Why are so few market-based solutions to poverty getting to scale? What can be done so that they can deliver meaningful benefits to the poor?
Hosted by the Shell Foundation, the June 2014 Alliance Breakfast Club discussed these and other issues arising from the June 2014 special feature of Alliance magazine.
The discussion was facilitated by Alliance’s editor, Caroline Hartnell
‘During her interviews for the CEO job, Desmond-Hellmann brought up criticisms of the foundation and other thorny topics, to see how philanthropy’s power couple would respond.
‘“I felt like I tested what it would be like to have a conversation about a difficult issue,” Desmond-Hellmann said. And she liked what she heard.’
It seems like asking questions is something she feels she brings to her new job. As the first physician and research scientist to hold the top job at the world’s richest philanthropy, ‘That outside perspective is already proving valuable,’ she told the Seattle Times. … ‘What I hope I bring to the foundation … is coming at things from a fresh angle. I find myself asking a lot of questions, and I think that’s an asset.’
But she isn’t planning any major course changes. ‘The strategies we have are awesome,’ she said. ‘We’re working on some of the most important problems in the world.’
But so far, much of that work is still in the research phase, limited to pilot projects or facing logistical and political hurdles to implementation. Eradicating polio, for example, has proved much tougher than expected due to conflict and chaos in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Desmond-Hellmann said her top priority is to ensure that the foundation’s investments have a broad impact.
‘If you make a medicine and no one gets it, it’s not really worth celebrating,’” she said.
Click here to read the full interview>
This post first appeared on the Foundation Center’s GrantCraft blog. GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Center, taps the practical wisdom of funders to develop free resources for the philanthropy sector.
From 15th to 17th of May in Sarajevo, Mozaik Foundation hosted European Foundation Center’s Annual General Assembly (AGA) and Conference. Over 500 participants talked about solidarity, civil society and political governance. In the same time, 70 kilometers from the conference venue, River Bosna, Drina, Sana, Sava, Vrbas, and others burst their banks and made terrible damage to human lives, homes, livestock, and even to entire villages. Floods left behind mud with unimaginable quantities of waste and dust, but also terrified and hungry people. Around 2,100 landslides were activated throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, and some of them washed away homes and infrastructure. Official data estimates that 1,363,000 citizens have been affected – a fourth of the population. Over 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged and 230 schools and hospitals devastated, while landslides continued threatening homes and infrastructure. The total damage has been estimated at 2 billion Euros.
We at Mozaik Foundation knew it was time to react. Even though grantseeking is normally not allowed at AGA and Conference, we set up a Solidarity Fund and asked foundations in attendance to donate for the relief of the flooded areas. It was an immediate chance for the foundations to show the solidarity we talked about during the conference and to leverage our collective power to help out in a devastating disaster situation.
Meanwhile, we were aware that our existing community programs and actions in rural areas would be affected as well. The Mozaik team decided to approach its partners with a request to adapt our programs to the current situation. Although disaster relief and community rebuilding are not stated focus areas of the Foundation, we recognized our ability to help in an emergency situation because our deep roots in the affected communities. However, it was hard to decide how to help, how to organize ourselves, and what we could do best.
Mozaik Foundation has a long history in doing community action led by youth volunteers, supporting hundreds of youth projects all around the country. So we decided to do what we know best. We focused on three areas: (1) provision of drinking water in flooded areas; (2) youth work activities led by hundreds of young people, who will address the specific infrastructural problems in communities that are damaged due to floods and landslides; and (3) provision of free seedlings, professional support, and secured market link for vulnerable families who see a way out of the crisis through agriculture.
So far, we have succeeded to collect 190,000 EUR thanks to EFC members and individuals from all around the world. By nature of a foundation’s structure, we – the global community of funders – recognize that sometimes the best way to help is not to roll up our sleeves but instead to focus on collective impact of our funds by supporting actual work happening on the ground. Through this experience – Mozaik’s first in an emergency context – we have learned what a vital role our relationships within these affected communities play in providing help. While we have always recognized the value of financial support, our role in coordinating funding efforts and making sure that contributions are effectively distributed has highlighted to us why funders also need to be engaged in the communities they serve.
Please visit www.mozaik.ba to track flood-related donations and distributions.
Haris Buljubašić, Social Media Coordinator at Mozaik Foundation.
As an attendee of the third annual Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Conference, a watershed event in Greek philanthropy, I had the opportunity to meet, as well as listen to, an array of internationally known panellists within the philanthropic community.
After a long day, one of those speakers – Jennifer McCrea, senior research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School – asked the audience to reflect on what ‘SIMed’ (Surprised, Inspired and Moved) us that day. Here are my SIM moments.
I was surprised – but not in a good way –by the new research on youth unemployment conducted by Endeavor Greece and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Over the last six years, 1 million jobs (21 per cent) were lost in Greece, and two-thirds of those jobs will not return. This means that the majority of the unemployed under age 35 will need either to change professions or to relocate.
The fact that Greek youth are ill prepared for the job market and lack basic skills did not come as a surprise to me. Our failing educational system does not prepare young graduates for the labour market. As Shawn Bohen of YearUp said of Greece, ‘There is a vast disconnect between what employers think is relevant and what universities think is relevant.’ An audience survey revealed that he’s not alone in his thinking. When asked about the most effective way to address youth unemployment, about four in ten (41 per cent) of those in attendance responded with ‘reform the education system in order to connect to the needs of the work place’, and a similar number (39 per cent) chose ‘train youth in order to acquire skills that fit the private sector’.
What inspired me the most was the emphasis on cultural investments in Greece and the socioeconomic impact of such philanthropic initiatives. Among the noteworthy projects:
Like most countries, Greece aims to use cultural investments for gains in socioeconomic development. At the conference, we discussed several successful examples of such work, including Newcastle in the 1960s, Baltimore in the 1970s and New York City’s more recent High Line project. Cultural tourism, or ‘edutainment’, could also be a source of social and economic prosperity for years to come.
Lastly, I was moved by a performance called ‘A Brave New World’ by members of Cerebral Palsy Greece, which reminded me why I do this job and that the true meaning of philanthropy is ‘the love of humanity’.
Those of us in the philanthropic world often forget this, but the co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Andreas C Dracopoulos, summed it up in one eloquent sentence: ‘Those of us in giving and receiving must be concerned about what is good.’
Epaminondas Farmakis is president and CEO of elpis philanthropy advisors.
elpis is a consulting company focused on helping philanthropists, donors and foundations develop and implement sustainable, efficient programmes. It is primarily focused on issues in Greece, Southern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.
A recent busy visit to Beijing disclosed that much is happening on the ‘charity’ law front, with many other ancillary developments regarding the three regulations (san tiaoli). Beginning first with those, I will analyze where they stand and why.
It is expected that the first ones to appear will be the association (shetuan) regulations in late December 2014 or January 2015. The State Council and the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) seem to be in agreement on most items in them.
There are hang-ups with the other two. With regard to the foundation (jijinhui) regulations, there has been a lot of discussion about the State Administration of Taxation’s (SAT) inability to enforce the 70% of prior year’s earning rule for payout. Indeed, in the previous blog, I mentioned that One Foundation has been having problems with that itself.
MCA and SAT appear to be fairly far apart in their negotiations, but one aspect of the proposed ‘charity’ law may help to resolve this. The draft developed by China Philanthropy Research Institute (CPRI) includes a 5% of assets payout requirement, which is easier to administer. It is also a better measure of a foundation’s capacity to do direct charitable work through its own actions or through those of its grantees. If this were to be incorporated in the foundation regulations, which may clear up the logjam.
With respect to the min fei (social enterprises), the big standoff concerns private schools. On the other side of the argument from MCA is SCOPSR (State Commission on Private Sector Reform), which is in charge of major state restructuring efforts, including reforms of the public institution sector (shiye danwei). This is a very powerful agency, which reports to the Party along with the State Council. It thus has a great deal of political clout, unlike MCA, which has virtually nil.
Although SCOPSR’s plan for state downsizing will mean that many shiye danwei in such fields as health, scientific research, etc., will be transformed into non-state-owned min fei, there is a problem for them with the private schools. They would like to bring those back into the state sector.
