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Stopping a crisis before it starts

By Shonali Banerjee and Mattie Ressler

Right around this time last year, you might have heard about the famine in the “Horn of Africa.” The Horn of Africa comprises much of northeastern Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. In 2011, incredibly poor rainfall in the Horn and neighboring Kenya and Tanzania lead to small harvests that didn’t produce enough food for the local people. These climate conditions, combined with some man-made political and economic factors, drove the region into famine. The United Nations declares a famine when 20 percent of households face extreme difficulty in finding enough to eat, over 30 percent of people experience acute malnutrition (a life-threatening state), and two nutrition-related deaths occur per day per 100,000 people.

Last year, thousands of GlobalGivers contributed nearly $600,000 to GlobalGiving partner organizations in response to the Horn of Africa famine. People like you provided food, clean water, emergency supplies, and medical services. We have no doubt that your contributions saved countless lives, for which mothers, fathers, and children will be forever grateful. Read our Horn of Africa fund updates for photos and updates about  how those donations were used.

Unfortunately, as we head into the summer months in the northern hemisphere again this year, we’re hearing about struggles in the Sahel.  The Sahel encompasses sections of many countries bordering the famous Sahara desert, stretching like a belt across the widest part of Africa.  Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Senegal are all part of the Sahel–a brutally hot, drought-prone region.

This spring, the Sahel received insufficient rainfall: meaning that there is not enough water to sustain crops, livestock, and people. Although the Sahel often struggles with food insecurity, this year’s circumstances are far worse. Combined with other man-made factors, the Sahel has entered the early stages of what could be a terrible famine.  Sahel droughts endanger over 15 million people throughout various nations. That’s about three times more people than were impacted by the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.  Many humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Association are sounding the alarm about the dangerous circumstances that are already beginning, due to the recent coup d’état in Mali and soaring global food prices.

UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake recently reached out to the international community at large, saying, “we are appealing, all of us, for an end to global indifference we have found so far.  I know there is a certain fatigue… but by acting vigorously and properly now, we can head off future crises.”

We here at GlobalGiving wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Lake and UNICEF’s belief that proactive measures are often better than reactive responses; prevention truly is better than a cure. For example, preparing water sources for 80,000 Ethiopians before a famine costs $900,000 and prevents death and suffering, but trucking water across the desert for 5 months costs $3 million, more than three times as much.

GlobalGiving partners with numerous organizations working to prevent disaster-like humanitarian conditions in the Sahel:

Famines are not high-profile emergencies like recent tsunamis, earthquakes or floods. The widespread concern with this type of humanitarian crisis is that it takes time to develop into a full-blown disaster, meaning that many fail to recognize the severity of the situation until thousands of lives are lost.

We’ve created a Sahel Relief Fund in order to provide support now before the situation becomes a full-blown disaster. It’s our hope that we, as the GlobalGiving community, will respond with our heads now to prevent suffering, rather than waiting for gut-wrenching images to move our hearts only after such suffering has taken place.

Thank you for being such a thoughtful, caring, and generous community. We are so grateful.

 

celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – committed to ‘WOW’

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each will speak candidly about their experience at GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. Mari wrote our inaugural blog post in February, and this month, former ‘GlobalGiver’ Eli Stefanski talks about her important learning while working at GlobalGiving…

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My key learning from working at GlobalGiving?

Call everyone back within 24 hours.

Maybe you were expecting something more exciting? Something about the democratization of philanthropy? Something about the birth and evolution of social capital markets? For sure, I learned a lot about those things. But, first, and most importantly, I learned to call everyone back within 24 hours. Which, of course, isn’t about a communications policy, it’s about empathy.

It was a Dennis lesson, a ‘Dennis thing.’ I learned fast to pay attention to it. It was not part of the culture I had been raised in. It was not the culture that Dennis and Mari had been raised in either. And, well, that is sort of the point.

Elizabeth "Eli" Stefanski, former Director of Operations at GlobalGiving

For a few short months, this is how it would work:

As GlobalGiving’s first Director of Operations (and first Chief Program Officer) I was busy: I was busy raising capital; I was busy developing the richest and most diverse portfolio of projects; and I was busy trying to figure out how to fund and vet 400+ projects without violating the Patriot Act (and therein getting Mari and I arrested). I was so busy, that I occasionally missed an email or phone call from the social entrepreneur that Dennis had met on a plane on the way home from somewhere – a social entrepreneur who had shared his passion and aspirations with Dennis, a social entrepreneur who Dennis promised I could help.

