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Commitment is the widest of words here at the Clinton Global Initiative. A "commitment" can range from a small philanthropic gift or the start of a modest foundation to a global investment running to ten figures and more. Nowhere is this flexible definition more in evidence - or perhaps more appropriate - than in the area of climate change and ecology.
Because of the collision of political worlds just outside of CGI - the coming Bali meetings on global warming, the lukewarm response to President Bush's 15-country conference on climate change, and this week's United Nations summit on global warming - commitments to the environment have dominated some of the proceedings here.
From actor Brad Pitt and eco-warrior Al Gore to teen singer Shakira, Monaco's Prince Albert and media mogul Ted Turner, global warming has been on everyone's lips - and it's amazing to see how, in just a year, almost all skepticism on the science of climate change has been erased, especially on the part of the capitalists and bankers.
"I see New Orleans as a microcosm for the global problem," said Pitt. "If there's anyone who understands the repercussions of climate change it's the people of the Gulf Coast."
Turner called global warming this "the big story of our lives."
"Outside of a nuclear exchange, global warming is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced," he said. "Businessmen are human beings - they're fathers and grandfathers just like all the rest of us - and we do care what happens to the world."
But are the commitments being announced at this year's CGI any more "philanthropy" than, say, last year's headline-inducing announcement by Sir Richard Branson to invest $3 billion in alternative fuels? And perhaps it's not organized philanthropy that can solve the problem, or organize nations to agree in any case.
After committing his company to investing between $4 and $5 billion in debt and equity to underwrite the development of alternative energy sources and renewable fuels in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank was straightforward:
"This is part of our belief in running our business as a sustainable business," said Peter Sands, CEO of the British lender. "We intend to make loads of profits out of this but we also think it's a good thing to be doing."
Earlier in the day, Jim Rogers, the chairman of Duke Energy, said much the same thing about a coalition of U.S. energy companies that committed to increase their investment in energy efficiency to $1.5 billion annually in order to reduce carbon emissions by about 30 million tons. But he also spoke about the value of social action for a corporation.
"We have a special responsibility for this problem," said Rogers, who noted that utilities emit some 35-40 percent of U.S. carbon. "I personally believe we have to act now on this issue. One of our aspirations should be this: to be the most energy efficient economy in the world. That's the right aspiration."
It was lost on no one that major corporations are now a step or two ahead of the Bush Administration in pushing for efficient energy. The President's gathering of European nations to discuss global warming has come in for some strong criticism, including the not-so-veiled uppercut punch thrown by the foreign minister of China - who had to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative to get a voice in the American debate. Some of Yang Jiechi's remarks:
To prevent climate change from endangering human survival and development while maintaining economic development and meeting the legitimate demand of the people, this is an issue that concerns the well being and the future of all mankind.
Economic development and the environmental protection and efforts to tackle climate change should be mutually reinforcing rather than mutually conflicting.For developing countries like China, whose level of economic development is still low and whose people are yet to live a better life, the most depressing issue for them is to grow the economy and raise people's living standards.
Efforts to tackle climate change should promote economic development and not be pursued at the expense of the economic development.
On the other hand, we must not fail to see that the economic development model of high-energy consumption, high pollution, and high emissions is not sustainable. And the path of pursuing development first and treating pollution next is not a viable one.
The best environment policy is also the best economic policy.
And there was the Republican Governor of Florida, the political heir to President Bush's brother, announcing his own global warming initiative, an innovative plan by Florida Power & Light to build a solar power plant as part of a $2.4 billion clean energy program. And earning the praise of Bush's predecessor, too:
"As we all know, Florida is one of the sunniest places in America, but this is the sort of thing, if they can prove it works, it can be done in sunny places all over the world," he said. "If you mix it in to your overall power mix, the extra cost is not particularly great."
So it's public policy on a massive scale that can and should tackle the carbon problem, along with increased investments in the private sector that leverage new technologies. The consensus here was summed up neatly by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"The problem is now really simple - how do you get a global framework that incentivizes the development of technology toward the elimination of emissions, and how do you get a framework to get China and India and the developing nations incentivized behind that technology. One key is the private sector."
But what about philanthropy? I looked through some of the many commitments announced here and came up with a few that were either powered by philanthropic dollars, or where donor foundations assisted is strategy or organization. When you hit the charitable dollars, the money is much smaller - but it's actual money, given for the cause.
And then there's the pledge of the world's richest man, Carlos Slim Helu - who pledged $100 million as part of a partnership with the Clinton Foundation and Vancouver mining and movie mogul Frank Giustra. The charitable dollars will create a coalition of extractive resource industry companies - along with Latin American governments - to help build sustainable economies. Perhaps that's the three-sided partnership model in action after all.
A lot of numbers made the rounds at the Wealth & Giving Forum's gathering for philanthropic families at the Greenbrier last weekend: the many millions who live on a dollar or day a less, the many thousands still displaced by Hurricane Katrina and a dysfunctional disaster response almost three years later, the billions that are truly needed to change the world.
But amidst the population figures and spreadsheet columns, another factor clearly stood out - personal passion and commitment to change.
From environmentalist and anti-pollution legal warrior Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to former WTO chief and globalist Mike Moore - and among a group of prominent philanthropists - the tales of almost gut-level decisions to go beyond check-writing and filling board seats brought an emotional factor to the conference that, I believe, left those who participated with a desire to do more with their fortunes.
And one key number bears that out. The gathering focused on issues surrounding water - from disease and poverty to environmental and security concerns - and participating families were asked during a polling session a number of questions about their attitudes toward philanthropy. Just half-way through the conference, they were asked whether they'd be more likely to give their resources to water-related issues; 80% said yes.
"For many of the families, I think it did open up new possibilities about what they can accomplish with their philanthropy and that's the most important thing," said Glen Macdonald, president of the Wealth & Giving Forum. "From my conversations, I know that some probably had the idea that with all the really big players in philanthropy that 'my contribution wouldn't make a difference.' And they discovered that's completely wrong."
The difference-maker, Macdonald said, was the degree of personal engagement on display, both in the public sessions and in the private, small-group meetings of family foundation members. Kennedy, for one, began the conference with a wall-shaker of a speech, which left the Greenbrier's crystal chandeliers shivering and the participants on their feet in applause (no matter their personal political affiliation).
Kennedy talked about the "miraculous resurrection of the Hudson," and described the expansion of the Waterkeeper movement from its humble, blue-collar beginnings among fisherman in the 1960s to a force of 160 riverkeeper patrol boats on everywhere major waterway in the U.S. and a program to sue polluters across North America.
He insisted that the movement isn't about saving wildlife for its own sake: "We're protectig the environment for our own's sake, for the commuties we create for our children." He said that in his 24 years as a full-time ecological activist he learned that the movement has to be non-partisan to succeed, that " there are no Republican or Democratic children." And he lamented that the "worst thing to happen to environmentalism is for it to become the province of one political party."
But Kennedy didn't stop to apologize for what came next: a full-bore siege on the environmental policies of the Bush Administration. He called it "the worst administration in history, with a radical agenda" in environmental terms, and accused President Bush of "appointing polluters to agencies protecting our environment." And he said that the system is broken, that corporations have tilted our American version of democracy in their favor.
"The big polluters and their indentured servants in the government are not just destroying the enviroment, they're permanently impoverishing these communities....There is nothing radical abut the idea of clean air and clean water."
Next target: the media. With Jeff Greenfield, who worked as a speech writer for his father, sitting stage right, Kennedy stated plainly (and to strong applause): "We have been let down by a negligent and indolent press."
On the gathering's final morning, we heard from Mike Moore, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and outspoken Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. He brought a global view of American philanthropy - and a progressive optimism - that perfectly balanced Kennedy's stark and dramatic portrait of current affairs.
“We are in the most sustained period of global growth in the history of the species,” said Moore. “I do admire that part of America where serious business people dig deep” into issues like water and poverty.
Moore said that although the problems on the world are legion, they are not insurmountable. He celebrated improvements over the past half century, including huge jumps in the infant mortality rate and human life expectancy. And he said that government should be involved at all levels in improving people's lives.
“The word globalization has been demonized – it’s a process not a policy and it has been going on forever,” he said. "Governments mean more than ever – and it’s about good governments, effective governments.”
Like Kennedy, he took aim at subsidies for private business - “The United States has a $20 per week subsidy for every cow. And we thought only the Hindus kept cattle sacred!” - and said that in his view, efforts to preserve and improve ecological conditions were intimately tied to issues like poverty and disease. “The enemy of the environment is the poor. The poorest cities are the dirtiest....Efficiency is another word for conservation.”
Moore said that information technology has played a major role in spurring movements to change the world.
