Posts Tagged ‘Mari Kuraishi’

 

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

 

The democratization of aid.

Posted by dennis on July 29th, 2010

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.

We are listening: real-time feedback loops

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 16th, 2009

feedback loopIn the GlobalGiving office, people usually introduce me by saying “…and Marc does evaluations.” That’s not accurate. A truer story would be, “Marc facilitates feedback loops.” And over my first year here, we’ve been able to do more of that.

A feedback loop isn’t anything fancy. This is where someone tells you something, and you pass it on to the person who most needs to know, then you take what that second person says in response and feed it back to the first person. *I* don’t need to evaluate anything to ensure that people are hearing from each other. But these conversations are much more powerful than the most sophisticated super computer or all the analysis a team of experts can provide.

As a neuroscientist, I studied feedback loops in the brain, and feedback alone (copied 10 trillion times over) within a network is enough to provide humans with sentient intelligence.  Pubmed it if ye doubt the claim.

Today I am happy to announce that Mari Kuraishi, GlobalGiving’s president, is presenting a case study on the power of feedback, titled “Real-time technology aided feedback loops in international philanthropy” at the Skoll skollINTERNATIONAL SOCIAL INNOVATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE (ISIRC)

This case study follows one Kenyan organization that struggled to provide promised services to the atheletes’ satisfaction. How did we find out? First, I visited the organization and handed out bumper stickers that read, “What does your community need? Tell us: GlobalGiving.org/ideas.” We wanted the community to know that GlobalGiving is listening to them.

ideas sticker

I didn’t know at the time that a bumper sticker would start a chain reaction that would get people in the community involved with giving the organization greater direction. This dialogue between the organization and the people it aimed to serve took many turns and ultimately caused the founder to leave the city and a new organization under the leadership of the youth athletes themselves to emerge. After months of hard work, including 3 visitors who send in visitor postcards and 3 other people who were full time volunteers working with this organization, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief. Not because the problems are gone, but at least the youth have had their voices heard and are now trying to help themselves.

We don’t know if this new organization, the Manyatta Youth Resource Center will ultimately succeed, or whether the old organization, Sacrena, will re-emerge as a stronger organization, more responsive to the community. You can’t predict when or how social change will take place. All you can do is keep listening, and keep sending these messages back and fourth so that the people with the cash hear from the people in the grass of every grassroots project.

Speaking of which, the new Manyatta Youth Resource Center is temporarily being supported through one of our Global Open Challenge projects, the Amani Na Upendo Dev Youth Group, who I am afraid is currently unable to attract any donations online by itself. Such is the paradox of grassroots philanthropy. Many of the most responsive local village-based organizations lack the social connections and international exposure needed to raise money. We know about this problem, and struggle with it daily.

But if you read this case study and want to help – tell us. We’ll send your message back to them and start another feedback loop. Another way you can help is to give the Upendo group a donation.

I’ll summarize in another post the aspects of this paper that relate to how new technology makes it possible for the people to advise donors and implenters about progress with continuous feedback.

Note: You can read all visitor postcards on our site: http://www.globalgiving.com/projects/youth-sport-in-kenya/updates/ but I think the full paper summarizes the series of events more concisely, also available from the youth-sport-in-kenya (DOC FILE LINK) page.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Dennis & Mari

Posted by Donna Callejon on April 1st, 2008

Imagine our surprise this morning when, fresh off the plane from the Skoll Oxford Centre’s conference in the UK, our founders gathered the team here at GlobalGiving and let us know that they had made a decision to return to the World Bank, where they will be leading two separate, but related new departments. Dennis will be taking on the role of Director of the Strategic Longitude Office (“SLO”) and Mari will be VIce President of the Semi-Technical Evaluation And Dissemination Institute (“STEADI”)

After pouring seven years of blood, sweat and tears into solidifying GlobalGiving as a viable and successful online marketplace, Mari told us, ” The work of social entrepreneurship is hard. It’s time for the younger members of the team to take up the mantle and figure it out. And the opportunity to return to the structured, top-down, environment of the Bank was one we couldn’t pass up.” Dennis was overheard whispering, “I can’t wait to get a secretary again…enough of the Best Western Inn and doing my own expense accounts.”

A World Bank press release quoted Dennis as saying, “Doing something innovative and in the field of disruptive innovation is highly overrated. It turns out that the crowds aren’t quite as wise as we thought. Mari and I are looking forward to being back in an environment where the rules are clear and the work is predictable. The future for us is SLO and STEADI.”

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, (fools).