Peace and Security

Now free to read: Grantmaking for social change?

Alliance Magazine - 17 hours 12 sec ago

Dawn Austwick

First published 18 April  2014, by Alliance magazine.

I’m going to lay my cards on the table: I believe that grantmaking can help achieve social change. But I also agree with so many of the excellent contributions to this edition of Alliance: it cannot achieve it alone.

Grantmaking for social change – it’s not an oxymoron, is it? All grantmakers are surely agents for some form of direct or indirect social change … or at the very least helping to build civil society. If not, why are they doing it? Even the least prescriptive, light-touch, enabling funders are looking for something – improved quality of life, better local environment, raised awareness of issues, building greater community cohesion or social capital. Funding of people and projects will necessarily bring about some form of social change. I guess the key questions are how you define it, what you demand of it, and how you deliver it.

Three themes struck me from reading this edition of Alliance. First, the debate between the merits of grantmaking versus various other forms of philanthropy; second, the importance of having willing partners to help deliver social change; and third, a couple of areas that perhaps should have been considered: funders’ appetite for risk and the need to consider more cooperative models of working, sharing and collaborating between funders.

Grantmaking versus other forms of philanthropy
So to the first point. Maybe I’m bucking a perceived trend but I’d challenge Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson’s assertion that ‘Increasingly, the practice of grantmaking as a tool for bringing about social change has fallen out of favour, replaced by newer, snappier-sounding forms of philanthropy.’ Maybe those that ‘do’ grantmaking need to shout louder about its benefits?

In fact, I’m not sure it’s an either-or. Rather, it’s about the funding route which best fits what you are trying to achieve. Surely the key as an effective funder is to offer a blend of funding that responds to need or opportunity. I think this is what Phil Buchanan was driving at in his article. And while there is a lot of talk about new forms of philanthropy, I wonder what the statistics look like and indeed whether, when we unpeel the onion, this might sometimes reveal an old practice in new clothes or vice versa.

I recognize the ‘scattergun’ reference made in Knight and Hodgson’s article in relation to the perceived random nature and impact of open grantmaking. This apparent randomness is responsive and often bears fruit. Random acts of kindness are a strategic choice based on a view that change that sticks is often generated by those closest to need. By responding in a fairly unhindered way to the needs of local communities, we at Big Lottery Fund often unearth some real gems of what works. For example, a key public policy concern at the moment is to increase the resources going into ‘early action’, which helps to prevent problems from occurring rather than picking up the pieces. When we carried out an analysis of how our funding programmes support early action, benchmarked against those of other UK funders, we found that the funding programme which was doing most to support what experts call ‘primary prevention’ was our open, demand-led, small grants programme called Awards for All. In this sense, grantmaking is a strategic tool.

I was interested in what Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson critically refer to as: ‘the top-down, planned use of resources … with the goal of bringing about large-scale social change that can be measured.’ But the devil is in the detail. The underlying philosophy for all our grantmaking is to enable others. Our money is the oil that fuels other engines. With some of our larger strategic investments, too, design, delivery and ownership lie with the relevant community of interest. Our aim is to be the light touch facilitator. This is of course a learning journey for us and for those we work with.

So I can do no better than quote Helen Monteiro’s words:

‘Grantmaking is an essential strategy for bringing about social change. It represents the organizational building blocks of civil society. It provides resources for a large and diverse range of non-profits to build institutional capacity and to undertake their activities. It also provides resources for grassroots initiatives, social movements and individuals to improve the lives of communities and tackle the most intractable social problems. It can support a wide range of interventions, from community mobilization and participatory research to capacity building and income generation.’

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Categories: Peace and Security

More Feedback Would Improve Foundations’ Service to Society

Alliance Magazine - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 02:01

Fay Twersky

This article is cross posted from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, with their permission>


“We value your feedback as a customer of our services. Would you be willing to answer a few questions at the end of this?”

Airlines, online retailers, medical offices, and restaurants all ask these kinds of questions. They recognize that getting regular customer feedback helps them continuously improve. It doesn’t mean they take every suggestion, or that businesses are handing over the reins of decisions to their customers.

Far from it.

But the consistent avenues for feedback do mean that businesses can listen and consider what they hear, and then make adjustments to respond to customer preferences, thereby improving their outcomes—the bottom line. Often, businesses publicly share the changes they make because customers appreciate responsive businesses.

What if the people meant to benefit from the programs that foundations support, as well as the nonprofits we finance, could contribute their needs, opinions, and experiences to help us improve our current grant-making programs and suggest ideas for the future? Imagine if all of us working for social and environmental change understood better what the intended beneficiaries of our work think and what we could do differently to ensure that we achieve our goals.

We know, for example, that patients who report high-quality experiences with their doctors and nurses—where the health professionals clearly explain conditions and offer treatment choices—often have better health outcomes than those who report low-quality experiences. And when students have overall positive feelings about their classroom experiences, they fare better academically.

That means measuring how patients, students, and others feel about the institutions that serve them can pay fast dividends.

Rather than waiting years to find out if a student will graduate, nonprofit and foundation staff members can measure what the student thinks about the school she attends and make real-time adjustments that ensure she achieves. But that won’t happen if we don’t make a deliberate effort to get feedback about the experience.

As foundation leaders, we believe that lack of openness and input from the people nonprofits serve prevents us from being as effective as we want and need to be. We have been asking ourselves how the foundation world can do better.

How can we learn more about the ways people experience the services and products our grantees provide? Do they find the services useful? Relevant? Are the hours of operation convenient? Is there room for improvement? If we knew the answers, might we also improve the outcomes?

It’s time to make gathering such feedback routine so that all of us, at both foundations and other nonprofits, reliably consider the perspectives and experiences of those we seek to help.

But we know such efforts are costly, in both time and money, and too few experiments have been conducted to figure out the most effective ways to get feedback that matters.

To help elevate the voices of the people our grant money is designed to help, we have joined with five other grant makers to create the Fund for Shared Insight, which will award $5-million to $6-million a year over the next three years.

In addition to Ford and Hewlett, we are joined by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the JPB Foundation, Liquidnet, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Shared Insight will award one- to three-year grants to nonprofit organizations that seek new ways to get feedback and use the findings to improve their programs and services, and conduct research on whether those improvements—and the willingness to listen to clients—make a difference. We’ll also finance projects that take other steps to promote more openness among grant makers, nonprofits, and the public.

We further commit to sharing what we are learning—both what works successfully and lessons learned when things don’t go as planned.

Those insights and experiments will help, but we also need more donors and nonprofits to join this crusade, and to make asking for feedback part of our everyday routine.

You can also listen to:

Live Chat: Discussing the Fund for Shared Insight

Hilary Pennington is vice president of the Ford Foundation’s Education, Creativity and Free Expression Program. Fay Twersky directs the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group. They are co-chairs of the Fund for Shared Insight, which is housed at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Categories: Peace and Security

As Iran talks resume, it’s time to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

On Thursday, negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other world powers begin the final stretch of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement. A deal is within reach. But time is short. With fewer than three months before the Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement, defining the size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program remains the most significant gap. To bridge it, negotiators must move away from extreme positions toward more realistic ones.

Foundations urged to turn the tide on global warming while there’s still time

Alliance Magazine - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:00

Jeremy Leggett

Time is running out for society on global warming. We have to speed up our response and the world’s philanthropists and foundations could make a crucial difference. This is the message of the largest and most international declaration ever made by environmentalists, signed by 160 leaders from 46 countries, and published in the International New York Times on 15 September.

The 160, including me, who have all been honoured with major environmental awards, are calling on foundations and philanthropists to use their hundreds of billions of dollars of endowments to turn the tide on global warming while there is still time.

The group say the world’s philanthropic foundations have the power to create a tipping point in climate action – ‘to trigger a survival reflex in society’ – materially helping those working towards a global climate treaty.

We are on course for 4C to 6C of global warming, with devastating consequences for the whole world, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The environmentalists say bluntly that they are ‘terrified that we will lose our ability to feed ourselves, run out of potable water, increase the scope for war, and cause the very fabric of civilization to crash’.

Global warming on this scale threatens to damage or destroy all the good work done by foundations. Programmes on clean water, health, feeding the world, poverty eradication, and so on ‘will be devalued and even destroyed’. The financial markets where most of foundations’ money is invested will be thrown into chaos, leaving their endowments ‘effectively as stranded assets’.

So foundations have every reason to act now. We want them to:

  • invest directly in clean energy companies and low-carbon projects
  • withdraw investments from fossil fuel companies or campaign as shareholders for them not to develop new reserves
  • make grants to support clean energy start-ups and stimulate the development of low-carbon markets

We have issued our appeal in the week ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York with the aim of adding a sense of urgency to that event, and also hope and momentum because foundations around the world are indeed beginning to act on climate change.

The Divest-Invest coalition, launched in January this year, now includes foundations with assets worth $2 billion, which have committed to pull their assets out of fossil fuels and to back clean energy instead.

Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund in the US and a leader of the coalition, says: ‘The escalating climate crisis threatens the programmes of every philanthropic organization. Growing numbers of foundations are shifting their money from fossil fuels to clean energy so their investments help solve this crisis instead of contributing to it. We hope that our stand will encourage others to take the urgent action we now need to prevent runaway global warming.’

Uday Khemka, managing trustee of the Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation in India, says: ‘As an Indian foundation we are intensely aware that global warming of four degrees would bring unimaginable suffering, causing a significant collapse in the systems which provide food, water and safe homes for hundreds of millions in India, and vastly overwhelming all our development work for the most vulnerable in our society. Foundations can make a big impact by investing in a low-carbon future, speaking out about the urgency of taking action, and showing the way to governments, companies and investors.’

In the longer term, one idea I am personally very hopeful about is for foundations to require companies they invest in (whether as equity, debt or grants) to donate 5 per cent of their profits to the climate/development battle.

Solarcentury, the company I founded 15 years ago because of my concerns about fossil-fuel overdependency, has created a charity with 5 per cent of its annual profits, SolarAid. This in turn has founded the biggest retailer of solar lighting in Africa, SunnyMoney, in just four years. 100 per cent of profits from that retail venture will be recycled to SolarAid’s climate/development mission.

Jeremy Leggett is an entrepreneur, author and activist.

Categories: Peace and Security

Social Impact Investing – are we nearly there yet?

Alliance Magazine - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 02:00

Joe Ludlow

On Monday the final report of the snappily titled ‘UK National Advisory Board to The Social Impact Investment Taskforce Established Under the UK’s Presidency of the G8′  was published. You are forgiven if you haven’t read it yet; but if you are interested in Social Impact Investment you probably should find time to give it the once over.

The two line synopsis is this: (i) it charts the development of social impact investment in the UK over the past 15 years; (ii) it makes some recommendations for next developments. It is similar in style and approach to the Social Investment Taskforce, also chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, which set the direction for the field of social investment in the UK in the early 2000s.

Social impact investment is a field I’ve worked in for ten of those 15 years, and reading the report I felt the story it tells is an interesting example of how long it takes for radical systemic innovations to take hold, and some of the features that lead to progress (not yet success, it is still a field in its infancy!)

When I stumbled into social impact investing in 2005, none of my friends or family could get their head around what on earth it was I was doing. They generally assumed I was some sort of fundraiser for charities. Frankly, we still struggle to explain to the general public what social impact investment is all about (the first question to Sir Ronald Cohen on the Today programme on Monday was ‘what is it?’). But look harder at Social Impact Investing in 2014 and you’ll see activities and innovations at all levels necessary to change the way organisations delivering social impact are financed:

-       a range of new organisations have entered field with innovative approaches (for example Bridges Ventures, Big Issue Invest, Venturesome, Social Finance, Bethnal Green Ventures)

-       product innovation has also been highly significant: e.g. from social venture capital funds, social incubators, charity bond issues, and the misnamed but smart social impact ‘bond’

-       process innovation has also been necessary: significant developments in approaches to the use of evidence (what works) and impact measurement approaches (NPC, SROI Network)

-       regulatory and legal model changes have been necessary: from Community Interest Company, the Social Value Act, to the recent Social Investment Tax Relief

-       and in my opinion, most vitally, the field has benefitted from a high degree of committed leadership and entrepreneurialism. I’m not just talking about big cheeses here (although high level representation, lobbying etc, has been important) but the field has been advanced by some genuine and passionate entrepreneurs who have taken risks with their careers, livelihoods and sanity (Jonathan Jenkins, Geoff Burnand, Caroline Mason, John Kingston, James Perry, Rod Schwartz, Daniel Brewer to name just a few).

Finally, a brief moment of personal indulgence. I’ve had the privilege to work in the industry for a long time, and with two organisations that I consider to have been the most radical and risk taking in their contribution to the field over 15 years – Venturesome and Nesta.

At Venturesome we saw it as our mission to test new approaches, to learn and to publish our learning – good and bad – in order to develop the field; our approach was always to try and be humble, seeing development of the field as a whole as the measure of our success, not what was attributed to us.

For the last four years I’ve seen first-hand how Nesta has fulfilled its risk-taking role, championing innovation in social impact investment. Many of the organisations and individuals I’ve mentioned have benefited from Nesta’s support. Nesta has often been one of the first to commit to the key initiatives cited in the G8 report from Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, to pioneering work on investment readiness with Unltd, to the prototypes and early research that framed the plan for Big Society Capital.

For Nesta, and for me, the focus of our interest in social impact investment is now on delivering direct impact by investing in ventures like Oomph!, Ffrees, Ai-Media. we’re using the strong system of social impact investment that now exists in the UK to help new ventures take social innovations to people who need them. So, we’ve only just begun…..

