The legacies of Rockefeller and Carnegie–and particularly their ethos of questioning and continual learning–were alive on the final day of the Global Philanthropy Forum’s annual conference. Attendees reflected the fruits of this legacy, with sessions that conveyed lessons learned on the importance of transparency in philanthropy – in our strategy, in our budgets, in our successes, and most importantly, in our failures.

UNICEF’s Anthony Lake shared a lesson that he learned about taking an equity-based approach to development: it is not just a moral imperative, but also the most cost-effective strategy. Caroline Anstey of the World Bank shared her insights on how the definition of development has changed in the past decade – much of what was previously in the purview of “politics” alone, such as gender and corruption, is now solidly understood as crucial to economic development. Her co-panelist, Luis Ubiñas of the Ford Foundation, emphasized that learning in philanthropy must be shared continuously, not just at the evaluation stage.

And new sources of learning and inspiration came to play in Barbara P. Bush’s story of young global health fellows in Boston working to implement a community health worker plan that was first perfected in Rwanda and Peru. This kind of borderless conversation and knowledge sharing, across geographic, language and generational barriers, is what the Global Philanthropy Forum is all about.

Jane Wales closed the conference with a reminder of what convened us: “The social contract is dynamic – it’s changing, and you are part of that change.” We thank everyone who participated in this year’s GPF, and also the philanthropic community more broadly, for the work you are doing in moving us toward increasingly strategic and effective giving. See you next year for GPF 2013 in Silicon Valley!

Watch highlights from day three of the Global Philanthropy forum below, and watch the full-length sessions on our website http://www.philanthropyforum.org/video.

Read tweets from GPF day 3 on our Storify page here.

“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.

“What brings us together this year is the sense that the social contract is fraying, but that it is also evolving.” So began this year’s Global Philanthropy Forum, “Towards a New Social Contract,” kicked off yesterday by GPF’s President and CEO, Jane Wales, in Washington DC.

The conference focus is on the changing nature of the global social contract – how globalization is changing the way our societies choose to divide up responsibility and allocate resources to improve the public good. GPF members are exploring the ways in which traditional roles and responsibilities have shifted over the past few years, and how they continue to shift – particularly the increasing power of the individual in the national and global arena, and how the private sector and government can and should work together to increase their impact.

USAID Administrator Raj Shah opened the conference by speaking about the role for creative public-private partnerships in enhancing development work. He pointed to specific examples where cross-sectoral collaboration made previously impossible outcomes possible, including the reduction of antiretroviral drug costs and the creation of new agricultural input markets.

Speakers from YouTube, Human Rights Watch and AllAfrica spoke about the importance of both new and old media, and how a blend of both is critical to holding our governments and businesses accountable, and also in allowing individuals to create their own truths.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair encouraged the GPF community of philanthropists and social investors to be bold in their leadership—to be creative not passive, to seek to disrupt, and to step into the areas where government is too fearful or risk averse to go. World Bank President Robert Zoellick picked up on Blair’s theme of innovation in philanthropy during his remarks at the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize dinner last night. He closed day one by calling for a new model to connect global players – a “modern multilateralism” – to bring together international institutions, individual countries, civil society and the private sector for social good.

Watch highlights from yesterday’s sessions here, and be sure to check out the livestream of GPF sessions on our website, and all of our GPF video archives at philanthropyforum.org/video.

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

Margaret Catley-Carlson starts us off with a seven point overview of the water situation, covering the water consumption patterns of those in developed economies (it turns out that the amount of water used to grow our food supply dwarfs all other uses combined!) – and the needs of those without water. Girish Nair of McKinsey presents a series of slides that detail the different ways that access to water could be improved in different countries. The picture is different in India, China, South Africa. In other words, water use and availability is a local issue, and donors should carefully consider the local needs rather than attempting to use the same strategy everywhere.

Meena Palaniappan of The Pacific Institute urges an alternative to the traditional “hard path” of building more dams, reservoirs and pipelines. Instead, she talks about a “soft path” that focuses on the productivity of water use. We should consider the “cradle to grave” aspects of water use: where do we get water and what quality of water are we depositing back into the environment? Technology advances are allowing smarter water use down at the individual level, tracking not just how much is used but how it is used and re-used.

Monica Ellis of the Global Environment and Technology Foundation emphasizes the areas to which donors can usefully contribute: advocacy/awareness, financing sustainable water provision and innovation in technology and water management. But, again, the panelists emphasize that the specific strategies will look different depending on the location of the work.

Now we dig into the specific issue of food security. Robert Zeigler of the International Rice Research Institute recalls reading books when he started working on food issues in the 60’s about massive famines predicted for the decade to follow. Scientific progress helped us to win some of the early battles, he notes, and philanthropy (particularly the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations) played a pivotal role in stemming food shortages in Asia. “We won those battles,” says Zeigler, “but we still must win the war.”

Gebisa Ejeta of Purdue University notes, though, that while scientific progress does help to win battles against hunger, the food surpluses it has produced must be paired with capacity building at the local level within countries. Otherwise, these food flows simply overwhelm the local market and prevent it from growing to sustain its own needs over time.

Neal Keny-Guyer of Mercy Corps Food went on, noting that food aid often begins – with good reason – as a massive effort to meet immediate needs, but once the spigot is turned on, it is very difficult to turn it back off because of political pressures. Donors must resist the temptation, he says, to deliver aid that will overwhelm the local agriculture sector. Sometimes food aid is absolutely necessary, but donors must keep in mind from the get-go the tendency of such aid to depress local prices and impair lasting growth in the agriculture sector.

One common thread running through the panelists’ comments revolves around the need to scale different elements of food security (from production to the market mechanisms needed to take that food to market) in parallel. These are interlocking pieces, and donors should look carefully at which elements are needed most within a given context.

GPF is kicking off now with its first plenary. It is a whirlwind tour of various creative approaches to large problems. Tim Brown of IDEO spoke of the power of design thinking, pointing out that big problems don’t always need big solutions. Sometimes they just need a bit of creative design: a mother without access to clean water doesn’t necessarily need a complex piece of infrastructure – she probably just needs a lighter and more convenient container to carry it!

Megan Smith of Google urged us to think about the way that networks are already solving problems without any prompting “from above.”  She walked us through a stream of examples in which networks have formed to achieve common goals: whether contributing specialized knowledge via Wikipedia, an explosion of online class content for those who couldn’t normally access sophisticated teaching, or the remarkable effects that crowd-sourced transparency efforts can have on problems as nitty-gritty as, say, how to drive supplies through Africa without paying bribes and hitting roadblocks (Smith showed us a snapshot of a web-based map to which people transporting supplies in Africa are contributing their knowledge, thus enabling others to move supplies more efficiently).

Matt Bannick spoke of the power of markets to transition grant-led efforts toward sustainable, private sector-led models that continue to solve a problem long after philanthropy has left. And Carol Larson reminded the audience that technology tools may be expanding our problem solving options, but it is good old-fashioned collaboration – the kind that the Packard Foundation and others are using to tackle climate change and overfishing – that leverage many disparate resources toward a specific set of goals that can spur lasting impact.

This was truly a quick tour of levers. Many ideas and discussions will flow from these examples. We will no doubt hear more on each of these examples in various breakouts to follow this week…

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