Impact investing has been on a lot of people’s minds lately in philanthropy, including ours. We are curious about how different foundations imagine and develop their strategies, and the Heron Foundation is one funder that’s been a real leader in this area. As we’ve previously reported, Heron is working to move its full endowment of some $300 million into investments that align with its mission by the end of 2017.To learn more about what Heron is up to, we got on the phone with Toni Johnson, who is a vice president charged with forging the path for Heron’s long-term public influence and engagement strategy.
A problem, a possible solution and advice on next steps from reliable sources.The Problem:The multi-sided civil war in Syria has evolved into a grotesque entanglement of complex humanitarian and political issues.Vladimir Putin’s brazen escalation of the conflict has eroded America’s standing in the Middle East. Leveling the geo-political scorecard will in part require America providing dramatic humanitarian assistance to Syrians, and that starts with children.We have all seen the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach. The photo so shocked me that I started weeping at a San Francisco car wash.In a September press release, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, reported that “more than 4 million Syrians – half of them children – have fled the country since the conflict started nearly 5 years ago.” Back in 2014 — an eon ago, considering the intensifying violence there — the agency reported that 8,000 children had fled Syria without their parents.
Scholars like Benjamin Friedman have demonstrated that economic growth helps drive any number of positive trends: improved human rights, better health, women’s empowerment, higher education attainment, and on and on.
Historically, though, explicit efforts to foster growth haven’t been all that high on the agenda of a philanthropic world that cares about all the things I just mentioned. In particular, funders haven’t tended to do a lot in the way of supporting entrepreneurs, whose new businesses create many of the new jobs that propel growth. Meanwhile, small business has been on the decline in the U.S. for the last decade, a trend that was greatly accelerated by the Great Recession, with new business creation plunging by 30 percent in the wake of the economic crash.
The high percentage of U.S. children living in poverty—one in five, at last count—hasn’t changed much in the past few decades. And while you’d think that would be a national scandal, this issue has just never had the political traction advocates have hoped.
Lately, though, things seem to be changing. Early childhood education is moving up on the national agenda and a new book by Robert Putnam on the deeply unequal lives of American children has received wide attention. Amid a growing debate over inequality, and also race, fresh opportunities are emerging to improve the lives of kids.
The internet is a great platform to voice your ideas and advocate for social change. Kiersten Marek, writer for news website Inside Philanthropy, uses CoPromote to spread her knowledge and connect with other like minded individuals. Using real life experience, she brings different perspective on many issues. Check out the chat we had with Kiersten below about her content, and the issues she is most passionate about!
On Wednesday, July 22, Los Angeles County’s recently formed Office of Child Protection will hold a community forum to discuss the simultaneously disquieting and promising prospect of using “big data” to help determine which children are the most likely to be abused.
The question of whether child welfare agencies should apply a statistical discipline called “predictive analytics,” which uses data to infer what may happen in the future, has sparked a now global debate weighing civil liberties, racial profiling and the alluring potential of accurately directing limited public funds to better protect children. Despite the understandable fears that come with applying an algorithm to the very human question of family dysfunction versus family strength, evidence from its use in other child welfare administrations shows promise.
There’s lots happening in philanthropy these days around fatherhood, and with new attention being brought to the subject by President Obama, we at Inside Philanthropy figured it was a good time to survey some of the more innovative and promising fatherhood-fostering initiatives out there.
Foundations have been interested in fatherhood issues for at least two decades; see, for example, this 2000 overview of “donors and the burgeoning fatherhood movement” by the Philanthropy Roundtable. Today, a number of funders that address human services, criminal justice, and economic development invest to shape the role of fatherhood in these issues.