Joe Ludlow, Nesta Impact Investments

Categories: Peace and Security

Profit with Purpose Business: the new frontier for the social economy

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 07:30

Alliance magazine

Speaking on the day of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce launch, UnLtd CEO Cliff Prior referred to a new business model that could mark ‘the threshold of a social business revolution’:

‘ The new Profit-with-Purpose business model allows start up and rapidly growing social businesses access to the equity investment they need, and at the same time allows them to be social, stay social, and prove it by showing their results.’

The new Profit-with-Purpose Business model has been created by the Taskforce’s Mission Alignment Working Group, chaired by Cliff Prior, with input from an international panel of experts and practitioners. The Group’s report, Profit with Purpose Businesses, is published today alongside the main Taskforce report, and sets out the three pillars of the new approach:

  • Intent: committing to a social purpose
  • Duties: creating duties for directors and officers to strive for and deliver the social purpose
  • Reporting: measuring and reporting on social impact – both directly on the intended social purpose and being transparent more broadly

The report draws on legal innovations in various countries, including the Benefit Corporation model from the United States and market mechanisms such as the B Lab accreditation system. The report includes a full draft of legislation for countries wishing to adopt the new model.

Click here to read the full press release and here to download the report.

The launch of the Profit with Purpose Businesses report was part of a wider launch. A group of leading experts in social investment from the UK have set out their vision for the next stages of development of the social impact investment market in the UK. The report Building a social impact investment market: The UK experience is part of the culmination of a year’s work, following the launch of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce, led by Sir Ronald Cohen, and established under the UK’s presidency of the G8 in 2013.

The UK Advisory Board published its final report yesterday and three working group papers. See www.socialimpactinvestment.org and www.bigsocietycapital.com/social-investment-research-library

In response to the challenges identified in the report, the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at London’s Cass Business School has announced the recruitment of Mark Salway as Director of Social Impact Investing.

Categories: Peace and Security

Putting emergent philanthropy into practice? Some tips from Northern Ireland

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 02:37

In a recent article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’, John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell suggest moving away from a ‘rigid and predictive model of strategy’ to ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’. On Thursday 18 September, foundation staff and board members who want to learn to put this latest brand of ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’ into practice are invited to take part in a Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar. ‘Emergent strategy can help foundations that are tackling difficult social challenges by helping funders become more relevant and effective,’ says the introductory blurb.

As initial responses to the article came largely from the US and from people who write regularly about philanthropy, we at Alliance decided to try to broaden the debate. We went back to the contributors to the March issue of Alliance, which focused on ‘Grantmaking for Social Change’, and asked them how the issues raised resonated with them. We published a weeklong series of blogs, starting with Kathleen Cravero’s on 12 August.

As our contribution to the webinar discussion on 18 August, we are republishing in full Avila Kilmurray’s response, ‘Log frame or log jam?’ We encourage people to read this and the other blogs in the series, as well as Kania, Kramer and Russell’s response to them.

Avila Kilmurray

Log frame or log jam? A response to ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’

After 20 years as director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland I have a confession to make.

I have long termed the logframe approach the ‘log jam’ framework.
I have consistently consigned grant applications claiming that they were ‘at the cutting edge’ of social change to the wastepaper basket
The notion of a theory of social change only caught up with me some six years ago and has since caused me serious epistemological quandaries.

Hence I come to the current debate on ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’ (a Kania, Kramer & Russell confection, 2014) as something of an outlier to the in-world of academic conceptualization of philanthropy. Emerging from the clutter of a paper-strewn desk, the more cynical me cannot help wondering if there is a growth industry of academics talking to academics and/or policy gurus employed by well-endowed foundations – perhaps this sector represents an emerging market in itself!

Notwithstanding these wayward thoughts, I am a firm believer in critical self-reflection and analysis, given that philanthropic organizations – no matter how small – have the luxury of financial resources that position them as power-holders. The pity is that all too few acknowledge this fact and what it entails in practice.

So then – how real is the ongoing debate to me, the staff that I worked with and the community based partners that we fund? Well, I can’t say that it keeps them awake at night. Managing a meagrely endowed community foundation in the contested and violently unsettled conditions of Northern Ireland is a sharp lesson in keeping the head down, the ear to the ground and a weather eye on what might be coming down the tracks. We didn’t have to be told to ‘sense the environment’ – or as we termed it ‘keep a finger on the pulse’ – we had to do it to survive. While the science of predicting project outputs, let alone outcomes, for us was more the art form of answering the ‘what if?’ query. What if the peace process disintegrated? What if a fraught marching session set one community against another? Indeed we spent many hours in futile argument with the managers of EU-funded PEACE programmes caveating the logframed target of peace and reconciliation. In the end everybody involved was forced into what I termed ‘a minuet of mutual deception’; we told the EU bureaucrats what they needed to hear; the funded projects assured us that they would meet unrealistic objectives; and we pretended to believe them. And so it went on. Yet the reality was that some exceptionally good and courageous work was supported (including work around the re-integration of political ex-prisoners; provision for victims/survivors of violence and community development with many of the most marginalized and alienated communities), while the lodestar for the foundation was a clear set of values and ethos. It was the latter, rather than any artificial clarity of short-term project objectives, that kept us honest both to ourselves and to our community partners. Yes of course we identified what we would want to see, but all too often it was a case of one step forward, two steps back, along the tortuous path of getting there.

So were we engaged in emergent strategic philanthropy? Who knows – or indeed cares? Certainly we consulted widely as to priorities and actually took the time to listen to those groups and communities that were most affected by poverty and violence. Many programmes had Policy Advisory Committees made up of activists, academics, statutory decision-makers and interested individuals. They were all involved on a volunteer basis, and given the diversity of background and experience every effort was made to avoid any unwarranted collation of exclusionary terminology. Indeed, whenever I ventured to inject a concept or theory picked up through conference attendance or reading there would be audible moans from any grantee within earshot for fear that the community foundation would lurch to embrace a new strategic approach. Change, when it was introduced, had to take account of grantee perception – they were our partners not guinea-pigs and they were never slow to voice their reservations.

So to the nuances of the current debate – I am impressed that Kania, Kramer and Russell admit their disappointment in the results of the previous strategic philanthropy approach; I am less happy, however, with a refurbished narrative which seems to beg, borrow and steal from a pot-pourri of economics, management-speak, astrophysics and ecology. Can we not just recognize that when any funder sets her/himself the task of addressing complex issues, such as social justice and conflict transformation, there needs to be provision for continuous consultation, practice, reflection and change? Is it not possible to have academic challenge and insights without the need for translation?

