Peter Jones is one of the UK's best known entrepreneurs and in 2005 he founded the Peter Jones Foundation to improve the socio economic outcomes for young people by helping them develop enterprise skills. They aim to ensure at least 60% of the young people they work with come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This wide-ranging conversation introduces listeners to the Foundation's various initiatives, including their Tycoon Programme, which aims to back children's and young people's business ideas by lending money to them that is risk free and encourages them to develop and execute innovative business plans.

The Foundation currently works with approximately 700 schools and has supported 12,000 young people to set up and run their businesses.

Bill Muirhead delves into the question of what, precisely, are enterprise skills and underscores the importance of learning through doing. There is room for the UK's school system to embrace enterprise skills more robustly and, indeed, Bill notes how these skills are vital to increasing self-esteem and confidence. 

In addition to working with schools, the Foundation has also developed a strong alumni programme that supports those young people who have engaged in its programmes over the years.

Bill's key takeaway for listeners: He asks you to talk to the educators and young people in your lives; we all have the opportunity to ask the question: what did you do today that was enterprising?  What's your school doing to encourage enterprise? If the answer is a blank stare, then look up the Peter Jones Foundation; explore its Tycoon Programme.  Have enterprise education on your radar. You may not have thought of it before but it's really important in the world that we're facing up to.

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World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is a Canada-based organisation dedicated to expanding education, economic and empowerment leadership opportunities for youth in Canada and around the world, with a particular focus on refugees, displaced youth and young women. 

WUSC has its origins in the 1920s and today has a team of approximately 15 staff in Canada and a strong presence in the frontlines of the developing world. They’re actively supporting refugees from eastern Africa – Uganda, northern Kenya, Malawi – and the Middle East – Syria and Iraqi refugees based in Jordan and Lebanon.  They’ve done some work in Myanmar and are exploring needs in Latin America.

We also hear how their current operations are being negatively impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, they were due to assist 140 refugees to come to Canada for the start of the 2020/2021 academic year but that’s on hold for now due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Chris provides useful insight into the difference between the opportunities available in many developed countries, such as Canada, and countries of first asylum – the countries where refugees first go – which are usually in the global south and often struggle to provide higher education opportunities for their own populations, even without any refugees in the equation. 

The pathway to higher education for refugees is full of challenges. Funding is a hurdle; scholarships are often restricted to specific countries of origin, religion, age; the equivalency of academic qualifications is not always straight forward to assess; university admissions processes can be cumbersome for many reasons; and even in the final country of destination incoming refugees may experience xenophobia, racism and many cultural challenges.  WUSC tries to assist refugees to overcome all of these challenges. 

WUSC is fortunate to engage with like-minded organisations, such as the Shapiro Foundation.  Chris notes how Ed Shapiro is a philanthropist who is interested in expanding opportunities for refugees. He has engaged with a number of charities, both in terms of helping expand the work going on in Canada and, also, in exploring how Canada can share its expertise to help the work being undertaken elsewhere. 

WUSC has been working very closely with the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) around expanding education pathways for refugees globally. They’re part of a global effort to share and develop capacities in other countries to do this kind of work. Chris sheds light on a report WUSC prepared in conjunction with UNHCR and UNESCO ("Doubling Our Impact: third country higher education pathways for refugees" – Feb 2020) which is useful reading for anyone interested in making an impact in this space. 

The key takeaway Chris shares with listeners: Think about the challenges that you’re trying to address, at the scale commensurate with the challenge itself. This has been a key piece for WUSC as they think of the growth of their own programming.

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Spring Impact is a registered charity in the UK and a 501(c)(3) in the USA. They help other charities and innovative organisations of various sizes and degrees of experience to scale up, replicate and increase their impact.

Dan sheds light on his professional trajectory and highlights how he learned a great deal by observing the likes of McDonald’s and Oxfam.

Unlike many commercial advisory firms, Spring Impact is happy to share their intellectual property (IP) so that others can learn from their processes and strategies. They publish a ‘Social Replication Toolkit’ that is publicly available and transfers insight to anyone who’s interested in learning more.

Interestingly, Spring Impact often works with organisations that are already well on their scalability journey – not just nascent ventures.  For instance, Dan noted Spring Impact works with several Skoll Awardees.

Spring Impact is also deploying much attention to drive forward the field of early childhood development (ECD). They have helped many clients in this space and are now looking at how they might be able to create toolkits and processes that would be of use to any ECD organisations looking to increase their reach.

Dan explains how they work with charity Boards and CEOs and, also, he notes that oftentimes the funding for their work actually comes from third party Foundations that have identified a specific charity in need of gaining scale and, consequently, they approach Spring Impact and fund their work in support of the charity in question.

Dan’s key takeaway: Keeping in mind the current COVID-19 backdrop, he notes that, yes, do think about emergency response and risk but, also, go ahead and hold your head up to the possibilities to really expand and create more impact. Once we’re in recovery mode post-pandemic, you should really think systematically and strategically about scale.

Visit The Do One Better! Podcast website for guest bios, episode notes and additional resources on a wide range of topics focused on philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Please subscribe to the show and share widely with others -- thank you!


ACEVO is a network of more than 1,400 CEOs and aspiring chief executives based in the UK. They represent members from organisations across all sizes. They are a charity themselves and aim to ensure the leaders they serve are able to make the most impact possible. They support leaders and, in turn, these leaders inspire their own organisations. ACEVO helps CEOs be the best they can be.

Vicky sheds light on how ACEVO’s members are responding to COVID-19 – a crisis that is stretching many charities to the limit. She notes there are serious concerns and, indeed, demand for charities’ services has gone through the roof. At the same time, many fundraising and income streams have been negatively impacted.  Yet, there is much hope and much consideration in the sector for how we can build back better.

ACEVO has actually weathered this pandemic quite well. They have had to shift all their events on to digital platforms but that has led to good engagement. Whereas before they were convening their members through 50 different in-person events annually, now they’re doing approximately four weekly events using digital platforms. Engagement with their members has increased, as have their membership renewal rates. Members see the value of being part of this community of CEOs and aspiring leaders at this time of crisis.

On 17th June 2020, ACEVO have a report on racism coming out called ‘Home Truths’. They have been working on this report for more than a year in conjunction with a partner organisation called ‘Voice for Change England’.

The report looks at racism within the charity sector. Its insight is derived through various sources and methods: by talking to people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds who work in the charity sector; surveying more than 500 people; conducting in-depth interviews with people from diverse backgrounds; and holding roundtable conversations.

Vicky notes that the experiences BAME individuals have while working in the UK charity sector are often not good. This report aims to understand exactly what BAME individuals are experiencing in this sector and how best to address the problems highlighted.  The report is called ‘Home Truths’ because it delivers some fairly robust truth to, particularly, white leaders in the sector about how the sector is falling short in areas of equity and inclusion.

Vicky notes the problem is not just an absence of BAME people in the charity sector but, also, that those who are in this sector are often not having a positive experience. She also notes that, historically, organisations serving BAME communities are underserved in the funding arena.

During the podcast she also sheds light on ACEVO’s work and coalitions with other organisations who represent this sector, such as the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF). Interestingly, she notes there is room to explore international coalitions.

Vicky’s key takeaway:  As leaders we need to imagine better to create a better world, so let’s not be limited in our imagination for what things could be, let’s think big and then work collectively to move towards achieving some of those bigger, bolder visions.

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Debbie sheds light on how Sage – a business solutions company and accounting software developer – launched the Sage Foundation five years ago. She was instrumental in launching the foundation which, today, entices more than 13,000 Sage colleagues to volunteer their time (last year, they volunteered an aggregate of 31,000 days), works with 300 charities at any given time, and supports local communities through grants, resources and innovative initiatives.

Debbie notes that philanthropy and volunteering are a great way to create happiness and her passion is unmistakable.  We hear how the Sage Foundation focuses on young people, women and military veterans and engages around work-readiness, education and entrepreneurialism.

Each Sage colleague is granted 5 days per year to volunteer for a charitable cause close to their heart. This can take many forms and today, with the pandemic and COVID-19 impacting the world, they’re doing a great deal of remote volunteering – such as online mentoring, helping children to read or even working with wildlife charities by reviewing live cams and assessing animals’ migration routes.

Moreover, at the Sage Foundation they’re helping charities better manage their finances in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic – for instance, by helping charities be more effective with their cash-flow and by facilitating knowledge-sharing between organisations. 

They’ve also launched the FutureMakers initiative, which is aimed at teaching young people aged between 11 and 18 about artificial intelligence (AI) and considering the likely impact AI could have on their future careers. In addition to volunteering and grants, the Sage Foundation also helps with resource by discounting their cloud-based software and supporting charities in their local markets.

Debbie shares her experience of what it was like to launch the Sage Foundation from scratch, how she advocated for this philanthropic initiative to sit at the very top of the Sage corporate structure and also gives insight into the work required to introduce the notion of a foundation and volunteering to the firm’s 13,000-strong workforce and, ultimately, ensuring everyone is strongly engaged with philanthropy.

Debbie’s key takeaway for listeners: “Action speaks louder than words. Get on and do it!”

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Carol became Chief Executive of Coram in April 2007 and was awarded a CBE in 2013 for her contribution to services for children and families. 

Carol sheds light on the charitable work of Coram in supporting the rights, welfare and education of children throughout its 280 year history.  She speaks of its Founder, Thomas Coram, describing his life and passion to help children.

The conversation explores a wide range of topics, from Carol’s professional trajectory and Coram’s impact to COVID-19 and pressures on funding.

The key takeaway Carol would like listeners to keep in mind: quoting Thomas Coram, carol notes that everyone ought in duty to do any good they can, and she prompts us to ask how each of us is serving. She concludes by quoting Anne Frank: How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before they start to improve the world.


Sanj starts off by providing an overview of ShelterBox’s origins; from a small outfit conceived 20 years ago in Cornwall, UK, to a global NGO providing disaster relief on the ground and via remote technical assistance. 

It has only been a few days since super cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh and eastern India, and the latest estimates are that 10 million people have been impacted and 500,000 have lost their homes; this is on top of already being in an incredibly precarious situation as they grapple with COVID-19 in extremely densely populated areas where coronavirus is present.

It’s worth noting that a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh has 40,000 people per square kilometre, whereas Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) started has 6,000 people per square kilometre. 

Sanj remarks that when the cyclone hits people are losing their homes and then moving into even more crowded settings for shelter, which then adds to the risk of coronavirus transmission. Therefore, ShelterBox needs to act quickly to provide family shelter; they’ve also got to provide hygiene materials to help people keep their hands clean.

This is a disaster on top of a disaster. This super cyclone is a natural disaster which is an acute emergency; you also have the coronavirus which is becoming a chronic emergency; and you also have the much wider development disparity with people living in extreme poverty.  When you live in extreme poverty, you have less resilience and little ability to support your family. You don’t have a government that can provide you with a furloughing scheme and pay your wages, or that can bail out businesses, or provide healthcare.

