An inspiring conversation for anyone interested gender equality. The Asian University for Women (AUW) was first established in Bangladesh in 2008, with a specific mission to recruit young women who have promise and potential, regardless of their background, and to offer them high quality education. 

It's a liberal arts institution — the only one of its kind in the region. It's very global in outlook and rooted in the context and aspirations of the young people of Asia, designed to address some of the inequalities endemic to the region. 

The idea for the university grew out of the World Bank and United Nations Task Force on Higher Education and Society.

For a full transcript of this podcast, visit The Do One Better! Podcast website at  where you’ll discover more than 100 thought-leadership podcast episodes in philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Please subscribe and share widely — thank you!



An insightful and candid conversation with a true champion for quality education for every girl and boy across the globe.  

Born in Wales, UK, Julia migrated with her family to Australia as a very small girl. She was educated at local government schools, literally at the end of her street.  

Her father had grown up in a coal-mining village and he left school at 14. He found his way in Australia as a psychiatric nurse. Her mother worked as a cook in a care home. 

Julia has always been conscious that her life chances have been defined by coming from a loving stable family, but also by going to great schools. Fortunately, those government schools at the end of her street were fantastic schools.  And if they hadn't been fantastic schools, her entire life would have been different. 

Today, Julia is Chair of the Global Partnership for Eduction (GPE), which can be thought of as a shared commitment to ending the world's learning crisis. 

It is the only global partnership and fund that focuses solely on school education in lower-income and middle-income countries. They have got around 20 years’ experience now working with partner countries to make sure that more girls and boys not only get access to school, but the education they have at school is a quality one. 

Their model for change is really about mobilising donors, the UN family, philanthropists, the private sector, everyone basically, behind country-led plans to transform their education system. 

They’re working in 76 countries around the world. It's a broad and a deep partnership for change.

Download this episode to hear much more about Julia’s remarkable work and story.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for a full transcript of this episode, guest bios and useful links. Enjoy and learn from 100 episodes in philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship at



Larry has been President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation since 2012. Before joining the foundation, Larry served from 2004 to 2012 as Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School.

The Hewlett Foundation has an $11 billion dollar endowment and this conversation focuses on their work tackling climate change. Larry delves into the difference between the different approaches of adaptation vs mitigation — and he explains his preferences. 

We learn of the key players in this field today and different collaborations in place to drive change forward.  Only around 2% of global philanthropic funds are focused on climate, so there is a pressing need for more action from funders around the globe.

Larry speaks candidly about the importance of unrestricted funding where appropriate and provides his views on whether divesting from fossil fuels is the right thing for the Hewlett Foundation right now. The focus, ultimately, being about achieving most impact.

For a full transcript of this podcast episode visit The Do One Better! Podcast website at where you’ll be able to download guest bios, useful links and more than 100 thought-leadership conversations on philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.  Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others — thank you!



An insightful conversation that delves into the UK Government’s changes to its foreign aid budget, the termination of the Department for International Development (DFID), and co-ordinating with UK and international organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephanie Draper has spent more than 20 years working to accelerate a just and sustainable future, with a focus on sustainable development. She brings extensive international experience of bringing sectors together to collaborate and shape a better future.

For a full transcript of this conversation visit The Do One Better! Podcast website at, where you’ll also be able to download guest bios, useful links and 100+ episodes on philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.



An insightful conversation with a highly passionate and respected practitioner and advocate. Charlie provides an overview of the state of affairs in brain cancer research today, sheds light on the medical advances he has witnessed since his days as a medical student and shares his optimism for much less invasive and much more effective treatments in the not too distant future.

From founding the Charlie Teo Foundation to helping set up a pro bono hospital in India, Charlie’s story will inspire and inform you.

Charlie was, and remains, instrumental in the development, dissemination and acceptance of the concept of keyhole minimally invasive techniques in neurosurgery. He runs a fellowship program that attracts over 600 applicants yearly and has trained many of the world’s leading figures in neurosurgery at distinguished centres such as the Barrow Neurological Institute and Johns Hopkins, Duke, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Harvard Universities.

He has raised over $20 million that has been used to fund research scientists both in Australia and abroad.  Charlie dedicates 3 months every year to pro bono work in developing countries.

Charlie was named as a Member of the Order of Australia (for contribution to the development of minimally invasive neurosurgery). In 2012 he was invited to give the Australia Day Address to the Nation and in 2013 was honoured to be the first non-politician Australian to address the US Congress on the need for more funding for brain cancer research.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website at for a full transcript of this conversation, guest bios and useful links. Download 100+ podcast episodes on philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. 



Chris shares his insight on the social entrepreneurial journey and his current venture, “Living With”, which helps patients, doctors and researchers to manage conditions remotely and derive  valuable data in the process.

Chris has 20 years’ experience of building fast growth, multinational companies and products, from £0 to £50m turnover. Among other ventures, he built and floated digital agency, Syzygy, on the German Stock Exchange and co-founded Ink Publishing, the world’s largest publisher of inflight media. He holds an MBA from London Business School and a degree from Oxford University.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for a full transcript of this podcast episode, guest bios and useful links.  Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others. Thank you!



The foundation will sunset in a couple of years’ time, and the dynamics are much more complicated than one would expect. From ensuring the foundation’s key staff are motivated until the end to sharing institutional knowledge with others and helping partners and beneficiaries thrive in the long-term.

The MAVA Foundation is a family philanthropic foundation based in Switzerland.  They were founded about 25 years ago by Dr Luc Hoffmann, who is the grandson of the founders of Hoffmann-La Roche. 

The foundation will be closing and will stop their grant-making after 2022. Over their lifetime, they have granted out more than one billion dollars.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for a full transcript, guest bio and useful links.  Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others. Thank you!



Learn how Charlize Theron, one of Hollywood’s biggest names, founded CTAOP in 2007 and is today driving a strong network of charitable partners, supporting youth in diverse ways and working with a team of professionals to help improve young people’s lives as we approach the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Ashlee George has been part of Charlize Theron’s team for 15 years and over the past decade has been leading CTAOP’s efforts to oversee dramatic growth, including increasing the foundation’s grant making, communities served and youth engaged — underscoring CTAOP’s vision of a future where all youth are empowered to live healthy, HIV-free lives.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for a full transcript, guest bio and useful links.  Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others. Thank you!



Infosys Chairman and Co-founder, Nandan Nilekani, and Rohini Nilekani, are the other two Co-founders of the EkStep Foundation.  Both Nandan and Rohini are signatories of The Giving Pledge — a commitment made by billionaires to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Infosys is one of the world’s largest IT firms and Nandan Nilekani’s involvement places the EkStep Foundation in a strong position to leverage technology in pursuit of education — the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4).

The EkStep Foundation was set up in 2015. The idea was to think big: they aimed for a big goal to reach 200 million children in India and improve their access to learning opportunities and help them achieve improved learning outcomes.

At EkStep, they have a sense of urgency and believe that social good can be done at the scale of the entire population. Time is of the essence since every single year there are 20 million children in India who enter and exit the education system. Therefore, every year wasted is tremendously costly.  In addition to speed and scale, the third key consideration is ensuing their work is sustainable.

Organisationally speaking, the EkStep Foundation is relatively small and only has approximately 40 members of staff — considering they’re reaching more than 200 million children, this is quite a good ratio.

Shankar sheds light on the technology and methods they’re embracing to improve education for millions of children. One of the challenges is ensuring their approach is compatible with the sheer scale and diversity of India, with 25+ formal administrative languages and hundreds of dialects. 

The technology should also help the existing ecosystem of actors since at EkStep they’re not interested in becoming yet another player in this field but, rather, they wish to facilities and improve the capacity of what’s already in place. The technology should fit in with the existing constraints and habits of the chidden, the schools and the education systems in place.

At EkStep, they thought long and hard about the possible ways in which they could help and ultimately ended up focusing on the humble textbooks that are delivered to millions of households annually.

In India, a billion textbooks are printed and distributed to children across the country entirely for free every year. A child may lack many things but a textbook is unlikely to be one of them.

Instead of thinking of the textbook as an outdated technology, they looked at imbedding QR codes so that when you access these QR codes you get content that’s relevant to the chapter and book you’re studying from.  It’s a gateway to content that is interactive, trusted and relevant to the learner.  It is a simple but effective approach.

QR codes tend to be present within each chapter; perhaps 10 to 15 QR codes per book, on average.  

Shankar provides examples: For instance, a 2nd grade student follows the sequencing of chapters in her textbook and the QR code in each chapter provides free content that is created and curated by her school authority — so it’s trusted. 

In a chapter about fractions, for instance, the content could show a video of a cake sliced into 5 pieces, so as to show the concept of fractions. This, in turn, could be followed by questions or a practice test, which then helps you know whether the content has been understood well.

One could say the QR code is somewhat equivalent to a GPS system within the textbook.  It’s like that 2nd grade student is telling the system, here I am right now, I am looking at fractions and, yes, I am understanding this content well. 

A fascinating aspect of this approach is that the content being shown to that student can change dynamically so that at the start of the year it’s more about explanations, while towards the end of the year it might be more about revision and mock texts.  Each individual state in India decides on content and how to sequence it.

In most traditional education systems, there is only limited (if any) feedback of what content individual children are finding engaging. Now, with these QR codes and targeted, dynamic content, they do have remote sensing of data that enables the education system to understand patterns, content engagement levels, learning outcomes, mock exam outcomes and what content students are spending most time on.  Are they focusing more on writing, mathematics, science etc? 

They created technology as a digital infrastructure and they’ve called it ‘Sunbird’ — Shankar remarks that one can think of it as a kind of Linux equivalent for learning. Open infrastructure and free. Anyone who’s interested is welcome to have a look at it and embrace this platform if they wish, irrespective of where in the world they might be.

It wasn’t straightforward to be allowed to operate in around 28 states in India and to reach the 200 million children they had originally envisioned.  But, with a clear focus on their original scale target and by not being precious about their brand, they have succeeded and are impacting millions of children.  They decided that the EkStep brand should never be in the picture, they collaborated with many others and they made their solution open source, free, and available to anyone who wishes to use it.

A question that often comes up pertains to the reality that many children simply don’t have mobile phones or smartphones that can access QR codes. Indeed, that is a limitation Shankar recognises. He mentions that half of children in urban India may not have access to mobile phones, and that number increases even further in rural India. However, he points out that every teacher has a device. So, if the teacher accesses the content they can teach better and enhance the traditional chalkboard they have in the classroom.

Moreover, as a result of COVID-19 schools are closed. So the government is coming out with TV programmes that also have QR codes that are connected to textbooks. They’re connecting the physical to the digital, trying out innovative ideas and aiming to ensure that no child should suffer for lack of access to technology.

Shankar’s key takeaway: When you’re thinking about making a social impact, think big. Don’t constrain yourself by the limited resources you have, because whether you think big or think small, the amount of thinking is the same. When you’re thinking big, don’t worry about not having a perfect plan, or about limited resources or worry about failing.  Shankar has seen great things happen when you set a goal that is way above your means to achieve but it’s so inspiring that you start to attract people around you who are equally inspired and who help you achieve your goal.  With that in mind, if you let go of the need to control the journey, be prepared for a fun ride. And, miraculous things will happen. Even if you don’t achieve your goal, you will end at a place that is far better than what you would have had if you had thought small and only achieved that.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please subscribe to this podcast on your favourite app and share widely with others -- thank you!



A New Year's special episode featuring key takeaways from some of the fascinating guests who joined us on The Do One Better! Podcast during 2020, including:

• Fran Perrin - Chair of 360Giving

• Sir David King - Former UK Government's permanent Special Representative for Climate Change

• Per Heggenes - CEO of the IKEA Foundation

• John Goodwin - CEO of the LEGO Foundation

• Ben Davies - Executive Director of the Johnson & Johnson Foundation

• Tony Nader - CEO of Transcendental Meditation organisations

• Craig Silverstein & Mary Obelnicki - Co-founders of Echidna Giving and signatories of the Giving Pledge. Craig was Google's first-ever employee

• Tariq Al Gurg - CEO of Dubai Cares

• Sandro Giuliani - Board Trustee of the Roger Federer Foundation

• Brian Gallagher - President & CEO of United Way Worldwide

• Howard Taylor - Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children

• Anurag Banerjee - Co-Founder of Quilt.AI

• Matt Reed and Tinni Sawhney - CEOs of Aga Khan Foundation in UK and India

• Jeffrey Abramson - Co-founder of the Rona and Jeffrey Abramson Foundation

• Edwin Macharia - Global Managing Partner of Dalberg Advisors

• Mabel van Oranje - Founder of Girls Not Brides

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website to listen to the full episodes with the above guests and nearly 100 episodes with remarkable leaders in philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

Thank you for making The Do One Better! Podcast such a success in 2020. Happy New Year!



The Centre for Strategic Philanthropy was founded by Badr Jafar and is based at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.  It was launched in June 2020 and is focused on emerging markets, with particular concern for the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Its geographic focus is something that sets the Centre apart from other academic outfits in the field of philanthropy.

They have three core pillars of activity: (1) they are a research centre, (2) will provide executive education commencing in early 2021, and (3) are a convening platform bringing together diverse voices, especially from the Global South.  

Clare provides insight into philanthropy in emerging markets and delves into some of the findings from their recently-published report Philanthropy and COVID-19: Is the North-South Power Balance Finally Shifting?

There is tremendous growth of philanthropy in the Global South and Clare explains how young philanthropists are increasingly moving away from establishing a straight forward foundation and, instead, are starting to consider alternative routes to doing good, such as creating an impact fund or starting a social enterprise.  

The Centre wants to help new, up-and-coming philanthropists to deliver more impact at scale, and to do so collaboratively.  They convene, attract new voices from diverse countries and encourage collaboration. 

Part of the rationale for Badr Jafar’s founding of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy was the lack of existing research into philanthropy in the Global South.  When asked what success for the next 10 years looks like, Clare replies that she’d like to see the Centre fill research gaps as much as possible, develop a better understanding of the landscape and have more robust data. Moreover, there is also a need to determine and showcase what best practice looks like.

Clare’s key takeaway: It’s about insuring that good intentions translate into impact. We really need to look at the evidence around what works and what doesn’t work. She cautions that before rushing in to create a programme or an intervention, one should really try to look at who’s already working in the space in question and aim to collaborate if possible. Yes, bring your passion, but be aware that intentions need to be matched by evidence.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please subscribe on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others -- thank you!



The FrameWorks Institute has been around for 20 years and they currently have a staff of around 25 professionals, comprised largely of PhD-level social scientists. Nat describes the team as a motley crew of disenchanted academics. Interestingly, they really don’t have folks in the team who come from a communications background, which is a bit ironic considering they focus on communications.

Nat describes FrameWorks as a non-profit, communications, social science research think tank. They are mission-driven to use social science research to support the communications capacity of the non-profit sector. 

They do this by focusing on three areas: 

1) they study, and are interested in, how people think about complicated social and scientific issues — it’s not about what people say or how they answer polling questions but, rather, it’s about how people use common cultural ways of understanding to make meaning of complicated social issues; 

2) they look at ‘framing’ and explore how presenting information in different ways influences how people think, feel and are willing to act — this is the science of framing; and 

3) they take results from this research and partner with organisations that are active in key sectors and they use these findings to improve these organisations’ communications.

There’s an overarching observation Nat makes clear early on: don’t assume that you are your audience. Nat notes that it is extremely common for people who are communicating about specific issues to make the erroneous assumption that they are their audiences. 

Data and evidence don’t necessarily make for effective communications. Nat asks, how many times have we seen presentations that start with data, have another piece of data, then include some charts and graphs about data, and then conclude with yet more data.  

We assume that this data layering speaks to our audience the way it does to us.  But this is by no means the case. Different people may need different elements in order to be convinced.  Always keep in mind that you are not your audience. One needs to draw a distinction between data and various other aspects that activate common, widely-shared values.

We also have a tendency to think of misperception as being analogous to people being wrong, or incorrect or simply unable to understand. This is dangerous. It’s not necessarily that people are wrong but, oftentimes, that people simply have developed different ways of thinking about certain issues or understanding the world around them. 

We hear how there’s a need to tweak the message to local cultures. The holy grail would be a single message that simply works all over the world — one size fits all. But in reality, while you may have a point you want to make to everyone in the world, how you make that specific point is going to have to be honed and made particular to given regions and countries, cultures and subcultures. You need to acknowledge the role that culture plays in how people think and process information.

Nat then sheds light on FrameWorks’ fascinating partnership with Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child and its director, Prof Jack Shonkoff. This collaboration stretches back further than a decade. 

We hear how FrameWorks helped the Center to translate complex research on early childhood development into highly effective messaging that helps a mass audience understand its meaning and helps increase awareness, change attitudes and drive forward positive behaviours.  

We hear of the development of specific phrases, such as ‘brain architecture’, ‘toxic stress’, and ‘serve and return interaction’, that were created to help research findings from the field of early childhood development reach and impact a broad, international audience.  

While these phrases seem fairly straightforward and sensible, Nat notes the work that went into developing these concepts took a great deal of effort and extensive development and testing; followed by extensive pushing and pulling between academics around how best to incorporate them.  Nat expands on these key steps, providing rich insight into the nuts and bolts of this process.

Nat’s key takeaway: firstly, it’s important to realise that you are not your audience. As a mantra, if you can repeat that, you’ll fall into fewer traps and you’ll make better decisions as a communicator. And the second piece revolves around the role of ‘framing’ in the process of change-making. Keep in mind that what you know is important, but there’s the bit about how you say what you know — the significance of framing. Realise that it’s not just about ‘what’ you know, but it’s about ‘how’ you communicate it in order to have impact with your information.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others — thank you!



In 2020, they are celebrating their 70th birthday. World Vision International operates in most countries across the world and is a $3 billion organisation focused on ending violence against children in all its forms and supporting children, particularly in some of the most challenging countries, such as the DRC and Syria.


While World Vision is a Christian organisation, they serve those of all faiths and of no faith at all. They’re structured globally by setting up separate legal entities in the countries where they operate (such as World Vision South Africa) — these entities all agree to work in partnership with all the other World Vision entities around the world. They also work with delivery partners in local settings. Many of World Vision’s in-country team leaders come up from local communities, as opposed to being expats placed there from overseas.


Andrew sheds light on World Vision International’s funding.  Their primary funding is derived through their child sponsorship model.  This is a model that aims to develop communities — not just the individual child but also the communities where that child lives. 


Since they are a $3 billion organisation, they are fortunate in having adequate resources to withstand a shock such as that posed by COVID-19. Part of the reason why their funding streams are robust is the strong link between sponsors and the children and communities where these children live.


We also hear of Andrew’s career trajectory. He started off in the private sector and only later on in life moved into the non-profit world. He was always selling things from an early stage in his childhood and, then, also as a teenager.  The idea of marketing was something he was passionate about. Then, at 30, he had a powerful coming to faith moment and felt a calling to become a Christian. His life turned around at that point. At the time he was working for Sky TV as sales and marketing director — he recalls how back then he was the youngest executive on their Management Board.  


