Paper by James Andreoni and Marta Serra-Garcia: “What is the value of pledges if they are often reneged upon? In this paper we show – both theoretically and experimentally – that pledges can be used to screen donors and to better understand their motives for giving. In return, nonprofit managers can use the information they glean from pledges to better target future charitable giving appeals and interventions to donors, such as expressions of gratitude. In an experiment, we find that offering the option to pledge gifts induces self-selection. If expressions of gratitude are then targeted to individuals who select into pledges, reneging can be significantly reduced. Our findings provide an explanation for the potential usefulness of pledges….(More)”.
Blog post by Magdalena Kuenkel: “Over the past six months, we’ve partnered with Nesta to explore some of these questions. In the “Foundation Horizon Scan,” unveiled at an event today with sector leaders, we take the long view to explore the future of philanthropic giving. In compiling the report, we reviewed relevant literature and spoke to over 30 foundation leaders and critics internationally to understand what the challenges to foundations’ legitimacy and impact mean in practice and how foundations are responding to them today.
We learned about new grantmaking practices that give more power to grantees and/or beneficiaries and leverage the power of digital technologies. We heard about alternative governance models to address power imbalances and saw many more collaborative efforts (big and small) to address today’s complex challenges. We spoke to funders who prioritise place-based giving in order to ensure that beneficiaries’ voices are heard.
Alongside these practical responses, we also identified eight strategic areas where foundations face difficult trade-offs:
- Power and control
- Role in public sector delivery
- Time horizons
- Monitoring, evaluation and learning
There are no simple solutions. When devising future strategies, foundations will inevitably have to make tradeoffs between different priorities. Pursuing one path might well mean forfeiting the benefits afforded by a different approach. Near-term vs. long-term? Supporting vs. challenging government? Measuring vs. learning?
The “Foundation Horizon Scan” is an invitation to explore these issues – it is directed at foundation leaders, boards, grantees and beneficiaries. What do you think is the role of philanthropy in the future and what share of power should they hold in society?… (More)”.
Joy Ito at Wired: “If you looked at how many people check books out of libraries these days, you would see failure. Circulation, an obvious measure of success for an institution established to lend books to people, is down. But if you only looked at that figure, you’d miss the fascinating transformation public libraries have undergone in recent years. They’ve taken advantage of grants to become makerspaces, classrooms, research labs for kids, and trusted public spaces in every way possible. Much of the successful funding encouraged creative librarians to experiment and scale when successful, iterating and sharing their learnings with others. If we had focused our funding to increase just the number of books people were borrowing, we would have missed the opportunity to fund and witness these positive changes.
I serve on the boards of the MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation, which have made grants that helped transform our libraries. I’ve also worked over the years with dozens of philanthropists and investors—those who put money into ventures that promise environmental and public health benefits in addition to financial returns. All of us have struggled to measure the effectiveness of grants and investments that seek to benefit the community, the environment, and so forth. My own research interest in the practice of change has converged with the research of those who are trying to quantify this change, and so recently, my colleague Louis Kang and I have begun to analyse the ways in which people are currently measuring impact and perhaps find methods to better measure the impact of these investments….(More)”.
Article by By Anita Fuzi, Lidia Gryszkiewicz, & Dariusz Sikora: “Over the years, many social sector leaders have written about the difficulties of measuring social impact. Over the past few decades, they’ve called for more skilled analysts, the embedding of impact measurement in the broader investment process, and the development of impact measurement roadmaps. Yet measurement remains a constant challenge for the sector.
For once, let’s take a step back instead of looking further forward.
Impact assessments are important tools for learning about effective solutions to social challenges, but do they really make sense when an organization is not fully leveraging its potential to address those challenges and deliver positive impact in the first place? Should well-done impact assessment remain the holy grail, or should we focus on organizations’ ability to deliver impact? We believe that before diving into
The Social Impact Capability Framework
When organizations do not have the right support system and resources in place to create positive social impact, it is unlikely that actual attempts at impact assessment will succeed. For example, measuring an organization’s impact on the local community will not bear much fruit if the organization’s strategy, mission, vision, processes, resources, and values are not designed to support local community involvement in the first place. It is better to focus on assessing impact readiness level—whether an organization is capable of delivering the impact it wishes to deliver—rather than jumping into the impact assessment itself.Examining these seven capability areas can help organizations determine their readiness for creating impact.
