Posts Tagged ‘development’

 

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

Posted by ntavangar on March 15th, 2012

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

 

GlobalGiving’s Storytelling Project

Posted by john hecklinger on December 13th, 2010

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.

A Grassroots Alternative to Carbon Offsets

Posted by Donna Callejon on April 22nd, 2009

Originally posted at HuffingtonPost by our co-founder, Dennis Whittle

When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it looks like the carbon-intensive industries are likely to face either a tax on carbon or a market for buying and selling emissions allowances in coming years. But it is not just power plants and large manufacturing facilities that contribute to climate change. All of us are accountable for some level of emissions–begging the question, how can you account for what your organization produces?

A popular answer is carbon offsets–essentially funding a reduction in emissions or increase in carbon storage somewhere so that you can continue emitting carbon here. Although offsets have been widely embraced, the actual amount of carbon kept from entering the atmosphere is often questioned. OK, it will help plant trees. But where? By whom? And will they live the 20+ years necessary to accomplish their offsetting purpose?

An alternative for skeptics is to fund projects that have received the climate-friendly “Green Leaf” designation on our online philanthropic marketplace, GlobalGiving. Our site features smaller environmental and social projects from around the world, letting you find opportunities you would not otherwise discover. Project leaders post detailed project descriptions so donors can see exactly what they’re funding. And donors on GlobalGiving can see directly the difference their donations are making through updates from the field.

Instead of quantifying offsets, we are encouraging individuals and organizations to take responsibility for their own emissions by helping these projects expand their reach. And, we are able to promote a much broader range of projects that address climate change. For instance, a project in Ecuador teaches tens of thousands of children about climate change and ways to combat it. We can’t translate this into tons of carbon, but it can result in a future generation of green voters, consumers, and policymakers. Other projects from the Environmental Foundation for Africa are working not only to provide solar electricity to schools in villages in Sierra Leone, but also to train technical school students in their installation and maintenance.

Encouraging the Third World to keep walking the same well-trodden carbon intensive path is ultimately unsustainable. As David Wheeler and Kevin Ummel of the Center for Global Development report, if nothing changes in the global South their cumulative contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will exceed that of the North within the coming decades. That means that even if developed countries cut their carbon emissions to zero, developing countries will face the same future–rising temperatures, more droughts and flooding, more frequent and intense storms, changing weather patterns.

And there’s no better time to donate to GlobalGiving Green projects than now – the Give a Little Green campaign is matching donations to these projects by 50% through April 28th or until matching funds are exhausted.
Thanks to Bill Brower for the research supporting this post.

Trust is key to a Safer, More Compassionate World

Posted by Marc Maxson on October 1st, 2008

Women of the Safe More Compassionate World - Afghanistan

The turmoil this week on Wall Street is a stark reminder that trust is the glue that holds together our society. Credit markets didn’t just dry up by themselves – banks first had to stop trusting each other. And they did so for good reason – banks were trying to hide their losses from bad loans. And millions of bad loans didn’t just fall out of the sky – consumers who trusted banks to offer them a loan they could afford were misled. Now there isn’t even enough trust in the system for people to trust politicians to fix the mess.

For me, this trust issue extends to America’s role in the world. How much do we trust our government to transform situations that breed terrorism? Though I respect the efforts of soldiers who try their best to intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have never trusted men with guns to transform a society. The world looks very different when you’re holding the gun. Many solutions of the sort needed to battle the poverty and injustice that erupts into strife around the globe require an insider’s perspective. Luckily, GlobalGiving has found some of those insiders and helped them reach out directly to individuals, like you.

Sakena YacoobiRecently, I had the rare privilege of meeting Sakena Yacoobi. She is an Afghan doctor who founded half-a-dozen programs to empower the poor, especially women, in Afghanistan. Since 2002, she’s raised $125,000 through mom&pop philanthrophists and has put 350,000 girls into schools with that money, among other things.