He stayed in the corporate world for 20 years, spending time at high profile organisations, such as Google and Motorola Mobility.  In 2017, he was ordained as an Anglican Vicar in St Paul’s Cathedral. Now, alongside his work at World Vision International, on Sunday mornings Andrew serves at a London church called Holy Trinity Brompton. He loves combining the two.


We hear how transitioning from the corporate world to the non-profit world is not that straight forward. The remuneration is much different and in the non-profit world everything is about excellence at a minimum cost, while in the corporate world it is about excellence at an acceptable cost. In the non-profit world, funding decisions often impact whether a child goes hungry or not. Andrew advises the audience: if you feel pulled towards the non-profit world, then go ahead and give it a try.


One of the major programmes at World Vision is focused on ending violence against children. Andrew notes how lockdown and COVID-19 have meant that children are at home more, and they’re away from the protective environment of school and are often not given access to the adults who might protect them. So, the risk of violence against children is exacerbated.


When asked what success for the next 10 years looks like to him, Andrew answers that he’d love to see an end of extreme poverty in all its forms by 2030. He’s optimistic and explains that despite the backwards steps in economic indicators due to COVID-19, what we’ve also learned from this pandemic is that when people come together and have a common goal that we can achieve lots.  He’d also like to see an end of violence against children in all its forms and have World Vision play its part in making that happen. 


Andrew’s key takeaway: Think about how your life is having an impact on the world, and ask yourself what you want your legacy to be. Most of us want to have a legacy that makes the world better in some way, so think about how you can do that. Have the belief that you can make a difference.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please subscribe on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others. Thank you!



Scouting prepress young people with skills for life. It has been around for 113 years and is active in 190 countries. There are 53 million scouts worldwide and 460,000 in the UK. Moreover, there are 160,000 adult volunteers in the UK and 60,000 young people who are waiting to join the Scouts.


In the UK, the Scouts are a federation of 8,000 Scout charities. The organisation has numerous income streams and areas of operations.


Matt sheds light on the dynamics of how the Scouts operates in the UK and we discuss how different parts of the organisation have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  He describes in detail the painful realisation over the late summer, 2020, that this pandemic wasn’t going to be going away quickly and, therefore, they needed a decisive plan.


Consequently, the team has been reduced from approximately 390 staff to around 260, and many property assets, including Baden-Powell House in central London, are being disposed.


This has been painful for the entire organisation and staff morale has clearly been affected. And, yet, there is a realisation of the importance of focusing on the Scouts’ mission and ensuring everything works towards achieving that.


Matt’s key takeaway for other leaders trying to weather the storm: The first thing is to go back to your mission. Ask yourself, is everything you’re doing furthering your mission?  And, are you taking those difficult but courageous decisions that you need to take?  Because, sometimes, to build the new you have to give up some of the past, and that’s difficult — and it’s emotionally difficult. We often don’t talk enough about the emotional drain on leaders. It’s about a mindset shift that says, OK, we’re going to build something new and therefore we’re going to take these difficult decisions. And then, ask how are you adapting your strategy in order to deliver that — in order to return to a time when you can be more optimistic about the future. You have to go to the depths of those difficult moments to come out on the other side.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website at for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please subscribe on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others — thank you!



UWS is an educational NGO, based in the UK, with an international approach and a presence in Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal. 


Through education, UWS transforms the lives of some of the poorest children in the world who would otherwise have no access to education. They work with local communities to build and nurture schools and, then, to transition these schools into the government system. 


They have launched 226 schools and learning sites in Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal. Each school typically serves 150 children. 


UWS looks to build schools in places where there is a good fit. They identify regions where there are large populations of out of school children, which are remote, difficult to reach and are marginalised for various reasons.  


They identify these communities by liaising with local government and by working closely with teams on the ground. Importantly, UWS engages with local ethnic minorities who have key insight on where needs are greatest.


Each school is different and has its own life journey.  It may take a year or two to develop a school. Then, it’s about developing the enrolment and getting students in the habit of turning up — after all, these are often communities where the concept of attending school regularly is new. From there, it’s about maturing, whereby schools are brought up to a certain quality standard.  


This whole process takes several years; possibly a cycle of between 5 and 10 years. Once the school in question is working very well, then UWS looks to transition it into the local education authority — thereafter providing very light touch support.


We hear how the actual workforce is key to success, and how the whole endeavour is much more than simply constructing a new school building. Local communities, teachers, education authorities  — everyone is vital for success.


One of the hardest things UWS needs to do is figure out where they’re going to invest their finite resources. This means that if they find an education authority that is engaged and provides good political capital, there is an incentive to work with them repeatedly.


When looking to expand geographically, they consider (1) whether the level of need is there — ensuring they only go into places that have a clear need; (2) whether there is the potential for good partnerships, particularly with national and local governments, with good political capital where the government helps with the process; and (3) whether UWS can engage their supporters and donor-base to ensure there’s sufficient funding available.


Tim’s key takeaway: UWS uses this transition concept as an absolute guiding light for their overall strategy because it means they ultimately can deliver their mission and are leaving behind an empowered, well-run, robust project.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button and share widely with others — Thank you!



We discuss Rotary International’s charitable work in local and global settings. They are the largest service club organisation in the world and operate in more than 200 countries.  While clubs are independent they all follow core values. 


Holger is looking to increase the number of female members who join Rotary International as well as the number of young professionals. Diversity is vital and much progress has been achieved on this front in recent years.


Rotary International supports a wide range of charitable activities.  Holger specifically references polio eradication, a successful initiative they started decades ago in the Philippines, which has led them to collaborate with key global partners, such as WHO, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 


Holger also talks about Rotary International’s support of peace initiatives and notes they’re currently partnering with seven universities in the world to run peace projects; where people are conducting masters studies in peace to drive this field forward globally.


Rotary International is both local and global. They support local service projects as well as international projects focused on water, and on maternal and children’s health in Africa and India, for example. Since Rotary clubs are everywhere, they can interact internationally for charitable work unlike many other organisations.


Rotary International is a very flat organisation and has been around for 115 years. There’s just one president — interestingly, Holger’s term is just one year in duration — and there are 17 directors, and then 530 district governors around the world.


Holger’s key takeaway: Rotary is probably different than you thought. It’s a different organisation than it was 100 years ago. It’s not an old man’s organisation that is about going to lunch. Rotary is a vibrant organisation with many different clubs that fit your needs. Rotary clubs are looking to make lasting, positive change in the community, in the world, and within ourselves.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button and share widely with others -- thank you!



