General Posts

GlobalGiving’s Storytelling Project

GlobalGiving has a modest budget and team of around 25 people, all in one room in Washington, DC, but we face challenges similar to those of the largest of institutions involved in philanthropy and international development.  One of the biggest is assessing the impact of what we are doing.  With over 1,000 organizations implementing small projects in over 100 countries, it is impractical for our team to study each project’s impact in scientific detail.

Beyond easy measures of donation flow and reporting compliance, how do we know whether the marketplace we’ve built actually accomplishes something of substance in the world?  Which organizations are doing great, and which are struggling?  How can we celebrate the former and assist the latter?  Does all the work we do in cooperation with our on-the-ground partners all add up to something?  Are we sparking and fostering innovation?  Are the organizations participating in the GlobalGiving marketplace different from other organizations in positive ways?

In cooperation with Rockefeller Foundation, Cognitive Edge, and independent consultant Irene Guijt, GlobalGiving has found an promising way to tackle this problem.  In Kenya, we launched the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project, which asked people to tell stories about community projects and the individuals, organizations, and government entities working to make change happen.   We gathered 2,700 usable stories from individuals primarily in Nairobi and the Rift Valley.

Using the SenseMaker® methodology of capturing people’s stories and asking those people to “tag” their own stories, we are able to see how thousands of stories relate to each other.   We can visualize patterns in the stories that help us understand how people see organizations working in their communities.  Our next step is to make this method available more widely, providing a toolkit that helps our project leaders learn more about how people see them by launching their own storytelling projects.  We want this to be a useful way for GlobalGiving, our partner organizations, and beneficiaries to .

This pilot has huge promise, not just for GlobalGiving but for the philanthropic and development sectors as a whole.  Much has been written about how the lack of quick feedback hinders development work.  See Owen Barder’s recent blog post.  Like marketers of soda or electronic gadgets, how can funders of development initiatives quickly measure performance and make real-time adjustments to meet real needs in efficient ways?  Our pilot is a promising way of establishing meaningful feedback to power this type of real-time learning .

Marc Maxson, GlobalGiving’s chief feedback loop instigator and impact assessment innovator, has pulled together online resources that show how our pilot worked and what we’ve learned.  We will add further resources as our approach evolves.  Our next step is to expand our work in Kenya and to begin working with organizations in Uganda and Tanzania.

Are you looking for a way to learn more about how people view your work?   Are you struggling to find an effective and inexpensive way to evaluate your impact?  Please contact Marc (mmaxson@globalgiving.org) to learn more about getting involved.

Drive More than a Car with Ford

In the auto industry, collisions are generally not a good thing.  But the collision of brand and cause marketing continues apace.

As media and its delivery evolves, borders are blurred by technology, and consumer brands embrace the notion that their customers care about things, and want them to care too, these campaigns get more creative.

Take for example the Ford Focus Global Test Drive.  As part of the program Ford will select 40 lucky individuals to travel to Spain in February to test drive the 2012 Ford Focus before it hits the market.  In addition, Ford will award $10,000 to a charity of each winner’s choice, in the categories of environment, education, or hunger.  And, making this truly a ‘global’ event, organizations from around the world are eligible to receive the grant.

To compete, individuals create and upload a two minute video to the Ford Focus Facebook page via the Global Drive tab.  The video has to be compelling – about a cause and desire to drive the car.    Selections will be made based upon criteria such as the quality and creativity of the video, the submitter’s social networking savvy and his/her soci
al media reach (including the number of people who “love it”).

Just another marketing gimmick aimed at cynical Americans?  Not so much. As a partner in promoting and vetting the charity aspects of the program, GlobalGiving has had the chance to see how Ford has brought together marketing, philanthropy, and social media in a truly global way.   And what’s fantastic is that Ford Focus is not “recreating the wheel” (pun intended).  Building off of the success of the Fiesta Movement,  Focus is running a campaign that both brings new aspects of “challenges” to bear (check out the video invites to key bloggers), but also leverages existing platforms and partners, including  Facebook, Twitter, Votigo and GlobalGiving.  Smart.

Get off the curb – submissions have to be in by December 31st.  Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Hybrid Models for Non-Profits

Stephanie Strom’s article in the New York Times about hybrid organizations highlighted some of the challenges social entrepreneurs face as they innovate. Having experienced these challenges first-hand at GlobalGiving, we wanted to offer some additional thoughts about the trial and error process, and what it takes to keep iterating to Plan B.

We originally structured GlobalGiving as a hybrid organization because we believed that doing so could bring the discipline and capital of the for-profit world together with the mission focus of the non-profit world. As it turned out, after the tech bubble burst, it was easier to raise funds for the non profit, which became the dominant partner. Respected innovative funders like the Hewlett Foundation, Omidyar Network and Skoll Foundation provided up $7.6m of grants to GGF specifically for the purpose of investing in MFI. The founders contributed $1.4m as well. It was structured as a convertible note until a 3rd party could set a price–that happened at the end of 2008, and the result is that GGF owns 98% of MFI (and the founders have donated the proceeds from their shares back to GGF). At that point, we decided to consolidate all operations under the GlobalGiving nonprofit umbrella, explained here in detail.

As Ms. Strom notes, we believed so strongly (and still do!) in the power of connecting people, ideas, and resources that we were willing to put up our own money to get it started. Although our original business model is not our current business model, the bottom line is that it is working; GlobalGiving has now facilitated over $40 million to over 3,500 projects projects in more than 110 countries around the world. Thanks to the power of the internet, many of the community groups that list projects on GlobalGiving are able, for the first time, to reach out for ideas and support from around the world, not only their immediate neighbors. And we are doing this at a cost well below the cost of fundraising through typical mail, telephone, and other solicitation campaigns.