To help assess this, we created a diagnostic tool— based on extensive literature review and our advisory experience—that evaluates seven capability areas: strategic framework, process, culture and leadership, structure and system, resources, innovation, and the external environment. Organizations rate each area on a scale from one to five, with one being very low/not important and five being very high/essential. Ideally, representatives from all departments complete the assessment collectively to ensure that everyone is on the same page….(More)”.
Anni Rowland-Campbell at NPC: “In his book The Code Economy Philip E. Auerswald talks about the long history of humans developing codeas a mechanism by which to create and regulate activities and markets. We have Codes of Practice, Ethical Codes, Building Codes, and Legal Codes, just to name a few.
Each and every one of these is based on the data of human behaviour, and that data can now be collected, analysed, harvested and repurposed as never before through the application of intelligent machines that operate and are instructed by algorithms. Anything that can be articulated as an algorithm—a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed—is now fertile ground for machine analysis, and increasingly machine activity.
So, what does this mean for us humans who, are ourselves a conglomeration of DNA code? I have spent many years thinking about this. Not that long ago my friends and family tolerated my speculations with good humour, but a fair degree of scepticism. Now I run workshops for boards and even my children are listening far more intently. Because people are sensing that the invasion of the ‘Social Machine’ is changing our relationship with such things as privacy, as well as with both ourselves and each other. It is changing how we understand our role as humans.
The Social Machine is the name given to the systems we have created that blur the lines between computational processes and human input, of which the World Wide Web is the largest and best known example. These ‘smart machines’ are increasingly pervading almost every aspect of human existenceand, in many ways, getting to know us better than we know ourselves.
So who stands up for us humans? Who determines how society will harness and utilise the power of information technologies whilst ensuring that the human remain both relevant and important?…
Philanthropists must equip themselves with the knowledge they need in order to do good with digital
Consider the Luddites as they smashed the looms in the early 1800s. Their struggle is instructive because they were amongst the first to experience technological displacement. They sensed the degradation of human kind and they fought for social equality and fairness in the distribution of the benefits of science and technology to all. If knowledge is power, philanthropy must arm itself with knowledge of digital to ensure the power of digital lies with the many and not the few.
The best place to start in understanding the digital world as it stands now is to begin to see the world, and all human activities, through the lens of data and as a form of digital currency. This links back to the earlier idea of codes. Our activities, up until recently, were tacit and experiential, but now they are becoming increasingly explicit and quantified. Where we go, who we meet, what we say, what we do is all being registered, monitored and measured as long as we are connected to the digital infrastructure.
A new currency is emerging that is based on the world’s most valuable resource: data. It is this currency that connects the arteries and capillaries, and reaches across all disciplines and fields of expertise. The kind of education that is required now is to be able to make connections and to see the opportunities in the interstice between policy and day-to-day reality.
The dominant players in this space thus far have been the large corporations and governments that have harnessed and exploited digital currencies for their own benefit. Shoshana Zuboff describes this as the ‘surveillance economy’. But this data actually belongs to each and every human who generates it. As people begin to wake up to this we are gradually realising that this is what fuels the social currency of entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation, and provides the legitimacy upon which trust is based.
Trust is an outcome of experiences and interactions, but governments and corporations have transactionalised their interactions with citizens and consumer through exploiting data. As a consequence they have eroded the esteem with which they are held. The more they try to garner greater insights through data and surveillance, the more they alienate the people they seek to reach.