This conversation provides great insight into a public / private partnership with a strong philanthropic underpinning that simultaneously drives forward human development and wildlife conservation at scale — within a challenging context that in recent years has included conflict, local fighting, a commodities crash, a currency devaluation and a massive cyclone. 


A focus on forestry, ecotourism and agribusiness has resulted in robust social enterprise activities that  incorporate local communities while helping tackle climate change. 


There are 200,000 people around Gorongosa National Park and 80% of them are subsistence farmers living on under $2 a day. They are vulnerable to malnutrition, poor education and other challenges. 


Creating small businesses, helping with skills and fostering greater access to finance helps establish the ‘enabling’ conditions that transform livelihoods for the long term.


Matt’s key takeaway: Be part of something that creates a world where people and planet thrive together! 


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others — thank you!



A fascinating and thought-provoking conversation for anyone who's looking to understand attitudes and drive behaviour change at scale for the betterment of society.


What drives misogynistic attitudes? How do you know whether your philanthropic intervention is making a difference?  Can AI and big data help improve girls' education and expected career outcomes? What about privacy considerations when analysing mass behaviour online?  We discuss these questions and many more.


Quilt.AI is a mission-first technology company, seeking to increase empathy in the world. Using the Internet as a source of knowledge, inspiration and communication, Quilt.AI works on issues including climate change, gender equity and health across the world. Their work has focused on a range of thematic areas across the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The firm’s clients include some of the world’s most recognised for-profit and non-profit organisations. They’re headquartered in Singapore with a presence in New York, London, Zurich and New Delhi.


An insightful conversation that's perfectly aligned with today's global development needs and technological advances.


Anurag’s key takeaway: The Internet is still in its infancy.  We think of it as something that’s been here forever but it’s still relatively new. The next version of the Internet, the way information is indexed, the way we experience it, these things are all still to come. These are fascinating times.


Editor's Note: This interview was conducted in August 2020.  In October 2020, Quilt.AI became a corporate sponsor of The Do One Better! Podcast.  The original interview was conducted well before there had been any conversations around sponsorship.  Anurag Banerjee was invited as a guest on The Do One Better! Podcast purely on the merits of his work.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links.  Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others – thank you!


We hear how Afam’s father, and his dream to improve lives in Nigeria, was the inspiration that led to the creation of the Geanco Foundation – a charity based in Los Angeles. His father is originally from Nigeria and Geanco is very much a family story; they led with a dream and figured everything else from there.


Afam studied at Harvard and Stanford Law, yet his calling to serve guided him to the world of philanthropy and development work, and he co-founded the Geanco Foundation in 2007 right after completing his law degree.


He explains how declining numerous corporate law job offers in order to launch a foundation was not an easy choice – and indeed his mother certainly raised an eyebrow when she learned of this – but the decision simply felt right and Afam has never looked back.


Even though Afam had no experience in fundraising – an essential ingredient for any nascent charity – he was incredibly fortunate to get immediate financial backing from some of his classmates who organised a fundraiser for him early on and, also, from one of his professors who had done very well in the tech sector and had decided to support Afam and his work at Geanco for the first year.


The Harvard and Stanford networks played important roles and Afam advises listeners not to neglect the power and potential of your alumni networks.  His base of support today has much to do with the thousands of emails he sent to Harvard alumni and Stanford alumni over the years. 


Afam presents a sobering picture of the many challenges faced by the people of Nigeria today, from poor education and health, to gender inequality and the threat from terrorism. The Geanco Foundation tackles many of these challenges in its own way, by developing and driving highly targeted and meaningful interventions.


On healthcare, they organise medical and surgical missions in Nigeria, carrying out hip and knee replacements and various other types of operations. They also help improve outcomes in prenatal care by, among other things, helping to screen hundreds of women each month for anaemia and distributing ‘Mama Kits’ in rural parts of the country, which contain all the essentials one would need to deliver a baby safely in rural settings.


On education, they provide a variety of services and support, which range from delivering tablets to schoolchildren so they can read and study during lockdown, to helping build sports facilities and ensure schools have the right equipment.


Afam talks with great passion of the David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship for Girls, which the Foundation launched with the invaluable support of David Oyelowo, a world-renowned actor who cares deeply about the work of the Geanco Foundation.  David is just one of the many Hollywood celebrities who supports Geanco in a meaningful and substantive way – a partnership in the true sense. 


The Scholarship supports girls – many of whom have been left orphaned by terrorism in the country – in a comprehensive and meaningful way by providing support ranging from school tuition, room and board, healthcare and even by having representatives of the Foundation attend parent teacher conferences. 


The Scholarship started with just 3 girls in a single school in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, and today serves 35 girls in 4 schools throughout the country. In the coming years, Afam would like to see this grow further.


He notes that while these numbers may seem modest, the ‘Leadership Scholarships’ are truly comprehensive, meaning it’s not simply a matter of writing a cheque.  In the case this Scholarship, they literally help girls across pretty much every meaningful aspect of their lives.


There is no question that celebrity support has been invaluable to the Geanco Foundation. Afam notes that this support took time to secure and nurture, but with transparency, trust and real partnership it is proving extremely fruitful.  These celebrity engagements are true partnerships that go well beyond the simple endorsement one might think of.


Interestingly, Oprah Winfrey was the first funder of the David Oyelowo Leadershp Scholarship for Girls, and celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor ,Jimmy Kimmel and Charlize Theron  have been invaluable in supporting the Foundation by making introductions, getting involved and being part of the Geanco family.


Afam’s key takeaway for listeners:  He points us to his life’s mantra, which is simply to be kind to others and to serve. Our world is becoming angrier, sharper and more divisive.  Just find ways to be kind and always ask yourself how can you serve in any given situation.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite app and follow us on LinkedIn. Thank you!



Ben Davies provides great insight into the work of the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, their support of frontline healthcare workers, their $250 million investment and their aim to reach 100 million people... and much more.


Highly consequential work, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This conversation sheds much light on corporate philanthropy and how the private sector plays a role in driving forward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for full episode notes, guest bios and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with your family, friends and colleagues -- thank you!



Danny Harvey has more than 20 years' experience in the humanitarian aid and development sector, working with a number of organisations, including Concern. She has lived and worked in a number of countries including Cambodia, East Timor, Uganda and Indonesia. 

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for full episode notes, guest bios and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely -- thank you!



A fascinating discussion on the urgency of the climate crisis, including insight into some highly innovative technologies being pursued to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to refreeze the polar regions.


