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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Co-Founders of JustSpace Alliance, Lucianne Walkowicz and Erika Nesvold join Alberto Lidji to discuss space ethics and an inclusive and ethical future in space; and implications here on Earth.


Lucianne and Erika start by dispelling the notion that space is a ‘blank canvass’. Humans bring their own perspective and history into the equation.  However, when people think about systems here on earth, these can often feel very entrenched. By contrast, when one thinks about space, much more creative thinking can prevail.


JustSpace Alliance is a new organisation and has just celebrated its first anniversary in November 2019. During this time, they have partnered with likeminded thinkers, convened diverse stakeholders and organised insightful events.


In one such recent event, they explored governance in space, looking at existing legal frameworks for space and considering how these might need to be changed or expanded.


As the conversation progressed, more and more ethical issues started coming to the fore around diversity and inclusion, environmental protection and medical testing, to name a few.


Erika pondered: when we explore space, are we going to be bringing a perfectly representative sample of society? Probably not; so what are the implications?  And, is space only for those who can afford the ticket or should it be accessible to everyone?


The topic of European colonisation arose during the conversation as well, with both Lucianne and Erika underscoring the need to learn lessons from this past as we look to engage with extra-terrestrial life in the future.


They note the environment is a consideration in space as well, not just here on Earth.  We hear how the Moon and Mars are often looked at as potential sources for natural resources – don’t we have a responsibility to look after these bodies as well?


An ethical issue that’s present right now pertains to medical experiments in space. Those who fly into space are essentially taking part in a medical experiment.


We hear how in space, one’s health changes – eyesight changes, bone density changes etc.  So, what does this mean for the provision of consent; what does it mean for one’s ability to withdraw consent while in space?


Likewise, we have no idea what the impacts are of radiation and microgravity on a developing foetus; and if we want to find out then that requires experimentation on pregnant women and foetuses in space.  There is an abundance of ethical red flags that need to be addressed.


When asked where exactly does space ethics reside, the answer is unequivocal: space ethics resides everywhere.


At JustSpace Alliance they convene and foster a cross-pollination of ideas and opinions across diverse fields. Creating opportunities for this kind of dialogue to take place is one of the key reasons why Lucianne and Erika decided to launch the JustSpace Alliance.


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CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), Marcus Walton, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss inclusive grant-making, racial equity and the sharing of best practice across 600 organizations.


GEO is a 20-year old organization based in the US, which helps grant-makers make better decisions and be more effective. They have 600 members and are supported by some of the world’s best-known foundations, such as the Ford Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


It’s a membership organization creating a space for funders to come together and build their network, learn of the latest philanthropic trends and engage with each other.


At GEO they consider how philanthropic practice actually translates into the impact grant-makers are aspiring to achieve with their investments.  They catalogue case studies, publish great insights and convene thought leaders.  Every year they publish a ‘smarter grant-making’ publication.


But Marcus notes that having access to this information isn’t enough. Now, the question is also about how do we actually use this information, to understand it in context, to extract lessons, and to interrogate these insights together to inform practice going forward — the emphasis is on application


In GEO’s ‘Strategic Direction for 2018-2021’ plan, one of their focus areas is on integrating racial equity into their vision for smarter grant-making. Marcus’ background includes a 10-year track record in racial equity training, within the philanthropic sector in particular.


Marcus notes that when talking about racial equity one is talking about the historical impact of policies and practices that have created conditions that face us today. With that analysis, it means that in everything grant-makers do, there needs to be a consideration of what have been the decisions that contributed to how things are now; how do institutions reinforce some of the disparities and inequitable conditions that keep some groups disadvantaged and that actually provide advantage for others — advantage to access resources and opportunities — and then how does one think about one’s work in a way that improves conditions for all of the groups involved. Understanding that we have different needs, that we’re all facing different challenges, and that we bring a variety of resources to the table that can be leveraged or intensified with a really intentional investment strategy.  That’s how GEO is able to support the field in terms of embracing a racial equity focus.


Incorporating racial equity into grant-makers’ thinking means bringing an intentional practice; it means that every time you develop a program, you engage with the communities that you are intending to serve. It’s an inclusive, collaborative approach to grant-making. It’s the opposite of a more paternalistic, institutional approach that says ‘we know what you need’ — instead, it says, ‘we’re creating a space to be a thought partner with you, to respond to some of the persistent needs, perhaps the most persistent challenges that have faced this community’.


GEO brings thought leaders to its members. They organize conferences, webinars and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for CEOs, Trustees and executives.  Marcus notes that conferences are invaluable — there aren’t enough places where likeminded folks can come together and learn from each other and from thought-leaders alike. One week out of every month, Marcus is in a different community in a city or state across the USA with a co-host who is a member organization or stakeholder to learn about their issues, who are convening their colleagues from around the region, listening to local leaders who are driving the work, and Marcus is flying in to provide a national point a view to inform the conversation that’s around those priorities and then from those conversations, elevating those conversations to the national discourse, through their national conferences, through their virtual tools and resources, and really providing a different kind of a platform for leaders.


It’s interesting to note that Marcus started off as a community organizer and that, today, he views himself as an organizer of philanthropic resources, not as an executive officer inside of an institution.


Marcus’ key takeaway: he notes that we’re in a moment in time where the changes we want to see are accessible and there’s a call to action for us to apply those things that we’ve learned – the principles and the tools and the resources that we’ve learned in order to mobilize our spheres of influence and to participate in change; to activate change; to be a part of actively transitioning organizations from one state of existence to another. The time is really now, we are global and we are all in this together. Our collective genius is so much broader than any of us knows or can imagine when operating in isolation.


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Facebook’s head of Social Impact (EMEA), Anita Yuen, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss how they’ve raised $2 billion for good causes, connected blood donors to those in need and innovated at global scale.


The conversation explores how Facebook is using its tremendous global scale to drive forward social impact and social good.


There are more than 2bn people on the Facebook platform, which in many respects can be viewed as a global community of advocates, volunteers and donors.  Combined with the fact that there are millions of non-profits active on Facebook, this provides a great opportunity for these organisations to engage with their community in a genuine and authentic way.


Anita explains how there are various tools on Facebook, such as Groups and Blood Donations, that are being effectively used by non-profits and those in need. 


The Blood Donations product was developed in 2018 and it came out of what Facebook were observing in India. They noticed that when people where due to head for surgery in India, people would post on Facebook and ask their friends and family whether they could donate blood. This is because in some parts of India, when people have to go in for surgery they often have to bring in their own blood in case they need a blood transfusion. There is a global shortage of blood.


After observing this, the team at Facebook asked themselves how might they be able to make this process to facilitate blood donations easier. 


The Blood Donations product has now been rolled out to various countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Brazil.  As of today, Facebook have over 50m people who have volunteered to donate blood.


Anita speaks with passion and is particularly excited about the sheer scale they are able to enjoy whenever they decide to pilot and deploy new, innovative products.  There aren’t many companies where one can engage with millions and millions of people globally.


Facebook also have created a donations tool that allows people and organisations to raise money for causes they care about.  You can create fundraisers, go out to your Facebook community and ask them to make a donation.


Anita provides useful insight into specific case studies.  ‘Ocean Cleanup’ is a Dutch-based organisation with a focus on cleaning the word’s oceans and rivers.  Anita notes they build amazing tech to clean the ocean.  They are a relatively new organisation and have been using Facebook’s tools for approximately the past year and a half, and have already been able to raise millions of dollars by having people create birthday fundraisers for them. So, two weeks before people’s birthdays, they’re asked whether they’d like to donate their birthdays to the Ocean Cleanup – and this approach has worked extremely well.  Anita is very proud to have them on the Facebook platform.


Another organisation Anita mentioned is a UK-based outfit called ‘Help Refugees’, which was started by an individual who wanted to do something about the refugee crisis and bring supplies to refugees in Greece. They’ve used Facebook’s donations tool to buy supplies; people have created fundraisers for them; and they’ve also encouraged folks to do fundraisers for them.  Anita drilled down and provided insight into a particular instance when Help Refugees were in Calais, France, and experienced their truck breaking down; and they didn’t have enough money to fund its repairs. So, they went onto Facebook and created a special fundraiser just for this. Within a week they were able to fund the repair of the truck.


The community angle is key. Non-profits who understand their community and are able to speak to them in an authentic and genuine way are achieving amazing results on Facebook – people are looking for meaning and an understating of the impact of the causes they’re supporting. Anita explains how the Facebook platform has been very powerful in helping them reach new audiences.  Community engagement is invaluable and can revolve around moments of global crisis, just as it can around small moments, or diaspora communities scattered across the globe.


Anita sheds light on Facebook’s Social Impact Team – a diverse and highly motivated team including a group of engineers mainly based in California who are behind innovations such as their Blood Donations tool, crisis tools, fundraising tools, volunteering and all kinds of social impact products. They also have marketing, communications and partnerships specialists in the team.   Anita remarks that many folks are surprised to hear that they have people working at Facebook who focus only in the social impact space.


We hear how the team at Facebook work very closely with partners. These partnerships help inform Facebook and help them produce new products and ensure their relevance.


Scale is a theme that comes up during the conversation repeatedly. Indeed, Anita is very excited about scale and she notes that in many respects the journey has only just begun. 


For instance, the Blood Donations tool is only available in 5 countries at present, but they want to make that global. The same applies to their donations tools, which are only available in just 19 countries.  They’re constantly asking themselves how best to scale such products.


It may be counterintuitive but scaling up a digital tool to new countries isn’t as straightforward as one might think – it’s not about merely flipping a switch.  For instance, to expand their Blood Donations tool, they need to establish partnerships with governments, with NGOs on the ground and with blood banks – you need to get this right on many levels.


Remarkably, their donations tools are only available in 19 markets but, as of September 2019, Facebook have raised over $2bn for good causes and individuals.  Anita invites listeners to imagine what these sums could look like if they were to scale this globally, and the good this could do.


A bit of information Anita underscores very clearly is that Facebook do not take any fees at all for any of the donations they’re helping raise. Anita notes how 100% of what is raised for a charity goes to that charity. Facebook don’t take any transaction fees; they cover the credit card fees of donations.  Facebook has not taken any fee at all for the $2bn that they’ve raised thus far.


When asked about what success looks like in the next 10 years, Anita notes that they’d like to continue to do what they’re doing, in the sense that when they think of their approach to social impact partnerships and product, they’re really observing what is happening on the Facebook community on the platform; what do people want to be doing, and how can Facebook facilitate that in an easier way. They look to the Facebook community and to their partners to say, well, ‘what can we be offering that is genuinely and authentically useful’ and so if Facebook continue to do that Anita feels that they’re going to see their work in this space go into all sorts of different areas., with a focus on scale.


Facebook, Instagram, WahtsApp – these platforms are all part of what Anita calls ‘Facebook Inc’. They are looking to ensure best practice and innovative tools from one platform are deployed across other platforms. In July 2019, for instance, they launched Donation tools on Instagram.  So, they’ve taken learning and best practices and experience from their Donation products on Facebook and are now beginning to build these things out on Instagram.  You can expect to see more innovation on instagram.


Facebook has been on this journey for social impact for quite a while. They launched their donation tools in the USA in 2015.  And even before that, ‘Safety Check’ – one of their crisis tools – came out of the Fukushima disaster in Japan back in 2011.


Anita sheds light on the impact the ALS Bucket Challenge had on Facebook’s thinking.  The ALS Bucket Challenge took place back in the summer of 2014 and out of that Facebook saw essentially the world’s biggest viral fundraising campaign take place on Facebook.  All of these videos were being uploaded to Facebook, people were tagging friends, and so the whole thing was actually happening on Facebook but at the time Facebook didn’t have a way for non-profits to take in donations. But because of that experience Facebook started to see that there was actually a need, and a willingness, for the Facebook community to give to good causes. So, after that, they had a couple of engineers in California start to work on creating a donation button. And, that donation button was the start of what has now become a set of tools that the entire sector and the Facebook community are using.


Anita also explains how the tsunami of 2004 was one of the first major disasters when people actually gave at such a scale but they did it online. Anita remembers that well, because she saw this as a turning point in philanthropy, where non-profits recognised the power of online giving.  Things back then happened quickly but nowhere as quickly as today. If a tsunami happened today they’d be able to move in minutes or seconds, not days as was the case back then.


Anita’s key takeaway for listeners: she starts by letting listeners know she has been thinking about ‘purpose’ lately, and goes on to note that people sometimes may feel unsure as to how to begin supporting a cause.  She explains that now more than ever is a time when everyone can do good. Everyone has a voice. Everybody can use their voice and do good things.  She encourages listeners simply to “just jump in”. Small acts of kindness are amazing. Now more than ever people can have a voice and take action.  If you see something that’s wrong or you see something and you want to do something about it, just jump right in!


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IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) VP for Global Corporate Responsibility, Catherine Dolton, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss sustainability and value creation across 5,800 hotels in 100 countries.


IHG has 400,000 team members, numerous brands and their biggest market is the USA, followed by greater China.


Over 75% of their hotels are run by third party franchisees; they have a broad and diverse international stakeholder base and it is important for IHG to work very closely with all of them.


Sustainability can align very well with strategic objectives and, as Catherine points out, if you cut waste you cut costs. Sustainability and good performance go hand in hand.


Plastic waste is a major consideration and IHG recently announced they’re getting rid of all the mini amenity products across all their hotels – single use toiletries, such as the individual shampoo bottles and conditioners one is accustomed to finding in hotel bathrooms. 


Food waste is another key area being tackled by IHG.  Efforts are being deployed internally to help their 5,800 hotels measure, monitor and track food waste.


Catherine explains how IHG has numerous partnerships helping them become more sustainable.  In Australia, for instance, they’re working with OzHarvest  – an organisation that collects unused food from their hotels that can be used charitably instead of going to waste.


There are many challenges when it comes to reducing plastic and other types of waste, especially when one considers the sheer number of brands, markets, hotels, rooms, suppliers etc. Health, sanitation, operational procedures -- they all present challenges that need to be considered and overcome.


In North America, they have an initiative called Renovation Donation where items such as TVs, beds and furniture that are no longer needed following a hotel’s renovation are donated to non-profit organisations.


IHG are also members of the Circular Economy 100 (CE100) Network from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a place for learning, knowledge sharing and collaboration.  They also recently announced a partnership with Junior Achievement, which focuses on preparing young people for future employment.


They value global partnerships but also recognise they need a tailored approach to local markets. In the last month Catherine has been both to their Atlanta and their Shanghai offices, and it brings home that you really need a different approach to different markets because you have different business and operational issues.  Therefore, you need to have partners locally that know individual markets very well.


The big players in the hotel industry also collaborate and share insights; many are members of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), where they embrace specific goals for 2030 and collaborate in various ways. 


Moving from single use toiletries is a monumental task. There are a huge number of suppliers across many markets; you have to find the right bulk product and brand in an individual market.  There are many practical considerations in individual hotels, too. Even installing a fixed shampoo bulk dispenser in place raises questions:  what are the procedures for refilling these bulk bottles to make sure they’re clean and to the right standards? How often do you refill them before replacing them? Even housekeeping carts need to be changed since they’ll need to carry bigger bottles, not small ones.  Financially, there’s an up front cost for these fittings.  Essentially, there are many angles that need to be considered.


Suppliers are not only moving in line with IHG, but they’re also completely on board and coming up with many new and interesting ideas for sustainable solutions.


Scale is very important.  The big game changer for Catherine revolves around how to bring on new hotels in the future at very low or even net zero carbon. A big challenge is how do you redesign these mainstream brands so that their environmental impact is next to nothing.


IHG’s senior management is very involved in driving sustainability forward. Earlier this year they established a responsible business governance committee, which meets quarterly and  brings together key areas, such as environmental, social, community impact, diversity and inclusion, human rights, responsible procurement, cyber security etc.


Due to the sheer volume of guests, IHG are in a prime position to drive behavioural change on a global scale. The move from having towels washed daily versus every x-number of days is a case in point. Catherine is very excited about the ability to make a difference at such scale and recognises there is much potential going forward.



Catherine’s key takeaway: it’s all about collaboration. The scale of the challenge for the industry when it comes to environmental sustainability is huge. And it’s about collaboration not just within their own organisation but also collaboration within and across industries. This isn’t about competitive advantage, rather, it’s about finding those solutions that are really going to make a difference.


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San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors ex-head of philanthropy and community relations, Joanne Pasternack, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss the power of athletes and sports to improve the world.


The conversation is wide-raging, from Joanne’s initial foray into figure skating and her introduction to the Special Olympics when she was just 14 years old, to her work leading the philanthropy and community relations and outreach at the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors – two of America’s best known professional football (National Football League – NFL) and basketball (National Basketball Association – NBA) teams.


We discuss philanthropic engagement at the individual level, the team level and the league level and explore specific case studies, such as an instance when the San Francisco 49ers worked closely with the New Orleans Saints following a devastating natural disaster in Louisiana.


We hear of individual players who demonstrate high degrees of generosity. Joanne mentioned Kevin Durant – a world-class basketball player – who donated $10m to create an after school education program in his hometown outside Washington DC.


She also sheds light on a partnership she worked on between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chevron Corporation to build out a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) leadership institute at a local school near the 49ers’ stadium. 


There is a need to ensure the right alignment between personal philanthropic preferences and engagement in the most appropriate thematic areas.  Fleshing out what is important to someone and exploring how they can leverage things to improve the world in that specific area is an important task, which gets explored during this episode as well.


Professional athletes are unique in many respects. Many achieve great notoriety and wealth at a very young age. They tend to have a short shelf life at top-level sports and, then, need to adapt to their post-career life accordingly. This can be very challenging – a topic Joanne sheds light on within the context of professional basketball and American football.


Joanne’s key takeaway: she focuses on the power of listening to what others have to say.  ‘Listen’ … just listen.  She let’s us know that her personal mantra is: find a way to say ‘Yes’.  It’s easy to come up with excuses of why you can’t do something.  So, where possible, find a way to say Yes.  And, if you have to say ‘No’, don’t just say no. Instead, say ‘No but’… here’s another resource for you or, No, but here’s a way that we can help.


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Chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida, Dave Lawrence, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss advocacy, politics and coalitions in support of children in Florida and beyond.


During the episode we speak about Dave’s efforts to drive forward legislative change and mobilise individuals at local and national levels to encourage investments in children’s early years and improve their outcomes.


Dave retired from his role as publisher of the Miami Herald 20 years ago to focus on children’s ‘early years’. He is Chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida which aims to make children the number one priority for investment in Florida – the 3rd biggest state in the US, and the 17th largest global economy, if it were a country.


We hear how there has been much progress in Florida over the past 20 years and how, today, every 4-year old in Florida is entitled to a high quality kindergarten experience. There has been support from voters, the Governor’s office and city mayors across the state; including a successful campaign called #100Mayors for early childhood.


Dave has mobilised resources in Florida and engaged with politicians across the political spectrum at local, state and national level. He has also lectured internationally on the benefits of investing in early years.


In 1996, former Florida governor, Lawton Chiles, asked Dave to join the Governor’s Commission on Education to look at education in the next millennium. Dave led the taskforce on school readiness and, in the process, learned an extraordinary amount about children’s early years – so much so that he decided to retire from his post as publisher of the Miami Herald and work full time on issues focused on early childhood.


On the topic of driving forward legislative change, Dave notes there’s much power at the local level.  Dave wants people to be excited about supporting children and to talk about it often. He notes that numerous US presidents have been vocal in their support for early years, irrespective of their political affiliation, and he notes their power comes in using their presidential platform to be highly vocal about supporting children.


Dave remarks that, yes, just about everybody loves children; but too many don’t understand the practical imperatives about this.


He notes that in the US, despite its position as the world’s leading economy, 3 out of 4 young people aged 17 to 24 cannot enter the US military – they can’t join because of criminal records, substance abuse, academic problems etc. This is an unacceptable state of affairs.


Only real quality in education brings positive outcomes; it’s not about simply having a spot for a child in a classroom – it’s about actually learning something, about being engaged and being exposed to brain-stimulating activities.


The importance of play – and learning through play – should not be underestimated. Play is really important – you learn a lot about getting along with other people. We need to develop the full human being – it’s not about drilling 3-year olds in numbers. Nothing is more important than a nurturing, caring, knowledgeable, loving parent or caregiver.


Ultimately, to improve the reality for children, one needs to push on many fronts; communicating with parents; engaging with the legislative process, connecting with diverse stakeholders.  Dave wants to get the local community involved, including many who would not usually be classed as the usual suspects in the field of early childhood, including the faith community, business actors, the civic community, the political community etc – he wants them all to work on this issue.


Dave notes that a major moment in Florida happened a few years back when the Florida Chamber of Commerce – the principal business organisation in the state – decided that early childhood is a major business imperative, impacting the future of their workforce and talent pool in Florida.


Dave briefly discusses his book — ‘A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child’ – and underscores the point that all proceeds from sales go to support the Children’s Movement of Florida.  The book is partly traditional memoire and partly about what’s happening in the field of early childhood and what else still needs to be done.


Dave’s key takeaway: he notes that within each of us is an ability to make something happen and, ultimately, he shares the sentiment that it would be a shame for one to die before having had won some battle for humanity.  There is so much to be done all over the world and so many ways for people to drive change.  At the end, we ask ourselves, ‘what did your life mean’?... the answer won’t have much to do with accumulating resources. What difference did you make in an individual life and in larger ways? That’s the joy of life. Combine that with lifelong learning and you have a life where you can feel pretty good about yourself. 


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CEO of World Child Cancer, Jon Rosser, and paediatric oncologist Prof Lorna Renner in Ghana, join Alberto Lidji to talk about their UK Aid Match campaign and work in the developing world.


World Child Cancer supports and helps children with cancer in low and middle-income countries.  Jon Rosser notes there’s a large disparity in childhood cancer survival rates in the developed world – where it’s approximately 80%-85% -- versus the countries they work in, where childhood cancer survival rates are closer to just 10%.  In many cases children die without even getting a diagnosis.


At the time of this podcast’s airing (27 October 2019) World Child Cancer were running a UK Aid Match campaign up until 21 January 2020, whereby every £1 donated by UK-based donors was being matched 1:1 by UK Aid.


World Child Cancer was founded 11 years ago and today works in approximately 12 countries in the developing world, including Cameroon, Ghana, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia and Kenya.


They focus much of their efforts in twinning hospitals in developed countries with hospitals in the developing world. They also get doctors and nurses to volunteer and travel to the frontlines.


Prof Lorna Renner notes that in Ghana they work closely with local stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, and World Child Cancer’s approach is collegial and in tune with local needs – it’s not a top-down approach. Rather, they listen careful to the needs and opinions from local partners and stakeholders.


She goes on to say that in Ghana there is a population of 29 million people – 40% who are under 15 years old. They expect at least 1,000 cases of childhood cancer to report a year, but they only have 2 comprehensive childhood cancer centres in the whole of Ghana, and between these two centres they only see approximately 300-350 children a year, so there’s a very large portion of children with cancer who don’t even reach these centres.


Geographical distance is a problem.  And, out of those who have cancer and who do come for care, they also face the challenge that childhood cancer is not covered by the national health insurance scheme in Ghana.


So, World Child Cancer helps with funds for diagnostics, treatment costs, transportation costs, and various other aspects of supporting children with cancer. They also focus much attention in raising awareness and engaging with political stakeholders. They provide awareness training for health workers in Ghana so they can better detect the early warning signs of childhood cancer and improve the likelihood that children with cancer are detected early.  The provision of funds to help children and their families travel for treatment is also incredibly important – many have to travel, repeatedly, for hundreds of miles.


Jon notes that working in partnership is important. Hospitals and doctors in-country are key partners. This year, World Child Cancer have also started a partnership with UBS, who have been very supportive – enabling them to build a project in Africa to train new paediatric oncologists and specialist nurses. They’re now starting a regional training hub in Africa.


World Child Cancer identifies doctors in developed countries who are at the top of their profession and encourages them to volunteer and provide their skills and expertise. This can take various forms, from providing diagnosis remotely via online sharing of information, to travelling to the developing world for week-long trips.


By travelling to the frontlines, doctors learn much of what can be achieved in resource settings that are much more constrained than what’s available in the developed world.  Travelling to the frontlines also helps them exchange knowledge, provide training, mentoring and engage in peer-to-peer support.


World Child Cancer also works closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO), who have just announced a new initiative for childhood cancer aimed at increasing childhood cancer survival rates in the developing world to 60% by 2030, the target year of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Key takeaways: Lorna notes that together we can offer children with cancer the opportunity to achieve their potential and live life to the full. And, Jon adds that because childhood cancer is very often curable, it is a moral imperative that we get treatment to all the children who currently die from it who could be cured.


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CEO of Aga Khan Foundation UK, Matt Reed, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about the Aga Khan Development Network, its $5.5bn of annual operations, relationships with 40,000 civil society organisations and much more.


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.


When the Foundation started 50 years ago, the idea was to understand the communities where they were going to and to ask them what matters most to them in terms of development priorities (as opposed simply to taking a top down approach to solutions and strategies).  Matt notes the importance they place on ensuring their development work is truly long-lasting – they believe that people themselves need to be the agents of change and that it is important to create local ownership. 


They form representative groups at the local, village level, composed of men and women from all faiths and backgrounds; they facilitate conversations with them to help develop an understanding of what works, and what doesn’t, and to gain insight into local communities’ most pressing priorities.


Matt explains that his role in the UK is to represent not only the Foundation’s work but also the work of all 10 development agencies across their Network to European development partners and, to a lesser extent, to development partners in Asia and the Middle East – always in consultation with their people on the ground, in the field, who are doing work across their various countries of operations.


They have two universities: the first is the Aga Khan University, which was founded approximately 35 years ago and is primarily based in Pakistan, with some operations in Afghanistan; and with a network of campuses in east Africa – in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Its initial focus was teacher training and nursing.


The second university is the University of Central Asia, which was established in 2000. It is a four-way, public-private partnership between the Aga Khan and the governments of Tajikistan, Kirgizstan and Kazakhstan. It was established within a post-Cold War context following the fall of the Soviet Union, and was designed to address the human capacity needs of central Asia and aims to create regional exchanges and a regional knowledge base.


Matt’s key takeaway:  he wishes for listeners to keep in mind the long-term nature of the work being undertaken by the Aga Khan Development Network in improving the quality of life in all its dimensions and in promoting pluralism. They want to work, and do work, with everyone – and in today’s world this message is as important now as it has ever been.


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CEO of Giving Compass, Stephanie Gillis, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss how combining philanthropy and technology can help a broad audience learn, connect and take action.


Giving Compass is a philanthropy knowledge hub.  Its origins were driven to a great extent by Jeff and Tricia Raikes – two early Microsoft employees who were fortunate to accumulate considerable wealth.  As Jeff and Tricia were exploring how best to give away their wealth, they realised there was a lot to learn about philanthropy.


Jeff subsequently became CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2008-2014) – a period which Stephanie light-heartedly describes as Jeff getting his PhD in philanthropy. 


As they embarked on their own philanthropic journey, they noticed many people were approaching them for advice.  However, they realised that this approach was not scalable and that maybe there was an unmet need for philanthropy expertise and content to be disseminated through innovative technology.


As they were researching what such a solution could look like, they interviewed nearly 200 individual donors and they realised that many people simply didn’t know where to go for philanthropy information and, when they did find some information, they didn’t know whether that information could be trusted.


Giving Compass was essentially a content aggregator in its early stages.  Today, it’s a website that aggregates and curates high quality content for donors who want to give with impact; it’s also a community of people who care about leaning into their giving and learning and growing as donors. Information-sharing happens in all forms, from Giving Compass disseminating outward, to their incorporating third party information, to encouraging bilateral and multilateral knowledge-sharing among donors and networks.


They set out to blend the best of technology with the knowledge of philanthropy, and to support donors on their journey – helping individuals learn, connect and take action


Giving Compass users tend to be people who spend a lot of time trying to learn and improve how they go about philanthropy.  Giving Compass works mainly with individuals but, also, works with staff at family offices and others who are trying to support donors.


While their presence has traditionally been US-based, they are increasingly building significant audiences outside the US, which now includes the UK, India, Canada and the Philippines, for instance.


When asked about what exactly ‘impact’ is, Stephanie recognises the word can take on many different meanings and definitions. She notes that they used to say that impact is in the eye of the beholder.


For Stephanie, much has to do with the ‘how’ and the best practices of how people give.  She believes it’s important to approach philanthropy with humility and with a beginner’s mind. Collaborating and working with others matters, too. Indeed, one should never stop learning – giving is a journey and philanthropy is a joy.


The team at Giving Compass is growing. They initially started with just 4 staff; then 6; now 10. This growth trend continues.  Stephanie is heartened by the fact the team has experts from both the philanthropy and technology sectors. 


Besides their philanthropy expertise, the technology side matters. Indeed, in terms of exciting initiatives, Stephanie is keen to note the significant opportunities to personalise and customise according to individual users’ thematic areas of interest and degrees of philanthropic sophistication. 


They’re creating a knowledge hub and aim to ensure information is targeted and delivered intelligently – they’ve already aggregated over 25,000 pieces of content.


At Giving Compass, they want to help users learn, connect and take action. They aim to achieve this through the provision of a multi-faceted offering where information flows are multi-directional, where users’ engagement can take many different forms, and where partners engage in diverse ways, too.


Users can learn from each other and, equally, they can avail themselves of Giving Compass’ content to identify issue funds, intermediaries, collaboratives – diverse platforms helping donors enhance how they give, and facilitating giving through innovative channels.


Even for someone who has never been involved in philanthropy, Stephanie mentions that subscribing to their newsletter is a useful exercise. It’s a first step to finding out about different causes and gradually home in on what resonates most to a particular individual.


While Stephanie referenced some of their existing partnerships – such as Fidelity Charitable, Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society and the UN Foundation – she encourages potential partners to get in touch and underscores the point that there are many different ways for partnering up.


Stephanie’s key takeaway: Giving with impact can happen regardless of how much you’re giving – it’s a mindset and it doesn’t have to feel daunting.  There are a lot of networks and resources out there that can help you. It’s up to you to take the initiative!


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Founder & CEO of Co-Impact, Olivia Leland, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss the global collaborative she launched and how it aims to achieve impact at scale in education, health and economic opportunity.


Co-Impact’s core partners include Bill & Melinda Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, Rohini and Nandan Nilekani, Jeff Skoll, the ELMA Foundation and Richard Chandler.


Olivia explains that Co-Impact is a global collaborative focused on systems change to improve the lives of millions by advancing education, improving people’s health, and providing economic opportunity.   It connects philanthropists and social change leaders from around the world who share a vision of driving change at scale.


Their grants are typically USD $10-25 million over 5 years, accompanied by non-financial support, and are customised to provide programme partners with the operational flexibility needed to achieve impact.


Rather than scaling the direct service work of individual NGOs, Co-Impact supports systems change plans that are designed and executed with partners critical to long-term success at scale, including community groups, government, other NGOs, and the private sector.


Olivia introduces listeners to Co-Impact’s recently published ‘Handbook’, which seeks to inform funders, program partners and all interested stakeholders on what Co-Impact does, who they are, what they stand for, how they work and, indeed, what to expect when partnering with them.


Co-Impact is currently working on their second funding round, which is focused on early childhood development; and on jobs, skills and livelihoods. Olivia explains how they recently had an open call for applications, where they received 445 concept notes.  These were reviewed internally and, also, by external examiners.  They’re currently conducting due diligence on a smaller set.


When asked about what success looks like in the next 10 years, Olivia framed the answer within the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Ultimately, Olivia would like to see tremendous progress against the SDGs and see increased philanthropic participation to achieve impact at scale.


Olivia’s key takeaway: she is unequivocal that ‘the time is now!’ There’s amazing work happening now and we need more philanthropy to be focused on efforts that drive impact at scale -- so let’s come together to do that!


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President and CEO of CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) joins Alberto Lidji to discuss their support of 3,600 academic institutions and 92,000 advancement professionals globally.


CASE was founded in 1974 and has its origins in alumni relations and public affairs. Today, it supports schools, colleges and universities across their external engagement work advancing education to transform lives and society.  CASE’s scope is much broader than fundraising; focusing also in marketing, communications, alumni engagement and even government relations – they drive forward integrated advancement.


Sue notes that CASE is heavily involved in research and have launched a resource called ‘AM Atlas’ that provides educational advancement-related metrics, benchmarks and analytics. It’s comprised of several member-based surveys, as well as custom and funded research on specific topics.


Among some of the trends Sue is witnessing, she specifically references that philanthropy and the scale of giving is increasing for higher education across the globe.  Interestingly, they’ve recently launched a survey that highlighted for the third time that British universities raised over one billion pounds. The drivers for this are likely a combination of investing in leadership and the generosity of philanthropists.


A few weeks ago, CASE launched a survey that will, for the first time, be tracking alumni engagement metrics, globally, in a comprehensive manner. Instead of focusing exclusively on the proportion of alumni who give back, this new survey will include volunteerism, mentoring, advocacy, career advice, internships and helping with governance, to name a few.


When asked about public attitudes towards universities, Sue noted that it’s important for universities to build a strong public understanding of the important work that universities are doing in areas such as research and community engagement – beyond education. Indeed, while there is much to be proud of, Sue notes there is also much to be done in terms of public attitudes and public perception around higher education – especially in light of current conversations around social mobility and state funding.


Some of the focus areas for Sue and CASE right now include enhancing their digital offering, continuing to develop great research and streamlining the organisation’s governance. Recently, CASE launched a new website that hosts a wide range of resources and they’re looking at building out their e-learning offering beyond the webinars they’ve been doing for many years.  Sue goes on to underscore the importance of their data and research offering – under the banner of AM Atlas – and  notes it’s critical for institutions to be able to dig deep, benchmark, learn from others and understand what success looks like.


CASE has three main sources of funding: (1) membership model from the 3,600 institutions it supports; (2) income from the more than 120 in-person institutes and conferences they run annually in 20 countries – last year they catered to 20,000 participants; and (3) income from philanthropists and educational partners (such as for-profit consultants, search firms, and research agencies).


Volunteering is a key component of CASE’s operations. They have about 4,000 people who volunteer for CASE annually in some capacity, such as by mentoring others, teaching on programs, speaking at CASE conferences, and helping with governance and key strategic initiatives. Indeed, it was through volunteering that Sue found herself as a contender for her current role at CASE.


Key takeaway: Sue takes the opportunity to thank and recognise advancement professionals and philanthropists for their transformative work and impact; she encourages them to look for ways to communicate the impact of the academic institutions they’re affiliated with and to do so in succinct and powerful ways.


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Executive Director of Compassionate Atlanta, Leanne Rubenstein, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about the Charter for Compassion and what it means to be a compassionate city, business and individual.  


Leanne’s professional experience has a strong footing in the refugee resettlement space and she notes that she’s in her comfort zone when working with people who came from all over the word.


The Charter was the wish of Karen Armstrong – winner of the 2008 TED Prize – and aims to bring people to the centre of morality; to treat others as you would like to be treated. It has been endorsed all over the world, including by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.


Leanne notes that the Charter encourages people to ‘teach your children about other religions, traditions and cultures’. Because once we know each other it’s much harder to dislike one another – it’s about finding a common humanity.


Globally, there is an international charter office and approximately 500+ different chapters across the world; 197 of these chapters are located in the USA.  It’s a grassroots movement and every chapter looks different and is independent.


What is compassion? Well, for some it might be compassion for the Earth, or compassion for children and youth, or compassion for people who are incarcerated. Leanne notes that compassion has many faces.


Part of her job and that of Compassionate Atlanta is to listen to the community and look to them for guidance. There’s one program they’re running with the Sierra Club looking at compassion and climate.


When asked what it takes to start a local chapter in one’s own community, Leanne points listeners to the Charter for Compassion website, where one can sign up and find out more – there are ways of engaging for cities, businesses and individuals. Indeed, some cities can twin with each other and mentor one another.


Compassion is overarching and it’s for everybody. Yes, there is a strong interfaith component but, also, there’s an appreciation that faith itself can be divisive. Compassion is for people of all faiths as well as for those with none. Representing people of different faiths is just as important as representing the secular community.  It’s about everyone coming together.


Leanne likes to focus on similarities rather than differences. This is particularly important in today’s politically divided and polarised environment.  Her advice: start by tackling the conversations that are easy and make progress from there. There’s no need to start by talking about people’s voting intentions. Why not start by exchanging preferences and experiences about food, film, the arts? Build a rapport and take it from there.


Being compassionate isn’t just good for individuals and cities in communities across the world. It is also important for businesses and, as Leanne points out, can have a positive effect on customer service and employee retention; it can lead to happier and more productive employees. She specifically references the CEO of LinkedIn, who has spoken about compassion in a corporate setting.


Leanne recognises that sometimes businesses don’t like the word compassion because it may feel ‘soft’ but, actually, she remarks that compassion is really ‘strong’.


In a business setting, compassion takes many forms and can be facilitated by getting employees around the table, being inclusive, having fluid communications and simply asking employees what makes them happy in their job. It’s about small incremental changes and can have a positive influence across the whole organisation. 


Leanne’s Key takeaway: Treat others as you wish to be treated; and treat others as they wish to be treated. Know that you can make an incredible difference and that one person can really shift the world for another.


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The Clerk (CEO) of the Worshipful Company of Coopers, Stephen White, joins Alberto Lidji to shed light on the world of livery companies, the history of the Coopers’ since 1298 and their philanthropic work.


The Coopers’ livery company has a long history, first mentioned in a public record back in 1298.  Today, they have approximately 350 members and are very much open to everyone. They have a strong focus on fellowship, charitable work and business activity.


Many people outside of the UK are not familiar with the world of livery companies and, even within the UK, there is often a lack of understanding on what livery companies do, how they’re governed and the process to join one.  Stephen does a wonderful job of taking listeners through a multi-faceted exploration of the livery company world and the Coopers’ in particular, of which he is CEO.


Today, there are 110 livery companies in England and, since the 1970s, approximately 30 new livery companies have been established. 


There are three main types of collaborations between different livery companies. There is a collaboration between ‘The Great 12’ livery companies (these are the top 12 livery companies based on their wealth ranking back in the 16th Century. Today, these 12 may not necessarily be the wealthiest but the tradition of the Great 12 stands); then there is a collaboration between companies that have a ‘hall’; and lastly there’s collaboration between those companies that have no hall and are not one of the Great 12.


Livery companies in the UK are amongst the largest philanthropic donors in the country.  In addition to supporting members of the coopers trade (cask makers), the company also supports two schools in the UK and makes grants based on the funding applications it receives from interested parties.


Stephen notes how the coopers trade is witnessing something of a renaissance in England, now that the country's sparkling wines are increasingly being recognised for their quality on the international stage. It’s an exciting time for coopers / cask makers in England.


Stephen’s key takeaway for listeners: he refers to the Company’s motto -- Love is Brethren – and laments consumerism and greed.  He would like to see people with abundant resources be more philanthropic and spread their wealth more generously. Give back to society as much as you can! 

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CEO of United World Schools (UWS), Tim Howarth, joins Alberto Lidji to shed light on their 200 schools in Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal and to celebrate their 2019 WISE Award for educational innovation.


UWS is one of 2019’s WISE Award Winners (World Innovation Summit for Education). They were presented a WISE Award for their innovative approach and scalable model; they have had 30,000 schoolchildren through their schools in the past 10 years; they have strong public/private partnerships; and they’re extremely focused on empowering local communities.


UWS started off as a small family charity in the UK and over the past decade has built 200 schools in communities across Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal that previously had no access to education – they embrace a model that is low cost, scalable, replicable and simple; a typical school has approximately 150-200 children and is located in remote areas of their respective countries, where local communities are often ethnic minorities that do not speak the national language. Furthermore, these communities are usually at or below the poverty line.  UWS are unequivocal in their stance: local communities need to be empowered, they need to be part of the solution and they need to be involved as new schools are built.


When asked what prompted UWS to enter and operate in Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal, Tim mentioned this was driven by a mix of strategy, fit and opportunity. They initially had connections in Cambodia, which presented a good opportunity to enter that market.  Subsequently, as they began to scale up successfully they considered what other countries might be in need of their work and that took them to Mynamar and Nepal.  Could Vietnam or other countries be next? Indeed, that may well be the case in the years to come.


Tim and the team at United World Schools have ambitions to grow, reach many more schoolchildren, expand geographically and help achieve Goal 4 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all.


Tim’s key takeaway: Be absolutely focused on delivering your mission – use it as your North Star!


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Executive Director at Innovation Edge, Sonja Giese, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss their impact investment platform and innovative strategies in support of Early Childhood Development in South Africa.


Sonja joined the podcast from Cape Town, South Africa.  Innovation Edge is focused on early childhood development (ECD) investments in South Africa. They’re a platform designed to promote innovation in ECD (ages 0 to 6) set up to try to bring innovation in to tackle the multiple challenges preventing children from thriving.


Sonja notes that the reality in South Africa is that more than half of children are starting school without the right learning foundations in place.


Innovation Edge was originally set up by a group of funders who had a shared interest in ECD and had been investing in this field in a traditional grant-making way. But they were facing intractable problems and were interested in finding new ways to tackle them. They each put funds into a pooled fund and Sonja was tasked with sourcing investments that were a good fit for that fund.


The funders had to be very aligned; moving away from traditional grant-making and realising that there is a very high degree of risk in this type of fund, since they source very early stage ideas, often even before there being any proof of feasibility or proof of concept.


This is critical if you’re going to drive innovation in such a nascent area – the funders had to have similar risk appetites.  All the funders and Sonja agreed that if they weren’t failing enough then they weren’t pushing the boundaries of innovation enough. This is something Sonja found very inspiring.


When asked whether deal flow origination was difficult, she replied that indeed it was “hugely challenging”. Sourcing deals is difficult and Innovation Edge continue to experiment with different sourcing strategies -- they need to be very active and, at times, even co-create ideas.


The team at Innovation Edge is diverse. Interestingly, out of a team of 8, Sonja is actually the only one who comes from a traditional development background. Others come from entrepreneurship, start-ups; impact investing, financial instruments.  They want people who have diverse experiences, networks and ways of thinking.


They struggle to define the exact label for the investments that they do; and whether they’re labelled as impact investments, social investments, ESG-integrated investments really is influenced to a great deal on their target audience. They spend a lot of time trying to find “the label”.


At Innovation Edge, they like making very unlikely connections between people and ideas – connections that would otherwise not come together were it not for Innovation Edge.


As far as the types of investments they make: they like to think of themselves as an “impact first investor”. They do both investments and also traditional grant-making, if appropriate. There are instances when they’ve taken equity in some start-ups and, also, experimented with outcome-based models and other variations. They try to bring flexible resources and a flexible approach to resourcing.


Sonja describes their core fund as an ‘evergreen fund’. Any returns that are made are reinvested back into that fund. So, none of their investors in that core fund expect a financial return.


However, what many of these investors may have is a particular preference for investing in one or many of the diverse initiatives that come down Innovation Edge’s deal flow pipeline, and then they have the opportunity to make direct investments into some of these and they can then negotiate the terms of that directly.  Irrespective of the various approaches, Innovation Edge aims to stay engaged to ensure that the investment remains mission-aligned; and indeed investors may well need to be willing to forego some financial returns in order to maximise social returns.


Different funders have different appetites for risk. Some funders are not prepared to put in funding for something that hasn’t been proven. So part of the challenge is in connecting funders to the right opportunity. Thematically, some investors may be more interested in investing in EdTech (education technology) while others may care about other types of investment areas.


Sonja introduced listeners to their “Think Future” conference, which happens every two years and is due to take place later on in 2019.  She explains that at Innovation Edge, they look at their activities in three buckets:


1 – Commissioning Innovation (i.e. how they find and make investments) 

2 – Communicating Innovation (i.e. what they do; what they’ve learned; what tools they can share with others)

3 – Connecting for Innovation (this is vital --  they have a number of strategies to make these connections.


Think Future is their flagship event and characterises their approach to making these connections.


The first Think Future conference was held in 2017; the second is coming up in late 2019. It curates a program that stimulates unusual thoughts and links between concepts and participants. They’ll be hosting 250 participants from 20 countries in South Africa. Interestingly, half of those who will be attending don’t work in the early childhood space. The conference is about bringing new and disruptive ideas to bear on the challenges facing early childhood development. At Innovation Edge, they want people to leave the event with a fresh perspective on how they can do things differently and apply their thinking to make an impact.


Over the years, Innovation Edge has developed some invaluable internal tools, which revolve around the strategies they’ve used to source and stimulate an ecosystem in ECD; tools for tracking the progress of their investments – they have a tool that tracks investments from source to scale – which has 7 steps with a set of questions that must be answered in every step.


At Innovation Edge, they view these tools as a public good – they’re more than happy to share these tools with others across the globe. “it is an absolute delight” to share these tools with others. Part of the rationale is that when others engage with Innovation Edge’s tools and give feedback, it helps Innovation Edge grow, learn and add value. They welcome collaboration at all levels and from every geographic corner.


Some of their main international funders include: the Omidyar Network, the UBS Optimus Foundation and ELMA Philanthropies. (NB: you can listen to The Do One Better! Podcast interviews with both the heads of UBS Optimus and ELMA Philanthropies at Despite Innovation Edge’s focus on making investments in South Africa, Sonja notes that international funders help foster a cross pollination of ideas.


When asked what success looks like in the next 10 years, Sonja noted that there are two things that they’re hoping to achieve:


1 - Pipeline: they want to really demonstrate their ability to take highly impactful innovations from source all the way to sustainable scale. This is very challenging to do in a field such as ECD.

2 - Purpose:  this focuses on target 4.2 of the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals), which tracks the percentage of children who are developmentally on track before they enter school. For Innovation Edge, they’ve really aligned their goals to that specific SDG indicator. They’d really like to see many more children starting school with the right foundations for learning. 


They’ve commissioned a tool to track child outcomes to answer this question. It’s now been standardised for the South African population; it’s available in all 11 languages and it’s been widely used. The other thing they’ve done is to partner with business and with the South African Government to motivate the use of this tool to actually establish an ‘Early Years Index’.  They’d like to do a national sample of children every 3 to 5 years to be able to track whether over time they’re getting progressively close to the ideal of having 100% of children starting school on track.


The tracking of returns on investment is challenging. They’ve developed some metrics that they believe can be generically applied across a diverse portfolio. Over the past 4.5 years since they’ve been making investments they’ve made 36 investments and these are focused in three types of things:


1 – Product / service

2 – Platforms that are already at scale where they leverage the platform for social impact

3 – Data tools and insights


For each one of these they have clear targets of where different types of investment should be at different stages of their cycle. These can be targets around prototypes – having a good working prototype – a viable revenue or funding model, a strong team in place etc -- and ensuring that over time they’re moving to becoming sustainable and scalable.


On the topic of Social Returns and Outcomes, Sonja notes they focus on:


1 – Achieving greater efficiency / effectiveness in government systems. If you achieve this you could have potential to impact the lives of millions of children. 

2 – Impact to shift the ways in which ECD practitioners or teachers are operating in the classroom; or the way parents are engaging with their children. Actual change in behaviours that will improve outcomes.

3 – Child outcomes – they look at 7 developmental domains and they look at the way their investments have improved these outcomes.


The team at Innovation Edge work closely with management teams and this can be very time consuming. An interesting observation is that the financial investment is actually the smallest part of the ‘value-add’. Typically, their investments are not very big; they give around $80k in an initial investment round and then they can do repeat investments but typically the value they bring is much more hands on, by sitting on boards, helping organizations navigate complex government dynamics and relationships, business modelling, legal support, networking and strategic support. Sometimes they really are very operational and that’s why they don’t ever anticipate their portfolio growing very large -- they aim to make 6 to 10 investments per annum.


Sonja’s key takeaway for listeners: It’s important to find those connections between what you’re good at and what’s needed.  She notes that people tend to compartmentalize their lives. For instance, one might be a very successful business person and then in their spare time they might do some work for a charity that is completely different from the skillset they’ve developed in their business careers.  At Innovation Edge, what they’re trying to unlock is the way to connect these different things – where she sees that people can really add value is in that ‘aha’ moment between what their core competences and skillset are and the desperate need that there is out there. It’s at this point that people can really make exponential contributions.


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CEO of Özyegin Social Investments, Ayla Goksel, sheds light on challenges and opportunities in driving philanthropic operations in Turkey, and dynamics between international and local organisations.


Özyegin Social Investments is a group of different organisations started or supported by the Özyegin family. These include: ACEV (the Mother Child Education Foundation); the Özyegin Foundation; Özyegin University; and then various other smaller initiatives.


Their investments are 90% in education. And, approximately 70% to 80% of Özyegin Social Investments’ funding comes from the Özyegin family.


The organisation was founded by Hüsnü Özyegin, who’s a highly philanthropic, self-made billionaire in Turkey. They have deployed $525m in philanthropic funds in Turkey and directly impacted 1.5m lives.


Ayla explains how she’s very fortunate to manage both an international foundation and local charitable activities on the ground as well.  She sheds light on the contrast and peculiar dynamics between international organisations and local NGOs; and also highlights the implications of being a family foundation – especially one where the Founder is still alive and active.


She notes that, indeed, there are differences between working ‘on the ground’ locally vs working ‘in the Boardroom’ internationally.  On the international level, it is very easy to get removed from reality – especially in over-professionalised organisations where, perhaps, there’s too much mimicking of a private sector approach. Nevertheless, a global outlook is important and there is much value to be derived from the global insights, trends and experience that global foundations and international organisations can bring to the local market.


Ayla mentions that dialogue between these various types of organisations is key and, importantly, it needs to be on equal footing. There is often a power imbalance due to financing and political clout – and it is up to the leaders in philanthropy to foster a collegial environment of information-sharing and appreciation for what other parties bring to the table.


Ayla specifically references the high number of Syrian refugees who have arrived in Turkey and how that has impacted philanthropic and NGO operations on the ground; and the relationships between international organisations, government and local NGOs.


International organisations not only need to take time to identify good local delivery partners on the ground but they also need to have good intentions to share control with these local partners – something that doesn’t always happen. Sharing control with local partners makes operational sense and, also, can help build valuable political capital.


Relations between international organisations and local stakeholders in Turkey have not been optimal, particularly around communications, sharing control and exchanging information. This comes at a cost both to international organisations and local NGOs alike. Some international organisations have not been able to to complete registrations to continue operations in the country; and many local NGOs could have benefited from credible international supporters who could have helped local stakeholders improve their advocacy – there could have been much better integration of projects.


Ayla observes that risk tolerance becomes low when dealing with politically volatile situations -- the civil space has gotten smaller in the country.


This has had a direct impact on her operations, which they have been able manage by adapting, thinking creatively and moving outside their comfort zone. For example, they have started seeking partnerships with municipalities and local NGOs; as opposed to their traditional central government relationships. They have also started to explore collaboration with local, loosely formed initiatives.  In other words, these challenges also brought opportunities for them and there is a bright side to how they’ve managed these developments. 


However, not all organisations have had such a positive outcome. Ayla notes that there are many organisations that have been shut down in Turkey.


Ayla looks at the context with optimism, highlighting that this fragile situation can also be an opportunity for creativity and for doing things in a different way and, indeed, for appreciating the smaller wins one has.


Ultimately, if what you’re offering meets the needs of your constituents and communities, then you’ll get somewhere. In the case of Ayla’s work, what they offer in terms of education, training and childcare all resonates with people. Their organisation is apolitical and they focus on meeting local needs – adaptability is key.


When asked whether it helps to be a Turkish organisation when operating in Turkey, she was unequivocal: yes, of course it helps.  Working in Turkey as a foreign organisation can be very difficult. She laments that there aren’t many foreign organisations in Turkey since there is much that international organisations and local NGOs can learn from each other.


Ayla’s key takeaway: have perseverance as you pursue what you believe in. Change rarely happens overnight. If you believe in it, just keep going. Don’t give up, change does eventually happen.


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President of J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, Janet Froetscher, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss investing $1 Billion to achieve dramatic change; and why no one is interested in marginal change.


The J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation was founded by J.B. Pritzker, who’s the current Governor of the State of Illinois, and his wife M.K.


The Foundation aims to invest $1 billion in the coming years to improve the realities in three key thematic areas. They have clear and highly ambitious goals for each one:


(1) Pritzker Children’s Initiative focuses on prenatal to age 3. The goal: in the next 5 years a million more children will have access to high quality services.


(2) Pritzker Community Health Initiative. The goal: in the next 5 years they’ll reduce the number of uninsured children in the City of Chicago by half; and will reduce unintended teen pregnancies by half in the next 5 years.


(3) Human and Civil Rights. The goal: in the next 7 years they aim to reduce the number of women in prison in the State of Illinois by half.


The Foundation is unequivocal in its pursuit of big, audacious goals. They aim to be catalytic and create long-lasting, dramatic change. They aim to partner up with others pretty much in everything they do, at national, state and local level, and across all of their thematic areas of focus.


When asked what advice she has for potential philanthropists who may be tempted to get involved but aren’t quite sure exactly how to go about it, Janet draws parallels between private business and philanthropy. Just like in business, you need to back opportunities where you have confidence in an organisation's CEO and believe in the organisation's strategy and expected returns.


This isn’t surprising considering Janet has an MBA from Northwestern and initially worked in the private sector before moving into the non-profit world.  She always knew she wanted to get into the non-profit world but, at the time of completing her MBA, she was advised to get into the business world first and, only then, explore the non-profit space.


Prior to joining the Foundation, Janet was the CEO of the Special Olympics International.  Running a foundation is very different than running a global NGO. The Special Olympics is active in 170 countries and as CEO you need buy-in from around the world.


She has a lot more freedom now, especially on the resource deployment side. The Foundation is very nimble and they can deploy resources quickly, as soon as an interesting opportunity is identified. Consequently, they’re usually the first funder to go in, and they’re the ones who usually entice new partners on board.


The beauty of philanthropy is that you can be catalytic – making a dramatic and concrete impact and achieving tangible, sustained change in a big way.  Recently, they’ve created the Child & Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas -- a centre that links research, policy and programs.


Janet’s key takeaway for listeners:  Think big. No one is interested in marginal change, frankly.  Investors aren’t; donors aren’t; government isn’t. Marginal change with the types of problems we’re dealing with will get us nowhere. There will always be excuses about why we can’t do it that big, and why it can’t happen that fast. And, you just cant’ accept that.  I don’t want to know why it can’t be done; I have no interest in knowing why it can’t be done; I can list for you why it can’t be done. Instead, I want to know how it can be done. The conversation I want to have is about dramatic change. How can we do it.


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President of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Jessie Rasmussen, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss their investments in support of children's Early Years.


Approximately 20 years ago, Warren Buffett decided to give a substantial amount of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to his three children, as well as to the Gates Foundation, to be used for philanthropy. 


His Daughter, Susie, subsequently launched the Buffett Early Childhood Fund and, today, they are a leading force investing in early childhood (1) practice, (2) policy and (3) research.


Jessie Rasmussen is President of the Fund and she explains how they believe these three key investment areas are essential to help achieve their goal of ensuring every child in the youngest years and months of their lives has access to effective quality services – and it is the interaction between these investments that makes a difference.


The Fund is a strong financial backer of two leading thinkers who drive forward research and articulate the strongest neuroscientific and economic arguments in support of early childhood investments: Prof Jack Shonkoff at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child and Prof Jim Heckman at the University of Chicago, respectively.


Not only does the Fund drive forward research but they also aim to connect leading researchers, such as Shonkoff and Heckman, to key policymakers so that policymakers are well informed on what the latest research is saying.  


The power of collaboration: the Fund’s philanthropy is done almost always in partnership with others. For instance, along with other funders they’ve helped establish the Alliance for Early Success, which is mainly a state-wide organisation, and the First Five Years Fund, which is a federal organisation.  They engage different stakeholders but share a common theme.


Jessie shed light on a funding collaborative they’re currently involved with that encompasses 8 substantive foundations who are focusing on highly consequential areas such as 'workforce' in Early Years.  She explains how the collaborative came about, how it grew and how it operates today.


There are various funding and collaboration mechanisms that one can embrace. Jessie explains the dynamics involved in parallel funding and, also, in setting up a unified investment vehicle backed by all collaborative members.  Ultimately, irrespective of whether they’re deploying funds via parallel funding or as a unified fund, they tend to agree on a single reporting requirement, which simplifies things for the grant recipient.


The Fund does not accept unsolicited funding applications and for the most part they’re investing in major systems change and long-term sustainability of effective programs. They have a team of experts who identify great opportunities to improve the lives of children -- team members approach early childhood development from different vantage points based on their diverse experience in the field.


Jessie explains that “when Warren gave his three children funds to start their foundations, he wrote a letter and gave them advice.  And, one piece of advice was ‘take risk’, invest in things that nobody else will invest in […] because it’s when you take risk that you learn what works and what doesn’t work.” Jessie goes on to say: “I love having that direction provided for us”.


Jessie’s key takeaway for listeners: Do your homework. Don’t assume you have the answers. Do your homework and know what’s going on right now. She also encourages listeners to take the time to think about doing things in partnership with other funders because that's where you’re going to have the greatest impact.  


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British Ambassador Designate to South Sudan, Chris Trott, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss conflict resolution, power sharing agreements, Ebola and working in the frontlines.


Chris talks about his career trajectory and the rewarding challenges of being posted to South Sudan, Afghanistan and other precarious settings. He explains why this is important to him and provides advice to others who may be drawn to similar postings while having to juggle family commitments.  Chris is motivated by wanting to make a difference in a conflict environment.


He is quick to note that despite the challenges of being posted to South Sudan, these pale in comparison with the hardships the South Sudanese population has to endure.


Chris sheds light on the state of affairs in South Sudan and the region. He provides statistics on the death toll from the conflict, along with staggering numbers pertaining to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). 


He then proceeds to discuss the challenges of securing – and maintaining – power sharing agreements and the difficulties of bringing enemies to the negotiating table.


Chris notes that the statistics around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in South Sudan are horrifying. He talks of girls’ education and explains how a girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in child birth than complete secondary school.   The country has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world.  This is but one element of the myriad of problems facing the country, from high rates of sexual violence in conflict to lack of adequate healthcare, malnutrition, the threat of Ebola and more.


Chris notes that “it’s really, really important that we focus on the Sustainable Development Goals, because they are a long way from achieving them here”. 


Chris’ key takeaway: The international community has a hugely important and supportive role in trying to help address crises around the world – we need to find ways to offer that support in a way that empowers local partners, local governments and other key stakeholders.


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Founding Executive Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, Kat Rosqueta, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss social impact, strengthening democracy through philanthropy and knowledge sharing in philanthropy.


Kat speaks passionately about the power of philanthropy and notes that high impact philanthropy is not about how much you give but, rather, it’s about how you give. 


She sheds light on her career trajectory and the origins of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice. 


Her team at the Center is highly multi-disciplinary, which Kat notes is essential.  You need the best thinking from diverse actors and disciplines to improve and change the world.


At the Center, they focus on different thematic areas. An interesting – and highly topical – area of research they’re currently pursuing looks at how philanthropy can strengthen democracy.


At the Center, they decide which thematic areas to focus on by determining whether there’s a high potential for social impact; whether they have the funding; whether they think they can quickly assemble a team that can generate answers quickly and well; and whether there is clear funder interest globally for such research. 


She adds that it’s essential to have clarity of thought on what, exactly, is the social impact goal you’re trying to achieve; ensuring decisions are informed by the best available evidence out there (both academic and practical); embracing an attitude of learning, measuring and managing progress; and ensuring there is value for money.


The Center is keen to provide guidance on philanthropy to a wide audience and to ensure research can be accessed freely, across diverse platforms. They publish the ‘High Impact Giving Guide’, which provides tips, examples and useful resources for donors.


Moreover, the Center has partnerships with the likes of Fidelity Charitable – the largest Donor Advised Fund (DAF) – who mirror some of the Center’s guidance on giving, and also with Giving Compass, who add some of the Center’s guidance content on their own website. 


Kat is clear that one can be a philanthropist without having to be a high-net-worth individual (HNWI). She lightheartedly distinguishes between ‘high input’ philanthropy where you do need a lot of money and ‘high impact’ philanthropy where it’s not about how much you give but, rather, how you give.


Kat also introduces the concept of a ‘social impact portfolio’, which is a useful way for individuals to balance out how much they may want to give philanthropically, or allocate towards impact investing or, indeed, spend by making sustainable purchasing decisions through conscious consumerism.


The conversation then moves into a policy exploration on philanthropy itself; its accountability (or lack thereof); its freedom to take on risk; its track record and ability to tackle social issues where for some reason neither government nor the business sector have mobilised.


An interesting point to keep in mind is that the pools of philanthropic funds available globally are still relatively small – despite all the media coverage on the topic. Kat notes that even the Gates Foundation’s endowment – the largest foundation out there – wouldn’t be able to pay for two years’ worth of public education in even one state alone, in the USA. 


Kat’s key takeaway for listeners: now, more than ever, any individual can practice high impact philanthropy. High impact philanthropy is not about how much you give but, rather, it’s about how you give. If you’re unsure of where to start your philanthropic journey, you should simply just start and take the first step. Use the wealth of resources available at the Center and elsewhere that are publicly available and get excited about the impact you can make over a lifetime.


Full episode notes, guest bios and useful links are available at  - Please subscribe to the podcast if you enjoy it. Thank you!

General Manager of PBS America in the UK, Richard Kingsbury, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss educational TV, impartial reporting and the value of public media.

PBS America (Public Broadcasting Service) was founded in 1969. There are more than 300 PBS channels in the US and 85% of their income comes direct from philanthropic donations; 15% comes from the government.  

In the US, PBS has been voted the most trusted institution for 10 consecutive years running.

PBS is a non-profit organisation, with a strong focus on educational TV. In the UK, some of the more prominent programs are Nova (science), Frontline (current affairs) and the American Experience (history), alongside high-quality documentaries.

Viewers of PBS in the UK tend to be intellectually curious and have a desire to learn -- not just relax -- as they watch TV. Richard notes that PBS programming is dense with information and insight.

PBS also serves a cultural exchange function, bringing programming with a strong American flavour to British audiences, while broadcasting many British shows to American audiences in the US.

Richard notes that many British viewers generally formulate their view of the US from Hollywood and, therefore, part of the appeal of PBS in the UK is that it brings in-depth, real-life stories that give British audiences a much more rounded picture of what America is like.

The impartiality of PBS is something Richard underscores clearly and he notes that public media exposes all sides to the debate and, therefore, has a real value at a time when many individuals tend to have a disproportionate exposure to likeminded views.

The key takeaway for listeners: Richard drives home the message that there is real value in public media and we need to appreciate its role in allowing people to come to informed and rational decisions. 

Full episode notes, guest bios and relevant links are available at  -  Please subscribe to the podcast if you enjoy it. Thank you!

Chief Executive of the Scouts UK, Matt Hyde, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss inclusivity, growth and why Scouting transforms lives in 193 countries. 

Matt Hyde introduces listeners to the global Scout movement and to the Scouts in the UK.  Scouting was set up in 1907 and today has approximately 50 million Scouts in 193 countries.  The organisation aims to prepare young people, aged 6 to 25 (exact ages vary in different countries), with skills for life. 

In the UK, there are 460,000 young people participating in the Scouts and 160,000 adult volunteers. Interestingly, there are currently 60,000 young people waiting to join the Scouts in the UK – this waiting list is due to a need for additional adult volunteers. 

Matt sheds light on how to join the Scouts, what it entails and how it transforms lives.  He gives listeners visibility into his own personal journey in the Scouts.  He got into the Scouts as a young child, which set him on a leadership development path and, now, he finds himself as the Chief Executive of the Scouts in the UK.

Matt also provides insight into their corporate strategy.  We hear how the Scouts in the UK are considering expanding their provision into the ‘Early Years’ for participants aged 4 and 5. Encouragingly, they have received funding to run 40 pilots from diverse funders. 

For the next four years, the Scouts are looking to add another 50,000 participants, reach out to and engage with people living in deprived areas; inclusion is of vital importance and they want to ensure that Scouting in the UK represents modern British society on all fronts -- gender equality, LGBT+ issues, race, ethnicity and more.

When defining success for the next few years, Matt is focused on growth, inclusivity, ensuring that the Scouts are shaped by young people, and achieving substantive community impact.

Full episode notes, links and guest bios are available at -- Please subscribe to this podcast if you’ve enjoyed it. Thank you!

Grant Gordon, philanthropist and Founder of the Reekimlane Foundation, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss high-net-worth (HNW) family philanthropy and responsible stewardship of wealth.

Grant encourages global listeners who are interested in philanthropy to take the first step and connect with likeminded individuals who are attracted by philanthropy.

Grant founded the Reekimlane Foundation, which grants out approximately $1m annually.  The foundation is a grant maker and also acts as a conduit for various other philanthropic endeavours launched by Grant. 

Child poverty and community regeneration are two thematic areas close to Grant’s heart.  Currently, he’s also exploring early childhood development as a potential area for more philanthropic engagement.

When asked about what prompted him to get into philanthropy, he notes that, for him, it’s about values. Grant grew up in an affluent family and he was brought up knowing that there are certain responsibilities associated with having wealth. Philanthropy came naturally to him.

For those individuals who are thinking about getting into philanthropy, but haven’t done so for one reason or another, he simply suggests one start by having a look around to see what issues resonate most so that what one really cares about is identified.   He references the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a good starting point -- Goal No.1 is about tackling poverty.

Everyone is different and determining how much money and resources one should donate is a personal decision. In Grant’s case, there’s an ongoing family discussion on what it means to be a responsible citizen which, in turn, helps him and his family decide what works best for them.

There are two key insights Grant brings from his private sector experience: one is the importance of ‘mission’ and ensuring that all Trustees on your board are fully aligned; the other pertains to leadership, where one needs a CEO who’s not just passionate but also who has the skills and resilience to do the job.

Grant’s takeaway for listeners: as a philanthropist (or potential philanthropist)  never regard yourself as being on your own. Go out and talk to others!

Full episode notes, links and guest bios are available at – Please subscribe to this podcast if you find enjoy listening to it. Thank you!

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