“The genius of it all is the transparency created by information. I read 1984 like everyone else. We all thought it would be Big Brother watching us. Wrong again! We’re watching big brother.”
Kennedy and Moore brought an involved, almost professional level of passion to the table, but other speakers like Jean Case and Ken Behring showed participating families how to "walk the talk" - describing how they and their families put personal fortunes to work for large causes.
Jean and Steve Case (the founder of America Online) created the Case Foundation a decade ago "to reflect their family's heartfelt commitment to finding lasting solutions to complex social challenges." Jean Case described the Foundation's involvement in the PlayPumps movement to bring clean drinking water to African communities. But she also talked about being open to collaboration with other philanthropists, with NGOs, with governments, with inventors and technologists, and with investors - making the point that PlayPumps isn't the "only solution" to the African water crisis. “We are huge fans of any intervention that brings clean water to people.”
That echoed Behring's remarks a day earlier. "There is no one system that works for water," said Behring, who founded WaterLeaders, a foundation dedicated to creating a “Safe Water Generation” by providing comprehensive and sustainable water solutions. After taking a few lumps in his early efforts, "I decided this was much bigger than I was - that it was no just delivery, it was many things. That it's not just one technology, it's all the technologies."
He added that making mistakes is part of the process - but so is just getting started: “Go there. Let them hold your hand. Then you’ll know what giving is all about.”
Or as Jeff Greenfield said in kicking off the conference - employing the ultimate irony in quoting Karl Marx to a group of self-made capitalists:
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."
Think philanthropy is the province of later-in-life multi-millionaires whose major life's work is behind them? Think again. Philanthropy is all the rage on the online social networks, as young Americans wear their causes as important indicators of who they are and who they want to be. Amidst the tycoons and household names at the Wealth & Giving Forum's gathering at the Greenbrier were stories of college students and young entrepreneurs breaking free from the generational stereotypes of materialism and disinterest.
A group of students from three North Carolina colleges took the state the first day, after an introduction from Jeff Flug, the CEO and Executive Director of Millennium Promise Alliance - himself a former high-powered bonds trader at JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs who traded in his pinstripes and bonus pool for development work.
"This is a group of 19- and 20-year-olds who are passionate about wanting to help others. They understand at a young age that people are more important than stuff."
Lennon Flowers, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, spoke directly about what is generally written about her generation and its attitude toward material gain.
"The reputation of my generation is one of apathy, that we're too numb behind our iPods to care about what's going on in the world. I think there's a lot of passion out there, but passion along isn't what's valued."
UNC, Duke, and Bennett College have joined together to sponsor a Millennium Village, part of an effort to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The students are raising $1.5 million (including matching pledges) in the first student-led sponsorship of a Millennium Village - essentially, the adoption of a small village in the developing world - as "a tangible way of demonstrating students' commitment to the international effort to eradicate extreme poverty." The group's pledge shows a different side of a young, activist generation:
We the students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Bennett College, as members of a greater global community, feel a responsibility to dedicate our energy and resources to empower those in extreme poverty, and to demonstrate the role of universities as catalysts for global change.
Furthermore, we see this as a unique opportunity to unite students, faculty, and community members to engage in an academic dialogue to critically assess and improve sustainable development strategies such as the Millennium Village model.
Emily Glenn, senior at Duke University, and Sharrelle Barber, a Bennett grad and UNC graduate student, also spoke passionately about the cause that united students at three very diverse campuses. Said Glenn:
"We don't see ourselves as a group, it's a movement. We all agree that it's fundamentally unacceptable that people die from diseases that are easily preventable."
The students admitted to some frustration as they approached potential supporters with their plan - they learned quickly that ideas alone often don't sell philanthropic contributions.
Another young entrepreneur, former New York nightclub promoter Scott Harrison, told the gathering later in the weekend how he ditched the glitz and early morning hours of Gotham's velvet-roped precincts for a lowly staff photographer's gig on a Mercy ship bringing medicine and services up and down the west coast of Africa. The experience stirred his interest in clean water, which led to the creation of charity: water - which charges $20 a bottle for spring water with 100% of the price going to dig wells for clean water in Africa. He showed this video, created at Sundance, before his talk the Greenbrier:
At another plenary session, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, spoke passionately about her involvement with PlayPumps International and the battle to bring clean water to African, but she also touched on the optimism she feels about the younger generation of activists and philanthropists. Almost half the world's population is under 25, she noted, and many are getting deeply and personally involved in causes in way that hasn't happened before:
“We are seeing such a huge opportunity to engage individuals at all levels. And this space has not yet been fully tapped. Social networking opens up exciting opportunities to bring people together and to define themselves by what they care about...
“I think we’ll look back at philanthropy as this quaint time when rich people wrote checks and we’ll be living in a time when philanthropy is part of everyday life.”
In addition to our coverage from guest blogger Janice Schoos, here are some video highlights from the Global Philanthropy Conference at Google:
Interview of Google
founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with Dr. Larry Brilliant,
Executive Director of Google.org, at the Global Philanthropy Forum's
6th Annual Conference, hosted at the Google:
We continue our coverage from the finay day of the Global Philanthropy Forum at Google with this report from guest blogger Janice Schoos, senior managing director at our sister company Archimede Philanthropy Partners:
On the final day of the Global Philanthropy Forum, which was hosted this year at Google’s corporate headquarters, Sally Osberg, President and CEO of Skoll Foundation led a panel on “Mobilizing for Action.” It featured Richard Curtis, Co-Founder and Vice Chair of Comic Relief, who described Red Nose Day, a UK-wide fundraising event organized by Comic Relief.
“On Red Nose Day, everyone in the country is encouraged to throw caution to the wind, cast their inhibitions aside, put on a Red Nose and do something wild to raise money.”
Curtis recognized that the charitable motivations of entertainers are often questioned, but stressed that if done the right way, entertainers and the media can do tremendous good. He stated that everyone should do what they do best to make a difference, whether it is telling jokes, playing music or writing a check. Curtis has been instrumental in organizing the 200th episode of American Idol’s, “Idol Gives Back,” that will raise funds and awareness to alleviate extreme poverty in Africa and US, which airs on April 24 and 25.
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, stacked Oreo cookies to illustrate $60 billion the US government is spending on weapons each year designed to defeat the former Soviet Union – weapons that are useless against today’s threats and terrorism, he said. Cohen proposed shifting spending from the Pentagon to address issues such as world hunger, education, and energy independence. By redistributing a few Oreo cookies that each represented $10 billion, the country could make a significant difference in these issues without leaving the United States vulnerable to possible military threats.
Singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and philanthropist, reminded the audience that people of Africa are the same as you and me. Their voices should be included in any programs or decisions affecting their lives, and they should be treated with dignity.
Bobby Shriver, co-founder and CEO of Product (Red), said the only way to engage corporations in social issues is to demonstrate the value to their core business. Shriver and Bono created (Red) to team up with American Express, Converse, Gap, Giorgio Armani, Motorola and Apple to raise funds and awareness to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. In the last nine months, more than $20 million has been generated for the Global Fund by purchasing (Red) products.
Former President Bill Clinton, closed the Global Philanthropy Forum by sharing his personal experiences with philanthropy that include his foundation, The William J. Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative. He echoed the common thread that ran throughout the three-day conference – the need for partnerships between governments, nonprofit organizations, and business.
President Clinton strongly believes the best way to affect social change in the developing world is to organize and expand efficient public goods markets and to empower people. He went on to describe his foundation’s successful efforts to organize the markets for AIDs medicines by suggesting pharmaceutical companies change their business model. He proposed they adopt a low margin, high volume model that has a certain payment system. The corporations agreed, and the cost of treatment for a person with HIV/AIDS dropped from over $500 per year to under $100 per year.
President Clinton said we can do more now to help alleviate poverty than any other time in history. Americans’ income levels have increased significantly, the internet offers efficient charitable giving tools, and there are many people and NGOs doing good work all over the world. People of means, as well as those with modest income, need to be made aware of initiatives such as Millennium Villages, project of UNICEF, and philanthropic networks so they can help make a difference.
We continue our coverage from the Global Philanthropy Forum at Google with this reporter from guest blogger Janice Schoos, senior managing director at our sister company Archimede Philanthropy Partners:
While the name of the conference is the Global Philanthropy Forum, many of the sessions on the second day at the Google headquarters focused on the need for approaches other than philanthropic dollars to address the world’s complex problems.
To paraphrase Jean Case, co-founder and president of The Case Foundation, ‘we are a point in time where the same old approaches are not going to make an impact.’ A combination of tools are needed such as for-profit businesses with a social mission, equity investments in small business that offer modest financial returns, as well as philanthropic grants that can build the capacity of social entrepreneurs and sustainable projects.
Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution and co-founder of American Online, talked about the blurring of the lines between the social and business sectors. While the concept of non-profits undertaking commercial ventures is not new – think Girl Scout cookies – what is new is the full integration of a social mission with the business’s commercial objectives. Historically, businesses created and operated corporate foundations aside from the core business. Today, consumers want to do business and work for companies that stand for more than increasing the bottom line. Corporations see the value of connecting consumers with philanthropy.
Case cited American Idol’s upcoming episodes that will feature philanthropic support for a variety of nonprofits. In addition to its corporate sponsors, it will also harness support from its millions of viewers. American Idol could have simply created a corporate foundation to make grants, but by using its core strength – its viewing audience – the impact will be magnified both in raising awareness and dollars for social good. Leave it to Sanjaya to make his way into the world of global philanthropy! [Editor's note: the Case Foundation is a client of Changing Our World, onPhilanthropy's parent company].
This week, Google hosts the 6th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum Conference at its headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The conference considers ways to apply market mechanisms to the problems of endemic poverty, disease and climate change. Entitled “Financing Social Change: Leveraging Markets and Entrepreneurship,” the conference brings together 450 donors and social investors, as well as 80 Googlers, to discuss innovative approaches to systemic change.
The conference was created by the World Affairs Council to build a community of strategic philanthropists committed to international causes.
Guest blogger Janice Schoos, senior managing director at our sister company Archimede Philanthropy Partners, is in Mountain View this week for the Global Philanthropy Forum at Google. She files this report:
This week, Google hosts the 6th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference at its headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The conference considers ways to apply market mechanisms to the problems of endemic poverty, disease and climate change. Entitled "Financing Social Change: Leveraging Markets and Entrepreneurship," the conference brings together 450 donors and social investors, as well as 80 Googlers, to discuss innovative approaches to systemic change. The conference was created by the World Affairs Council to build a community of strategic philanthropists committed to international causes.
The first day of the conference was highlighted by a talk with Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.They were joined by Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org. The team talked about their plans to use the tools and technology of Google plus its staff (or Googlers as they are known) to focus its philanthropic efforts on poverty, public health, and climate change.
The team cited examples of using technology to change the way traditional systems work such as technology that translates Arabic to English, and technology to detect outbreaks of epidemics through community-based information reporting. Google also unveiled its collaboration with the United States Holocaust Museum that applies the technology of Google Earth to shed light on the atrocities occurring in Darfur. It incorporates high-resolution mapping imagery and photos of the people in the region to tell their stories of how their lives have been impacted. The goal of the site is to not only raise awareness of the issue but to also promote action for social change.
Since its inception, Google founders have reminded its employees that their work should 'Do no evil' - that is, they need to consider the possible negative consequences of their actions. Google has revised that belief to now state: 'Be Good.' Through google.org they plan to take advantage of the opportunities the company has to do great good in the world.
While the Google.org team acknowledged that they have much to learn about philanthropy, it will be their untraditional approaches and eagerness to look beyond the barriers of private, government, and nonprofit sectors that will develop into Philanthropy 4.0 and beyond.
Meanwhile, the very definition of philanthropy continues to evolve. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, introduced the concept of Philanthropy 3.0 in the keynote address. Rodin recounted the great history of the foundation created by John D. Rockefeller and its need to remain nimble in order to continue to focus on root causes and address profound issues. She described Philanthropy 3.0 as an approach that acknowledges that no single player can solve problems alone. Philanthropists need to seek advice from experts, pool resources, collaborate with others, and listen to local people to learn from their on-the-ground experiences.
Iqbal Paroo, CEO of the Omidyar Network, expanded on the concept of Philanthropy 3.0 and stressed the role of philanthropists in helping to remove barriers so that people in developing countries can address their own needs. Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, echoed Paroo's focus on promoting local, commercially viable solutions that will only scale by providing access to capital markets.
The idea of Philanthropy 3.0 was further demonstrated by Jean Oelwang, managing director of Virgin Unite, the independent charitable arm of the Virgin Group. Virgin Unite is the result of Richard Branson's desire to combine the activities of its 200 businesses to focus on entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental issues. Virgin Unite leverages the skills of social entrepreneurs by linking them with Virgin staff, its customers, suppliers, and their network. Yahoo! also takes a different approach to philanthropy than other corporations. Meg Garlinghouse of Yahoo! talked about how the Internet company believes it can make the greatest impact by connecting its 520 million users with issues and organizations through Yahoo! For Good.