Sir David King was the UK Government's permanent Special Representative for Climate Change from September 2013 until March 2017 and was previously the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor from 2000 to 2007, during which time he raised awareness of the need for governments to act on climate change and was instrumental in creating the Energy Technologies Institute.


He also served as the Founding Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at Oxford; was Head of the Department of Chemistry at Cambridge University 1993-2000 and Master of Downing College at Cambridge 1995 -2000.


For full episode notes visit The Do One Better! Podcast website. Please subscribe to the show on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others. Thank you!



Vikas is a repeat guest on The Do One Better! Podcast. He first came on the show in 2019 when he was heading the Varkey Foundation – the organisation behind the one million dollar Global Teacher Prize.


He is an education policy expert and in this episode Vikas talks about the upcoming inaugural World Education Week, taking place 5th to 9th in October, virtually. The event is organised by T4 and Vikas is driving it forward.


Vikas notes how the biggest lever of change we have in education is the teacher, so they’ve decided to have the inaugural World Education Week commence on 5th October, which is World Teacher Day.


A key driver behind all this is the need to accelerate progress in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), which focuses on education.  The exciting thing is that digital platforms, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, allow for new voices of folks to share experiences and share perspectives. It enhances debate and discussion.


Vikas explains that teachers trust teachers, and schools trust schools, so when a school leader speaks from their experience as to how they’ve done XYZ, the likelihood of other teachers in similar situations listening and taking note is much greater.


This is why they’re also organising  a ‘Global Showcase’ during World Education Week, where they have 100 schools from around the world that are going to demonstrate an area of expertise to others.


There are 5 areas they’re asking schools to consider: (1) the use of technology, (2) employability, entrepreneurship and the development of life skills, (3) deepening family and community engagement, (4) the science of learning and the science of teaching and (5) wellbeing.


The power of World Education Week is in its targeted approach. Vikas prompts listeners to keep in mind that events are a tool in one’s efforts to promote or take part in some sort of advocacy effort. In the case of World Education Week, it’s an important initiative to drive the conversation as to what is possible with regards to accelerating progress in SDG4, as opposed to merely having 100 events around the world on education.


Capturing of knowledge and making the conference freely available to people is important. By amplifying the teacher experience you really do change the discussion.  It’s important to make sure teachers are included.


Vikas also underscores the need to increase the social status most societies grant teachers. COVID-19 has in some ways prompted parents to recognise exactly how much work teachers do every single day; something that came into sharp focus as parents had to deliver home schooling during lockdown.


To achieve SDG4 by 2030 (the target year of the UN Sustainable Goals) we need 69 million new teachers to be brought into the profession.  Vikas remarks: How can you recruit so many teachers if we keep on treating teachers the way they’ve been treated thus far.


Vikas’ key takeaway: The parting thought is one that fills Vikas with hope and optimism, born out of seeing what happens in schools all around the world. There’s so much excellence in all parts of the world that by convening and bringing teachers and schools together we actually have for the first time, because of the use of digital communications platforms, the ability to influence schools in other parts of the world, and also in ours, to do a better job and to raise the standard of education, and that fills Vikas with a lot of hope.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others – thank you!



Sandro notes that the world is experiencing breakthrough scientific discoveries at unprecedented pace. He asks: if we can anticipate these emerging technologies, can we then unlock their potential to improve our world for the benefit of society?


GESDA was started by the Swiss government, who provided approximately 50% of the initial funding; this was matched by philanthropy.  The organisation is now an independent foundation.


GESDA aims to bring in key multilateral stakeholders, mixing science and diplomacy, to anticipate what future technologies could look like.  Information technology, quantum computing, bio-inspired computing, artificial intelligence, human augmentation, eco-regeneration – what will be the impact of these technologies for the future of humanity and our planet?


GESDA has reached out to the best researchers on these topics and has created an academic forum; essentially, they’re identifying some of the world’s best researchers who are in their labs developing the future right now, today.


Key questions at GESDA: 1) Who are we, what does it mean to be human; 2) How are we going to live together, what technologies can reduce inequality; 3) How can we ensure the wellbeing of humanity and a sustainable planet?


Sandro explains how he will be looking at creating an impact fund focused on enabling the development and testing of these technologies and solutions. He will be developing key alliances with the right partners in philanthropy, the corporate world and beyond.


Sandro’s key takeaway: Ask the question about anticipation and embrace it. What is science able to do in 5 to 10 years and how are we now anticipating solutions.  Anticipatory thinking can be quite transformative. He invites everyone to ask what can an anticipatory approach bring to the work one is doing.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and please share widely – Thank you!



Vodafone Group is one of the world’s leading telecoms and technology service providers – covering such things as connectivity, convergence and the internet of things. They also have strong expertise in mobile financial services and digital transformation in emerging markets. They mainly operate in Europe and Africa, with mobile operations in 24 countries.


Dorothée explains how the role of the sector in society is crucial. The nature of the products and services they’re involved with means they have the potential to leverage digitisation to enable the speed and scale needed to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


At Vodafone, their drive is about connecting for a better future; it’s about building a digital society that leaves no one behind and protects the planet.


We explore what it takes to embed a sustainability mindset within the organisation. Dorothée notes that it’s very helpful that, at Vodafone, sustainability is a CEO-led agenda and it can be found throughout the whole organisation, including in functions such as Vodafone procurement, Vodafone business, brand and commercial.


Dorotheée’s key takeaway for those working in sustainability within a corporate environment is (1) Purpose: really finding that genuine articulation of why you exist as a company; and if that exercise hasn’t been done yet, try to make that exercise happen at the highest level; and (2) Pace: the window to avoid a climate catastrophe is closing. There’s a drive and energy and a passion to go very fast and go where we need to go. But sometimes this doesn’t work in a big organisation, and sometimes you need to take a step back and bring the organisation along. 


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please subscribe on your favourite podcast app and share widely – thank you!


IKEA was founded in Sweden, in 1943, by Ingvar Kamprad, whose vision was to improve everyday life for the many.  The IKEA Foundation is independent from the retail business with a sole focus on creating brighter lives on a liveable planet through philanthropy and grant-making


They work to create more family wealth; to enable families to afford a better life. When families have a sustainable income they will invest it in their children’s health and education. They also focus on protecting the planet and reducing greenhouse gas emissions because if nothing is done urgently there won’t be a planet for the children they’d like to help.


They support work around five themes: 1) Employment and entrepreneurship; 2) Regenerative Agriculture; 3) Climate Action; 4) Renewable Energy; and 5) Special Initiatives and Emergency Response.