While this may appear to be somewhat regressive, my suspicions are that it will succeed. It appears to relate in part to the current drive for greater intellectual purity in China, which began with the issuance of the famous Document No. 9 in spring 2013. That document decried the influence of certain ‘western ideals’ such as democracy, human rights, and civil society in China.
Since then we have seen attempts to censor some public intellectuals (and many have self-censored as well); spurious charges brought against many human rights lawyers (including Xu Zhiyong and others associated with the New Citizens’ Movement (NCM)); media censorship; etc.
There seems to be a relationship between these developments and the assertion of greater control over private schools by forcing them to become state institutions once again. How this will all play out remains to be seen, and it may involve a high level intellectual/legal struggle leading to the repeal of the ‘Private School Law.’ I would say that the issuance of the min fei regulations will take the longest time of the san tiaoli before coming to fruition.
The relationship between these regulations and the ‘charity’ law is clear. That law must stand on the shoulders of the regulations in the absence of a clear law on associations and foundations, such as in Germany. Alternatively there could be a law on those two types of entities along with private institutions (as in Czech Republic). But these do not currently exist (nor are they expected even be proposed any time soon). Thus, putting the ‘charity’ law ahead of the issuance of at least the social association and foundation regulations seems misguided. Many Chinese professionals agree with this judgment.
A first question in regard to the law being proposed by both MCA and CPRI, is why it is called a ‘charity’ law at all. Consistent with civil law practice in Germany, France, and Japan, the proper term is ‘public benefit’ or gongyi in Chinese. This would also be consistent with Chinese legal terminology going back to the 19th and early 20th centuries when the term gongyi was used in China. Most recently, of course, there is the Public Welfare Donations Law from 2001.
This nomenclature was under discussion at two seminars on the CPRI proposal, which I attended as an honored Meiguoren (American) guest. These were actually some of the best seminars I have ever attended in China, as there was lots of give and take and not mere spouting by talking heads. There were several questions addressed including the following.
These were good and productive gatherings. ICCSL has presented both written and oral comments (Prof. Simon participated rather vigorously in the discussion). ICCSL is awaiting the third draft before continuing with its comments.
Karla W Simon (西 门 雅) is chairperson of ICCSL
First published on the Global Fund for Community Foundations blog.
It is appropriate (and no doubt deliberate) that the launch of the ‘What’s Next for Community Philanthropy?’ toolkit has come in 2014, a year that sees the Cleveland Foundation – America’s first community foundation – mark its centenary. This extensive toolkit, which has been produced by Gabriel Kasper and his colleagues Justin Marcoux and Jess Ausinheiler at Monitor Institute, has not really been designed for someone like me. US (and Canadian) community foundations are really the main target audience for this suite of tools and essays. So my comments on the toolkit are framed by my vantage point at the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), a global grassroots grantmaking organization working to support the development of community philanthropy worldwide.
Evolving concepts, changing terminology
Let’s start with ‘community philanthropy’. Unlike in the US and Canada (where community foundations alone can be counted in their hundreds), there are far fewer of these types of organizations (whatever they are called) in most of the rest of the world, and so by focusing on one particular institutional form, you end up with very small numbers. So although community foundations form a large part of our constituency (and we even prioritize them in the name of our own organization – a fact that is not lost on me), we have always embraced other forms of ‘community philanthropy institutions’, including women’s funds, local grantmakers, environmental funds, etc. So I was pleasantly surprised (and also curious) to see that the more inclusive ‘community philanthropy’ is used throughout the toolkit (defined as ‘community foundations and other community philanthropy organizations’).
A global world – fact not choice
One of the perils of working locally (community philanthropy organizations are mostly place-based) is that it is easy to become inward-looking and insular. The excellent essay, ‘Shift Happens: Understanding how the world is changing’ does a great job in providing a succinct overview of six different types of global trends that are having a profound effect on the nature of communities. If you are a community foundation leader or board member trying to convince your colleagues that the community that your foundation was set up to serve is no longer the same, and to find examples of how other community foundations are responding, then this document will save you many hours of internet searches. Although much of the specific data is geared towards a US audience, the essay demonstrates to any reader how global trends (both good and bad) are driving huge changes in our communities the world over.