Although the article shares some elegant quotes (my own favourite from Einstein is ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’), I was left pondering as to what we might call the place advocated by Kania, Kramer and Russell, where ‘rigor and flexibility meet’ – the philanthropic fitness suite? And is it overly jaundiced to view an ‘emergent strategic philanthropist’ as a newly fledged butterfly weighed down by systems maps? As we shift from strategic philanthropy to strategic philanthropy with the gloss of uncertainty, I still raise my glass to inclusive visioning, trial, error and learning drawn from a clear evidence base and, preferably, presented in everyday language.

Avila Kilmurray was director of the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland from 1994 to 2014. She has recently joined the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

After 20 years as director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland I have a confession to make.

  • I have long termed the logframe approach the ‘log jam’ framework.
  • I have consistently consigned grant applications claiming that they were ‘at the cutting edge’ of social change to the wastepaper basket
  • The notion of a theory of social change only caught up with me some six years ago and has since caused me serious epistemological quandaries.

Hence I come to the current debate on ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’ (a Kania, Kramer & Russell confection, 2014) as something of an outlier to the in-world of academic conceptualization of philanthropy. Emerging from the clutter of a paper-strewn desk, the more cynical me cannot help wondering if there is a growth industry of academics talking to academics and/or policy gurus employed by well-endowed foundations – perhaps this sector represents an emerging market in itself!

Notwithstanding these wayward thoughts, I am a firm believer in critical self-reflection and analysis, given that philanthropic organizations – no matter how small – have the luxury of financial resources that position them as power-holders. The pity is that all too few acknowledge this fact and what it entails in practice.

So then – how real is the ongoing debate to me, the staff that I worked with and the community based partners that we fund? Well, I can’t say that it keeps them awake at night. Managing a meagrely endowed community foundation in the contested and violently unsettled conditions of Northern Ireland is a sharp lesson in keeping the head down, the ear to the ground and a weather eye on what might be coming down the tracks. We didn’t have to be told to ‘sense the environment’ – or as we termed it ‘keep a finger on the pulse’ – we had to do it to survive. While the science of predicting project outputs, let alone outcomes, for us was more the art form of answering the ‘what if?’ query. What if the peace process disintegrated? What if a fraught marching session set one community against another? Indeed we spent many hours in futile argument with the managers of EU-funded PEACE programmes caveating the logframed target of peace and reconciliation. In the end everybody involved was forced into what I termed ‘a minuet of mutual deception’; we told the EU bureaucrats what they needed to hear; the funded projects assured us that they would meet unrealistic objectives; and we pretended to believe them. And so it went on. Yet the reality was that some exceptionally good and courageous work was supported (including work around the re-integration of political ex-prisoners; provision for victims/survivors of violence and community development with many of the most marginalized and alienated communities), while the lodestar for the foundation was a clear set of values and ethos. It was the latter, rather than any artificial clarity of short-term project objectives, that kept us honest both to ourselves and to our community partners. Yes of course we identified what we would want to see, but all too often it was a case of one step forward, two steps back, along the tortuous path of getting there.

So were we engaged in emergent strategic philanthropy? Who knows – or indeed cares? Certainly we consulted widely as to priorities and actually took the time to listen to those groups and communities that were most affected by poverty and violence. Many programmes had Policy Advisory Committees made up of activists, academics, statutory decision-makers and interested individuals. They were all involved on a volunteer basis, and given the diversity of background and experience every effort was made to avoid any unwarranted collation of exclusionary terminology. Indeed, whenever I ventured to inject a concept or theory picked up through conference attendance or reading there would be audible moans from any grantee within earshot for fear that the community foundation would lurch to embrace a new strategic approach. Change, when it was introduced, had to take account of grantee perception – they were our partners not guinea-pigs and they were never slow to voice their reservations.

So to the nuances of the current debate – I am impressed that Kania, Kramer and Russell admit their disappointment in the results of the previous strategic philanthropy approach; I am less happy, however, with a refurbished narrative which seems to beg, borrow and steal from a pot-pourri of economics, management-speak, astrophysics and ecology. Can we not just recognize that when any funder sets her/himself the task of addressing complex issues, such as social justice and conflict transformation, there needs to be provision for continuous consultation, practice, reflection and change? Is it not possible to have academic challenge and insights without the need for translation?

Although the article shares some elegant quotes (my own favourite from Einstein is ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’), I was left pondering as to what we might call the place advocated by Kania, Kramer and Russell, where ‘rigor and flexibility meet’ – the philanthropic fitness suite? And is it overly jaundiced to view an ‘emergent strategic philanthropist’ as a newly fledged butterfly weighed down by systems maps? As we shift from strategic philanthropy to strategic philanthropy with the gloss of uncertainty, I still raise my glass to inclusive visioning, trial, error and learning drawn from a clear evidence base and, preferably, presented in everyday language.

Avila Kilmurray was director of the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland from 1994 to 2014. She has recently joined the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

- See more at: http://philanthropynews.alliancemagazine.org/2014/08/13/log-frame-or-log-jam-a-response-to-strategic-philanthropy-for-a-complex-world/#sthash.eYFK7LHD.dpuf

After 20 years as director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland I have a confession to make.

I have long termed the logframe approach the ‘log jam’ framework.
I have consistently consigned grant applications claiming that they were ‘at the cutting edge’ of social change to the wastepaper basket
The notion of a theory of social change only caught up with me some six years ago and has since caused me serious epistemological quandaries.

Hence I come to the current debate on ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’ (a Kania, Kramer & Russell confection, 2014) as something of an outlier to the in-world of academic conceptualization of philanthropy. Emerging from the clutter of a paper-strewn desk, the more cynical me cannot help wondering if there is a growth industry of academics talking to academics and/or policy gurus employed by well-endowed foundations – perhaps this sector represents an emerging market in itself!

Notwithstanding these wayward thoughts, I am a firm believer in critical self-reflection and analysis, given that philanthropic organizations – no matter how small – have the luxury of financial resources that position them as power-holders. The pity is that all too few acknowledge this fact and what it entails in practice.

So then – how real is the ongoing debate to me, the staff that I worked with and the community based partners that we fund? Well, I can’t say that it keeps them awake at night. Managing a meagrely endowed community foundation in the contested and violently unsettled conditions of Northern Ireland is a sharp lesson in keeping the head down, the ear to the ground and a weather eye on what might be coming down the tracks. We didn’t have to be told to ‘sense the environment’ – or as we termed it ‘keep a finger on the pulse’ – we had to do it to survive. While the science of predicting project outputs, let alone outcomes, for us was more the art form of answering the ‘what if?’ query. What if the peace process disintegrated? What if a fraught marching session set one community against another? Indeed we spent many hours in futile argument with the managers of EU-funded PEACE programmes caveating the logframed target of peace and reconciliation. In the end everybody involved was forced into what I termed ‘a minuet of mutual deception’; we told the EU bureaucrats what they needed to hear; the funded projects assured us that they would meet unrealistic objectives; and we pretended to believe them. And so it went on. Yet the reality was that some exceptionally good and courageous work was supported (including work around the re-integration of political ex-prisoners; provision for victims/survivors of violence and community development with many of the most marginalized and alienated communities), while the lodestar for the foundation was a clear set of values and ethos. It was the latter, rather than any artificial clarity of short-term project objectives, that kept us honest both to ourselves and to our community partners. Yes of course we identified what we would want to see, but all too often it was a case of one step forward, two steps back, along the tortuous path of getting there.