In reality, I didn’t really ‘miss’ the call. The truth is, I didn’t really know how to deal with that one lone social entrepreneur. If I had vetted him, I would have had to vet all of them. Systems needed to be built – systems that previously didn’t always accommodate the outlier. The lone entrepreneur didn’t ‘fit’ my model. And so, from time to time, I avoided the call.

I would pay the price for that, however. The entrepreneur would invariably send Dennis a “thanks, but I guess you can’t help me” email, Dennis would forward it to me and hold me accountable, and well, I would feel like a mountain of manure. Not only because I knew I was in the wrong, but also because GlobalGiving was better than that. We knew how hard it was to be a social entrepreneur. We knew how hard it was to build something new, something transformative that hadn’t been done before. We knew how hard it was to build believers, attract users, convince investors, and ignore the naysayers. And day after day, we got up and kept with it – because we knew in our heart of hearts that we were building something important.

So the lesson about calling everyone back within 24 hours wasn’t about anything other than empathy, and building an empathetic organization that puts the beneficiary at the center of the design process – building systems around their needs.

This is why we:

  • Built a feedback system that gave project leaders real time feedback about what was working and what was not.
  • Designed evaluation tools that, instead of requiring longitudinal studies, relied on storytelling – the tool our entrepreneurs have in spades.
  • Created open mechanisms allowing all social entrepreneurs to participate on our platform, because we knew first hand how inaccessible the modern funding streams were.
  • Bankrolled relief efforts after the 2005 tsunami in Thailand without requiring proposals, because we knew social entrepreneurs were responding with or without the funds (and this is why we’ve responded many times since).

…And we learned to return phone calls within 24 hours – even when we couldn’t directly help.

It’s a lesson that took me a short time to learn at GlobalGiving – but it is the lesson that makes GlobalGiving great, and it is probably the most important lesson that any individual or organization can learn in a lifetime.

-Eli Stefanski

 

Celebrating 10 Lessons Learned Over 10 Years

GlobalGiving Co-Founder Mari Kuraishi speaks about what really mattered in the beginning…

Ten years ago today, we turned the switch ‘on’ at GlobalGiving. At the time it wasn’t even called GlobalGiving—it was called DevelopmentSpace—and as you can see from the screenshot below, we’ve come a long way.

Screenshots of DevelopmentSpace (2002) which became GlobalGiving (2012)

We’ve come this far due to the incredible devotion that all of the staff, interns, and volunteers have given to GlobalGiving—believing in the little dream that Dennis and I had about creating a ‘space’ where ‘development’could happen at its own pace, driven by the bravest and most passionate.

We’ve come this far thanks to the unwavering support that our project partners, donors, corporate partners, and funders gave us along the way. We’ve come this far because we have improved over the years how to convey with greater fidelity the amazing work that is undertaken every day, in every country we serve, by people who don’t just live with the status quo.

So in honor of these ten years, we are kicking off a year-long celebration here on our blog. It is a great opportunity for us to reflect on our learnings of the last ten years and to share it with you. So watch this space for a monthly series: Top 10 lessons learned from the last 10 years.

Mari and Dennis in 2011

To start it off, here’s my lesson:

Back when we first had the idea of starting GlobalGiving, Dennis and I took several months to think about it (in other words, we didn’t quit our day jobs immediately).  We thought through the pros and cons, and tried very hard to solidify the business plan. The truth is, that despite all of the cogitating, we didn’t really foresee the triumphs that would make our hearts sing, and the challenges that would test us to the limits and facilitate growth. It turns out that the vision that we had back then was far less momentous than any of the real successes we have had in the subsequent ten years.

That being said, the one thing I could imagine back then was embarking on this adventure with Dennis. That, basically, is all that mattered, ultimately.

And so our GlobalGiving family grew over the years—first Donna, then John, Steve, Kevin, Jen, Ingrid, Britt … well, you get the picture. But starting out with the right partner from the very beginning was a joy and a privilege, and I was lucky.

Happy Valentine’s Day Dennis!

Global Giveback Funding Challenge

This week we launched the final phase of a collaboration between GlobalGiving, InnoCentive, and the Rockefeller Foundation that began over two years ago as a way to connect our project leaders with technical know-how usually devoted to solving technical problems for for-profit entities.  As part of its Advancing Innovation Processes to Solve Social Problems initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation funded GlobalGiving to identify needed solutions to developing world problems that InnoCentive’s community of solvers could help make a reality.  Project leaders working in India, Uganda, Colombia, and Bolivia came up with technical challenges that were impeding their ability to provide solutions to community problems.