Community foundations as specialist generalists
Community foundations tend to make grants across a range of different portfolios. This is well understood within the community foundation field, but it can sometimes seem to outsiders like a lack of focus or being overstretched. (In fact, I once got involved in a very long, rather heated conversation with a US immigration official in New York, who expressed great scepticism about the community foundation idea, insisting that all philanthropic organizations and NGOs should have a focus – he suggested water, healthcare or education – and that it was poor form to try to do everything in a community).
What the toolkit also highlights in its examples is how specialized and sophisticated specific programmes clusters and approaches have become within the community foundation field. In our grantmaking at the GFCF, we have also been looking at how to deepen community philanthropy practice around particular issues (such as youth engagement or the environment) so that community philanthropy organizations can deliver excellent programmes within the context of a broader, holistic and networked approach.
A launching point for a more linked-up global field?
Certainly there are some valuable tools in the kit that a community philanthropy organization anywhere in the world could use to test assumptions, stimulate reflection and inspire creative thinking (although for those operating in contexts where local giving is still very nascent, the level of sophistication around different kinds of donor services might seem like wishful thinking). It is also good to see strategies that have been adopted by many of our community foundation partners, often driven more by innovation and instinct than blueprint, are listed and named in the toolkit. So when in the ‘Bright Spots’ tool, which looks at ‘Promising approaches in community philanthropy’, there is a question, ‘What if you solicited small gifts from less affluent individuals?’, I think immediately of Odorheiu Secuiesc Community Foundation in Romania which created a ‘Community Card’ programme through which over 13,000 donors give small amounts each month. Another ‘bright spot’ on ‘Sharing Community Information’, asks ‘What if you conducted routine check-ups of your community?’ This takes me to a recent blog by one of our partners in Ukraine. Moloda Gromada (‘Young Community’) is based in Odessa, which has seen its own fair share of violence, resulteding in the deaths of 42 people on 2 May 2014. The foundation’s director Inna Starchikova describes how, following the violence, the foundation conducted a survey to ‘check the state of health’ (her words) of the community by asking people how they saw their own personal role in allowing the violence to happen and their thoughts on how future violence might be prevented.
What’s next for ‘What’s next’?
A separate essay, which focuses specifically on examples of community philanthropy innovation from the global field, is in the pipeline and I look forward to that. Finally, I wonder whether this kind of reflective, big picture exercise might provide new opportunities for those community foundations that are interested, wherever they are in the world , to create spaces for engagement, solidarity and collaboration. Although there may be huge differences in the financial asset bases of community foundations in different parts of the world, it seems to me that energy, innovation and commitment to community-driven development are plentiful the world over.
Jenny Hodgson is executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.
The UK-based Edge Fund, which supports grassroots groups aiming at radical social change, has raised its first £250,000.
Following the motto ‘radical funding for radical change’, funding decisions are put in the hands of those most affected by inequality and oppression. The fund supports groups that are considered ‘too radical’ by most other funders.
Launched 18 months ago, Edge Fund has so far distributed £120,000 to over 80 small, grassroots groups and individuals, from lesbian migrant support groups and Roma community organizers to those opposing police repression, immigration raids and the arms trade, from anti-capitalists and anarchist groups to people working on disability rights, local community organizing and climate change. Just under 1,000 applications were received in the first year of funding.
Edge Fund’s fourth funding round has now opened with grants of up to £5,000 available. The application consists of just five questions, which can be answered over the phone or by email. The deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 8 September.
Edge Fund is now looking for donations to make a fifth funding round possible. Click here for more information about making a donation, applying for funds or becoming a member>
The philanthropy programme at the Hewlett Foundation is changing. Fay Twersky, director of its Effective Philanthropy Group, tells Caroline Hartnell how and why. She talks about Hewlett’s new emphasis on ‘two-way openness’ and collaboration and the need to create incentives to encourage foundations and grantees to be more open. Finally, she offers her views on ‘emergent philanthropy’ and effective altruism.
Why was the decision made to phase out the Hewlett Foundation’s Nonprofit Marketplace Initiative?