So were we engaged in emergent strategic philanthropy? Who knows – or indeed cares? Certainly we consulted widely as to priorities and actually took the time to listen to those groups and communities that were most affected by poverty and violence. Many programmes had Policy Advisory Committees made up of activists, academics, statutory decision-makers and interested individuals. They were all involved on a volunteer basis, and given the diversity of background and experience every effort was made to avoid any unwarranted collation of exclusionary terminology. Indeed, whenever I ventured to inject a concept or theory picked up through conference attendance or reading there would be audible moans from any grantee within earshot for fear that the community foundation would lurch to embrace a new strategic approach. Change, when it was introduced, had to take account of grantee perception – they were our partners not guinea-pigs and they were never slow to voice their reservations.

So to the nuances of the current debate – I am impressed that Kania, Kramer and Russell admit their disappointment in the results of the previous strategic philanthropy approach; I am less happy, however, with a refurbished narrative which seems to beg, borrow and steal from a pot-pourri of economics, management-speak, astrophysics and ecology. Can we not just recognize that when any funder sets her/himself the task of addressing complex issues, such as social justice and conflict transformation, there needs to be provision for continuous consultation, practice, reflection and change? Is it not possible to have academic challenge and insights without the need for translation?

Although the article shares some elegant quotes (my own favourite from Einstein is ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’), I was left pondering as to what we might call the place advocated by Kania, Kramer and Russell, where ‘rigor and flexibility meet’ – the philanthropic fitness suite? And is it overly jaundiced to view an ‘emergent strategic philanthropist’ as a newly fledged butterfly weighed down by systems maps? As we shift from strategic philanthropy to strategic philanthropy with the gloss of uncertainty, I still raise my glass to inclusive visioning, trial, error and learning drawn from a clear evidence base and, preferably, presented in everyday language.

Avila Kilmurray was director of the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland from 1994 to 2014. She has recently joined the Global Fund for Community Foundations.
- See more at: http://philanthropynews.alliancemagazine.org/2014/08/13/log-frame-or-log-jam-a-response-to-strategic-philanthropy-for-a-complex-world/#sthash.eYFK7LHD.dpuf

Categories: Peace and Security

SOCAP 2014: have we lost our sense of wonder?

Alliance Magazine - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 02:42

Aditi Shrivastava

As a SOCAP debutante, I had heard accounts of the productive chaos that the four days of SOCAP are supposed to be. As I travelled the 19 hours from Mumbai to San Francisco, my thoughts raced back to exactly three years ago when I first moved to Mumbai from New York – armed with nothing but a college degree, five years on Wall Street and a starry-eyed wonder about the concept of sustainable development. I had wanted to be close to the action, get to know the target customers, and learn from practitioners on the ground. I was now one of them, and was excited to carry my experiences back.

SOCAP 2014 was all that it promised to be. Enjoying one of the best views that the Golden Gate city has to offer, we were a massive gathering of over 2,100 folks of all shapes and sizes – philanthropists, foundations, corporations, impact investors, ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs. The days started early with hobnobbing around delicious breakfasts at the Impact Hub and usually ended with fun cocktail hours and eclectic music. Sandwiched in between were back-to-back meetings, conversations on collaborations, strategic partnerships, new initiatives, and fundraising. The breadth of the session content was unmatchable – spanning five continents with discussions on diverse topics such as the budding interest of wealth managers in impact investing, building the Rwandan social enterprise ecosystem, investing without exits, and enterprise showcases across India, Africa and Latin America.

Interestingly, of all the brilliant people that I got a chance to meet, the people that most leveraged the essence of SOCAP were the attendees who were completely new to the space. These newbies had heard that SOCAP is the place to be, and decided to just show up! They had no agenda. While the rest of us went from one Pathable-powered meeting to another trying to make business happen, they had the luxury of sitting in sessions and enjoying the blue skies. They were not cynical, busy, or worried about striking up the next partnership, raising the next grant, collaborating for a specific project, or meeting up with co-investors to discuss a difficult investment. They came with a clean slate, a pure intent to learn, and a sense of wonder that reminded me of myself three years ago – when anything was possible.

In the closing plenary, SOCAP founder Kevin Jones and Intellecap chairman Vineet Rai raised the question: ‘As the impact investing industry grows from an adolescent to a teenager, don’t we have the responsibility to be honest about whether we have actually delivered on all the hype that we have created?’ I would like to put a somewhat related thought out there: as we grow from an adolescent to a teenager, have we lost the sense of wonder that has brought us so far in the first place?

How many of us attended a completely unrelated session at SOCAP with the goal of just learning? We have become more mature and have gained the ability to tackle more complex problems, but have we also become more cynical? While focus is great, have we become myopic and moved away from freshness of thought? Are we all chasing the same good entrepreneurs, the same pockets of funding, the same ideas with a twist? Are we simply creating 2.0 versions of things that are already out there?

As we settle back into our daily work routines after SOCAP 2014, let us remind ourselves every day to bring back the wonder and keep the freshness alive. I believe that this is the only way to cover the long haul itinerary of the developmental journey that we’ve mapped out for ourselves.

Aditi Shrivastava is head ofIntellecap Impact Investment Network.

Categories: Peace and Security

To Stop ISIS in Syria, Support Aleppo

President Obama’s speech last week signaled a likely expansion into Syria of American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, yet offered little indication of an immediate strategy to halt ISIS’ gains there. The administration’s first focus thus remains on Iraq, while familiar pledges to work with regional allies and increase support to moderate rebels in Syria — if Congress approves sufficient funding — appear divorced from the urgency of the situation on the ground.

Philanthropy Australia conference: an overdue dialogue on philanthropy and indigenous people

Alliance Magazine - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 02:00

Jennifer Gill

I have just returned from the Philanthropy Australia Conference held in Melbourne on 2-3 September. As a New Zealander who has attended many Philanthropy Australia conferences over the past 25 years, it’s always interesting to reflect on the differences and the issues that are common to our two nations located in the southern hemisphere and sharing the designation Australasia.

The conference opened with a dialogue between two of Australasia’s richest men aimed at helping the audience to ‘understand the funders behind the gifts’. In immediate contrast, they were followed by Aboriginal Elder Noel Pearson who, in a thoughtful ‘conversation’, reflected that ‘this country makes it very hard for us to do the things we need to do for the mob to be stronger’.