Per delves into the huge challenges posed by COVID-19 and notes that for many of the people they help, the medical side of COVID-19 hasn’t been as much of an issue as have been the economic challenges presented by this pandemic; challenges in being unable to work and feed their families.  Despite the challenges, this pandemic presents opportunities to accelerate development, to think outside the box and to take risks.


The IKEA Foundation has 130 partners and 185 active programmes around the world. Per explains how challenging it has been for the Foundation to engage with these 130 partners as the pandemic struck and many of them required additional funding and flexibility to survive.


Per also sheds light on the work being done by the Foundation to help refugees and invest resources towards building lives for refugees and helping them become self-reliant.


Working closely with IKEA business – they look at how refugees can get a start by having a 6-month internship with IKEA and then be able to apply for  job at IKEA. This has the power to change a person’s starting point in their new environment.


Per gives insight into his personal career trajectory, coming originally from the private sector. He explains how he faced a steep learning curve coming into philanthropy from the private sector and faced scepticism from those who view business as something bad.


Encouragingly though, this sentiment has evolved a lot over the past decade and now NGOs and philanthropies see business and the private sector as an important player in trying to drive forward the big global agendas such as climate change.


Per’s key takeaway: We have very limited time left to preserve the planet and ensure the world lives within the planetary borders and does whatever it can to reduce greenhouse gases, because without that almost everything else becomes secondary.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful resources. Please subscribe and share widely with others – thank you!


Cynthia will be hosting the 'National Prenatal-to-3 Research to Policy Summit' on 15th September 2020. A virtual event open to everyone which will feature Prof Jack Shonkoff of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, Gov DeWine of Ohio, Gov Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and various other experts and policymakers.


The Summit is presented by the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs. 


During the podcast, we hear how early childhood is a period of incredible importance. It is the time when brain development is happening most rapidly.  Cynthia notes how children who are exposed to early adversity have higher rates of lung disease, heart disease, cancer and they engage in more risky behaviour – the earlier years really do shape the development of our brains and our body’s systems.  In the USA, children who are exposed to extreme adversity early in life have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter than children who are exposed to very limited adversity.


We also hear Cynthia’s insight on the most effective policies that states can implement now and how different states in the USA compare to each other.


Cynthia’s key takeaway: She wants folks to understand just how important these first three years are, and to understand that we can actually do something to make it so that kids get off to the healthy start they deserve. Policies do represent the choices and the priorities that we have, and if we prioritise the fact that children deserve this healthy start then we know some of the answers for how to make that happen.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Please click the subscribe button and share widely with others -- thank you.


Jeffrey is a Washington DC-based philanthropist who’s been practising Transcendental Meditation (TM) for more than 40 years and he’s a Co-Founder of the Rona and Jeffrey Abramson Foundation.


He started thinking about improving the world when he was just 8 years old. He knew he wanted to end suffering and he wanted the solution to be one thing that could be given to people everywhere to change their circumstances, so they were the ones who lifted themselves up, and it needed to make them self-sufficient; not dependent on others. 


Many years later, when Jeffrey was 20 years old, he learned TM and experienced the benefits from meditating. He realised that maybe TM was the one gift that could deeply effect and empower everyone. 


A key goal of his philanthropy is to expand the research into TM and give people around the world access to their potential; to unleash their drive so they can impact their own lives and their own communities.


Jeffrey sheds light on his experience working with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who launched TM in the 1950s, which he describes as a defining moment in his life; an experience he thinks about often.


Among his various philanthropic activities, Jeffrey is the Chairman of the Board at Maharishi International University (MIU) – he’s been on the Board for 20 years. He’s very proud of this and he notes how MIU develops the whole person and includes TM as part of the curriculum.


A few years back, Jeffrey’s Foundation agreed to a multi-year pledge to the David Lynch Foundation – a foundation committed to ensuring that every child anywhere in the world who wants to learn to meditate is able to do so. Jeffrey sheds light on a specific community project in Washington DC called The Ark that brings TM to marginalised segments of the local community.


Jeffrey also explains how he aligns business with philanthropy and how TM is integral to his company’s success and operations.


Jeffrey’s key takeaway: He notes that solutions exist for the global issues we’ve discussed. They just need to be implemented by people who care. Change is possible and it always starts with one person. And, Jeffrey has found that for real systemic change to happen it must begin first within each of us. It’s important to reflect on where real sustainable passion comes from. It comes from the fullness of an ever-flowing free heart and soul. Every act counts. There’s always a domino effect to the people you touch with simple generosity and kindness. Do something that drives you, that fills your heart. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Plant a tree; meditate; donate; volunteer. It’s simple. Help put proven solutions to work; make a difference and trust in your goodness.


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful links. Click the subscribe button and share with others -- thank you!


Practical Action is an innovative international development organisation; their Patron is Prince Charles, HRH The Prince of Wales, and they partner with diverse organisations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the IKEA Foundation and DFID – the UK’s Department for International Development.


The organisation is comprised of various entities, which include a charity running projects internationally, a publishing company and a consulting company as well – together they work hard to find ingenious solutions, capture and share learnings, and to bring about big change.


Practical Action works in about 12 countries at any one time. In total they have 600 staff and partner with many organisations. Their operating budget for charitable actives is about £30m annually.


They’re a very practical organisation and focus on farming that works; energy that transforms people’s lives; helping to build resilience; and making urban centres safer places for people to live in – particularly looking at water sanitation.


The thrust of the conversation with Paul revolved around Practical Action’s work in Bangladesh (where they have a team of approximately 100 staff) as it pertains to water sanitation.   Paul is a water and sanitation engineer – so he gets very excited about this topic.  He’s not shy to say that in the case of their water sanitation project work in Bangladesh, essentially, “we’re talking about poo”.


They’ve been working with marginalised, urban communities in slum areas in towns and cities around Bangladesh and helping them to improve their living conditions.  Again, in his candid manner, Paul notes that a particular problem is “the problem of shit”.  Many people have access to a latrine, which people use as their toilet – but the challenge they found was that emptying the latrines was a huge problem.


Across the whole of Bangladesh, something along the lines of 80,000 tonnes of human waste is produced every day, and over 90% of it remains untreated.  What happens often is that emptying these latrines becomes the task of informal waste workers, literally emptying pits by hand and disposing of the sludge in open watercourses. We’re talking about something that fills the equivalent of 30 Olympic swimming pools every day.


This poses a terrible health threat to people living in these areas. The total population of Bangladesh is around 160 million people; of which perhaps 40% are living under the poverty level.  Safe sanitation is a matter for the whole population – not just those living in slums.