Originally, the Nonprofit Marketplace Initiative came about as a result of research that showed that 70 per cent of giving in the US is from individual donors. The foundation’s goal was to get 10 per cent of that giving moving from organizations that were less effective to programmes and organizations that were highly effective. We realized, however, based on some independent research that we commissioned and an independent third party evaluation, that we were not making progress towards that goal. Individual donors, for a variety of reasons, are highly loyal in their giving and we didn’t see any signs that having more non-profit performance data would change current patterns.
Critics have suggested that rather than being a response to evidence, this decision had as much to do with change of leadership and the fact that Hewlett president Larry Kramer is less interested in ‘effective philanthropy’ than his predecessor, Paul Brest. How do you respond to this?
It’s not true. We tried to be very open about our reasons for closing down the Nonprofit Marketplace programme. We shared the information openly with our grantees; we posted a video on our website to thoroughly explain why we were making this decision. I was the one to lead the analysis and make the recommendation to Larry and to the board. Larry continues to be committed to effective philanthropy, as is shown by the fact that the budget stayed intact for our effective philanthropy grantmaking, and we will continue to make grants to strengthen the field of philanthropy broadly.
Can you talk a little bit about Hewlett’s new strategy to foster openness and transparency and collaboration?
We are in the process of developing a collaborative approach with other funders to foster ‘two way openness’. This means building on traditional notions of transparency where foundations are more open about what we do and how we do it, and also open to hearing from our grantees and from the ultimate intended beneficiaries of our work – students in schools, trainees in vocational education programmes, women in domestic violence shelters – and incorporating their insights into the foundation’s considerations as we develop strategies for grantmaking. So support for systematically listening to beneficiary voice and ultimate constituent feedback loops will be part of our new openness funding effort.
Pier Mario Vello, secretary general at Fondazione Cariplo since 2006, prematurely passed away on 29 June 2014. He was 63 years old. Here Wendy Richardson remembers him.
‘Volunteers wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.’
I’ll never forget the day that Pier Mario Vello looked me directly in the eyes and said those words. Like you are probably feeling now, I was terribly confused. What was he on about? I desperately racked my brains for any possible link to philanthropy or foundations.
To make a long story short, Pier Mario had come across an advertisement that is thought to have appeared in the London newspaper, The Times, in 1913, appealing to would-be adventurers to join an expedition to the South Pole. To my dismay, he was absolutely convinced that this should be the strapline for the European Foundation Centre’s (EFC) new exchange programme, TIEPOLO (and despite my insistence that such a slogan might bring more confusion than clarity, he won that argument – just look at the original brochures if you don’t believe me).
But before I explain why I’ve written up this anecdote for public consumption, let me rewind to the first time I met Pier Mario. It was early 2008 and I (still relatively wet behind the ears and trying to get accustomed to life in the ‘real world’ after university) had been asked to sit in on an important, high-level meeting to take the minutes. I listened intently, quietly and dutifully concentrating on my notes. Imagine my surprise when I realized all eyes in the room were suddenly on me. Why? What did they want? Or, more likely, what mistake had I just made? Pier Mario then repeated the question I’d missed: ‘Wendy, what do you think?’
It’s interactions like these for which I’ll remember Pier Mario. He was a fascinating gentleman, one in a million really, who was imaginative, collaborative, and never afraid to act on intuition rather than follow convention – like asking the opinion of the most junior person, not to mention one of the only females, in the room. Life was never dull when he was around. In fact, when designing the European Learning Labs together on an annual basis one of his first rules was always: ‘Don’t be boring!’ Why wouldn’t we insist all of the participants wear doctors’ lab coats for the duration of the Learning Labs? Even in the heat of a Milan July, Pier Mario would still be proudly strutting around in his coat – complete with his name embroidered across the lapel. He balked at foundation programme officers who attended Labs only to share successes and achievements, and demanded everyone come equipped with tales of failure, disappointment, or, even better, disaster! And TIEPOLO wasn’t just a simple exchange programme, it was an adventure! It got to the point where I would almost grow nervous when I saw the twinkle in his eye (often while dining on cheese pizza, a common weakness), as it inevitably meant he had another big idea brewing.