If we are smart what we need to do, as philanthropists, is to understand the fundamentals of data as a currency and integrate this in to each and every interaction we have. This will enable us to create relationships with the people that are based on the authenticity of purpose, supported by the data of proof. Yes, there have been some instances where the sector has not done as well as it could and betrayed that trust. But this only serves as a lesson as to how fragile the world of trust and legitimacy are. It shows how crucial it is that we define all that we do in terms of social outcomes and impact, however that is defined….(More)”
Introduction to the Special Issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society by Sandra Wachter, Brent Mittelstadt, Luciano Floridi and Corinne Cath: “Artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly permeates every aspect of our society, from the critical, like urban infrastructure, law enforcement, banking, healthcare and humanitarian aid, to the mundane like dating. AI, including embodied AI in robotics and techniques like machine learning, can improve economic, social welfare and the exercise of human rights. Owing to the proliferation of AI in high-risk areas, the pressure is mounting to design and govern AI to be accountable, fair and transparent. How can this be achieved and through which frameworks? This is one of the central questions addressed in this special issue, in which eight authors present in-depth analyses of the ethical, legal-regulatory and technical challenges posed by developing governance regimes for AI systems. It also gives a brief overview of recent developments in AI governance, how much of the agenda for defining AI regulation, ethical frameworks and technical approaches is set, as well as providing some concrete suggestions to further the debate on AI governance…(More)”.
Working Paper by Penny Lawrence: “Large international non-government organisations (INGOs) seem to be in an existential crisis in their role in the fight for social justice. Many, such as Save the Children or Oxfam, have become big well-known brands with compliance expectations similar to big businesses. Yet the public still imagine them to be run by volunteers. Their context is changing so fast, and so unpredictably, that they are struggling to keep up. It is a time of extraordinary disruptive change including the digital transformation, changing societal norms and engagement expectations and political upheaval and challenge. Fifteen years ago the political centre-ground in the UK seemed firm, with expanding space for civil society organisations to operate. Space for civil society voice now seems more threatened and challenged (Kenny 2015).
There has been a decline in trust in large charities in particular, partly as a result of their own complacency, acting as if the argument for aid has been won. Partly as a result of questioned practices e.g. the fundraising scandal of 2016/17 (where repeated mail drops to individuals requesting funds caused public backlash) and the safeguarding scandal of 2018 (where historic cases of sexual abuse by INGO staff, including Oxfam, were revisited by media in the wake of the #me too movement). This is also partly as a result of political challenge on INGOs’ advocacy and influencing role, their bias and their voice:
‘Some government ministers regard the charity sector with suspicion because it largely employs senior people with a left-wing perspective on life and because of other unfair criticisms of government it means there is regularly a tension between big charities and the conservative party’ Richard Wilson (Former Minister for Civil Society) 2018
On the other hand many feel that charities who have taken significant contracts to deliver services for the state have forfeited their independent voice and lost their way:
‘The voluntary sector risks declining over the next ten years into a mere instrument of a shrunken state, voiceless and toothless, unless it seizes the agenda and creates its own vision.’ Professor Nicholas Deakin 2014
It’s a tough context to be leading an INGO through, but INGOs have appeared ill prepared and slow to respond to the threats and opportunities, not realising how much they may need to change to respond to the fast evolving context and expectations. Large INGOs spend most of their energy exploiting present grant and contract business models, rather than exploring the opportunities to overcome poverty offered by such disruptive change. Their size and structures do not enable agility. They are too internally focused and self-referencing at a time when the world around them is changing so fast, and when political sands have shifted. Focussing on the internationalisation of structures and decision-making means large INGOs are ‘defeated by our own complexity’, as one INGO interviewee put it.
The purpose of this paper is to stimulate thinking amongst large INGOs at a time of such extraordinary disruptive change. The paper explores options for large INGOs, in terms of function and structure. After outlining large INGOs’ history, changing context, value and current thinking, it explores learning from others outside the development sector before suggesting the emerging options. It reflects on what’s encouraging and what’s stopping change and offers possible choices and pathways forwards….(More)”.
Nick Dall at OZY: “Over midafternoon coffees and Fantas, Robyn-Lee Abrahams and Joyce Paulse — employees at my local supermarket in Cape Town, South Africa — tell me how their lives have changed in the past 18 months. “I never dreamed my daughter would go to college,” says Paulse. “But yesterday we went online together and started filling in the forms.”
Abrahams notes how she used to live hand to mouth. “But now I’ve got a savings account, which I haven’t ever touched.” The sacrifice? “I eat less chocolate now.”
Paulse and Abrahams are just two of thousands of beneficiaries of the Poverty Stoplight, a self-evaluation tool that’s now redefining poverty in countries as diverse as Argentina and the U.K.; Mexico and Tanzania; Chile and Papua New Guinea. By getting families to rank their own economic condition red, yellow or green based upon 50 indicators, the Poverty Stoplight gives families the agency to pull themselves out of poverty and offers organizations insight into whether their programs are working.
