the knowledge resident in staffed foundations so as to match their passion with rigorous pursuit of results. In her view, GPF members can and do “set the example for fellow individual donors.”

Both the Hewlett and Packard Foundations have made big bets on highly developed strategies with clear measures of success, such as the climate change mitigation and adaptation programs of the regranter ClimateWorks. Its president, Hal Harvey had spoken the afternoon before at the GPF along with Stanford’s Rosamond Naylor. Hal’s approach is to offer a menu of funding options that address the key sources of greenhouse gas by country and by sector. His messages: do the math, focus on policy and know your grant-making venues well. He noted that organizations in India, China and Brazil are coalescing around shared or complementary approaches.

Methods for achieving scale — and “mashing up”– were explored by many, including Megan Smith of Google.org who joined Kari Dunn Saratovsky of the Case Foundation in mounting a “fashion show” of social media tools.

Throughout the past three days, we have heard from donors who are doers, for whom the late Conrad Hilton’s call for unity resonates. While each brings a different approach to advancing social goals, they are joined to one another by their ambitious goals and their deep humility.

Serving them is a joy.

Thank you to all who participated and contributed this time around, and we look forward to welcoming new members in the year ahead.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

At a small cocktail reception this evening, we welcomed our first guests to the 9th annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference here at the beautiful Sofitel by the San Francisco Bay. Old friends reconnected and new peer relationships were formed. The positive energy in the room was palpable.

Tomorrow, we’ll officially open the 2010 GPF, focusing on defying barriers, effecting change and increasing access to health, food, and water. Over the next three days, some five hundred philanthropists and social investors will fill the hallways and rooms of this hotel with a diverse discussion on how we can enhance the strategic nature of our giving. With candor and humor, our GPF members will share their lessons learned and best practices, furthering the collective wisdom of the group and adding to the ongoing brain trust that is GPF.

Here, we’ll hear from thought leaders across sectors – from those leading large private sector organizations to those on the frontlines addressing barriers to access on the ground.

I invite you to follow our GPF experience over the next three days through this blog, on Twitter @gpforg, and through our webcasts.

Each year at GPF, I am inspired and energized anew at the compassion, courage and resounding brilliance of the members of our GPF community. I eagerly await these next few days and look forward to sharing this remarkable experience with you.

Until tomorrow,

Jane Wales

President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum