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Global Philanthropy ( Category Archives )


Reconciling “giving smart” and “giving from the heart”

Housed at TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy, New England International Donors (NEID) is a community of generous individuals, grantmakers, social investors, and advisors, who are changing the world from New England. On March 12, twenty-five members of NEID spent the evening together at the American Repertory Theater to see Witness Uganda and participate in their Act III conversation about the complexities of international philanthropy. It was a powerful evening that stimulated many thoughtful conversations over the last few weeks. Emily Nielsen Jones, a member of NEID’s Steering Committee, shares her reflections below.

A few weeks ago, I was honored to be part of the NEID contingency that went to see Witness Uganda, a musical about a young man’s idealistic, yet flawed, journey to do good on the other side of the world.


The story line was simple and many NEID members felt it mirrored their own early forays into humanitarian travel.  Based on a true story, a young man named Griffin living in New York City finds himself struggling for meaning and belonging in his good but unsatisfying life.  In a moment of youthful goodwill and adventure, he decides to leave it all to become an aid worker in Uganda.  The musical drama brings to life his inner struggles and contradictions of wanting deeply to connect meaningfully with those he seeks to help while also getting caught in a web of corruption, cynicism, and ineffectiveness that is all too typical in our world.


As I reflect back on the performance and on the dialogue with NEID members that surrounded it, there was a common thread that tied the experience together from beginning to end: a deeply human yet flawed impulse to create a better world.

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Are You Taking the Long View?

Failing to plan is planning to fail.  Undoubtedly you’ve heard that quote before and it’s certainly something that many foundations have in mind when thinking about the future. On the other hand, the strategic plan has received quite a bit of abuse recently, influenced in part by the Monitor Institute’s article, The Strategic Plan is Dead.  Long Live Strategy. As the authors of that piece point out, “the world has become a more turbulent place, where anyone with a new idea can put it into action before you can say ‘startup’ and launch widespread movements with a single Tweet.”  In today’s environment, where the planning timeframe seems to have telescoped down to nanoseconds or certainly no more than a year, is there any point in taking the long view?


It turns out that some of the new Chinese philanthropists think so.


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After Typhoon Haiyan: Give now or give later, but give

On Friday, November 8, Typhoon Haiyan, named “Yolanda” by Filipino authorities, struck the Philippines. Winds measured an estimated 195 mph, likely making the storm the strongest cyclone ever to make landfall. The most affected areas are the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar, which span 6 different islands that over 10 million people call home. As details of the devastation emerge, it is hard to comprehend. Being a world away, many donors and advisors have reached out to get advice on what they can do to help.

Yesterday I joined a webinar co-hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Council on Foundations to discuss immediate and emerging needs, the NGO response and thoughts from the funding community. A strong theme quickly emerged: significant private funds are needed now and will be needed over the next 12 – 24 months so give now or give later, but most importantly give. That’s easy to say, but give where? Whatever option you are considering, here are some things to consider and places to turn to.

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Global Lessons Learned

TPI has always been committed to deepening the understanding and practice of philanthropy around the world.  We have been privileged to work with colleagues in countries including Brazil, China, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines and Spain, who seek to deepen and grow philanthropy and want to build on lessons learned elsewhere. We’ve conducted seminars and conferences, authored research studies, interviewed and met with countless philanthropists, collaborated with academic institutions and conferred with government leaders.  With a grant from the Bertelsmann Foundation nearly a decade ago, TPI co-authored with Harvard’s Hauser Center and the Aviva Foundation the only overview I’m aware of on approaches to growing philanthropy around the world:  Promoting Philanthropy:  Global Challenges and Approaches.

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One Less Hurdle to International Giving

I have a piece of good news.  There is an exciting effort underway to reshape the international grantmaking process.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stole the show earlier this week with an announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative for U.S. foundations making international grants.

Under existing rules, if a foundation wants to make a cross-border grant to a foreign-based organization it generally uses one of two legally permitted methods: equivalency determination (ED) or expenditure responsibility (ER).