In our meeting, Sakena spoke about the Taliban.

“The Taliban are not Muslims. There is nothing in the Koran to justify their rules,” she said. As a devout Muslim (fasting for Ramadan this month), Sakena was the first I’d heard say this but I suspect many other Muslims share her opinion. She didn’t hold her tongue about America either. “If you want democracy for us,” she said, “then you should want education. But you don’t want to spend money for it.”

She’s right. She is keeping an Afghan girl in school for few dollars a month, while our government can barely maintain order in Afghanistan spending $2.3 billion a month. (that is $2,300,000,000 a month!)

Starting in October of 2008, Yacoobi is getting some help. Several families of 9-11 victims have banded together and started a fund, the “Safer, More Compassionate World Fund.” This fund matches donations to many of the projects that work in terrorism hot spots to transform the conditions that are enabling extremists like Al Qaeda to attract new recruits.

Terrorists are not irrational homicidal maniacs. They are real people who find themselves in the worst places on earth, choosing between several bad options. Sakena herself said, “I see the people in the villages. To buy one bag of flour now costs them more than a month’s salary, and that only lasts two-weeks for a family of five. Then the Taliban comes in one day and flashes $100 or $200 dollars in front of them. You see what happens.”

Afghanis struggling to afford wheat

According to Yacoobi, only two of every one-hundred Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are Afghanis. The other 98 are from Sudan, Chechnya, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere – hired hands from desperate lands. Many now are former “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” meaning that our “surge” didn’t end a war, it simply moved the battlefield.

The 9-11 families that started this Safer, More Compassionate World Fund offer a brighter vision: Our pennies pool into opportunities, which create alternatives, which mean fewer people working for Al Qaeda to support their families. Feeding opportunity to the poor is one more way to starve the well-funded extremists of support. And it will work regardless of whether the next battlefield lies in Iraq, Afghanistan, or beyond.

However, like a credit market, the Fund is placing a lot of trust on individuals to meet them half way and donate to these projects. Sharing prosperity is the means to a Safer World – and we all have to give much, more more now than we have in the past if that trust is going to eventually lead to greater peace.

From Peanuts to Saltwater greenhouses: Innovative synergy at the Development Marketplace 2008

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 25th, 2008

It took almost an hour to get past security at the World Bank, mostly due to errors on my part. But at least it gave me time to read through the brochure for the 2008 Development Marketplace. By the time I had secured a pass, I knew exactly which projects I most wanted to visit in the expo. Social entrepreneurs from all over the world had been invited to present their ideas at the Development Marketplace, an effort started by GlobalGiving’s founders.

Being a scientist, I have a love for projects with novel adaptations of technology to problems in the world’s poorest countries. For example, the first project on my list to visit used modified kegs to transport chilled milk by bicycle to market in Ugandan villages. The project offered innovations along three lines: equipment that could be built locally and maintained for up to ten years, an energy-efficient vacuum chilling system, and a low enough initial investment cost that a milk-producer could recover costs in a fraction of a year.

Next I visited a Senegalese biofuel-powered motorboat project. Having criss-crossed Senegal in 2003 as a Fulbright studying the impact of Internet in rural schools, I found myself curious both about the science and how it would change transportation in Senegal.

I was momentarily disappointed when the oilseed “biofuel” turned out to be peanut oil. It sounded so… ordinary. But then I saw a diagram of the device that produced it.

“It’s a press connected to a small motor. One can build this peanut processor for about $600,” Daniel, the presenter, assured me.

“That means any village could afford to convert peanuts into oil?” I asked. This was an improvement even beyond what the presenter might have guessed. For years, getting groundnuts (the name for peanuts in Africa) to market in The Gambia has been the single largest source of low per capita income. By the time the peanuts travel down the dilapidated roads, the crop has sat in sun and moisture long enough that it cannot pass safety standards for US and European markets. Instead it is diverted to much less lucrative secondary markets. You see, old peanuts grow fungii that produce aflotoxins when they sit too long. And despite nearly all Gambian farmers living a horse cart’s ride from the Gambia river, no barges have yet to travel from the capital to collect the crop quickly.