Over the last couple of days, talking and grieving with colleagues from foundations across Europe, there is one theme that keeps coming up: Pier Mario’s deep commitment to young people, and making sure they felt supported, motivated and energized in their work. No one asked him to devote so much time, energy and resources to the design of the EFC’s Professional Development work I’ve mentioned above, which largely benefited the younger echelons of European foundations. He did it because he thought it was vital to our sector, and moreover believed that supporting the next generations was the right thing to do. Indeed, one of his recent preoccupations had been the plight of the young and unemployed in southern Europe.
Immediately before the closing plenary at the 2014 EFC AGA and Conference, during which Pier Mario was scheduled to deliver a speech introducing the 2015 edition of the event, he was seen frantically running around the Sarajevo auditorium. When asked if he was nervous about the speech, the technicalities, or the logistics of the plenary, he shook his head ‘no’ politely. Rather, he was searching desperately for a Fondazione Cariplo staff member who had been ill the evening before – he wanted to make sure she was feeling better and didn’t need his help.
For underlying all of his convictions and interests was his deep love for people. For Pier Mario issues like who you knew, the size of your chequebook, or what level of the organization you sat at, were irrelevant. I’ve often thought back on that first meeting in 2008, when Pier Mario questioned what I was thinking. I never asked, but I’m nearly positive that he wouldn’t recall this story. To him, it was probably nothing. But to me, at the time and for many years after, it was an enormous boost and revelation. I’m devastated to think that I’ve shared my final cheese pizza with this extraordinary colleague, father, husband, friend, and, in all of those roles, adventurer.
Wendy Richardson is Coordinator, Grants & Learning, at the Global Fund for Community Foundations.
‘We all have power, different types of power. When we don’t acknowledge that power, it’s easier for others to step all over us.’
As both grantmaker and fundraiser, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has been on both sides of the fence. As a result, Theo Sowa, AWDF CEO and chair of the African Grantmakers Network, has very clear views about the use and abuse of power. Caroline Hartnell asked her what power AWDF has and how it seeks to use it responsibly, and about the importance of African women setting their own agenda.
As an African women’s fund that works ‘towards the empowerment of African women and the promotion and realization of their rights’, AWDF confronts a range of power dynamics. What power does AWDF itself have?
There are so many different types of power. I think being part of women’s rights movements in Africa, but also internationally, gives us significant power. We have a lot of knowledge about what’s going on in African women’s lives and organizations, which gives us power when we’re trying to influence decision-making in national and international spaces. It gives us the power to push for change. For example, we can use our knowledge to steer other foundations towards good investments that support the kinds of social change they want rather than undermining it – which is all too easy to do. The information we have, that closeness to what’s happening in women’s lives, strengthens our legitimacy.
We also have power because we’re a grantmaking organization, and that’s a power you have to be very careful with as it can easily be abused. One of our strengths as an organization is our closeness to the ground. If we abuse our power, we’ll lose those strong relationships.
I can’t think of any other women’s fund that carries that sort of clout. How has AWDF acquired it?
I think that women’s funds have clout but don’t always use it effectively. We don’t ‘own’ our strengths and achievements sufficiently. If people don’t understand what you know, they won’t value what you have to say. Too often we women have underplayed our information, underplayed our strengths.
The other thing is that AWDF was the first continent-wide women’s fund, run by and for African women. That gives us a unique place on the continent and internationally. The three founders developed an ethos ‘as African women we are strong, we have knowledge, we have been fuelling social change for a very long time’ – so everyone at AWDF has learned to own a certain level of power.
Could a global equivalent of an ‘arms race’ be forming as countries vie to build social impact investing markets? Eight countries have developed ambitious proposals for developing and deepening their social impact investment markets, spurred by the G8 social impact investment taskforce. Last week, a group of leading impact investors in the US released the first report which escalated a host of policy proposals to ‘up the game’ and grow the local social impact investment market.
The report’s recommendations indicate a shift in emphasis from purely innovating to pursuing greater scale in the social impact investing market. The UK is correctly seen as a leading innovator, but as in many other cases the US often excels at taking these ideas to scale.
The US proposals have two clear implications for the UK. Most importantly, they demonstrate a deepening commitment from another G8 country to a growing movement that aims to deploy capital to solve important social issues, albeit from a different starting point. Secondly, the US Advisory Board’s recommendations provide interesting policy proposals that could create value in the UK as well.