The theme of philanthropy and indigenous people emerged almost incidentally as a key topic of conversation. In a keynote, later on that day, Lucy Bernholz, senior fellow at the Stanford University Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society, picked up on this. She opened her presentation by commenting that she was encouraged by the number of speakers who had acknowledged the traditional owners of the land in their opening remarks, and reflected that she had never been to a philanthropy gathering where this acknowledgement was so common or so heartfelt. This has not always been the case in either Australia or New Zealand.

As former British colonies, New Zealand and Australia share settlement histories that are similar but also profoundly different. Both countries have an indigenous people – the Māori in New Zealand and the Aboriginal in Australia. In both countries, the philanthropic sector is grappling with how philanthropy can work alongside indigenous communities, enabling them to take responsibility for themselves and for turning around shameful national negative statistics.

The following day,in an extended workshop session, participants had the opportunity of hearing from two New Zealand funders, the Todd Foundation and the ASB Community Trust, and the US-based Christensen Fund, which has been working with indigenous peoples for 60 years. The Fund has recently moved to appoint two Native Americans and one Canadian Indian to their board, and to employ indigenous staff in the countries where they are working. The Fund’s CEO, Dr Ken Wilson, reflected that the Fund had come to realize that they needed to ‘build our capacity to support diverse, bottom-up responses to complicated issues with long term effects’.

In the conference, as a whole, there were few indigenous participants. Even in our lively, well-attended workshop with over 40 participants, it was noticeable that there were only two Aboriginal participants – one a session facilitator and the other a presenter. Participants in the group identified a significant issue for philanthropy in Australia: the lack of recognition and respect for indigenous people. It was suggested that Philanthropy Australia take a leadership role in addressing this by appointing Aboriginals to their board and staff, and then providing leadership to the sector in educating and assisting grantmakers to work in this space. A message to funders from one indigenous participant was: ‘if you are not prepared to have a relationship with us, don’t fund us.’

Ten years ago Philanthropy New Zealand established a Māori Advisory Committee, comprising Māori staff and trustees from around the country including Iwi (tribal) organizations, family foundations and community trusts. The group advises Philanthropy NZ and its members on matters of protocol as well as providing advice and training to both Māori and non-Māori staff and trustees. Indigenous governance representation is key. Philanthropy New Zealand has actively recruited Māori board members and enshrined this in constitutional changes ensuring a minimum of two Māori board members. This farsighted strategy is starting to bear fruit across the New Zealand sector as evidenced by the recent awarding of the 2014 International Funders for Indigenous Peoples Award for Indigenous Grantmaking to the J R McKenzie Trust.

The belief that the solutions to many deeply entrenched social problems can be articulated by indigenous people themselves lay behind the ASB Community Trust’s recent significant investment in projects aimed at raising the educational achievement of Māori and Pacific children. These projects are now demonstrating some quite extraordinary results, providing evidence of the impact of a grantmaking process based on consultation and shared decision-making.

Noel Pearson said that he was ‘ambitious for our children’. In the philanthropic sector, we should all be ambitious for all children, regardless of ethnicity. This conference has provided a first, and long overdue, opportunity for a dialogue.

Jennifer Gill is CEO of ASB Community Trust.

Categories: Peace and Security

SOCAP 2014 diary

Alliance Magazine - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 02:00

Vineet Rai

During SOCAP 13, Kevin Jones and I concluded a partnership between SOCAP and SANKALP, the two leading global convenings on impact investing, with the idea of influencing the global inclusive development agenda. This partnership brought me back to SOCAP 14 to participate and learn more about the US perspective on impact investing. This time, instead of a curious traveller to SOCAP, I was a partner seeking answers to profound questions such as ‘Is it truly possible to influence the global agenda on inclusive growth through impact investing?’

The discourse around impact investing has evolved from a frenzied desire to label any kind of investment with impact as impact investing to a more studied and cautious approach of defining nuances that make impact investing unique. The use of intent as the key differentiator in defining impact investing has bothered me. There is no way to measure intent nor is intent a constant in human behaviour, and to use such a subjective metric to define such an important and nascent field as impact Investing has left me incredulous. I wanted to see if SOCAP, my partner, has the ability to question this basic premise.

In true SOCAP style, the opening was large and inspirational, but to my surprise there was a strong dose of reality and an earthiness that I did not associate with SOCAP. Maybe earthiness is the wrong word when it comes to larger-than-life SOCAP; maybe the more appropriate word to describe what I witnessed is ‘honesty’. I have started coming to terms with the belief that founders do influence what happens and I must admit Kevin Jones has something special about him. It is hard to understand him but once you understand who he is, you can see why he is successful. He is not wary of ruffling feathers, his irreverence is part of a search for meaning, and he has the ability to look beyond the obvious.

I was satisfied as the day progressed to discover a less intimidating, more inclusive and more participative SOCAP. There were other notable changes in SOCAP this year. It was more restrained in terms of the number of panels. It was more aligned in terms of the use of words and phrases: while classical SOCAP phrases like ‘good economy’ and ‘shared values’ were still present, sustainability, scale and returns were found in equal measures. It had a more inclusive global audience. I met a group of South Koreans, keen on impact investing, who we know well from SANKALP, and bumped into many participants from Africa. I noticed a notable drop in the number of Indians at SOCAP this year but could not find any real reason for it – especially as SOCAP this year had more of the meaningful, hard-nosed impact investing discussions that Indians prefer. I did notice some Indian fund managers exploring the investing contours of SOCAP and having side discussions with investors on fund raising. This was an interesting aside at SOCAP – something we are very accustomed to at SANKALP.

While the presence of global development finance institutions (DFIs) continues to be limited, more meaningful and pointed participation came from Germany, with a senior representative from GIZ exploring ways to play a more proactive role in impact investing. The IFC, World Bank Institute and Shell Foundation were present, as was USAID.

Another interesting convergence between SOCAP and SANKALP was the energetic meetings held in the lounge area despite announcements about sessions coming up. The panel discussions are finally taking a back seat at SOCAP, or so it appears, and people are engaging outside, probably to strike deals. I still have to make up my mind if this is good or bad for the gathering but it is surely a departure.

Intellecap organized an interesting session this year as part of the SOCAP–SANKALP partnership allowing 10 SANKALP award winners to get a scholarship to be at SOCAP and to pitch to investors. Many investors turned up at the event. While I remain unsure if this will lead to investments, it was a refreshing experience.

I finally got to meet Kevin overlooking the Pacific from the precincts of Fort Mason to discuss our speaking role at the closing plenary. We decided to focus first on balancing the hype and the truth about impact investing. We agreed that hype is important if we are to succeed, but discussions in the inner circles on the efficacy of impact should be more strident and tougher questions must be asked of impact investors and social entrepreneurs. Where is the $46 billion of impact investing capital deployed? How does one measure intent to decide if the capital being classified as impact is truly impact capital? Is there a reclassification of assets going on to make impact investing appear larger than it is? If all investments have an impact, how can one question the intent behind one kind of investing and not the other? We agreed that the time has come to open the box and start looking at the tools of impact investing while holding ourselves and our world accountable to our claims.