There are few silver bullets in any endeavor. Rarely does a single approach to any problem prove to be magic. We make progress in the world through trial and error and through incremental improvements–punctuated by an occasional breakthrough. The wonder of it is that so many of the people we know in this hybrid space have been willing to try different things, and keep trying others when they–and we–run into roadblocks. That’s why we are proud of what we and our colleagues in this field have accomplished over the past decade, and we look forward to even more progress in the decade ahead.

Dennis Whittle and Mari Kuraishi, co-founders.

Sometimes Top Down Is Needed

 

Three seemingly disparate events prompted this post (in order of occurrence):

1. A trip to NYC from DC on Amtrak

2. Attending the Women’s Sports Foundation annual gala dinner

3.  Walmart’s announcement of their global commitment to sustainable food and the Heritage Agriculture program

In different ways each of these  remind me that leadership and “top down” commitment can have dramatic positive impact on the economy, people,  the planet, and the world.  GlobalGiving is built on the premise that “bottom up” solutions need air time and support, and can often be more impactful than “central planning.”  I agree.  But we also recognize the reality of the power of large institutions to make change happen fast.  At scale.  If leadership is committed to change.    What do these three events tell us?

Amtrak is essentially a monopoly in rail transportation in the United States. Despite whining about its sustainability, it’s website says, it “operates a nationwide rail network, serving over 500 destinations in 46 states and three Canadian provinces on over 21,000 miles of routes, with more than 19,000 employees. It is the nation’s only high speed intercity passenger rail provider….”

But – hello! – they can’t put some recycling bins in their trains?  Seriously. I found myself arriving in NYC, and then 24 hours later in Washington DC, carrying my newspaper, magazines, and empty water bottles back to my office so that they could be recycled.    Here’s what Amtrak says  on their embarrassingly un-updated website:  “By the end of 2009, all café and lounge cars throughout the Amtrak system will have a receptacle designated for collection of plastic and glass bottles as well as aluminum cans.”  Except I traveled on Amtrak on October 12th and 13th, 2010.  No recycling bins.  GlobalGiving has 30 people. We are able to figure out how to recycle.  Kimpton Hotels have figured it out.  Even WMATA, the much aligned Washington DC metro overseer, has Newspaper recycling bins in each station.  It’s about top-down commitment and leadership.  Don’t just say it on your website.  Do it.  Consumers care.

In my short trip to NYC  I attended the Annual Salute to Women in Sports, held by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF).  The WSF was started by Billie Jean King about 35 years ago.  In those days women who participated in sports were somewhat of an anomaly.  And Title IX had just been passed.  And Billie Jean was an icon.

I was a Title IX baby for sure. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t participate in high school and college sports.  But I have Billie Jean King, Donna De Varona and a small cadre of risk-taking leaders to thank for my life-influencing exposure and involvement in organized athletics.  Not everybody loved them. They were called “amazons.”  They were told they should stay home and take care of their husbands and children.  But they took a stand and used the power of their positions and pushed.  Influenced.  Set the table for amazing athletes and women like Mia Hamm, Annika Sorenstam,  and Serena and Venus Williams.  Leadership.

On Thursday of last week, Walmart’s announcement of its enhanced commitment to sustainable agriculture raised some eyebrows, mostly from the skeptics.  But as long ago as 2007 Michael Strong posited that Walmart’s decisions regarding the broader global community could have significantly more lasting impact than its detractors care to admit.  With the largest retail global reach on the planet, and incentives to executives to follow the sustainability mantra, Walmart could conceivably alter the prospects of thousands of family farms around the world.  And this decision comes from the top, just like its promise in 2005  to 1. To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, 2. To create zero waste,  and 3. To sell products that sustain our resources and environment.

Are they there yet? No.  Are they continually defying expectation and making changes that have unmeasurable ripple effect? Yes.  And it’s all been driven from the top, starting with an epiphany the CEO of Walmart had on a trip overseas.   They have been on a march to impact ever since.

Sometimes it takes a visionary or risk-taking leader to move an organization, or a society, forward.  And equally, those in power who fail to take action and “make change happen” are destined to be remembered for their weakness and inaction.

Urban Agriculture Challenge: Communities Helping Themselves (With Delicious Results!)


Originally posted on Pulling for the Underdog on the Huffington Post

GlobalGiving nurtures bottom-up, community-based solutions to pressing social problems. We believe in the power of small over large, local over centrally planned and grassroots over top-down. This is why we jumped at the chance to partner with Bonterra Vineyards and Growing Power to support urban agriculture.

Urban farms help low-income communities access fresh food, generate employment, enhance food security, and improve quality of life. Rather than relying on fast food chains or large supermarkets, urban residents with access to a local farm can eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown right in their communities.

I grew up in Kentucky. It’s a great state. But parts of Louisville have been labeled “food deserts” due to the lack of accessibility to fresh food. Through its urban farms, Breaking New Grounds not only brings fresh produce to these underserved neighborhoods, but also provides agricultural training to local residents, and creates new, environmentally-friendly jobs.

In Denver, while fresh food is available in summer, winter months often mean relying on food grown and processed thousands of miles away. Feed Denver catalyzes urban farms that can be operated year-round, giving urban dwellers access to high-quality food from January through December.

Until October 7, these urban agriculture programs — and several others — are participating in an online fundraising challenge on GlobalGiving, with the chance to win up to $20,000 in contributions provided by Bonterra Vineyards.

To further highlight the power of communities working towards a common goal, the Bonterra-Growing Power-GlobalGiving challenge features a collective group incentive. If each participant raises at least $2,000 from 25 or more unique donors, all will receive a $1,100 bonus from Bonterra Vineyards. As on a community farm, each participant’s individual effort will contribute to the larger good. I like the taste of that!