Practical Action focused on developing a market system for sludge, working across the board with diverse stakeholders, including micro finance outfits, government representatives and foundations.


They tried to answer the question of: How do you get these pits emptied in a safe and reliable way?


Practical Action’s solution turned this activity into a business, in a sustainable way – in partnership with a broad range of actors, developing a workforce and turning sludge into fertiliser.


They worked with municipalities to license operators; they developed an app so city dwellers could order this service and leave feedback for a job well done.  In turn, service providers got decent pay - and so the market works.


Their work started approximately 10 years ago, when they were working with WaterAid.  They could see that while latrine coverage in the country was going up, the problem of sludge was not actually being addressed.  So, they started piloting urban-based sewage treatment systems and things have progressed very well since then.


Paul also sheds light on his career trajectory.  He’s an engineer by background and at the start of his career was working in the construction industry in the UK. In his 20s he took a posting with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) to work in Sudan and he found this experience highly stimulating and full of purpose. He learned much and shifted from a traditional career path, from what he classifies as a construction engineer, in order to become a development engineer.


Paul’s key takeaway: It’s all about the team. If you have a motivated team that is ready and willing to work together for a common purpose, then you’re powerful!


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful resources. Please click the subscribe button and share widely -- thank you!


United Way is the world’s largest privately funded non-profit organisation. It is 133 years old, has 3 million volunteers, 8 million donors and operates across 40 countries – including the UK where they’ve had a presence since 2014. Last year it raised around $5 billion.


United Way Worldwide is a social franchise; it owns the brand and sets rules on financial reporting, governance, ethics and inclusivity across 1,800 communities globally.  It also manages relations with the United Nations (UN), the World Economic Forum (WEF), corporates and governments.


Brian sheds light on his background. He formally joined United Way as a trainee back in 1981 and has thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  A word of wisdom he likes to share with folks who are just starting out on their careers is simply ‘be prepared to say yes’ – we’re so wired to say no.  So, just say yes.


Last year United Way generated around $5 billion in income, which is a remarkable sum.  Brian notes the breakdown of this income is roughly split as follows: 15% from corporations (such as IBM, UPS, FedEx, Samsung and IKEA); 35%-40% from the employees of the 65,000 companies they work with (employees who tend to give via payroll); and the other 50% comes from individuals.


United Way has approximately 8 million donors. There are 600 donors who have given $1m+; 40 donors who have given $10m+; and approximately 25,000 donors who are regularly giving $10,000 annually.  The average donor gives $300 per year.  Brian notes that United Way is most effective when it reflects and looks like its community. And, in order for a community to succeed, everyone in that community needs to succeed.


When asked about what success looks like for the next 10 years, Brian responds that, for him, inequality is the biggest issue in the world today.  In 10 years from today the world is going to have to be more equitable, more just and cleaner environmentally. This change will either happen through enlightened political, corporate, and non-profit leadership; or it’s going to happen through social unrest.  He is optimistic about how things will shape up for the next 10 years, although he notes he’s less optimistic about the next 18 months.


On the issue of COVID-19 around the world: Brian observes that it’s the countries with strong public health systems (countries who look after the health of all their citizens) that are doing much better than places like the US.  Likewise for countries where there’s a strong social contract, a commitment to the common good and where people care about each other – these are the countries that are coping better. For him, the pandemic is wildly instructive in terms of what success looks like in the next 10 years; there needs to be a focus on the common good.


There is a great deal of digital transformation and innovation taking place at United Way.  Brian sheds much light on how the organisation has evolved; he provides insight into their traditional business model and how they’re now embracing digital technology to increase efficiency and transparency in their philanthropy.


United Way helps to take the resources in a community and to match these with people in need.  The business model at United Way was to pool your money; United Way will then assess who are the best non-profits out there, and then they’ll give them that money and ensure they’re doing a good job, and then they’ll tell the donors about it.


However, Brian notes that digital technology is now eliminating the middleman in transactions. So, you don’t necessarily need to go through institutions any longer, you can do it individually. So, what United Way has been working towards is how to build this community exchange without individuals having to come to them as a vertical institution.


What United Way has done is build individual donor and volunteer digital profiles. They’re working with Salesforce – building first in workplaces and then beyond – on the ability to build your own profile (what do you care about philanthropically in terms of where you want to give; how you want to volunteer; what you want to advocate) and they’ve taken all of their work in education, income, health, migration etc and they’ve digitised it all. They have also taken all of their impact content and turned it into digital.


They’re putting their donors and volunteers together with this content on one platform so they can interact with each other without necessarily going through United Way.


Brian notes that if United Way is to go from 8 million donors to, say, 18 million donors, they’re going to have to give up some control as an institution and instead create an environment and a technology ecosystem that allows the donor and the volunteer to get directly to the service provider or even the person who needs help – so that United Way facilitates that process instead of managing it.  Fundamentally, it’s about how can United Way help individuals connect directly to what they want to achieve philanthropically.


This digital platform they’ve created with Salesforce is called Philanthropy Cloud; it is now live in around 350 companies in the US and there are around 70,000 people using it.


As the users use Philanthropy Cloud, the tech gets smarter. The Salesforce AI (artificial intelligence) is in the tool itself.  Brian has Philanthropy Cloud installed on his phone; it tracks things for him, it makes recommendations for him to read about certain philanthropic topics, it provides stories and information that are relevant to him. 


The way Brian describes it is: why can’t the philanthropy on his phone be just like his Spotify account?  Why can’t it watch him use the service and then make suggestions to him – so that’s what Philanthropy Cloud is about. That’s what it does.


Brian’s key takeaway for listeners: We need to connect with each other. We’re better together than we are apart; this applies to philanthropy. Let’s be generous; let’s share with each other. If we do this there’s nothing that will stop philanthropy generally, and therefore society.  Brian is increasingly learning that there are so many things he doesn’t know. Appreciating this has allowed him to be freer, to think abut United Way’s work differently; to think about who they might partner with that they wouldn’t have partnered with before.  It’s that old adage: if you hold the bird too tightly in your hand you kill it, and if you open up your hand it flies away; so you have to hold on to these things gently.  United Way now finds its thinking to be much more open.  For those of us in philanthropy – no matter what segment of philanthropy – you have to be open, you have to be willing to learn, you have to be a bit vulnerable and you have to trust more than we trust right now. We have to be open and generous and, if we are, good things will happen!


Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and useful resources.  Please click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app and share widely with others. Thank you!


Load more

Play this podcast on Podbean App