July 2010 Posts

The democratization of aid.

This piece on Mari and the inspiration for GlobalGiving is great. It explains accurately and concisely the rationale Mari and I had when contemplating leaving the World Bank to start GlobalGiving.

The article explains, “But Kuraishi had spent years working to change the world with a top-down approach and saw its shortcomings as clearly as its strengths. The idea of top-down is that if you can effect change in governments and economies, then you’ll naturally reduce poverty and improve lives. And while that approach works, Kuraishi decided there was also room for a bottom-up approach—especially in countries with weak or corrupt governments. ”

Indeed, when we left, that was the idea–an alternative model that would grant access to funding and markets to people and communities that were otherwise left out, whether because their government was too corrupt or they weren’t established enough to acquire high-level grants with big institutions like the World Bank or USAID.

That was and is our vision. But, as the article documents, our vision is also expanding with our success.

Tara Swords writes in the article, “Eight years later, the organization has raised US$29 million for grassroots charity projects in more than 100 countries. Perhaps Kuraishi’s former World Bank colleagues should reconsider.”

I won’t lie. I smile every time I wrap my mind around the extent of our growth and success (2,800 projects now funded, in fact). And you might wonder what thoughts cross my mind when I read thoughts like “Perhaps Kuraishi’s former World Bank colleagues should reconsider.”

What runs through my mind is hope.

Because our success indicates that this model is working, and will continue to work.

But what makes me even more hopeful is that as I realize the effectiveness, potential, and power of our model–now tested for eight years–I’m increasingly aware of the possibility that GlobalGiving will not only serve as an add-on to traditional aid structures, but actually can serve as a model on which to base their work.

My hope is grounded in reality.

The World Bank’s Urgent Evoke project, for example, is a brilliant concept that puts development entrepreneurship into the hands of, well, anyone.  And next month, they’ll be working with us to launch the funding component where the best, brightest ideas will have a shot at the GlobalGiving marketplace.

But the impetus and the seed money for this huge undertaking came from the World Bank.

This initiative is new, innovative, and smart. Not your standard World Bank funding fodder. I commend them for this type of open-access initiative.

I also admire their documentation of best practices and lessons learned, including what hasn’t worked. That’s brave and serves as powerful learning for the entire development community–exactly how it should work.

There are other hopeful signs out there of a shift in aid–that’s it’s moving, albeit slowly, to recognize that the true potential for change lies within the people and communities who are affected by the world’s problems, and not necessarily the people who write the most effective grant proposals.

So, when I hear others comment on our success, I’m hopeful. We no longer want to just be the guys who left the World Bank. We want to be part of a larger community of people dedicated to the democratization of the aid process. And it’s happening!

Dennis Whittle is Co-Founder and CEO of GlobalGiving.

The business of business is increasingly philanthropy.

Ideas about the role of corporations in society have changed a lot in the past few years. Twenty years ago, many corporate executives believed that “the business of business is business,” and that social issues had no place in corporate management.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts rarely went beyond an occasional employee volunteer day or a glossy report.

Today, the outlook is entirely different. Realizing that corporate responsibility matters to customers, employees, and investors, forward-thinking business leaders are making social and environmental sustainability a priority.

From improving energy efficiency to raising labor standards for overseas workers, companies are making corporate citizenship an integral part of their business strategy.

The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE), a new GlobalGiving partner, advises and trains companies on sustainability and CSR. Registration is now open for CSE’s September workshop, a unique course designed to teach practical, implementable CSR techniques.

GlobalGiving’s corporate clients are at the forefront of new trends in corporate philanthropy. With our help, Dell has refined its philanthropic strategy, ensuring that its corporate giving reflects its vision and goals.

Nike has used our platform to facilitate employee giving, helping employees donate to organizations meaningful to them.

Pepsi and Neutrogena are incorporating philanthropy into marketing campaigns, linking their products to high-impact social projects around the world.

At the CSE workshop, GlobalGiving will share learnings and best practices with the next generation of CSR professionals. Participants will learn about cause marketing campaigns, trends in corporate philanthropy, sustainability reporting, and more.

Participants will leave the workshop with skills and competencies necessary to incorporate sustainability into business plans, benefiting not only their companies and investors, but also their local and global communities.

The GlobalGiving community (that’s you!) qualifies for a 15% discount when registering. Use the discount code “GlobalGiving.”

More information.

Donna Callejon is GlobalGiving’s Chief Business Officer.

The response to climate change: apparently it’s up to the little guys

It’s looking unlikely that the U.S. government is going to take serious action on climate change any time soon.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Senate wouldn’t consider a significant climate bill before their upcoming summer recess. This doesn’t leave much time before the November elections, in which Republicans are expected to make big gains.

This lack of political will in the U.S., the questionable actions by multinational institutions in the name of fighting climate change, and the failure of the global climate negotiations in Copenhagen show that the world can’t leave the response to this grave challenge to big fixes.