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Exploring the roles for philanthropy between soccer balls and coffee beans

In my last blog we looked at Tony Blair’s view on philanthropy’s role in repairing the fraying social contract. The former prime minister cited philanthropy as risk capital and the means by which one can disrupt instead of maintain the status quo. Blair sees philanthropy as creative and adventurous – an opportunity to venture where government dare not go, but also an opportunity to inspire and push government to change itself.

This week I had the opportunity to engage the veteran foreign correspondent and author Stephen Kinzer and the Rwandan ambassador to the U.S. in a related conversation on the  roles of government and philanthropy in developing countries – a discussion that sounded  very different than Mr. Blair’s perspective and that turned again and again towards the role of business.

In reflecting on the relationship between philanthropy and government,  Kinzer brought us back to the not so distant days when consensus was that governments were the only credible provider of developmental aid, and business was inherently evil and only there to exploit vulnerable countries. Fast forwarding to today,

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Philanthropy, government and our fraying social contract

Jane Wales opened The Global Philanthropy Forum this week with the idea that today’s social contract is fraying – but also evolving. The social contract she speaks of is the means by which societies allocate priorities and resources when addressing shared problems – or more simply put, the understanding that we must all look out for one another.  In his special address to GPF delegates, Former Prime Minister and head of three foundations, Tony Blair, was more poignant in stating that when any community focuses in on their own challenges – as many must do during these financially challenging times – we lose the appetite to help others.

So what is the role of philanthropy in reinvigorating the social contract?

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Transformative Philanthropy in India: Equity, Freedom and Justice

The following is a guest post written by Dr. Rajesh Tandon, Founder and President of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a voluntary organization providing support to grassroots initiatives in South Asia.  Dr. Tandon recently spoke at Philanthropy and Social Change in India, an event sponsored by New England International Donors and TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy.  He is an internationally acclaimed leader and practitioner of participatory research and development and has long advocated for a self-reliant, autonomous and competent voluntary sector in India and around the world.


Having completed my professional education nearly 33 years ago I was beginning to ‘dabble’ in some grassroots level organizational activities. One day, someone suggested that I set up a voluntary organization if I wanted to work towards the empowerment of the poor and the marginalized. As I began to set up PRIA in 1980, my elders (uncles, teachers, colleagues) began to query me if I was getting into ‘charitable’ activities for the ‘welfare of the poor and the needy’ in the country. I was bewildered by such queries, because I assumed that my mission was social transformation towards a just and equitable society.

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What Liberia Can Teach Haiti — the Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat

The following post originally appeared on Karen’s Blog, written by Karen Ansara, Co-Founder of New England International Donors, the Ansara Family Fund, and The Haiti Fund.

Ravaged by a 14-year civil conflict fueled by despotic President Charles Taylor, the country of Liberia began to crawl out of its abyss in 2006 when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected to the Presidency. Since then, according to government reports: the economy has grown by 7% between 2006-2009; …“has attracted 16 billion USD in foreign direct investment while negotiating more equitable terms in natural resource contracts; …is making significant strides in the fight against corruption; and the delivery of basic services has begun to be restored: access to safe drinking water has been increased by 50%; over 80 health facilities have been constructed or rehabilitated; and primary and secondary school enrollment increased by 44%.” (From a Secretariat handout for the 2011 Philanthropists Visit.)

Once deemed a “failed state,” the Liberian government’s audacious current goal is to achieve “middle income status” as a state by 2013. It well might. What is Liberia’s secret to such progress? Government officials and funders alike give some of the credit to a three-year-old cabinet-level ministry established by President Johnson Sirleaf – the Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat

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Filed under: Global Philanthropy


Beware of Mythical Lands

I just finished reading the complete text of Jon Krakauer’s whistle blowing expose of Greg Mortenson and his best-selling book, Three Cups of Tea (Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero Lost His Way).  As a result of Krakauer’s meticulous research, it is now clear

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