Daniel had been helping to redesign outboard motors to run on peanut oil. With a different propeller and a few modest adjustments to the engine torque using an internal system of pulleys, any standard motor could run on the crude peanut extract. As a bonus, even the fuel processing was sustainable, as each liter of peanut fuel could power the peanut refining machine to produce five more liters of fuel.

As impressive as turning peanuts into a gasoline replacement might seem by itself, the potential synergy between Daniel’s project and the project presented by his immediate neighbor at the expo was even more so. Although thousands of miles apart in real life, motors running on peanut fuel might be just the sort of low-tech piece in the larger puzzle of turning seawater into life-sustaining food and water for desert communities that his fellow innovators have been looking for. Some clever engineers demonstrated that exposing seawater to sunlight in a green house would humidify the air and stabilize temperatures to create optimal growing conditions. Adding an energy-efficient compressor allowed a 100 square meter greenhouse to produce several tons of water each day, more than enough to supply a village. As a bonus, the village could grow some of its food in the greenhouse, enabling the community to endure droughts.

How the seawater greenhouse works

Unfortunately the initial cost was high (around $50,000) relative to the purchasing power of the world’s poor, water-hungry villages, but the costs could be much lower if the 2.5 kilowatts required to operate the saltwater greenhouse could come from peanuts grown within it, rather than from pricey photovoltaic solar panels. Such synergy is still difficult to achieve over the surface of our vast Earth, but online communities like GlobalGiving are just the sort of place where project leaders might one day bump into each other and notice the merit of each other’s approaches, combining efforts, achieving unexpected breakthroughs.

All of these projects are the sort of groundbreaking ideas we try to attract to our site. After, it is up to the site’s visitors to find the best ones and convert these possibilities into realities.

A New Shade of Generosity

Posted by alison on July 25th, 2008

gg_green_logo_full1.JPGWe’re launching a new “shade” of GlobalGiving today – GlobalGiving Green.

GlobalGiving Green looks at development through a green lens – and vice versa, for that matter – and enables you to support projects that are fighting poverty and dealing with climate change at the same time.

Why are we doing this? The developing world faces a double whammy. Pretty much every country in the developed world has gotten to where they are through a carbon-intensive path, which if repeated would cancel out any other efforts to combat climate change. And developing countries are more likely to bear the consequences of global warming—things like flooding and droughts, or increased incidence of diseases like malaria. And there are indirect societal and political impacts too – Nicholas Kristof wrote about one of the more unusual ones earlier this year, linking unusual levels of rainfall in rural Tanzania to more women being accused of witchcraft.pr615_children_planting_trees.jpg

So, we partnered with EcoSecurities, a leader in emissions reductions markets, to evaluate how projects are doing with regard to climate change, and in areas such as providing sustainable economic growth, aiding the culture and environment of a community, educating future generations on green issues, and more. Twenty-four projects were initially selected to be a part of GlobalGiving Green, and on the website you can see how they do on elements ranging from use of innovative technology to creation of additional health and safety benefits. And we’re working with our amazing Project Leaders to help them understand how their proposed solutions to big societal issues can build a carbon-neutral path to development.

It’s a small (but first) step toward creating a market-based incentive for green development to thrive. Through GlobalGiving Green, we hope people concerned with climate change can more easily find the best solutions for creating positive change, developing responsibly, and reducing harmful emissions.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

They Come in the Name of Helping

Posted by alison on February 8th, 2008

Peter Brock, a student at Skidmore College produced this documentary, They Come in the Name of Helping.  It’s a different perspective on international philanthropy – mainly from the people who are supposed to benefit.  This came to my attention through Peter Deitz’s blog where he also posted a great interview with Peter Brock.  Click here or on the picture to watch the film.

brock.jpg