Sanj recalls a conversation he had with someone in Monrovia, Liberia, in reference to the earlier Ebola outbreak.  The man noted that Ebola doesn’t scare him since he’s already exposed to many risks that are alien to most Westerners.  For him, dengue fever can kill him, malaria can kill him; he can’t afford healthcare, if he doesn’t work he’ll die. And so, for much of the world there is a lack of safety nets – the extreme poverty faced by millions is already life-threatening, on top of the acute and chronic emergencies.

Interestingly for a global disaster relief NGO, ShelterBox’s headquarters is in Cornwall, UK. They have approximately 110 staff in Cornwall and 20 staff in London.  Sanj describes ShelterBox as both a community and an organisation. It relies to a great degree on volunteer support, from Rotary Club members to individual ambassadors.

ShelterBox has created response teams that go out into the frontlines when needed – made up both of professional humanitarians as well as volunteers.  They have over 200 volunteers who are response team members in addition to their professional staff.

They run training programmes for volunteers that include a wide array of information, from how to run distribution to doing needs assessments.  Training makes a big difference.  They assess people for their qualities, for their appetite for learning and for their raw skills; but not necessarily their previous experience. They look for the potential in people.

ShelterBox works closely with the public and has a strong following of supporters. They’re working on developing more of an international base and now also have opened an office with a team full time in the Philippines and are looking at other countries, too.  They take pride in partnering with local organisations on the ground – sometimes in very difficult circumstances in Syria, in Cameroon, in Somalia – and sticking with them, investing in their capacity and ultimately handing over responses to them.

Innovation is important. They have a ‘Horizons Team’ whose job is to spot new products for distribution and getting on top of the tech wave – thinking about what the world is going to look like in 10 or 20 years, what’s climate change going to do, what’s the scenario for that disaster they haven’t predicted.  They’re also looking at new ways of working, such as remote technical assistance, which they’re currently doing in Paraguay with local partners.

Sanj sheds light on his professional trajectory. He was a Captain in the British Army and did two tours in Iraq, then joined the IRC (the International Rescue Committee) where he worked for close to a decade. He joined the Army in a pre-9/11 world. It was exciting and it was different, and he enjoyed the comradery, but through two tours in Iraq he did become disenchanted with what militaries do and can achieve versus what are the real human needs. So, he left with some good memories and some useful lessons. He then did a master’s degree and then went to the IRC – an organisation that taught him much about what it means to be a humanitarian and that’s where he got his grounding.

Today, Sanj notes that collaboration is improving between international NGOs and even with the UN, but there’s still a long way to go. Questions need to be asked around why do we have various NGOs doing the same type of work in the same country; why not have a single NGO doing each type of work and start to consolidate? There’s a long way to go but Sanj is very encouraged by the direction of travel. 

Sanj posits a pragmatic idea to improve how the global community tackles some of the more intractable development problems. He doesn’t believe we can look to a deadlocked UN Security Council to resolve some of the conflicts and global issues we face – to get the Paris Climate Accords up and going for instance. Rather, he feels we need to look at more regionally led solutions and alliances.  For instance, he points to ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) one such example that can help where global frameworks struggle.  Likewise, he refers to conflict resolution in places such as the Sudan and South Sudan, where east African states have been very involved.  So, he believes that investment and support by Western countries in those types of mechanisms is a very pragmatic way to solve problems region by region.

Sanj’s key takeaway for listeners: As a senior (or aspiring) leader there is a fine balance to strike between having sufficient humility and having too much deference to what people think. It is important to keep the humility while having a lodestar that guides where we need to go without being afraid to bring people along for that journey.  Try to take time to get feedback from those around you to help you strike that right balance – this will serve you well.

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This episode follows from an earlier episode of The Do One Better! Podcast featuring Matt Reed, which aired in October 2019. It is worth listening to that episode in conjunction with this one.

This conversation sheds light on the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Development Network at a global level and provides tangible insight to their work in India.

Matt Reed is CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation in the UK (and was formerly CEO in India between 2013 and 2016) and Tinni Sawhney is the current CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation in India.  Together, they provide a multifaceted account of how they’re helping the most marginalised communities and individuals.

The Aga Khan Foundation is one of 10 development agencies that together form the Aga Khan Development Network, founded by His Highness the Aga Khan.  They work across all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aim to: 

  1. Improve the quality of life, in all its dimensions, in all the communities where they are active
  2. Promote pluralism
  3. Enhance self-reliance and civil society


They’re active in approximately 20 countries across central and south Asia, east and west Africa, and the Middle East. They focus on the poorest of the poor, in some of the most remote regions of the countries where they’re active. 

Across the Network, they employ between 80,000 and 90,000 people – excluding the communities and volunteers they work with – and the Foundation itself works with approximately 40,000 civil society organisations annually.  Annual operations across all 10 agencies is roughly $5.5bn.

Tinni Sawhney sheds light on the work of the Aga Khan Foundation in India.  Their interventions span many sectors, including girls’ rights, women’s economic empowerment, gender equality, early childhood development and agriculture.  Prioritising the needs of women is central to all their work. 

On the issue of society’s attitudes in India towards women being active in the labour market; girls staying in school for as many years as boys do etc:  Tinni notes that oftentimes, women’s work is unseen and unheard. At the Aga Khan Foundation, they want to make sure women realise just how important women's work is both to the communities in which they reside and also in their own households. It is also important to help men realise that the work of women is so fundamental to the economic development of their work and, therefore, they need to allow women to step out of their home.

Tinni talks with passion about an intervention that helps schoolgirls and young women have a voice.  She sheds light into one programme that had identified that many girls were dropping out of school to stay at home and manage the house. But these girls definitely had aspirations. 

So, they launched learning centres that provided a welcoming environment and enabled participants to gain some qualifications and vocational life skills - also making them aware of their rights and entitlements.

This life skills education led girls to realise they could have a different life. In the eyes of their immediate household these were now women who were contributing to the running of the household economy, so that increased their status within the household and, importantly, within the community there was also a greater acceptance of women working.  

Many girls who complete this vocational training end up becoming role models to other girls in their communities. And, ultimately, that’s how change across the whole of society happens.

The Aga Khan Foundation is very much a facilitator and their interventions are sustainable, whereby they continue to yield benefit to local communities even after the Foundation is no longer directly involved, and whereby many of the benefits and ideas that result from their interventions actually originate within the local communities themselves.

Tinni goes on to shed light on her own professional trajectory and how she ended up becoming the CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation in India.  She notes that while growing up she didn’t feel she was going to be active in the development field. But that changed when she joined the Institute of Rural Management in Gujarat .  As part of her training she had to live two months in a village that had no running water and the only house that had a toilet was the house where Tinni was sent to live by her institute. That’s when she realised that if we are really going to make a change then perhaps this is the setting where one starts.  She was very enthused by Mahatma Gandhi’s sayings that India resides in its villages. That’s where Tinni found her calling. 

Tinni’s key takeaway for listeners: Sometimes we find the greatest stories of courage and empowerment among those we would think of as poor.  She has found some of the greatest stories of empowerment among the women she works with. She feels the potential to overcome great odds is present in everyone. With a little bit of support, people can take this potential so much further – one cannot even imagine. With a little support that potential can really become an agent of change. This is very inspiring!

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Home for Good is the charity Krish founded 5 years ago, which came out of his own family’s experience of fostering and adopting.


We hear how in the UK there’s a shortage of foster carers and adoptive parents; in the USA there are over 110,000 children who are in the care system waiting to be adopted and are ready for families. Globally, there’s a whole issue on how we care for children.


In the UK, the government is the corporate parent of every child that’s in the care system. There has been a huge upturn in the number of kids who are in care in England with 75,000 kids in care at present. The government is struggling to find carers.


Krish works very closely with the UK Department for Education and, also, he is increasingly working with the UK Home Office, since there is a pressing need for unaccompanied asylum seeking children who have fled war and terror in places like Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.


Krish notes that asking someone to become an adoptive parent or foster carer is a really big ask. It goes well beyond asking someone to give money.  Rather, we’re asking people to open their homes and welcome into their families strangers’ children who have had all sorts of on-going trauma; to love these kids as their own flesh and blood, not just for a hobby or a weekend but for the rest of their lives – that’s a huge ask.  It’s a hugely philanthropic way of living.


During the conversation, Krish also shares his fascinating personal story and sheds light into his mixed race background, his mother’s experience growing up as a child in an orphanage and his own six children – three of whom are his birth children.


Krish’s dad was born in Malaysia, and his dad’s dad was born in Sri Lanka. His mother was born in India, and her dad was Irish.  Krish notes how in the 1940s and 1950s it was quite unusual for a mixed race marriage to take place and, because mixed race children were not socially acceptable, his grandfather’s three daughters ended up in three different orphanages all over India. This was the case even though their mother was around and able to care for them.


As a consequence of discovering his own personal family history, Krish is now also quite focused on the issue of de-institutionalisation.


Most children in orphanages around the world have living parents. However, he notes that because of social stigma or well-intentioned philanthropy that hasn’t necessarily been thought out we are unnecessarily institutionalising children. This was Krish’s mom’s story – she didn’t need to be in an orphanage as a child yet she grew up in one unnecessarily.


Krish goes on to explain how, today, he now has three birth kids and three permanent other members of their family through fostering and adoption.  It is through these experiences that Krish and his wife know both how challenging fostering and adopting are and, also, just how very rewarding they are as well.


Krish’ passion comes across loud and clear and he explains how the goal of finding a home for every child that needs one has been the operating vision of Home for Good since the very outset.  


To underscore how consequential this issue is to society, he presents some sobering statistics: for instance, kids who age out of the foster system in the UK make up 1% of the population but they make up 25% of the homeless population and make up between 40% and 50% of our prison population.


Krish's takeaway for philanthropists: Passion and heart are not enough to do effective philanthropy. As philanthropists we have go to be absolutely informed and clear that our interventions are actually doing good.


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We hear how five venture capitalists met in London approximately 15 years ago and explored how philanthropy could embrace more of an entrepreneurial spirit, and how venture capital assets could blend with philanthropy assets. Those were the origins of the EVPA.


There are many ways of defining venture philanthropy, and Steven likes to think about it along three dimensions: 1) yes, giving is good but it’s even better if you can measure your results and you know what you’re after; 2) as in venture capitalism, you need to go beyond the funding by exploring the value that one can provide by opening one’s networks, by providing capacity-building etc; and 3) being creative enough to provide tailored financing that is flexible and fits best with a given situation.


We hear how the EVPA is active in over 30 countries and has more than 300 members.  They are an ecosystem builder and provide diverse services, from peer group convening to research and working closely with all stakeholders.


The EVPA also has a strong relationship with the European Commission and connects closely with academic institutions and policymakers.  The typical profile of an EVPA member is mainly a European, cross-national organisation. Foundations and social investment funds are two of their main membership constituents, along with organisations such as NGOs and social enterprises that are more on the demand side of the equation.


While traditionally their members were organisations, more recently they have also started including high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and philanthropists in their membership – individuals who can bring key resources and expertise to the mix.


Steven notes that COVID-19 is presenting serious challenges and he views this pandemic in three phases:


1) The survival phase – ensuring, for instance, that liquidity challenges don’t lead social enterprises to failure.


2) The revival phase – say the next 6 to 18 months – how best to stabilise and get things back on line.


3) The building resilience phase – being much better prepared for whatever future crisis might be looming in the horizon.


Foundations are struggling right now as they consider how to address the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus; they’re being prompted to ask some highly consequential questions, such as:


1) Should I redesign my programme, perhaps by moving away from a traditional focus on, say, the arts to a new focus on health or tackling COVID-19 in refugee camps?


2) Should I shorten my investment horizon from a multi-year approach to a more short-term focus, right now, to support organisations with immediate funding to address their liquidity challenges? and


3) How should I react if my foundation’s endowment has taken a serious hit?


Steven notes that the EVPA is suggesting to their members that they become a bit more relaxed about the rigorous reporting requirements they’re traditionally asking of grantees and to be more flexible with the management of grants; they should ideally open up a little bit about where and when to use the money; become a bit more relaxed because it’s urgently needed now.


When asked about how the EVPA member organisations and industry stakeholders all share information with each other, Steven mentioned that they have just gone live with Unitus Europe – a European philanthropy and social investing impact hub – a joint initiative the EVPA was very involved in launching.  They’re joining forces to ensure that the whole sector can have visibility on the different actions and initiatives that are being taken and, in the process, connecting supply and demand.


Steven also sheds light on the challenges being faced by social investment funds at this time and the partnerships that the EVPA has developed with various universities that are focused on applied research, such as ESADE in Barcelona, ERASMUS in Rotterdam, Catolica in Lisbon and HEC in Paris.


Steven talks about his background in the private sector and how he ended up running the EVPA. He always had a conviction that there should be a sweet spot where you can both do business and you can also do good at the same time.


When considering what success looks like in the next 10 years; a time horizon that aligns well with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Steven notes that using regulated accounts to measure the success of a business is something we’ve started doing approximately 150 years ago.  Before that there really weren’t any regulated accounts.  Yet, today, the financials are the key metric everyone looks to.  A similar thing happened with risk – looking at risk and return is something that is relatively new. Therefore, what Steven sees now is a third element coming into the picture, which is 'impact'. Societal additionality – there are loads of debates on how to measure impact yet, in 10 years’ time, he’d like to see a state of affairs where impact is a tangible and integral part of this risk-return-impact dimension.


Steven’s key takeaway for listeners: these unprecedented times in light of COVID-19 mean there are big dangers and big opportunities out there. He sees that in times of crisis, we tend to take measures that are not temporary but are often here to stay. Right now he’s following a current discussion on privacy and whether we should deploy smartphone apps to track what we’re doing, who we’re connecting with etc [within a COVID-19 context]. From an immediate perspective, for sure, there is a benefit of implementing such a system.  However, we need to be mindful of how best to implement things that have a short-term value while also keeping in mind that once implemented it may not be so easy to remove them when required. We should be very aware that the actions we take now in this time of crisis will probably be around for a much longer time. Democracy is at stake – we should not take light-hearted decisions and we must keep our long-term values front and centre when taking action now.


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The organisation was founded in 2016 by the Secretary General of the United Nations; its Board includes the head of UNICEF and the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is a public-private collaboration that includes UN agencies, governments, industry and others.  They have more than 400 members.


Collectively, they want to raise awareness, catalyse leadership commitments, mobilise resources, promote evidence-based solutions and support those who are working on the front line to tackle all forms of violence, abuse and neglect of children.


Early on in the podcast, we delve into the large amount of useful information they’re curating, which is available on their website, to help ensure children are protected during this period of uncertainty with the COVID-19 backdrop. 


The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children acts as a focal point of evidence-based information that is of relevance across many sectors, such as health, education and social services.  We are reminded that many sectors are involved in protecting children from violence.


Howard remarks that the risks children face right now are not new risks but they are exacerbated risks, due in great part to the high stress of COVID-19 in domestic environments -- confinement, isolation, job loss etc.   We hear how children are spending much more time online, and this increases risk.


Collectively, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children is trying to ensure child protection is embedded in government responses to COVID-19 across the globe. This is a key priority. It is also imperative that child protection services continue to be seen as essential services and get resourced appropriately during this pandemic.


Howard notes they must ensure that they get the right evidence-based advice to parents, caregivers and to children themselves. And, he underscores the importance of providing ‘evidence-based’ information since there is a lot of questionable information sloshing around out there. He notes it is a privilege to be working so closely with UNICEF, the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and many others – drawing on a wealth of experience and expertise.


One of the challenges right now is packaging this evidence-based information in the appropriate way to ensure it’s reaching the right audiences, with the right messages, in a timely fashion, to equip parents, caregivers and in some cases the children themselves to stay safe.


Countries are at different stages in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 and are embracing different responses. Irrespective of each country’s particular circumstances, Howard wants to ensure governments are taking child protection seriously. It is important to note this issue doesn’t go away once a coronavirus vaccine is made available. The violence, neglect and abuse experienced by children today will have very long-lasting effects on individual children and national economies.


There are approximately 1.5bn children who were previously in school and now are out of school due to COVID-19. Much of what these children are doing today is online; and they’re not connecting in person with teachers, friends or social workers – the network of people children normally have around them who can serve a protective function.


It’s important that parents and caregivers know what children are doing online. Moreover, we hear how there is also a role for technology companies and telecoms companies to play as well. There are certain things they can do in terms of making their platforms, their social media and their learning spaces as safe as possible; and, they can also help push out child safety messages and help detect, disrupt and stop any harmful activity that’s going on. 


The episode also touches on the increased vulnerability of certain at-risk segments, such as children who are refugees, migrants, displaced children and children living in conflict environments; often without parental care, living on the streets or in urban slums.  On top of everything, there’s also a gender dimension to keep in mind since girls are at higher risk than boys.


Howard speaks about his organisation’s strategic considerations in light of COVID-19 – his organisation employs approximately 25 staff who are mainly based in the USA and Geneva, Switzerland.  Many of them have worked in social impact and international development, yet none of them have ever worked through a global pandemic of this nature. The challenge now is that this pandemic doesn’t only impact their beneficiaries but, indeed, it has a direct impact on the team as individuals and the organisation as a whole.


Despite the wealth of experience the team has in dealing with conflicts and various other crises over many years and many places, the COVID-19 pandemic feels qualitatively different.  Everyone in Howard’s team is remote working and they’ve done much by way of scenario thinking and contingency planning as they try to figure out what this pandemic could look like as time moves on.


It’s not just about how to end violence during COVID-19 but also nobody knows exactly how lockdowns will unwind or how COVID-19 will eventually unfold, or when a vaccine will come in, so it’s also about thinking of the next 18 months and beyond, and what is going to be needed, what is going to be possible and how do they go about that with and through their partners.


Howard also introduces listeners to their ‘Fund’, which has made significant investments in the last few years – particularly to address child online safety and also for children in humanitarian areas of conflict. In light of COVID-19, they’re now reaching out to their grantees to find out what they need on the ground, what the implications are for the work they’re doing, and what it means for them not just workwise but also organisationally.  It is a fund that has mainly been funded by governments and foundations but that is open to everyone who wishes to support the work they’re doing.


We then also hear of INSPIRE – a set of evidence-based strategies for countries and communities working to eliminate violence against children, which was created by various UN agencies, the US Centers for Disease Control and others.  Howard noted that it’s probably the best example of a comprehensive set of strategies which, if adopted, followed, resourced and implemented give you a good shot at ending violence against children.


When asked what success looks like for the next 10 years: Howard would like to see target 16.2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achieved by 2030 – the target focuses on eliminating violence against children. He views it as his job, and that of his team and partners, to hold governments to account and, indeed, also to support governments with the evidence and resources.


Howard’s key takeaway: Firstly, we can and must do more to protect children during COVID-19. Secondly, to have optimism that coming out of COVID-19 the world isn’t going to be the same as it was before, and so asking what is it going to look like to build back differently. Whether that’s around the level of consciousness and awareness of the issue; whether that’s around action that’s taken to address the issue of violence, abuse and neglect of children. Do more now, and in doing so be more aware and, then, let’s build back differently as we come out of this crisis to whatever the next new normal is going to look like for children all over the world.


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Dalberg is a strategic advisory firm serving a wide range of clients, from foundations and NGOs to private firms and governments. The firm was founded in 2001 and aims to create a world where all people everywhere are able to reach their full potential. In this episode we discuss how they're tackling COVID-19 implications and advising their clients accordingly.


Development and impact is key for Dalberg and, today, they are a group of companies with 30 offices globally and interests in a wide range of activities, including: human-centered design, data analytics, on-the-ground research, transaction advisory, media and advocacy, and increasingly implementation capacity.


Edwin started his career at McKinsey & Co in New York in 2001. He notes how 9/11 was actually his second day at work and it was a defining moment in his life that helped shape his outlook and appreciation of impact and the importance of things besides traditional shareholder value maximisation.


Dalberg works closely with national governments, the UN ecosystem and multilateral agencies. They’ve become the largest top-tier advisory firm in Africa; larger even than those that don’t focus on mission and impact to the same extent.  They appreciate that many markets in the global south are the most forgotten and the least able to access professional support, and they’re keen to ‘localise’ their approach, meaning that in any given country where they operate, between 60% to 80% of staff are from that country themselves.


Thematically, they cover everything across the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since, as Edwin notes, everything is tightly interconnected. You can’t fix malnutrition in children, for instance, by focusing on health alone. The drivers may well be agricultural issues, or trade issues, or education issues – everything is interconnected.


COVID-19 has been a major shock to every single client they serve; private, governmental, philanthropies; it has impacted everyone across the board. When advising clients on how best to brace themselves for the arrival of COVID-19, there are three core things they’re focused on:


Firstly: Understand thoroughly what the situation is today, and respond appropriately. If you’re a private venture, consider your supply chain, your workforce and your distribution networks, for instance.  If you’re a government, what does this do to your fiscal space and your ability to raise taxes. If you’re a philanthropist, which places do you invest in, and are you taking a portfolio view. Even in this immediate context, what are the things you can do today that can have a long-term impact for your own organisation and business. Edwin emphasises that in the middle of a crisis nobody has perfect information, so you need to have a system to constantly assess what’s going on so you can respond accordingly. Also, recognise that the decisions you made yesterday may not be the correct ones for today, since you may now have new or better information that you didn’t have before.


Secondly: Start understanding what are the mid-term impacts that COVID-19 will likely have on your firm, government or philanthropy, and make decisions that provide for the best possible floor for your organisation so you don’t crash through it and therefore are unable to recover when this crisis concludes.