As Mari Kuraishi, Co-Founder and President of GlobalGiving, and I write in a white paper, this is a global problem, but the response, for most–particularly in developing communities–will be at a local level.  Social entrepreneurs, local leaders and community-based organizations have a great opportunity to not just “leapfrog the dirtier phases of development” as President Obama has said, but to blaze new, globally responsible paths to socioeconomic prosperity.

For this approach to sustainable development to work, there must be an effective translation of demand for these solutions to those on the ground. What is needed are clear metrics that allow donors, but perhaps even more critically–the social entrepreneurs–to  understand how changes at the local level can translate to this hitherto unknown path to development. This has the potential to harness currently decentralized resources and creativity for this huge challenge.

GlobalGiving’s Green Score is a first attempt at such a metric.  The Green Score evaluates our projects’ climate attributes, as well as a range of aspects of sustainable development.

The score is highly weighted on “additionality,” or how much benefit the project will bring that wouldn’t have happened otherwise and how much additional impact donors’ dollars will facilitate.

It also rewards projects for things like including women in planning and implementation—the importance of which is being more widely recognized.

We are currently holding a Green Open Challenge exclusively for organizations who are new to GlobalGiving and have passed our green assessment. You can support these organizations as they lead the grassroots response to climate change at GlobalGiving.org.

Read the full White Paper on Green.

Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer at GlobalGiving.

Hayden and Vanessa – GlobalGiving’s new BFFs for Change

On Saturday, GlobalGiving’s new partner, Neutrogena, launched an awesome multi-media campaign called “Wave for Change.”  Vanessa Hudgens and Hayden Panettiere are the spokeswomen for the products involved in this campaign and they – along with GlobalGiving SVP of Operations Jennifer Sigler – hung out in Malibu to announce the program.

Here it is in a nutshell.  For the next month Neutrogena will contribute a dollar – up to $200,000 – for every one of two signature products purchased.  Those products are the Wave Sonic and their Pink Grapefruit Acne Wash.   The funds will go to support three projects on GlobalGiving that match up with Neutrogena’s teen consumers’ interests: Environment (assessing impact in the gulf), rebuilding  in Haiti, and girls education in Senegal.

A centerpiece of the campaign is letting Neutrogena fans and customers decide how the funds are allocated among the three projects…and this is being done in a creative way via Facebook. “Voters” score the importance of several actions (e.g., recycling, building self-esteem) and based upon their responses, one of the three projects is selected.

As a life-long user of Neutrogena products, I was personally pretty excited about this.  Not thinking of myself as at all into beauty or fashion,  last night I found myself at the uber-trendy Soho House in Manhattan, having dinner with the head of PR for Neutrogena, their awesome team at RPR Communications, and ten “beauty and teen bloggers.”   There was a lot of enthusiasm for the campaign, and it was a great chance to spend time learning more about how a big brand like Neutrogena makes decisions to do something so wonderful with its brand dollars.

Like the Pepsi Refresh Project, this is not being run out of a corporate foundation.  It’s a marketing campaign based upon solid consumer research.  While 15 years ago it was a theory, data now shows that consumers do make buying decisions based upon whether or not the companies whose products they buy do something positive to impact the world.  And it matters if the causes align with issues that their particular set of consumers care about.  For Neutrogena’s teen consumers those issues match up with the projects they selected to support via GlobalGiving.

As always, we are psyched and honored to work with fantastic companies like Neutrogena.  And because of this, I might just have to watch High School Musical or Scream 4.

It’s important to arm Nigerian girls, especially when the other guys won’t.

It’s been obvious to me for a long time that the way to fuel sustainable, positive change in the world is to find, nurture, and fund local, grassroots solutions, like arming Nigerian girls…with the weapon of education.

So it’s always pleasantly surprising when I come across people who aren’t necessarily as steeped in the wonkiness of foreign aid and development as I am who completely get this intuitively.

Like Olivia Wilde, an actress who is currently on House. While I like the show, she really got my attention when she featured a GlobalGiving project on her blog.

Better yet, she explained why, writing, “Here’s the skinny: Small, grassroots organizations that focus on specific projects operated by the local community are often more effective and accountable than gargantuan, broad based, NGOs.”

Nice, Olivia.  It took you far less time than it took me to figure that out.

And now, I can only hope that with this kind of enthusiasm for the power of locally inspired projects and solutions ebbing up from all over–from Hollywood actresses to Alanna Shaikh–that eventually our major foreign aid institutions will follow suit and find ways to funnel more funding directly to them, as quickly as possible, and to allow the marketplace–not program officers or aid wonks–to decide what ideas should surface and which should sink.

So that instead of writing funding proposals and focusing on political relationships and attending meetings, the people with the great ideas can focus on doing what they do best: arming Nigerian girls with education and the like.

As Olivia astutely points out, that’s where the real effectiveness and accountability lie.

Dennis Whittle is Co-Founder and CEO of GlobalGiving.