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.

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“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.

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

Sunday’s New York Times article on Google.org caught my attention. The Times is one of the few daily papers that cover the philanthropic sector, and it does so with the same seriousness it applies to developments in business and government. It is attentive to new philanthropic models that are being tested and refined, and offers a snapshot of a work in progress.

One such experiment is Google’s philanthropy arm, Google.org, or DotOrg for short. Structured as part of the for-profit company, it reflects a fundamental shift in corporate philanthropy.  Whereas corporate foundations used grants and employee volunteer time as their only tools, increasingly corporate executives work to assure that social outcomes are intrinsic to their company’s value chain. Many believe that the right business decisions can unleash market forces that, in turn, can drive positive and sustainable social change.

What sets DotOrg apart is that it is embedded in a search giant in the Information Age, a time when decision-making and authority are decentralized, and the individual, for better or for ill, reigns supreme.

It may be that many of the world’s most daunting problems, as well as their solutions, will be the aggregate effect of millions of individual choices – whether they be to limit the water and energy we consume; to resist taking up arms; to engage in healthy practices; or to vote, and demand that that vote be counted.

Informing those choices can be the ultimate form of philanthropic leverage.

No one understands that better than the executives and employees of a company whose first maxim is “focus on the user and the rest will follow.”

And, so Google has blurred the lines between the company and the philanthropy, naming its brilliant VP for New Product Development as DotOrg’s leader, embedding DotOrg program staff in product teams, and fostering a smart and deep collaboration between Google’s public-spirited engineers and external experts in large problems like poverty or climate change. Their combined talent has produced such products as PowerMeter, which allows the user to track home energy consumption, and in the aggregate, to contribute to mitigating climate change. Google Earth Engine allows the user to monitor deforestation in real time, informing efforts to promote the responsible use of this vital natural resource. Google Crisis Response and Resource Finder enable individual and group relief efforts after natural and man-made disasters. By informing individual choice and action, DotOrg hopes that these products can help to advance the social good more broadly.

Critics argue that these innovations are important mainly in the rich world where computers are ubiquitous. That may be true today. But the introduction and rapidly spreading use of “smart” phones, which provide internet access, is changing that equation.  In the short term, Google has work-arounds like SpeaktoTweet, which shows that states cannot deny the oxygen of unfiltered information to a public yearning for a better life.

But, over the long term, the company’s most significant contribution will likely be its decision to translate the world’s knowledge into the languages of the developing world. Leveraging that innovation will be DotOrg’s largest opportunity to harness information technology to social change. The combination of automated translation and connective technologies can change our world.

The Times article is critical of DotOrg’s prior leadership for making similarly bold claims, thereby raising expectations to a level that could not be met in a period short enough to match our attention span. Fair enough. Perhaps it would have been wise to have been quieter during the philanthropy’s “quiet phase,” as DotOrg defined its goals and honed its method. New models take time to develop and prove their worth.

While that criticism may be fair, in the scheme of things, it seems unimportant.

Like the rest of us, Googlers could not and cannot foresee the full social, economic and political implications of providing the world’s knowledge to those who were previously isolated by poverty or politics. (Although Google Chairman Eric Schmidt co-authored a deeply thoughtful Foreign Affairs article on the subject.)

But Googlers do know one thing, and that is the level at which large decisions will be made– and that is at the level of the individual

Even for a giant like Google, with 31 billion searches each month, that knowledge alone is humbling – and hopeful.

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

Despite popular perception, it’s not one single product, epiphany or “a-ha” moment that drives innovation. From Thomas Edison’s light bulb to Apple’s multi-functional personal devices, innovation happens when a network adapts and executes using a new approach or technology.

Those were key lessons imparted by Andrew Hargadon of the University of California-Davis, speaking on April 25 at a mini-plenary session on social innovation and philanthropy at the start of the Council on Foundations’ 2010 Annual Conference. This was the kickoff to the conference’s social innovation track, which also included sessions with Chip Heath, co-author of the book Switch, and Gabriel Kasper of the Monitor Institute.

Also at the conference Kasper, co-author of the 2008 Kellogg Foundation report Intentional Innovation: How Getting More Systematic about Innovation Could Improve Philanthropy and Increase Social Impact, noted that there are five steps to getting to innovation: from establishing a culture that embraces it, to identifying opportunities for focus, to diffusing and sharing with others in the field. Both Hargadon and Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation shared specific ideas for and examples of foundations advancing innovation. So did one audience member, who volunteered that philanthropy can be the driver to lead innovations in fields struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world, most notably K-12 education and print journalism.

More generally, though, Hargadon said foundations should take advantage of their already established networks and connections to look for and advance innovations. They should also invest in individuals and organizations with the potential to build or expand a network around new ideas, helping them to take root.

Rodin said that philanthropy, long a field focused on innovation, needs to re-imagine its approach in the 21st Century, focusing as much on innovations in organizations, markets and processes as on ideas or individuals. In this century, innovators don’t need a laboratory, according to Rodin: Everywhere is and can be a laboratory for innovation. She also noted that the best innovative ideas are to be found as a result of collaboration and partnership — in other words, networks of foundations, as well as partners in other sectors, working together.

Jane

Jane Wales
President & Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum