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This year's Clinton Global Initiative has a huge press corps, with a ton of bloggers covering the proceedings from a variety of viewpoints. We thought we'd share some thoughts from other voices with onPhilanthropy readers as the conference goes on. To lead off, here's a bit from Dave Johnson, who's blogging for Skoll's SocialEdge site, which really sets the scene:
When you have a number of world leaders in town there are vast security concerns. You have to worry about terrorists. Then you have to keep Bush and Ahmadinejad apart. Then you have to keepapart. You have to keep Bush and Hugo Chavez away from each other. (Chavez didn't show up this year but was memorable.)
Yesterday I took a walk in the area around the UN building. Block after block is lined with police officers and vehicles. Intersections are blocked by dump trucks filed with sand. Every intersection has a police presence. Everywhere you see police, people with "Secret Service" jackets, black Suburbans with tinted windows and really strange-looking antennas all over them, and license plates that say "US Government" are everywhere. And there are the black Suburbans with tinted windows and signs saying "Zimbabwe Press" or "Ethiopian Government." Also there are black Suburbans with tinted windows and no apparent government connection driven by large men with earpieces. The middle lane of the FDR highway, which passes under the UN building, is blocked by a dozen police cars, accompanied by black Suburbans with tinted windows. Even stores are lined with security men with earpieces. Barnes and Noble had three or four, looking at me. (I decided not to browse the section of book on how to construct bombs.)
While I was walking apassed buy, big hurry, cameramen walking backwards, microphones on booms pointing into the center of the group, everyone running up the street. A few minutes later a woman ran up, asked, "Did the Secretary General pass this way?" and ran down the street.
And here's a post from Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell that catpures some of the star quality of the proceedings:
At a packed press conference at the annual conference of the Clinton Global Initiative this afternoon, Jolie helped launch a "historic education partnership for children of conflict" in partnership with CGI, UNICEF, Save the Children, and a number of other organizations. (Just to give you a sense of the atmosphere in the room, a casual flip of Jolie's hair set off every flash bulb in the room, not to mention a few camera phones.)
As for Brad, introduced earlier today as "the sexiest man alive," he debuted a plan in concert with famed green designer Bill McDonough to build 150 new "affordable and sustainable homes" in New Orleans's devastated Ninth Ward. (For you gossips out there, Angelina and Brad never appeared publicly in the same room today at CGI, as far as I know—though they did show up together last week for the New York premiere of "Darfur Now".)
Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman, has been attended as a delegate and he blogs his thoughts from a global (and public relations) standpoint. Here's a taste:
The rising wealth of Asia and the greater share of total assets moving toward natural resource rich nations have changed the global balance of power. Business will have to accommodate dispersion of authority, where rules are written not just in the EU or USA, but in the case of green buildings, in China. PR will play a vital role in this transition. We will help global business to identify major issues such as environment or rural development in which it can make common cause with government, NGOs and communities while selling their own products, so that “green equals green.”
There's more press and way more bloggers this year the Clinton Global Initiative, so we thought we'd point out a few feeds for you. We'll try and update this post as we find more, or meet people in the hallway.
- TreeHugger is covering CGI from the environmental standpoint.
- Jessica Valenti from Feministing is blogging (she's also working to organize bloggers here).
- Michelle Kraus is reporting live for the Huffington Post.
- CGI has its own bloggers over at mycommitment.org.
- NPR's Tom Regan is blogging.
- Reed Hundt at TPMCafe is posting.
- Matthew Yglesias is blogging for the Atlantic.
- Blake Hounshell is posting for Foreign Policy.
We've wanted to do this one for a while, so last week the team here at onPhilanthropy quietly launched media, our new blog on distributed audio and video. The blog, updated near-daily, will feature embedded video content from a variety sources - all focusing on philanthropy, causes, and nonprofit management. Podcasts are part of the mix as well.
There's such a rich trove of content out there these days, and everyone here wished aloud for a single souce feed for audio and video in our sector. Then we thought: let's do that! So here it is.
We're very much interested in your feedback - and on suggestions for links and videos. We know there are more sources out there than we've been able to find, and we'd like very much to add them Please subscribe to the feed, drop some comments, and spread the word.
Foundation executives tend to be a progressive crowd, politics aside, and believe themselves up-to-date on the latest issues in our society, whether they grant locally, nationally, or internationally. But a prominent philanthropy blogger argues on the eve of the big Council on Foundations conference in Seattle that the foundation executives are near-silent on the biggest issue of our day - the war.
Argues the writer of Philanthropybeat:
Foundation leaders have been cowed by a political environment that demonizes dissent; their fortitude [if they had any in the first place] sapped by a need to not be seen as partisan or unpatriotic. They've turned their backs on one of the tenants of private foundations: providing an independent voice unfettered by government or profit-making influences.
That COF can't hold even a single open discussion about the war in Iraq simply confirms how foundations have lost their way entirely when it comes to looking honestly at how government policies impact the lives of those individuals foundations claim to help.
It's not Bush-bashing, the blog suggests, to at least have a serious discussion among the leaders of American foundations. Is it true that it's too "dangerous" for foundation leaders to speak out on Iraq and its consequences? And aren't there needs both here and overseas to address as the war enters its fifth year? It's a great question - let's hope the COF has a public answer.
A blogger with a large audience has used his platform to challenge one of the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations devoted to gay rights. In a series of posts, popular blogger Andrew Sullivan, himself a gay man and equal rights advocate, has challenged the effectiveness of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which describes itself as "America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.”
to both the HRC Foundation’s Charity Navigator rating (with one out of four
stars overall and zero out of four stars for efficiency) as well as the
Foundation’s latest IRS 990 forms, Sullivan publicly challenged the
organization to respond to questions “about their operation, what it spends,
how it spends it, and what achievements they have won for the money.” He also encouraged readers to review the
financial information and submit their own questions.
To be sure, Sullivan's criticisms about the HRC not only about the nonprofit's fundraising and financial management; rather, he's questioning the nonprofit's track record in achieving its stated objectives of achieving equality.
The HRC responded that they “are committed to the transparency of the organization. Ninety-three percent of our total income comes from individuals, reflecting the importance of our work as seen by the broader community, and it is important they understand how their dollars are being put to work.” The nonprofit then went on to detail how the expenses from their recent capital campaign – to raise money for a headquarters building in Washington, D.C. – was the reason for their low rating.
a gay-rights organization with nearly 600,000 members now has to answer to a
gay-rights blogger who has an estimated 60,000 daily readers. This episode raises the power of blogs and
other new technologies, which are forcing nonprofits to be more open about
their operations, holding them accountable not only to their financial supporters,
but also an increasingly skeptic (and engaged) public.
Is this the future of nonprofit transparency? Public fights online between multi-million dollar nonprofit organizations and self-styled online watchdogs?
According to Sullivan, the nonprofit has “asked for a private meeting with me. I'd rather bring a few thousand readers along.”
This week Facebook, the immensely popular online social network, entered the e-philanthropy realm by launching a new feature that enables users to buy virtual icons to appear on the online profiles of their friends. At a cost of $1 each, the net proceeds of these “tiny tokens of appreciation” will be donated to charity. Facebook administrators choose Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer research organization, as the designated charity for the month of February, because “Breast Cancer Awareness is the largest cause related group on Facebook.” No word yet on how long this campaign will last, or whether it will be opened to other charities.
While this is certainly a positive development – helping a younger and intensely interactive generation become more engaged in philanthropy – it brings even more attention to the need for nonprofit organizations to understand and harness the opportunities of emerging technologies to bring their message to new audiences and generate new sources of revenue. It will be interesting to see how this Facebook campaign takes off – no doubt there will be bumps and lessons learned along the way – and it will be especially telling to see which nonprofits succeed in embracing the potential of new communications platforms.
Relatively new to philanthropy blogging - and out of beta this week after several months of blogging - is the wide-ranging and sharp-eyed Philanthromedia.
A joint project of Community Foundations of America and some veteran consultants (you may find my voice there from time to time), Philanthromedia bills itself as "dialogue for the discerning donor" and it delivers on that premise with lively first-person reports from conferneces and seminars, analysis of major news stories, links to other blogs, and a point of view that is donor-specific, but of tremendous value to the whole nonprofit sector.
The blog focuses on new giving models, governance, and big issues like water and disease as well - with a big helping of insight into the ongoing "disruption" of traditional philanthropy. Here's a taste of the Philanthromedia pov, from founder Susan Herr:
I'll be the first to admit that my morning journeys into the blogosphere are calculated attempts to find the rays of light that point toward new, bigger, and better philanthropy. Maybe if I looked in the same tired places I'd feel differently, but from where I sit massive change is afoot. Perhaps the most important component of this shift comes from those who are demonstrating the power of approaches that transcend sectoral boundaries.
Things are changing fast, folks, and Philanthromedia is a welcome addition to this philanthropy feed reader.
The Nonprofiteer is a relatively recent addition to the nonprofit blog scene, and it shows one great characteristic for a journal: a sense of curiosity. It's written by Kelly Kleiman, a lawyer and freelance journalist whose reportage and essays about the arts, philanthropy and women's issues have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Christian Science Monitor and who works now as a consultant. Kleiman's wide range of interests shows up almost daily - one day she'll critique a report of magazine article, and the next dispense advice on philanthropy. There are some real resources to readers in the links she collects. And the Nonprofiteers also dispenses opinion as well: you know where she stands. I particularly value the voice of experience this blogger reveals in her posts - she's been in the sector and knows the score. Add it to your blogroll.
If you like quick hits, insider tech coverage, how-to tipsand tricks, analysis of media trends, examples of cool fundraising techniques, and all manner of virtual worlds and widgets, go get yourself a blast of the NetSquared Blogs. Yeah, it's techie - very Web 2.0 - groovy colors, too. But it's also very practical and it's a must in my feed-reader for the variety it brings to the daily philanthropy reading.
The blog itself is very free-form, with multiple authors - many of whom are themselves serious bloggers - so you're getting the product of a plugged-in community. I frankly like the short items, which usually give a link to something worth seeing and a quick opinion on it. And there are a ton of posts - as a reader, you need to graze more than read intently. The variety is that deep.
What's great about NetSquared is that there are so many big-tme sites covering innovations in technology and media - but these guys zero on the philanthropy angle, and they really bring it home. A great blog.