The report builds on many of the major strengths in the United States:
Despite these unique qualities, several of the proposals in this week’s report parallel policy developments in the UK. On the demand side, the group aims to stimulate purchasing from the federal government by launching pilot procurement programs that explicitly preference contractors with positive social impact – very similar to the UK’s Social Value Act. And, like the UK, the US Advisory Board is proposing to fund a centralised ‘Pay for Success Fund’ that would commission SIBs within and across government agencies.
On the supply side, the Americans are attempting to adjust rules for investors: both pension funds and foundations. This focus parallels many first movers in the UK, from the local authority pension funds’ ‘Investing for Growth’ initiative to the co-investments that Big Society Capital has made with some of the UK’s largest foundations.
But a few new proposals could create value in the UK context and are worth considering:
Further, the report highlights how finance can play a bigger role in the big social challenges the UK is facing. In education, the US’s transition to charter schools has leveraged in $2.7 billion of private capital to fund the construction of new school facilities. In housing, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit has helped build 2.6 million affordable homes by crowding in private finance to address critical shortages in housing capacity. Clearly successful policies can’t be directly replicated from abroad, but there clearly is greater potential for more creative use of finance at addressing the big issues of our time.
The UK has learned a great deal about building a social investment market over the past few decades, not least with the establishment of Big Society Capital. Whilst we are certainly no slouch in the global race for social investment, we are always keen to learn from other countries’ ambitions and efforts. We look forward to sharing the UK’s approach to social investment with the broader community in September when the final report of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce will be released. In the meantime, let the spirit of healthy competition continue.
 The Overseas Private Investment Corporation supports US businesses in foreign countries by providing investors with financing, guarantees, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds.
Nick O’Donohoe, Chair of the UK Advisory Board to the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce. He is also CEO of Big Society Capital.
The world is flying to Myanmar. Roughly four years ago the military regime governing the country entered into economic and political liberalization after decades of inhumane repression. In February alone, three major philanthropic networks travelled to Myanmar to investigate social investment opportunities on the ground. The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) was one of them.
Perhaps what makes TPW trips unique is that our goals are to evaluate contexts, models and the full range of programmatic issues. We do not favour any one model. Our travellers engage in critical assessment of all aspects of development and often come away from our trips with more questions about a country than before they went.
(Pictured: one of the villages in Myanmar that TPW visited, largely inhabited by IDPs from Cyclone Nargis.)
The many social leaders we met in Myanmar fall roughly into two groups. On the one hand, the social activists, individuals and organizations who have been at the forefront of sporadic street protest and other forms of agitation, having endured long periods of political imprisonment. Their presence is a constant reminder that the regime cannot be trusted.
The other group, those working on innovative solutions and approaches, was more interesting to TPW. These social entrepreneurs are working in many areas: conflict reduction, environmental protection and mobilization, agriculture and poverty alleviation. In almost all cases, they reminded us of some key tenets of effective philanthropy: one must take the long view, use all the resources available, and be innovative.
Taking the long view
For years before military rule, Myanmar’s ethnic states have conducted a quasi-independence movement to protect their resources and identity. Since the 1960s, one woman we met has worked to bring an end to the many parallel conflicts among these groups and the regime. The recent liberalization has allowed her to take the innovative approach of requiring all states and the regime to work out a national ceasefire arrangement in place of the traditional bilateral agreements between the states and the regime, which tended to create more conflict. Her quiet backroom facilitation is striking in a place where charismatic voices are best known. She describes the current liberalization as an inflection point in the conflict, but there is still much work to be done.
On 24 June, One World Children’s Fund, a global non-profit that partners with more than 40 community-based organizations in 22 countries, and African Diaspora Network, a global community of Africans and friends of Africa united for the greater good of the continent, announced a partnership that will apply One World’s successful champion model across African Diaspora Network. This partnership focuses on identifying effective community-based organizations from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana and uniting them with African diaspora philanthropy.
The partnership reflects One World Children’s Fund’s vision of engaging diaspora in philanthropy and increasing philanthropic revenue that goes directly to community-based, locally run organizations serving children and youth in Africa. African Diaspora Network members will be invited to recommend partners and champions with a focus on serving children and youth in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Senegal, Cameroon, and Ghana with education, healthcare, and shelter.