Thirdly: Proactively start to plan for what the post-pandemic world could look like. Because the decisions you make today could lock you in a negative space if you don’t think long-term enough on what recovery begins to look like – you may be tempted to get rid of capabilities or assets or partnerships that you might need to reacquire further down the line.


It is important to recognise that the first thing you’ll feel is panic; the world is falling on your head and you don’t know what to do.  It’s important to acknowledge this but, also, you need to park that to one side and then move to a more deliberate approach to understand the expected impact on your organisation and then start to plan appropriately for what the response looks like.


Even at Delberg themselves, they started tracking COVID-19 in early January 2020 and once they realised that this virus wasn’t going to be contained in China, they very quickly started having business continuity conversations and ensuring the most important matters got attention from the very most senior leadership in the firm. We don’t know what the crisis will look like but we know that we can prepare today as best as possible so we can aim to respond appropriately.


Towards the end of February they stopped all international travel at Dalberg, which was very difficult to do, especially keeping in mind their on-the-ground research and human-centered design work.  This was difficult but it was the right decision to protect their staff, the communities where they’re based and simply to be good citizens of the world and reduce the risk of transmitting this virus as they’re travelling through airports.


Edwin is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and he explains how there, too, they experienced initial panic followed by anxiety. This is a challenge for government leaders because on the one hand you want to protect the health of your citizens and on the other you want to protect their livelihoods – many people don’t have savings and are manual workers. It’s a very challenging reality. In some communities social distancing is simply impossible, with high-density communities, no running water, no possibility for remote working.  A taxi driver or a labourer in a construction site simply cannot telecommute and, yet, these are the most vulnerable segments.


In response, Dalberg is incubating coalitions that can tackle these challenges in effective and scalable ways.  ‘Safe Hands’ is one such initiative. It’s a coalition of Dalberg and new tech companies in Kenya, and manufacturers and distributers aimed at providing the hand sanitisers and face masks so desperately needed, and ensuring as much as possible of these get to informal communities.  It’s large scale manufacturing at the lowest possible cost.  Almost everyone in the coalition has said they’re putting aside the profit motive to ensure they’re protecting these more vulnerable communities.


Another initiative focuses on unconditional cash transfers to those who are most vulnerable. These cash transfers help people so they can continue to operate and exist as individuals. Cash has a strong economic multiplier because it ensures the local shopkeeper is still able to sell products and, therefore, the supply chain is maintained.


They’ve started these two coalitions in Kenya, but their aim is to use these as examples for others to build similar coalitions in countries across the globe. They want to share the model, the lessons they’ve learned and ensure they share this insight with others.


Edwin notes that some philanthropists in the global south have stepped up to the challenge; Aliko Dangote being one such example.  The bit Edwin underscores from a global north philanthropy perspective is that everyone is being called to support the same cause. Everyone is being approached to help with COVID-19, irrespective of whether they live in San Francisco or Zimbabwe or Senegal. This is a departure from what has traditionally been the case, where philanthropists in the developed world would be approached for very different things in their local community versus the needs they might address in the developing world.


Also, because of distance and the inability to travel at present, it’s important for philanthropists to listen to insights from the frontlines. What’s happening in response to COVID-19 in California, for instance, may be interesting but not necessarily directly transferable to what’s happening in Tanzania. So, if you’re already working with partners in the front lines, be much more attentive to the things they say they need, versus looking at your local partner simply as a ‘delivery partner’.


Edwin also brings into the conversation the need to pay attention to what’s happening in the global east.  The people who are furthest along in dealing with COVID-19 largely sit in the global east – China, Singapore, Hong Kong.   They’re weeks if not months ahead.


Unfortunately, though, from a technical perspective, the link between the global east is weakest with the global south.  So, a lot of this knowledge tends to be intermediated by a Western institution. The China context in a development perspective is much closer to an African context than New York or Italy, for instance.  Edwin recommends that as philanthropists today are thinking about where they can provide support today for global south partners; rather than the traditional question of how do I go through a global north institution, which then works with a global south institution, ask yourself 'can I actually find a way to tie the connection between global east and global south'? Because this transmission of knowledge is what needs to happen in a much more accelerated way in today’s world.


Key takeaway: He wonders, how can we expand individuals’ moral universe.  How can we expand empathy and people’s understanding of just how connected we all are. Therefore, looking out for each other is in our own selfish best interests. Hopefully, when we look back on this crisis, we can say 'did we build back better' because all our interventions had a person at the centre of what we were trying to achieve. And that person was not those who we currently consider to be in our moral universe but it’s actually much more global and much more expansive. Because this is the only way we will find long-term solutions to this challenge. To Edwin, COVID-19 is the first of challenges humanity is going to face. Climate change is just waiting around the corner.  We can use this crisis to build back better; an ability to respond will require us to all start from a position of greater and deeper empathy, particularly for leaders across the world, and then hopefully create the systems and institutions to make that possible.


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COVID-19 in crisis settings and the power of play. CEO of Right To Play, Kevin Frey, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss how they’re preparing for the pandemic in 52 refugee camps across 22 countries.


This episode looks at Right To Play’s work and how it impacts lives in diverse ways – we frame the whole conversation within the coronavirus context and the challenges for their workforce and beneficiaries alike.


Right To Play is an international organisation that was founded in 2000 by Johann Olav Koss – a former Norwegian Olympian. They’re working in 22 countries – mainly in Africa, Middle East and Asia – and reach over 22 million children every year. They work in 52 different refugee camps and have extensive experience in crisis settings.   


Kevin and Right To Play Internatiponal are based in Toronto, Canada, and the organisation has offices in many countries, from New York and London, to Amsterdam, Norway, Sweden and Germany.  They use all forms of play, from gamified learning to music, sports, arts and more.  


We hear of the organisation’s trajectory, from 2000 until today. Over the years, they have secured impressive government and foundation partners.  They work closely with the LEGO Foundation and the IKEA Foundation, and have collaborated with the governments of Canada, UK, Switzerland and Germany, to name a few.  They have also entered into a high-profile partnership with Liverpool Football Club and have Right To Play’s logo featured on Liverpool's kit for Champions League games.


When asked about COVID-19 and his concerns of how this pandemic will impact their work, Kevin notes that they have concerns about preparing their staff in the Global South for what’s coming and protecting their beneficiaries – the millions of children who they reach every year.


The dynamics on the ground in many of the countries and settings where they work present real challenges.  Densely populated areas, refugee camps, poor water sanitation, poor access to healthcare etc – the list is lengthy.


This will impact local communities in many different ways and at Right To Play they’re not only doing pre-emptive work on hand washing and social distancing but are also paying much attention to providing psycho-social support for the trauma that will ensue post-pandemic.  Mental health and wellbeing are key considerations beyond the direct viral impact of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.


Interestingly, Right To Play learned much from when they were doing charitable work in Liberia back in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak.  They hope that in countries that have coped with Ebola, there will be experience, expertise and insight that will help them better prepare for the imminent challenges of this crisis.


We hear how ‘play’ is a means to an end.  Through play, they manage to improve children's lives across many areas, including quality education, gender equality, peaceful communities, health and wellbeing, and child protection – it’s a holistic set of objectives and play is merely a means to achieve this.


Kevin notes that Right To Play’s name can be misleading since they don’t actually exist to defend children’s right to play – rather, play is just the mechanism that they use to drive these really important changes in kids’ lives. It’s a powerful force in children’s lives.


Play can convene children so they come out to whatever programmes you’re running and to teach them active experiential gamified learning – there is very strong research that shows this is how kids learn best.


Impact is at the core of their activities and they’re incorporating RCTs (randomised control trials) wherever possible into their programme design.


We hear how building local capacity is key to Right To Play’s model.  RTP employees don’t work directly with children. Instead, they always train local partners to run those programmes on the front lines.  They train and engage with diverse stakeholders, from community organisations and teachers to prison guards in children’s correctional facilities.


Historically, Right To Play were keen to enter whatever countries they had funding for. Today, however, RTP tries to go deep into the countries where they have an existing presence. That being said, they have recently announced with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada a joint partnership bringing Right To Play to Senegal.  This is an exciting addition to the work Right To Play is already doing in Mali, Jordan, Thailand, Mozambique, Burundi, Pakistan, Ghana and several other countries.


When asked about what success looks like in the next 10 years, Kevin remarks that: It’s not about achieving some headline number. Rather, they want to continue to serve more and more children in the run up 2030 -- the target year for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They want to get to more kids to protect, to educate and to empower them.  They’d like to engage with other international organisations that may already be working at large scale across 50 or 100 countries; they’d like to explore how such global organisations can become delivery and distribution partners for the evidence-based work Right To Play is offering.  Scale and reaching more kids really matters.


Kevin’s key takeaway: Speaking within a COVID-19 context, Kevin notes that leaders can get hit by these crises that you never see coming and you can be stunned and left wondering what do I do next. But he notes that it is precisely when the world is changing super rapidly like this that actually new opportunities are emerging – opportunities to serve new populations, or born out of necessity, to invent new and disruptive ways to innovate and to deliver impact. New opportunities to get into relationships with people that up until now you hadn’t been talking to. There are huge opportunities to leapfrog on strategy, on delivery methodologies, on organisational structure.  Ask yourself, how can I make this crisis a force for really progressive and positive change for our organisation.


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Canopy is focused on protecting the world’s forests, species, climate and helping advance community rights.  They do this by harnessing the power of the marketplace.


Nicole launched Canopy 20 years ago with a small budget of $1,800. Today, they work with 750 large corporate customers, including H&M, Zara and Kimberly-Clark by helping them to develop and implement environmental policies.


They aim to change behaviours at a societal level. They approach this by working with the top 1,000 to 2,000 senior decision-makers who work within clothing companies, e-retailers and publishers.


The sheer size and purchasing power of the companies these individuals work for means they have incredible economic and political influence to incentivise forestry companies and governments to change business-as-usual practice. 


Nicole notes that Canopy is probably best known for ‘greening’ the Harry Potter series, which we hear was a lot of fun to do. 


Back in the early 2000s, they were working with Raincoast Books – the Canadian publisher of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the 5th instalment of the series. They worked to get the book published on environmental paper – free from ancient and endangered forest fibre.  Nicole underscores that both JK Rowling and her agent were very supportive of the initiative.


Then, fast-forward to the 7th book in the Harry Potter series where the book was printed on environmental paper in 24 countries and became the greenest book in publishing history.


The sheer volume of this endeavour provided proof to the industry that you really could publish high volume work on environmentally friendly paper.


Canopy’s work also tackles fast fashion, and the environmental and social footprint of the whole fashion industry. We hear how fashion is a major driver of deforestation and forest degradation. There are 200 million trees today disappearing into fashion annually; into viscose, into rayon, and modal fabrics. And this number is slated to double within the next decade.


Canopy have been proactive in engaging with industry leaders and they started reaching out to brands and designers, icons within the fashion industry: Stella McCartney, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Levis – working with them to develop environmental policies that commit to eliminating the use of viscose and rayon fabrics originating from ancient and endangered forests and, also, to prioritise and help drive next-generation solutions.  


They publicly launched ‘Canopy Style’ six years ago and now have 213 brands on board that represent $260 billion in annual revenues. This has enabled them to get similar commitments from most of the world’s viscose producers and, consequently, enabled them to start transforming the industry. Canopy drives change through collective action and convening; they help corporate clients through key services such as developing policies, tools and systems.


Interestingly, Canopy does not enter into financial relationships with any of the brands they work with. They feel this helps protect the integrity of their work – they’re keen on long-term, transformational relationships. Nicole feels that when a cheque is slid across the table, the whole relationship can become more transactional. Therefore, Canopy relies on a more traditional philanthropy model whereby most of their income comes from Foundations (60%) and major donors (30%).


Nicole’s key takeaway: We’re at a critical junction as humanity. Our time is calling us to be more audacious and to take risks. We can’t just keep doing the same things and feel frustrated that we’re not shifting the dial fast enough. We have to be bolder and we need to be willing to be uncomfortable.


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COVID-19 threatens to decimate the developing world. CEO of ActionAid UK, Girish Menon, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss strategic preparations as the novel coronavirus spreads into the Global South. 

Girish notes: "We have no idea how it's going to unfold, we have no idea when it's going to end, we have no idea of how the new normal will be defined."

ActionAid is an international charity and human rights organisation that works with women and girls living in poverty and aims to end violence, foster women's economic empowerment and protect girls' and women's rights. They work in approximately 40 countries in the Global South, in Asia, Africa and Latin America and have a keen interest in helping girls and women in humanitarian crises.

The conversation with Girish focuses exclusively on the devastating impact this global pandemic could have in the developing world and is framed in light of "The Global Impact of COVID-19 and Strategies for Mitigation and Suppression" report from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team published on 26 March 2020.

While populations in low-income countries tend to be younger, they also tend to experience poorer health, live in larger households where the elderly would struggle to self-isolate and often live in highly concentrated environments -- including refugee camps and urban areas.  Moreover, a lack of clean water, poor sanitation and health infrastructures that lack capacity and sophistication all point to a highly disturbing scenario whereby mortality rates and economic impact could devastate societies.

We discuss ActionAid's strategic thinking and manoeuvring in the face of COVID-19, and the challenges faced by NGOs, and their chief executives, in terms of decreased funding, strained operations and governments that are struggling to cope.

We also consider how women and girls could be disproportionately impacted by this global pandemic since in low-income countries two thirds of informal sector workers are women -- compounded by the potential for increased domestic violence that we have seen before in moments of crisis.

ActionAid's largest fundraising market is the UK, which constitutes 1/3 of the funds they raise globally. Therefore, any reduction in UK income could have a highly detrimental impact on ActionAid's work. We discuss ActionAid's Southern Africa Food Crisis Appeal, which they launched two months earlier -- 45 million people are facing one of the worst food crises, impacting the poor and most vulnerable the most. While attention now focuses on the coronavirus, a key point worth underscoring is that these themes are deeply intertwined. 

During this time of acute crisis, Girish notes how he's been in daily contact with his peers in other organisations. ActionAid maintains close co-ordination and communications with other leading organisations through its membership of 'Bond' -- the UK network for organisations working in international development -- and the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee). Girish mentions how they have already started considering deploying a global fundraising appeal as the pandemic hits the Global South. 

Girish's key takeaway for NGO leaders and CEOs: Stay mission-focused and be true to your culture. Don't be distracted from your mission. Focus on what you can control and manage because the world is unpredictable.


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CEO of Transcendental Meditation organisations, Dr Tony Nader, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss the TM movement, how to start practising TM and why it can benefit your mental and physical wellbeing.


Tony sheds light on his personal journey, from PhD research on cognitive sciences at MIT to leading the Transcendental Meditation Programme across the globe.  He explains how this simple technique can give you energy, strength and make you feel rejuvenated.


We hear what makes TM unique and learn some of the overarching principles that underpin it. For those who are curious, there is an explanation of what practising TM actually looks like and why it has the potential to improve mental and physical wellbeing. 


Tony is clear that TM is not a religion, nor a philosophy, nor a belief system and, indeed, there are individuals from all faiths who practise TM.


Transcendental Meditation was launched in the mid-1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And, while many people may associate TM with celebrities, Tony remarks that TM has a presence in most countries around the world and has 12 million people practising it. He describes it as a grassroots organisation – a big family that is open to everyone.


Tony’s key takeaway: we are fullness within; every one of us is wholeness. And, there is something very beautiful, very deep within ourselves. It is our consciousness that is an expanded field of being that we can reach, that we can experience; know the beauty of who we are, know ourselves and the real depth of what we are and live life in fullness and wholeness and perfection. This is the birthright of every human being. And, it is not a hope or a wish, it can be achieved systematically, scientifically and repeatedly.


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The Social Investment Business (SIB) has been around for approximately 20 years.  From 2002 to 2010 they did £320m worth of investments into a whole range of organisations.  More recently, they’ve added grant-making and business support to their range of activities.


Their world has changed over the past 20 years, with many new players active in this field compared with just a handful that were active when they first launched.  Nick notes that this is a good thing – the space is more mature and there are a higher number of specialist funds out there and more support available that is better targeted and specialised, based on things such as geography and thematic areas of operation.


The Social Investment Business provides debt/loans, grants and business support – they always try to find the right blend. While, traditionally, most of their investments have been in the form of debt, more recently they’ve been doing grants, including grants for business support.


Nick sheds light on the nature of their various funds and the debt, grants and support they provide. He then proceeds to delve into the ‘Spectrum of Capital’ – from social investing and impact investing to ESG-integrated investing and traditional investing. [NB: ESG = Environmental, Social and Governance]


There is still much work to be done in terms of improving definitions in the world of social and impact investing.  There is also a healthy degree of scepticism when talking of impact investing: Nick referenced instances where ESG funds have simply been re-branded as 'impact funds', while in actual fact nothing had changed except for their name.  There’s a need for standards, and there is an obvious risk of ‘impact washing’ – as there was with ‘green washing’. Nick shares very useful insight on impact and how to interpret it.


Nick’s key takeaway: increasingly we’re thinking less about scaling individual organisations as part of what SIB does and more about scaling impact across the board. And so he thinks, increasingly as times are hard, people should be thinking about sustainable prosperity and strengthening organisations to make them resilient for whatever happens . He thinks that imposing scale on individual ventures and organisations may be something they look back on and slightly question why they had been doing that.


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Fran explains how working on 360Giving has been an absolute joy and a bit of a roller coaster.  It came out of her experience both as a philanthropist, starting off at quite a young age, and from her experience as a technology nerd. She is a massive video game fan and has always been fascinated by the Internet and the potential for knowledge to change lives.


In her earlier career, she worked as a civil servant in the UK government and was in the Prime Minister's strategy unit under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown. Back in 2007, she was lucky to be put on a project reviewing the power of information and how the government can use information and data.


This hugely inspired her and got her thinking about future trends in data and where that could be used for public services and public good; not just for commercial ventures.


She set up her foundation when she was just 18 and at that time she knew very little about how to give well and what other donors were doing. So, she wanted to learn from other donors but it was clear that there wasn’t much data readily available on what others were doing in the world of philanthropy.


There was no good reason for this lack of data -- there was no technical problem, it's not a complicated type of data regarding who has given what money to whom.  So, Fran decided to give this idea of getting foundations and philanthropists to share information a try. Interestingly, it wasn't a core part of her strategy as a philanthropist at the time.


She had always had a sort of 90/10 Rule, which was: 90% should be focused on clearly strategic grants, while 10% should be around the more emotional, reactive and experimental work. Because, as she notes, if you exclude the possibility of just trying something non-strategic you often miss the passion and the fun that can come through philanthropy.


When asked whether some philanthropists and/or foundations are sometimes a bit timid about sharing their data, perhaps for fear of being put under the spotlight or of being ridiculed, she notes that things can be complex.  


There is a complex set of reasons of why some do share information while others do not.  It's very different for different donors. She initially was reticent about being public about her own giving. The fact that she had inherited her money; the fact that the press in the UK don’t always view the philanthropy sector in a positive light – these things made her nervous.


Fran also remarks that a lot of donors don't realise that being transparent or open is a good thing to do and that it would be of interest to others.  In actual fact, being open with your data is one of the most powerful ways to help charities.


Fran was keen from the start to make things simple and accessible to foundations of all sizes. If you go to the 360Giving website you will see loads of guidance with everything that you need to do in order to publish your data.


What 360Giving asks is simply for foundations put their internal grant-making figures (figures they’d need for their financial reporting anyway) in a standardised format – the 360Giving Standard – and then to publish this data online. It can be published on a foundation’s own website and the foundation can then simply send 360Giving a link to that information.


So, 360Giving is not so much a platform as opposed to a registry that draws together all those different sources of data and allows people to search them in one place.  Even the tiniest foundation just needs to change a few column headings, re-engineer the data and be willing to put it online with an open licence.


Many foundations are great at publishing annual reports and have lots of facts and figures and case studies. Which is wonderful. But if you're a charity, an academic, or a donor you don't have time to print off hundreds of annual reports to read through. No one has that time and we are wasting time as a sector doing that. However, just by changing the format of data it makes it possible to search it and that is the magic of open data and the Internet – we can make it so much easier for anyone to find information.


Fran explains that when she was trying to learn about how best to do her own philanthropy she was lucky to come across ‘The Philanthropy Workshop’, which was very helpful for her.  She found out that actually there is a way to do philanthropy well; there are skills one can learn; and there is a community of learners that are all asking similar questions.  Aspiring philanthropists can benefit by identifying their peers in the space they’re interested in and also by gaining the skills required to be good at grant-making.


Currently, 360Giving have 115 different foundations in the UK publishing their data fully. Fran explains how the data provided is simple and useful. They’re looking for the absolute simplest data. (i.e. this foundation gave this amount, to this charity, on this date, in this geographic location – all accompanied by a text description of the grant in question) They’re not making any judgement or data statement; there are no averages, no trends, it is just the basic facts, which can be immensely useful.


Fran hopes that in the next 10 years, they will have really made some measurable change in increasing opportunities for donors to improve their work; to learn from others; to work with others.


The key takeaway Fran offers at the end of the episode is particularly for donors, philanthropists and foundation staff.  If we value the role of philanthropy in a modern society we have to be willing to open up and work to constantly improve our practice. She celebrates philanthropy and notes that it’s not always perfect. We make loads of mistakes but, overall, she thinks it’s a force for good in the world. She wants more people to give, and to give more, but she also wants to constantly ask what does it mean to give well.  And, if there isn’t going to be real external accountability and levers for change, then we have to do that ourselves; we have to scrutinise each other, encourage each other, and then hopefully society can judge that what we’re doing is worth continuing.


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Founder of Girls Not Brides and Vow, and serial entrepreneur for social change, Mabel van Oranje, joins Alberto Lidji in the run-up to International Women’s Day to discuss eliminating child marriage.


Mabel sheds light on the issue of child marriage and the two organisations she has founded: Girls Not Brides and ‘Vow’ – the Vow to End Child Marriage. She provides great insight into the causes and consequences of child marriage, underscores how it is very much a global problem and expresses her dream to see child marriage eliminated from the globe by 2030.


Girls Not Brides is active in 100 countries and has around 1,300 member organisations – all of who aim to eliminate child marriage. It’s an umbrella organisation open to every non-governmental and civil society organisation working to tackle and eliminate this problem.


Girls Not Brides was launched in 2011 with just 50 member organisations. Today, they provide many services to their member organisations, including information sharing, convening, working to raise awareness and change policy and legislation, ensuring governments place child marriage high on their agenda.


More recently, Mabel launched ‘Vow’ – the Vow to End Child Marriage – an initiative to make sure that more money goes to local, grass-roots organisations that are focused on child marriage. Vow aims to mobilise the entire wedding industry (think of everyone who is involved in any capacity, such as the companies that produce wedding dresses, the caterers, photographers etc, and the couples themselves and their families, too.  Getting everyone “to come together, as Vow, and to basically say ‘when a couple in the rich West says I DO, they make it possible for girls elsewhere in the world to say I DON’T.” The wedding industry in the US alone is worth $100 billion. Vow generates income in various ways, such as taking a commission on wedding gift registries, selling ‘Vow’ products and encouraging couples and wedding guests to make gifts to Vow.


Mabel sheds light on the current state of affairs pertaining to child marriage, and highlights that globally there are approximately 12 million girls getting married before the age of 18 every year.  When girls get married, they often have to leave school, are exposed to abusive situations; their physical and mental health suffer.


Mabel provides listeners with a glimpse into her childhood and the surroundings that led her to become a serial entrepreneur for social change.


Mabel grew up in a middle class family; her father used to travel to Latin America for work and would see much poverty there. It created a sense of injustice in her. She wondered why is it that she enjoys great healthcare and education while other less fortunate people in other countries do not; she holds the belief that geography should not determine destiny.


Mabel’s dream today is to see child marriage eliminated by 2030, the target year of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Mabel’s key takeaway: while change needs to happen locally we can all make contributions. Push your lawmakers in your country if 18 isn’t the minimum age of marriage without exceptions, and do go to Vow to End Child Marriage and make sure if you’re getting married you Vow your wedding; if your friends are getting married make sure they Vow their weddings. Everyone can make a difference, but nobody can do it alone. If you want to create big change, and that’s what she’s trying to do, you need to create an enormous wave of change. And, never forget that a big wave is composed of millions and millions of drops of water. Each one of us is an individual drop and, together, we can create that wave of change.


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CEO of Dubai Cares, Dr Tariq Al Gurg, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss the global education agenda, the RewirED global summit on education in Dubai 2021 and much more.


Dubai Cares is playing a key role in helping achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 , which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030, by supporting programs in early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth as well as a particular focus on education in emergencies and protracted crises.


Dubai Cares is a global force driving forward the education agenda.  It was founded in 2007 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.


Since its inception, Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has been working towards providing children and young people in developing countries with access to quality education through the design and funding of programs that aim to be integrated, impactful, sustainable and scalable.


As a result, the UAE-based global philanthropic organisation has successfully launched education programs reaching over 20 million beneficiaries in 59 developing countries.


We hear how Dubai Cares tackles education in a holistic manner, going beyond schools and looking at health, nutrition, gender equality and education in conflict settings.


Dubai Cares is open to exploring collaboration with everyone. They are aware that risk-taking is part of the conversation and that organisations both old and new deserve a chance.


Shortly after Dubai Cares launched, Bill Gates came to Dubai and signed a 4-year partnership with Dubai Cares, focused on school, health and nutrition.


At the time Dubai Cares was new and didn’t have the global reach or recognition that it has today. But, because of Bill Gates’ signing, Dubai Cares’ standing increased and many doors were opened.


Today, Dubai Cares believes that they, in turn, now need to provide their weight to bring other NGOs to the fore and to help nurture nascent organisations into great partners.


The podcast conversation is wide-ranging. From advice to new philanthropists to insight on preventing frontline programmes from vanishing during periods of political transition.


We hear how on 17-19 March 2021, Dubai Cares will convene stakeholders from across the globe in Dubai for the RewirED Conference – the world’s largest summit on education.  The three focus areas: (1) youths and skills, (2) financing in education and (3) innovation in education.


The key takeaway: more investment is required in education. Many stats are listed but arguably the most poignant one is that only 2.5% of global humanitarian funding goes to education. Without education, nothing is possible – no internet, no healthcare, nothing.


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Twitter’s ex head of EMEA, Bruce Daisley, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss succinct messaging on climate crisis; workplace culture; and insights from the ‘Joy of Work’ & ‘Eat Sleep Work Repeat’.


A spontaneous conversation full of energy and insight.   We start by hearing how Bruce has recently left Twitter to explore a future that is quite the opposite of highly prescriptive.


His passion for the environment shines through early on. We hear how he was involved with Greenpeace at the age of 15 and how tackling the climate crisis is a key focus for him as he explores how best to leverage his skills post-Twitter.


We also gain insight into his 8 years at Twitter, growing operations in Europe from zero to £500m. His three focus areas were: (1) the reputation of Twitter; (2) growing the audience; and (3) ensuring growth in advertising revenue.  If you get the first two right, the third naturally follows.


Messaging is key and Bruce’s skills on this front are well honed.  He notes that there is a need for more clarity in the message being projected by those seeking to tackle the climate crisis. It is important to tell the story in a more succinct way.


Bruce is unequivocal that social media has given a voice to the voiceless and that it is a force for good. On the question of what makes content go 'viral', he notes that on twitter it is generally because someone is highlighting something that isn’t about them but, rather, is more about the wider world.


It was during Bruce’s time at Twitter, that he launched his podcast: Eat Sleep Work Repeat, which subsequently yielded a book by the same name in the US – in the UK market the book is called the Joy of Work.


He explores what is it that makes some companies attractive places to work in and others less so.   There’s an old truism when it comes to management: manage people in the way that you’d like to be managed. However, the sad truth is that a lot of people forget that.


On the topic of excessive use of emails: yes, it can be very frustrating.  Likewise, too many meetings, open plan office settings, 200 daily emails and more can lead to overload.


However, there is much value in face-to-face human interaction between team members; working remotely isn't the panacea many would expect. We hear some interesting research and anecdotes on this.


Bruce’s key takeaway: small acts of kindness matter. He strongly believes that if you can make someone’s life happier and better at school, at work, or wherever you might be, then that transforms one person’s life and it can be incredibly powerful.


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CEO of The Fore and The Bulldog Trust, Mary Rose Gunn, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss seed funding for small non-profits and transforming the funding landscape and processes involved.


The Fore is a collective of individuals and businesses coming together to enhance the philanthropy market. The Fore is a seed funder for small organisations in the charity sector in the UK and, if one were to draw parallels with the private sector, one could say they align themselves with the angel investor and venture capital world.  The Fore is part of The Bulldog Trust. 


Mary Rose notes that at The Fore, they wish to empower people who have come up with great ideas to address a pressing social need and to provide them with funding and expertise to help them create real change.


The Fore only has two criteria to identify those organisations that are eligible to apply for funding:


(1) Applicant organisations need to have an annual turnover of under £500,000

(2) And, they need to be registered in the UK as a non-profit


When asked what the merits are of investing in small organisations – as opposed to larger ones where scale and efficiencies may be more pronounced - Mary Rose replies that nobody would argue in the private sector that there is no merit in having and backing small ventures in the market.  


And, the same applies in the social sector: if you really want to have strong innovation, and if you really want to have efficiencies, then you’ve got to let the markets do some of the work. 


A lot of the inefficiencies in the charitable sector have arisen because there isn’t enough competition.  Mary Rose notes there are criticisms one could direct towards a charitable market that has large players who are constant fixtures for decades or longer.


At The Fore, the grants they make are up to £30,000 for a period of up to 3 years. So she notes these are not huge amounts of money.


These grants are structured in line with the needs of the charity in question. Therefore, a grant might be made entirely up front in year 1, or it might be spread over a number of years; or there might be some other structure that is more appropriate for the circumstances in question. Even though these are grants, Mary Rose does draw parallels to small business loans.


Interestingly, deal flow origination at The Fore is actually not a challenge; quite the opposite.


Mary Rose notes there are 165,000 charities in the UK and of those around 90% have got income of under £500,000. Therefore, the universe of eligible applicants is quite large and it is quite easy for The Fore to spread the word and create awareness of their available funding.  They run three funding rounds per year.


They try to ensure applicants don’t have to be unnecessarily burdened by preparing funding applications.  Mary Rose mentions that many people don’t have the experience nor the expertise to write a solid business plan, but that doesn’t mean they’re not incredibly entrepreneurial.  It’s about plugging these organisations at the right point into a bit of money and into a bit of expertise, and to help them with impact measurement.


At The Fore, they work with diverse partners, such as philanthropists and businesses that wish to improve the world around them by having employee engagement programmes or corporates that simply don’t have the bandwidth to work with numerous, small non-profit organisations.   


The Fore can provide a vetted pipeline to such partners.   They don’t charge a fee to such partners, but such partners need to bring some resources to the table. As part of The Bulldog Trust, The Fore is a non-profit.


Mary Rose would like to see an intrinsic change to the philanthropy space in the years to come.  They want to get funders to think differently about how they fund and to think about the impact of their processes and practices on the organisations they’re looking to support.


In great part, success for The Fore is indicated by whether the philanthropy space is moving in a more positive direction. Mary Rose references a recent study by the University of Bath that found that £1.1bn annually in the UK alone is spent on applying for grant funding and, out of these applications, 63% are unsuccessful.  That’s around £700m per year – and she notes this is a completely wasted, inefficiently spent resource.


Mary Rose’s key takeaway: It is important to trust people.  If we want to change society we have to give people the agency to change their own circumstances.


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Director of LSE’s Marshall Institute, Stephan Chambers, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss research on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship; their Masters in Social Business & Entrepreneurship and more.


The Marshall Institute is a research centre, a place for teaching and a driving force for convening diverse stakeholders.


They tackle hard problems such as how to make our world sustainable and how to cultivate altruism.  Stephan provides context for these challenges: we misallocate resources, we don’t understand the real effect of incentives on human behaviour, we don’t price bad things properly, and we don’t reward good things properly.


During the podcast, we have a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation, ranging from Stephan’s career trajectory and personal drivers, to the Marshall Institute’s Executive Masters in Social Business and Entrepreneurship and their key research focus areas: altruistic capital and the hybrid economy.


Many interesting questions are explored, such as how do we encourage the population to be more philanthropically engaged?


When looking at what would constitute success in the next 10 years, Stephan notes: there’s a slight frustration with the hubris associated with our ‘movement’… he hears all the time that we are going to solve climate change, end poverty, and create sustainable food security.


But, we know these problems are continuous and that we don’t end them. Rather, we address them more or less successfully, but we don’t end them.


So, success is modest and bounded: he cares about accelerating the impact of his own students, and he also measures success on the effect these students and the Marshall Institute have on this system within universities. If what is being done at the LSE is replicated elsewhere, and if in 10 years’ time lots of other universities are producing courses similar to what’s being offered at the Marshall Institute, he would consider this to be success.


Stephan’s key takeaway: we used to think of entrepreneurship and philanthropy as things that were discretionary or elective. You could choose to do them if you were that way inclined.  His argument is that the state of the world is such that neither of these things is elective anymore.  Neither of these is discretionary anymore.  Unless we – all of us, all the time – make common cause with the rest of humanity, we’re in big trouble. Unless all of us, all the time think of our roles in the world as different; as necessarily challenging and innovative; unless we are all prepared to create new rules, we’re finished.


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CEO of LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about $100m grants in support of young children in refugee settings; the value of learning through play; and achieving systemic change.


A fascinating episode taking listeners from the LEGO Foundation’s origins in the 1980s to the present day.  We hear how the LEGO Group supports the Foundation and how the Foundation is focused on redefining play and re-imagining learning.


Learning through play is increasingly gaining traction. It is important that the activity in learning through play is meaningful for the child, that it is iterative, that it actively engages the child, and that it is socially interactive and joyful.  


The LEGO Foundation's grants are impressive. Over the past two years, the LEGO Foundation has made two grants of $100 million, each in support of early childhood in refugee settings.


In late 2018, the LEGO Foundation made a $100 million grant to Sesame Workshop to bring the power of learning through play to children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises.


And, in late 2019, it made another grant to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to bring learning through play to children impacted by crises in Ethiopia and Uganda. The CEO of the IRC is David Miliband and close collaboration with the relevant governments is important.


We also hear how much of the thinking at the LEGO Foundation was triggered by an earlier $100 million grant made by the MacArthur Foundation and how insight from this helped shape their approach.


Is this $100 million grant-making which happened in late 2018 and late 2019, due to become an annual tradition?  John provides the answer and interesting context.


Throughout the conversation, John also sheds light on the LEGO Foundation’s work in Bangladesh, collaborating with BRAC, and its engagement with implementation partners such as Plan International, War Child, Ubongo, BIT (Behavioural Insights Group) and IPA (Innovation for Poverty Action), to name a few.


John's personal narrative is equally fascinating. He provides insight into his career trajectory, from engineering and accounting, to two decades at P&G and, subsequently, to the LEGO Group and the LEGO Foundation. An interesting journey that will inspire others who seek purpose in their lives.


There are two key takeaways John would like to share with listeners:


(1) No individual chooses to be displaced; they don’t choose to be a refugee. Yet, much of the narrative, unfortunately, that surrounds refugees and displaced individuals is one of negativity towards the individuals that are displaced. All of us that work in the aid sector need to ensure that we are – alongside the terrible plight that these individuals often find themselves in – also presenting to the wider society that there is hope and there can be positivity out of this, if society is more receptive to their fellow human beings. So, trying to talk about this situation in a positive light and change the narrative slightly to incorporate the opportunities that are possible if we all look more with a lens of embrace.


(2) There’s a wonderful richness that can come if we are able to break down our silos and embrace the opportunities that present themselves to bring our expertise and knowledge in a collective way, such that we can draw on the strengths of the private sector, we can draw on the strengths of the aid sector, we can draw on the strengths of the philanthropic sector, and we can draw on the strengths of academia. None of us believes that any one silo has the best solution, but that by coming together we can optimise and create something new that will have that systemic impact that ultimately we seek.  John encourages everyone to collaborate in a non-silo way and come at it with the open, curious mind that we advocate and espouse our children to have through learning through play.


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Google's first employee, Craig Silverstein, and Mary Obelnicki, join Alberto Lidji to talk about philanthropy, Echidna Giving (their Foundation) and signing The Giving Pledge.


We hear how Echidna Giving looks at educating girls in the developing world. It’s the main vehicle to do Craig and Mary’s philanthropy. They aim to invest their money over the course of their lifetime and make a real difference in this field. They are not looking to set up a foundation in perpetuity. 


Craig and Mary look at foundations that try to live in perpetuity and they see that many issues arise when those foundations’ Founders are no longer around. Other people then try to interpret what the Founders’ wishes were. 


In the case of Echidna Giving, Craig and Mary believe very much in being focused in girls’ education and they’re sticking with this for the next 40 years. They note that they want to be personally responsible for Echidna Giving’s work during their entire lifetimes.   They hope to be around for another 40 years and they’re committed to funding approximately $700 million over that time frame.


Craig and Mary are relatively young and they’re juggling many things, including a young family, work and many other activities. It has been difficult for them to include philanthropy in a professional manner in their lives and they’ve been very strategic about it.  They treat this as a full-time commitment; not a hobby. So, they’ve also made a strong effort to hire a great team of professionals. They have a lean team that allows them to make decisions quickly and they’re willing to take risks.


They got into philanthropy early on and it was not as a consequence of their peers. Actually, many of their peers had not been involved in philanthropy at the time – in part because it’s difficult to get started and to do philanthropy right.


Craig made a lot of money very early in his life and he had much more money than he needed. He notes that: “I don’t believe philosophically in giving it all to my children. I want them to have enough money that they can do anything they want, but not enough money that they can do nothing”.  So, there’s a narrow band of how much money that is and it’s a lot less than the money that Craig and Mary have and so what do you do with the rest of it?  For them, it was obvious that the best use of their money was to try to make the world a better place.


Craig and Mary talk about their Theory of Change – which ultimately ends with World Peace! – and Craig explains his thought process in the podcast. 


He wanted to focus in an area that would make sustainable change. Girls’ education is one of those areas where you don’t need a pre-requisite to make sustainable change.  Over time, he feels if they focus on girls’ education they can truly transform entire communities, and he explains why that is.


When Craig started out in philanthropy he thought it was really just about the money and he thought he could just do it anonymously.  Therefore, at the point when Craig and Mary signed The Giving Pledge there was a conscious choice to say this is us, this is us doing it intentionally because they were trying to be explicit and maybe trying to create some expectations around what other young people – especially those in Silicon Valley – could be doing.  There is so much money in Silicon Valley and so many start-ups with money.  Mary notes that they “were trying to say ‘hey guys step up, here’s what we’re doing, what can you be doing’?”


Craig mentioned that ‘budget’ is a key area for their strategic thinking.  Initially, Craig wanted to remain anonymous and one of the reasons for this was that he didn’t want to be bombarded with ‘asks’. Now, in reality, that hasn’t happened too much – it was something he was worried about unnecessarily.


But what gave him the comfort to be more open and visible about his philanthropy is to think about a budget and a clear framework for evaluating each ask that came through the door.  Both Craig and Mary explain that the key for a budget in philanthropy is that there’s a goal for spending; not a cap. The aim is to deploy that capital into whatever issue you care about.


They embrace a mechanism to handle social asks versus more strategic asks – they have a pool of money for their strategic initiatives (girls education) and a separate pool of money that is for personal giving. They drill into the details of this during the podcast.


They also have a predetermined ‘minimum’ sum in mind to deal with those emails many of us receive whereby someone asks for support for running a marathon etc. There’s a certain amount they say ‘yes’ to no matter what. So whatever ask it is, there’s a minimum for them that gets the green light pretty much automatically. Craig notes that this ‘minimum’ sum is $250 and they have around 100 slots for such asks whereby the first 100 people who ask for support at this level get a positive reply….  Mary jumps in in a good humoured way at this point and notes: “Craig this is a public podcast!”… a bit of laughter ensues. “We need to know you personally!”


On a separate note, they point out how surprised they were at the value of re-granting organisations that are highly professional and help make their philanthropy more efficient.


When they started in philanthropy they started giving to re-granting organisations. So they were focused in the developing world but knew nothing about these local communities in which they really wanted to see change happen. They were outsiders, they weren’t able to evaluate proposals nor evaluate outcomes so they went to re-granting organisations that are based in the US or the UK or somewhere in the developed world, but they are the ones who evaluate grants and outcomes and have people on the ground in local communities in the developing world.


Initially, they went into it thinking that it was a waste of money to involve a middleman. But they found out that it’s actually a big money saver to involve these middlemen because if they had to go and evaluate these things themselves and fly out to these communities it would take a long time to do and be very inefficient. It’s actually much better to be working with an organisation that can afford to have someone living in these local communities; or ideally someone from that community.


So, spending money in these re-granting organisations was money well spent and they had not expected that going in – they had initially thought it was money they would have to spend but not money they would actually appreciate having spent.


Craig goes on to mention that one thing that was very hard for him when he was getting started in philanthropy was hiring good people. How do you find them, how do you find out if they’re the right fit for you and how do you delegate responsibility to them. This is really hard. The hardest part is the first hire – the first person – and they really have to be aligned with the way you’re thinking about the world.


One reason people don’t get into philanthropy earlier, or why they treat philanthropy as a hobby for so long, is because they don’t know how to go about doing that first hire.   Interestingly, the first person they hired didn’t know about girls’ education or the developing world, but that wasn’t important to them, rather the person they hired needed to have the flexibility and willingness to learn about these areas. They don’t need people to hit the ground running; rather they need them to be committed and to stick with it long enough so they can gain the expertise and to have the necessary skills to learn.


Mary notes that successful business people often think they can solve major social problems on their own. However, are most really willing to spend as much time on their philanthropy as they did in building their companies? If not, then you need to bring in a professional CEO. One of the best skills such people can bring from their business career is the ability to identify talent and to delegate.


Mary continues by expressing that part of the challenge is “if you’re not deliberate, if you don’t have your own staff, you’re not going to execute your own strategy. So, if you have your own strategy you need your own staff and you need to professionalise it.”


For her, one of the biggest takeaways from working in the developing world is to really think about the privilege of ‘access’ that wealthy organisations and wealthy communities have. And, as a philanthropist, who has access to you to make the ask easiest. It’s their friends and their families who can text them, ‘please support my organisation’ – well, if they’re their friends and from the community, they’re probably doing well financially. It’s very reinforcing, this privilege of access. And, the communities that need you the most and can benefit the most from your money are many, many social circles away from you. And, so how do you jump that gap?  Well, you need to go looking for them; you need to put in the effort to find those organisations. You can’t expect them to come to you.


Was it a difficult choice to make when you decided to sign The Giving Pledge?


Craig notes that the public element was the hardest part of their decision to sign The Giving Pledge. Actually deciding to give the money away was easy – it was a decision he had already made. He could have kept more money than he’s planning on keeping and still have been able to sign The Giving Pledge.


However, the ‘going public’ was very difficult. Mary notes that it’s always on their mind, how much does anonymity protect them and protect their kids. So, signing The Giving Pledge really needed to have an upside – what was the benefit of being public, and they talked much about this; about inspiring others in similar situations to theirs.