Here’s an example.  Fundacion SODIS has been promoting solar water disinfection in Bolivia.  It’s a great idea using readily available resources – water, sunshine, and plastic bottles.  If you leave a clear bottle full of water in the sunlight long enough, the UV rays will purify the water.  But, how do you know when enough sunlight has hit the bottle?  How do you convince people that this method works and give them an easy way to drink the water with confidence?  Fundacion SODIS thought a re-usable electronic device that changes color when the water has been purified would improve adoption and facilitate training.  Fundacion SODIS, in collaboration with InnoCentive and GlobalGiving, posted this challenge on InnoCentive’s platform, and dozens of possible solutions poured in.  Fundacion SODIS chose the solution that seemed most workable, but also invited two other teams that submitted solutions to send their pilot products for field testing.  The designs have since been developed even further, and these solutions are becoming a reality.

After initial lab testing, one of the five solutions to the challenges posted on InnoCentive was found to be nonviable, so the field testing of that pilot will not go forward.  Such is the nature of innovation – not everything works out as planned.  The four remaining projects are now up for crowdfunding on GlobalGiving.  The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided matching funds to help our partner NGOs raise the resources needed to fully test these solutions.  We’re calling it the Global Giveback Funding Challenge.  In this way, we crowdsourced the challenges, the solutions, and the funding needed to implement them.

We’re extremely excited to see these projects go forward.  GlobalGiving’s mission is to catalyze a marketplace for ideas, information, and money that democratizes aid and philanthropy.  This project advances all aspects of what we’re trying to achieve.  We’ve empowered individual technical experts to share knowledge with grassroots NGOs to make these NGO’s ideas a reality.  Individual and institutional donors are now collaborating to fund the solutions.  We did not know in advance what challenges would surface or if solutions would be found, but by catalyzing a free flow of ideas, information, and money, good things are happening.

Interested in learning more? Antony Bugg-Levine is managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s initiative on Advancing Innovation Processes to Solve Social Problems – he answers five questions about the Challenge here

Animals for Autism

In 2010, Pepsi created the Pepsi Refresh Project to support projects that have a positive impact in local communities across America. Pepsi believes good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere and anytime and so they decided to be the catalyst for bringing them to reality. The projects were voted on and chosen by Americans and the result: more than 1.2 million people impacted across the country through more than 1,000 grants awarded in 345 cities and 45 states.

GlobalGiving is honored to be a part of this program. We work with agency partners and grantees to administer, disburse, and monitor these grants. All grantees undergo a due diligence process, whose terms are available as part of the official Application Guidelines at the following link:
http://www.refresheverything.com/official-application-guidelines

We also support grantees in a variety of ways by assisting them with various steps like project planning, budgeting, event coordination and securing local volunteers. GlobalGiving has visited many projects in various stages of implementation. We’ve seen amazing work being done all around the country, such as a turtle rescue project in Pittsburgh, new homes for foster children in Mississippi, a karate program for children with special needs in NYC, and a project to support the homeless in Washington DC.

Over the last few months we’ve heard the concerns raised regarding a $50,000 grant awarded to an individual, Lea Kaydus, in July 2010. The project is to provide ten trained dogs to families of autistic children free of charge. Activities funded under this grant include the construction of a new canine training facility and costs associated with the training of the dogs.

We do not take any expression of concern lightly, and we are committed to ensuring that grant activities are implemented as they were intended. We have been thoughtfully evaluating the situation specific to this grant, in addition to overseeing many other projects that are still actively pursuing their goals. As with all Pepsi Refresh Grants, GlobalGiving monitors project activities to ensure compliance with the terms of the grant agreement. We have been in regular contact with the grantee throughout the grant period (including a recent site visit), and she is in compliance with the terms of her grant agreement and is scheduled to deliver the dogs to the requesting families starting in Spring 2012.

We understand that for the families involved, the care of their children is their foremost concern. We stand firm in our commitment to do everything we can to support the grantee to help bring this project to fruition. We have also encouraged the grantee to be in more regular communication with the families going forward, to which she has agreed. We ask everyone involved to please refrain from personal attacks and understand that the grantee is doing all she can to accomplish her goals with this project.