Social entrepreneur Martín Burt, who founded Fundación Paraguaya 33 years ago to promote entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in Paraguay, developed the first, paper-based prototype of the Poverty Stoplight in 2010 to help the organization’s microfinance clients escape the poverty cycle….Because poverty is multidimensional, “you can have a family with a proper toilet but no savings,” points out Burt. Determining questionnaires span six different aspects of people’s lives, including softer indicators such as community involvement, self-confidence and family violence. The survey, a series of 50 multiple-choice questions with visual cues, is aimed at households, not individuals, because “you cannot get a 10-year-old girl out of poverty in isolation,” says Burt. Confidentiality is another critical component….(More)”.
Denied citizenship in their home country of Myanmar for decades, the Muslim minority was the target of a brutal campaign of violence by the military which culminated a year ago this week. A “clearance operation” led by Buddhist militia sent more than 700,000 Rohingya pouring over the border into Bangladesh, without passports or official ID.
The Myanmar government has since agreed to take the Rohingya back, but are refusing to grant them citizenship. Many Rohingya do not want to return and face life without a home or an identity. This growing crisis prompted Muhammad Noor and his team at the Rohingya Project to try to find a digital solution.
“Why does a centralised entity like a bank or government own my identity,” says Noor, a Rohingya community leader based in Kuala Lumpur. “Who are they to say if I am who I am?”
Using blockchain-based technology, Noor, is trialling the use of digital identity cards that aim to help Rohingya in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia access services such as banking and education. The hope is that successful trials might lead to a system that can help the community across southeast Asia.
Under the scheme, a blockchain database is used to record individual digital IDs, which can then be issued to people once they have taken a test to verify that they are genuine Rohingya….
Blockchain-based initiatives, such as the Rohingya Project, could eventually allow people to build the network of relationships necessary to participate in the modern global economy and prevent second and third generation “invisible” people from slipping into poverty. It could also allow refugees to send money across borders, bypassing high transaction fees.
In Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is using blockchain and biometrics to help Syrian refugees to purchase groceries using a voucher system. This use of the technology allows the WFP to bypass bank fees.
But Al Rjula says privacy is still an issue. “The technology is maturing, yet implementation by startups and emerging tech companies is still lacking,” he says.
The involvement of a trendy technology such as blockchains can often be enough to secure the funding, attention and support that start-ups – whether for-profit or charitable – need to thrive. But companies such as Tykn still have to tackle plenty of the same issues as their old-fashioned database-using counterparts, from convincing governments and NGOs to use their services in the first place to working out how to make enough overhead to pay staff, while also dealing with the fickle issues of building on a cutting-edge platform.
Blockchain-based humanitarian initiatives will also need to reckon with the problem of accountability in their efforts to aid refugees and those trapped in the limbo of statelessness.
Dilek Genc, a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh who studies blockchain-type applications in humanitarian aid and development, saysif the aid community continues to push innovation using Silicon Valley’s creed of “fail fast and often,” and experiment on vulnerable peoples they will be fundamentally at odds with humanitarian principles and fail to address the political roots of issues facing refugees…(More)”.
Joshua Blumenstock at Nature: “Today, 95% of the global population has mobile-phone coverage, and the number of people who own a phone is rising fast (see ‘Dialling up’)1. Phones generate troves of personal data on billions of people, including those who live on a few dollars a day. So aid organizations, researchers and private companies are looking at ways in which this ‘data revolution’ could transform international development.
Some businesses are starting to make their data and tools available to those trying to solve humanitarian problems. The Earth-imaging company Planet in San Francisco, California, for example, makes its high-resolution satellite pictures freely available after natural disasters so that researchers and aid organizations can coordinate relief efforts. Meanwhile, organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations are recruiting teams of data scientists to apply their skills in statistics and machine learning to challenges in international development.
But in the rush to find technological solutions to complex global problems there’s a danger of researchers and others being distracted by the technology and losing track of the key hardships and constraints that are unique to each local context. Designing data-enabled applications that work in the real world will require a slower approach that pays much more attention to the people behind the numbers…(More)”.