Equally important is to move from rhetoric on cooperation and coordination to some real steps in the context of SANKALP and SOCAP. We therefore decided to merge our databases so that information about SOCAP and SANKALP and their findings can move freely between Asia, Africa and the USA. Also, to align what we discuss at these conferences and to influence each other’s audiences, we decided to participate in each other’s content advisory board to cross-fertilize ideas and harmonize our presence across Asia, Africa and North America.

Kevin followed our SOCAP sojourn with a stream of twitter messages, which got the impact investing twitteratti buzzing while I found my way slowly back home in a 23-hour flight over the North Pole.

Vineet Rai is founder of the Aavishkaar group of funds, and of Intellecap and its subsidiaries Intellegrow and Intellecash, and chair of the board of Villagro.

Categories: Peace and Security

Water Pressures in Central Asia

Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.

How not to demilitarize Hamas

In a few weeks, indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas are to take place in Cairo with the aim of consolidating a durable ceasefire. The problem is that the two sides have two quite different agendas – while Hamas chiefly seeks the removal of the siege over Gaza, the Israeli government is primarily interested in demilitarizing Gaza.

Locally stronger with friends abroad: a cross-cultural approach to philanthropy

Alliance Magazine - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 01:50

Regina Ponce

While the Brazilian press broadcasts to the world that Brazil is the 7th largest economy in the world, 11th in terms of new millionaires and, more recently, third in 2013 GDP growth (surpassing even the US), the same enthusiasm hardly resonates with the philanthropic press. The 2013 World Giving Index, for instance, shows that despite its economic strides, Brazil ranks a mere 91st among 135 countries surveyed.

Although it is the largest economy in Latin America, Brazil’s generosity falls far below that of its Latin American counterparts – Colombia (31), Chile (35), Uruguay (45) and Bolivia (54).

Those dedicated to the third sector in Brazil must work hard to create a strong culture of giving, to change the dominant cultural perception that says: ‘it’s the government’s job to take care of the poor because Brazilians already pay high taxes.’ This is a tough environment for any NGO, but even more for small NGOs whose operations are highly vulnerable to fluctuating donations.

It is to respond to these small organizations that the US non-profit, One World Children’s Fund (One World) exists. Based in San Francisco, California, it has nurtured hundreds of grassroots organizations and touched the lives of over 500,000 children across developing countries, while remaining faithful to its mission of ‘uniting people to improve the lives of children affected by poverty’.

After 20 years promoting business in the USA for Latin American companies while working at US corporations, I wanted to transfer my skills to philanthropy. I was introduced to One World and found its model very unique. One World invites individuals to join them as a Champion for a particular grassrootsorganization, while committing themselves to fundraise and help develop the chosen organization.

After a short period as a volunteer at One World, I soon found a perfect Brazilian match: Crea+. Based in São Paulo and 100 per cent run by volunteers, its mission is to transform public schools by unlocking their gates every Saturday to teach math, sports and leadership to disadvantaged students.

One World and Crea+ have great synergy in their innovative approach to solve social problems. Founded by Roberta Machado after returning from studies in the US, Crea+’s recruiting video speaks for itself: first, it asks the targeted young audience, ‘Must education in Brazil change?’ Then, anticipating an adamant yes, the video follows with an invitation, ‘Come be part of it.’ In other words, it places on the shoulders of young Brazilians the responsibility of helping to solve social problems.

This is a refreshing approach: rather than just asking for donations, it redefines citizenship. And young professionals in São Paulo are accepting the challenge. Among its impressive management, the organization counts such talents as Priscila Santos, a physicist with a passion for education; Raquel Coelho, an economist who enthusiastically heads marketing; André Hirata, an economist who oversees operations; as well as the hundreds of committed volunteers who dedicate their Saturdays to fulfilling Crea+’s mission of narrowing the educational gap in Brazil.

Since Crea+ joined forces with One World, through my work as a Champion and as a philanthropist donating both time and money, it has had access to fundraising in the US and marketing opportunities to strengthen its brand. On 3 October, during One World’s Annual Benefit Luncheon, I will have the opportunity to be an ambassador for Crea+ and their work as I introduce them to hundreds of philanthropists in the Bay Area. This cross-cultural approach legitimizes the social agenda that ‘every single child in the world deserves education’.

It is an invaluable opportunity for a grassroots organization such as Crea+, and for a newcomer to philanthropy such as myself. The biggest strength is that this relationship is two-way. Together, Crea+ and I build skills in navigating the philanthropic world and creating a culture of giving in Brazil. Simultaneously, by being knowledgeable about the realities of Brazil, One World is well prepared to have a larger impact on the developing world, without falling into the trap of assuming that all developing countries are similar. I feel this is the future of effective, engaged and informed philanthropy.

Regina Ponce is One World Champion for Crea +, São Paolo, Brazil.

Categories: Peace and Security

Rigged Cars and Barrel Bombs: Aleppo and the State of the Syrian War

Syria is sliding toward unending war between an autocratic, sectarian regime and the even more autocratic, more sectarian jihadi group that has made dramatic gains in both Syria and Iraq. Without either a ceasefire in Aleppo or greater support from its state backers, the mainstream opposition is likely to suffer a defeat that will dash chances of a political resolution for the foreseeable future.

SOCAP 2014: Development impact bonds … ready for flight?

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 02:45

Fay Twersky

Walking through the cavernous exhibit halls of SOCAP this week, you couldn’t help be taken in by the vibrancy of the scene. The setting itself – Fort Mason, an old US army post on the San Francisco bay – represented the kind of transformation that many of the attendees are also seeking.

It was a treat to engage in conversations about the many ways to deploy capital for effective problem solving. It was great to bump into luminaries in the field – like Sir Ronald Cohen, the inspiration behind the whole social impact bond movement, and Jed Emerson, the intrepid pioneer of social enterprise and entrepreneurship. One got the sense that we had a good share of what Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO, Antony Bugg-Levine, calls ‘do-ers’ in the SOCAP crowd. They are a bunch that wants to get good things done in the world.

Phyllis Constanza

We were invited to participate in a panel discussion about the first development impact bond in education. Fay Twersky, in her role as a UBS Optimus Foundation board member, discussed UBS’s role as the investor in this bond. Also on the panel were representatives from Educate Girls, a truly impressive NGO in India, the World Bank, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Instiglio, the DIB project manager. Antony Bugg Levine moderated our discussion.

The central question posed to us was: why is UBS Optimus Foundation an investor in this deal? It was a question we were pleased to answer. UBS is a bank; in fact we are the largest wealth management firm in the world. Why does a bank for the very rich care about improving the lives of the very poor? This is a topic UBS’s CEO recently addressed in a white paper on poverty, and the DIB is one of the tools we hope to use in the future as a way for UBS clients to invest directly in solutions designed to help the poor.