Success in the next 10 years: they know what needs to be done to ensure girls’ education succeeds and what makes girls successful in school. So, when they look at the next 10 years, they want to see a state of affairs where the programmes and techniques that work are actually being embraced and implemented widely.


Social Emotional Learning (SEL), often referred to as ‘life skills’ can make a big difference in academic success. So, most of their investments right now are in SEL and trying to figure out what are the key components of this and when does it matter. 


So, in secondary school it’s really obvious these gaps between girls and boys; so if it’s obvious at this stage then it must have started earlier. So, right now they’re looking at SEL in adolescence, because it’s an important time when the brain changes, and also in early childhood – another time when the brain architecture is being formed.


Craig and Mary’s key takeaway: Mary notes that they actually have three key takeaways!


(1) Start and be humble and learn as you go.


(2) Be deliberate and have a budget – track it and don’t be reactive.


(3) The people with the greatest need don’t have access to you to ask.  Craig notes: “if your goals is museum construction, that’s fine. If your goal is poverty alleviation or something else where the communities you’re serving are very socially removed from your own social network then you must do the work to go against … the existing privilege of access.”  Mary continues: people will acknowledge that the dollar or the pound can go further in the developing world in terms of impact “and so they should reflect to themselves, well if that’s true why aren’t I investing in those places now?”


What was it like being ‘Employee No.1 at Google’? 


Craig replies by asking whether we know of the film ‘The Social Network’. And, then goes on to say that “it was almost entirely not that!”. He realised things were getting big when people came up to him to let him know they’d ‘heard of this thing called Google’… and then you find out that they did not actually hear about it from your mom.’ He started doing Google because he really believed in the power of making information available and he believed Google was the best at it. He’s delighted it turned out to be so successful but the fact is he did it because he really believed in the mission of the company and he loved working there.


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Chief Executive of UnLtd, Mark Norbury, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss social entrepreneurship and ways of backing social ventures and entrepreneurs.


UnLtd is a UK-based organisation that supports social entrepreneurship. They’ve helped out about 20,000 social entrepreneurs since 2002; they have an endowment of £150 million, a turnover of £8 million and a team of 75 staff.


They support social entrepreneurs in a variety of ways, including advice, networking, coaching, practical support and financing.


It’s important for them to find and back individuals who are very rooted in the issue each one of them is trying to address – this is something Mark calls ‘lived experience’. People who have lived through, discrimination, poverty and other issues.


When asked to define what social entrepreneurship means to UnLtd, Mark notes that they’re very relaxed about the actual type of legal structure one may have and rather, for them, it’s about whether your organisation has social impact, a sustainable business model, and that you have a growth mind-set. 


UnLtd really cares about leadership, mission, impact and sustainability, and they back a wide range of organisations in diverse ways.


UnLtd is always happy to hear from philanthropists and they do accept funding from external sources. Every year, UnLtd is trying to raise approximately £3 million from external sources, such as corporations, foundations and high net worth individuals (HNWIs).


Mark provides insight into Harry Specters luxury chocolates, a successful organisation UnLtd has supported that provides gainful employment to autistic individuals and, in the process, adds  value to people’s lives, the market, and the UK economy.


Success in the next 10 years for UnLtd: they’d like to continue the core of supporting social entrepreneurs and would like to further break down the barriers these individuals face, such as access to capital and access to expertise. They’d like to shift the systems in which these barriers exist, though policy, education and developing a supportive infrastructure.


Mark’s key takeaway: bring together leadership, impact, sustainability and purpose, in whatever realm you’re in, and you’ll give it your best.


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Executive Director of B Lab UK (B Corp), Chris Turner, and Co-Founder of Grantbook and UnWrapit, Peter Deitz, join Alberto Lidji to discuss the B Corp movement and social entrepreneurship.


B Lab UK is the non-profit organisation in the UK behind B Corp. The B Corp movement is a global movement of more than 3,000 businesses that are all acting as a force for good around the world. There are 250 B Corps in the UK, and the movement has been around for 10 years.


At the heart of the movement is the ‘Certification’ process, which involves two commitments:


1) to score highly on a B Impact Assessment (80 points or more are required) – this means a candidate company has taken a deep look at governance, workers, environment, community and customers.  Those companies being assessed accumulate points for the positive impact they’re creating.


2 the second commitment is more symbolic and relates to the governance of the business – it differs depending on the jurisdiction, but in the UK it means that a B Corp amends its articles of association and changes the duties of the directors of the business to essentially give equal weight to people, planet and profit. It puts this triple bottom line principle at the very heart of a business.


Certification lasts for three years once it’s awarded. 


Peter is a social entrepreneur who has already gotten one of his ventures, Grantbook, B Corp Certified and, now, he’s in the process of getting UnWrapit certified as well.  He notes that the certification process itself will help an organisation’s development – looking at things such as governance, employee positions and policies, how you involve yourself in the community and so forth.  


There are many benefits of being a B Corp – whether it’s internal such as attracting great people and retaining them, or external, such as attracting investment, sending the right signals to the market, procurement and more.


Peter’s key takeaway: If your company is a meaningful place to work for your employees and you’re creating opportunities for formative experiences, and potentially for ownership in your company, then you’re on the right path. B Corp and the B Corp assessment will help you create that meaningful environment for your employees.


Chris’ key takeaway: At the end of the day businesses are a collection of people. Chris encourages business leaders to think about what motivates people. The inspiring business leaders are those who have a real point of view in terms of what their business is for, the role it plays in society, the way in which the people in that business can all contribute.


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New Year's Special with Alberto Lidji - Key Takeaways from 2019. Philanthropy, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship.

Handpicked takeaways for your reference as you embark on improving the world around you in the New Year and beyond.

Thank you for making The Do One Better! Podcast such a success in 2019. Please subscribe and share with others -- your support, feedback and engagement are invaluable and truly very much appreciated.

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Chief Executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations, Carol Mack, joins Alberto Lidji for a wide-ranging conversation on the dynamics facing foundations today.


The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) represents UK-based foundations and grant-making charities, it has 380 organisational members that represent £50bn in assets and annually grant out £2.5bn.


ACF is a member of DAFNE (Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe) and Carol explains how she interacts regularly with her counterparts in other countries across Europe and globally.


Carol explains how it’s an increasingly challenging context for foundations.  Whereas in the past foundations were met with civic gratitude, today we’re increasingly seeing, globally, a rising trend for distrust of institutions and growing scrutiny of philanthropy and of foundations.


Society is in general asking more questions of philanthropy. People want to know where a foundation’s money comes from, where a foundation is investing, and where a foundation is giving its funding. So, ACF supports foundations as they address these challenges and helps them to be the best they can be in their pursuit of social good.


A good example of this is their Stronger Foundations initiative, launched about 18 months ago, to help foundations examine their own practice and welcome scrutiny positively. It’s a member-led initiative with over 80 members involved. They have 6 working groups looking at different aspects of foundations’ practice, from strategy and governance to funding practice and intentional investing.  Each working group looks at what excellence looks like in their specific topic area.  This information is available on ACF’s website and it can be a useful resource for people who are interested in foundations practice.


The first working group to report back was looking at diversity, equity and inclusion. ACF published the findings of this. Carol observes that, overall, the UK charity sector is disproportionately homogenous, it doesn’t reflect UK society, and foundations are even worse than the wider charity sector. Approximately a year ago, ACF commissioned some research into foundation boards and found that, in the sample, foundation boards were 99% white, two thirds male and only 3% of those boards were under the age of 45.


Carol sheds light on the immense financial resources at foundations’ disposal, yet notes that foundations still are a very small part in comparison to government resources.


Increasingly, there’s an interesting interplay between what the state will fund and what foundations will fund. The traditional model was always that foundations would fund the innovative practice – proving the need, proving an intervention that works – and then government would roll it out.  This worked well at a time of an expanding state spending, but it’s not what we’re seeing in the UK, where government has been reducing the types of services it is willing to fund. This poses some interesting challenges to foundations.


On the topic of social impact investing: yes, Carol notes that it is an area of much interest to foundations.  However, she suggests that, arguably, foundations have always done social impact investing, noting that if you look back at some of the charitable activity in the 1400s, some of that was about providing loans to enable people to enter a profession – arguably, that’s a form of social investment. 


A recent initiative that ACF has been involved with is something called the Members Policy Forum, whereby they bring together foundations with government officials on particular issues – this has been helpful in increasing the level of knowledge around particular issues across sectors.


When looking at success in the next 10 years, the climate crisis is front and centre in Carol’s thinking. She asks: how do we as a global community do what it takes to tackle this issue.


Carol’s key takeaway: what you do really matters, there are so many challenges out there, and you in foundations particularly have resources through which you can do something about these challenges and opportunities. So, be thoughtful, be intentional in what you do, and treat your role with respect. Look at all of your assets and how these can be deployed in furtherance of your own mission, whatever that is.


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CEO of Mercer (Sweden), Johan Ericsson, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss diversity and inclusion within the corporate space.


Johan has been with Mercer since 2001, a global human resources advisory firm with 25,000 employees operating in 130 countries.


Johan notes that diversity and inclusion have been gaining importance in recent years. There are also more jobs in this field and those jobs are to be found in more senior levels within organisations.  Diversity and inclusion is now often a function in its own right, as one would find a head of legal or head of IT; it is no longer a sub-role in the margins.


Mercer have 30,000 clients globally; many of these clients are multinationals with subsidiaries in a large number of culturally diverse countries. In essence, some clients approach Mercer because, for instance, they might be operating in Sweden where auditing for diversity and inclusion is often required.  However, in other instances, clients come up to Mercer simply because they take the challenge of diversity and inclusion seriously and want to learn what best practice looks like.


When Women Thrive – is an annual piece of research by Mercer done in conjunction with the World Economic Forum that looks at diversity and inclusion and how individual countries can ensure they fully leverage all of the brain power in a country.


We hear how cultural context is important, too. It isn’t simply a matter of telling companies to be diverse and inclusive.  Cultural realities in Norway are different than in the Middle East, and this impacts how companies within these countries embrace diversity and inclusion.


Ultimately, Johan notes that business performance is better in diverse more inclusive organisations; more innovation and creativity, easier to hire and retain talent, the reputational angle as a good employer – there are many reasons.  Moreover, diverse and inclusive organisations can be more fun, you meet people from different walks of life, and you learn more too.


While change is happening in the right direction, the pace is too slow.  The vast majority of clients want to accelerate this agenda because they want to drive long-term sustainable and profitable growth. This is very important to them. It’s also important from a cultural point, in terms of the people they want to attract and retain – they need people from all backgrounds.


Johan’s key takeaway: building a diverse workforce is going to improve your productivity, efficiency and your profits, and at the same time you’re going to have more fun, you’re going to learn much more, you’re going to meet fascinating people and it’s going to increase your team’s engagement levels – do it because it makes sense in so many ways.


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