Banks like UBS can’t succeed unless societies prosper, or, in the words of SOCAP, unless ‘communities are vibrant’. Communities don’t prosper if we can’t address the needs of the most vulnerable or if the most vulnerable are mired in a perpetual cycle of poverty. The Educate Girls development impact bond aims to develop a pay-for-performance model in India which will provide evidence to demonstrate that more girls are going to school and that they measurably improve their skills in both reading and math. And we all know what happens when we educate a girl. It is a key step in breaking the cycle of poverty and building stable communities. As Safeena Husain, founder and executive director of Educate Girls says, ‘the development impact bond helps us fuel scale as we attempt to reach over a million girls, with funds paying only for pure impact …’

UBS Optimus Foundation hopes this bond will become the proof of concept to promote pay for performance, not only so our clients can invest in the neediest communities, but also so that results-based education becomes more the norm for how governments and donors allocate education funding.

Developing these bond deals can be complex and we realize that we are in the beginning of a new field of practice. But, if we can demonstrate that investments can be made at the bottom of the pyramid with measurable outcomes, we can help create an asset class whereby investors put up the risk capital to solve social problems, and, if targets are met, see some return on their investment. The success of products like this could mark a turning point in the way social investment opportunities are conceived in the future, and, importantly, might attract lots of new resources for effectively solving social problems.

As we were discussing the ins and outs of this ambitious bond in India, to materially change the trajectory of girls’ futures and perhaps the futures of many more to come, a beautiful little bird hopped on to the stage. As we concluded with final reflections, the bird jumped right on to the coffee table where our water glasses were. Perhaps it is a sign that development impact bonds are almost ready for flight.

Fay Twersky is director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Phyllis Constanza is CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation.

Categories: Peace and Security

SOCAP 2014 – Development impact bonds … ready for flight?

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 02:00

Fay Twersky

Walking through the cavernous exhibit halls of SOCAP this week, you couldn’t help be taken in by the vibrancy of the scene. The setting itself – Fort Mason, an old US army post on the San Francisco bay – represented the kind of transformation that many of the attendees are also seeking.

It was a treat to engage in conversations about the many ways to deploy capital for effective problem solving. It was great to bump into luminaries in the field – like Sir Ronald Cohen, the inspiration behind the whole social impact bond movement, and Jed Emerson, the intrepid pioneer of social enterprise and entrepreneurship. One got the sense that we had a good share of what Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO, Antony Bugg-Levine, calls ‘do-ers’ in the SOCAP crowd. They are a bunch that wants to get good things done in the world.

Phyllis Constanza

We were invited to participate in a panel discussion about the first development impact bond in education. Fay Twersky, in her role as a UBS Optimus Foundation board member, discussed UBS’s role as the investor in this bond. Also on the panel were representatives from Educate Girls, a truly impressive NGO in India, the World Bank, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Instiglio, the DIB project manager. Antony Bugg Levine moderated our discussion.

The central question posed to us was: why is UBS Optimus Foundation an investor in this deal? It was a question we were pleased to answer. UBS is a bank; in fact we are the largest wealth management firm in the world. Why does a bank for the very rich care about improving the lives of the very poor? This is a topic UBS’s CEO recently addressed in a white paper on poverty, and the DIB is one of the tools we hope to use in the future as a way for UBS clients to invest directly in solutions designed to help the poor.

Banks like UBS can’t succeed unless societies prosper, or, in the words of SOCAP, unless ‘communities are vibrant’. Communities don’t prosper if we can’t address the needs of the most vulnerable or if the most vulnerable are mired in a perpetual cycle of poverty. The Educate Girls development impact bond aims to develop a pay-for-performance model in India which will provide evidence to demonstrate that more girls are going to school and that they measurably improve their skills in both reading and math. And we all know what happens when we educate a girl. It is a key step in breaking the cycle of poverty and building stable communities. As Safeena Husain, founder and executive director of Educate Girls says, ‘the development impact bond helps us fuel scale as we attempt to reach over a million girls, with funds paying only for pure impact …’

UBS Optimus Foundation hopes this bond will become the proof of concept to promote pay for performance, not only so our clients can invest in the neediest communities, but also so that results-based education becomes more the norm for how governments and donors allocate education funding.

Developing these bond deals can be complex and we realize that we are in the beginning of a new field of practice. But, if we can demonstrate that investments can be made at the bottom of the pyramid with measurable outcomes, we can help create an asset class whereby investors put up the risk capital to solve social problems, and, if targets are met, see some return on their investment. The success of products like this could mark a turning point in the way social investment opportunities are conceived in the future, and, importantly, might attract lots of new resources for effectively solving social problems.

As we were discussing the ins and outs of this ambitious bond in India, to materially change the trajectory of girls’ futures and perhaps the futures of many more to come, a beautiful little bird hopped on to the stage. As we concluded with final reflections, the bird jumped right on to the coffee table where our water glasses were. Perhaps it is a sign that development impact bonds are almost ready for flight.

Fay Twersky is director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Phyllis Constanza is CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation.

Categories: Peace and Security

Conflict Alert: Unrest in Sanaa

Yemen’s troubled transition is at a crossroads more dangerous than any since 2011. The Huthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement also known as Ansar Allah, are mobilising in the capital, organising demonstrations calling for the government’s demise and reinstating the fuel subsidies that were lifted in July. More worrying, their tribal supporters, many of whom have ties to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, ousted in the 2011 uprising, are setting up protest camps on the outskirts of the city, implicitly threatening a siege or military invasion. The situation is tense and the possibility of violence real. Overcoming the impasse requires returning to the basic principles agreed upon in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) that concluded in January 2014: rejecting political exclusion and resolving differences through peaceful negotiation.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe: Protocol on Ceasefire in Ukraine

CFR.org - International Peace and Security - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 08:12

On September 5, 2014, the Trilateral negotiation group (representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ukraine, and Russia) agreed to a twelve-point protocol, which included points on ceasefire, decentralization of power in Urkaine, and handling of hostages. In the Geneva Statement of April 2014, OSCE was put in charge of aiding Ukranian officials in reducing tensions in the region and ensuring that all countries met their obligations.

Emmett Carson appointed first Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Chair on Community Foundations

Alliance Magazine - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 02:19

Emmett Carson

This has been a significant year for community foundations. It is the centenary year of the Cleveland Foundation, the world’s first community foundation, established in the USA in Cleveland, Ohio on 2 January 2014. This autumn will see the 20th anniversary of the Banska Bystrica Community Foundation in Slovakia, the first community foundation in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation marked community foundations’ centennial in the US with the gift of a new faculty chair at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, announced on 24 February, believed to be the nation’s first chair focused specifically on studying and teaching about community foundations.

On 28 August, it was announced that Dr Emmett Carson, CEO and president of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), will be the first Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Chair on Community Foundations. He will be appointed visiting holder for the new chair, and will continue to serve as CEO and president of SVCF during his appointment.

Categories: Peace and Security