Global Giving Round-Up
Overviews of best-practices around the world and links to learn more about them
Philanthropy's positive influence on corporate governance in Asia
Business commentator Michael Backman believes that foundation ownership of major stakes in Asian corporations has proven beneficial for shareholders and society. In Australia's The Age he writes, "Installing professional management so shareholder value can be maximized in the interests of charity is one reason why the Tata Group in India and Ayala Group in the Philippines are leaders in their respective countries in good governance." (The philanthropic efforts of the Tata Group were examined in Global Giving Matters February-April 2005 and GGM interviewed Jaime Zobel de Ayala in the April-May 2003 issue.) This trend may be spreading regionally. Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing has stated that he will bequest at least one-third of his wealth to the Li Ka-shing Foundation, which he created in 1980. This would give the foundation, which focuses its giving on education and health, a major stake in businesses including ports and telecommunications. In Malaysia, Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary has established the Al-Bukhary Foundation which helps build mosques, schools and hospitals. Backman believes Al-Bukhary may give some or all his holdings to his foundation, which could result in some of Malaysia's biggest companies being controlled not by government or a family, but by professionals on behalf of a foundation. (The Age, September 21, 2007)
Ultra-wealthy protect ecosystems...by buying them
Huge tracts of land around the world are being bought by wealthy philanthropists and placed in private charities, conservation trusts, or given to governments as gifts in order to protect them from development and destruction. The trend, called "wildlands philanthropy," is exemplified by the efforts of US entrepreneur Douglas Tompkins (who made his fortune through the North Face and Esprit clothing labels) who has spent over $200 million on land and ecosystem protection. Another example is Sebastian Piñera, one of the richest men in Chile, who created Parque Tantauco on 120,000 hectares on Chiloe Island, near Patagonia, promising to make conservation of blue whales and virgin forests a top priority. Sometimes such purchases, especially by foreigners, can raise hackles of governments but, as Thompson puts it, that can end when land is given to the government. "It is pretty hard for a country to turn down a gift of 300,000 hectares," he says, adding that he does not "believe in private parks. I believe that nations do best and have done best when they really value their park lands and areas that are off limits/out of bounds to development." Another example is the late Dutch businessman Paul Fentener van Vlissingen, who spent millions of dollars to help complete the Marakele National Park in South Africa. Today, Marakele is part of a far bigger park system and home to elephants, rhinoceros, cheetahs, wild dogs and giraffes. To consolidate this work Vlissingen helped create the African Parks Foundation (www.africanparks-conservation.com). Sometimes businesses are playing a similar role in protecting ecosystems. The investment firm Goldman Sachs has worked with The Nature Conservancy to raise money to protect and manage 270,000 hectares of forests in Southern Chile and Argentina it received through a bankruptcy settlement. (Sydney Morning Herald, September 19, 2007)
Root causes or immediate impact?
In a recent issue of the medical journal The Lancet, Anne-Emanuelle Birn of the University of Toronto casts a critical eye on the claim by major foundations that they are working to address the "root causes" of major health problems. According to her, even well-designed efforts to address the specific causes of diseases such as AIDS and malaria do not get at the real cause of persistent and widespread disease: poverty. She writes that global health "might be better served through political support for universal, accessible, and comprehensive public-health systems...in the context of overall improvements in living and working conditions." And yet, according to William A. Schambra, Director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal (pcr.hudson.org) at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, many philanthropic efforts to approach problems in health and other fields from the other direction -- by policy work on poverty or attempts to change the behavior of poor people -- have not achieved the desired results. In a column in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Schambra suggests that philanthropists should not be dismissive of the concept of "charity" in the sense of concrete focus on results, as opposed to a long-term focus on root causes, saying new donors "should forgo the fruitless and even dangerous search for grand, conclusive answers to our difficulties. Instead, they should take a closer look at the thousands of charities that have come up with solid, modest approaches to smaller, more limited aspects of problems." (Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 28, 2007)
Biggest Muslim entrepreneur sidesteps across religious divides
Azim Premji, head of Wipro Technologies, one of the largest software companies in India, was recently described by the Wall Street Journal as the world's richest Muslim entrepreneur. He's also a committed philanthropist, giving away some of his estimated $17 billion through a foundation managed by a former Wipro executive. But in contrast to some other Muslim leaders, his giving does not focus on Muslim needs, stating "We've always seen ourselves as Indian. We've never seen ourselves as Hindus, or Muslims, or Christians or Buddhists." Some have asserted that Premji's outlook reflects, despite his wealth, a marginalization of Muslims in India. Others hold him out as a role model both in terms of how successful Muslims in India can be and as a philanthropist striving to meet the needs of the broader society. (Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2007; Economic Times (of India), September 12, 2007)
Time magazine Profiles Ron Bruder
Global Philanthropists Circle Member Ron Bruder was recently profiled in Time magazine's "Power of One" series, which looks at the impact individuals are having in changing the world. Bruder's Education for Employment Foundation (EFE -- www.efefoundation.org -- which was profiled in Global Giving Matters May-June 2005) aims to undermine one of the major causes of political radicalism in parts of the Muslim world: lack of economic opportunities. Bruder, who made his fortune in real estate, had spent time in the Northern Ireland and was convinced that gainful employment is a vital part of building peace. EFE gets companies to guarantee jobs and trains candidates to fill them. Since 2002, it has placed about 85% of its 160 graduates in Jordan, Gaza and Morocco in full-time jobs. Not all graduates are placed locally: due to the extremely poor state of the economy in Gaza, EFE has a partnership with the multinational construction company Consolidated Contractors Co. (CCC) to place graduates in more economically thriving locations in the Middle East. CCC director Samer Khoury, a Palestinian, believes that "Eventually this new generation of skilled workers will return" to build the economy from within, but for now their remittances play an important part in Gaza's economy. Bruder hope expand the program to help 50,000 young people over the next five years, but really wants others to build upon his work, saying. "Nothing would make me happier than governments banding together to make job creation in the region a priority." (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1663851,00.html)
Chicago conference looks at leadership in philanthropy
The Chicago Global Donors Network's Annual Conference on International Giving was held September 24-25 with the theme of "Visionary Leadership in Global Philanthropy." Keynote speakers were Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, Wendy Paulson of Rare, and Bruce Babbitt, former US Secretary of the Interior. Over 300 people participated, including individual donors, donor advisors, foundation representatives, transnational (diaspora) giving groups, and NGOs. The conference explored a range of global giving issues and strategies, including girls' education, strategic partnerships, giving in Israel and Palestine, diaspora giving, younger donors, microfinance, art and media, making philanthropy accessible to all, and international health. In addition to the panel sessions, workshops, and roundtables, the conference also introduced the first class of 17 high-school and undergraduate students who completed the Leadership Program in Global Connective Philanthropy, a hands-on learning program developed by CGDN and a consortium of local academic institutions. For more information, visit www.chicagoglobaldonors.org.
"New" philanthropy growing, with concerns, in United Kingdom
Scottish businessman Ian Wood, chairman of the Wood Group, recently pledged over $100 million for charitable purposes in Scotland, Africa and other parts of the world. "If you're lucky enough to have created a lot of wealth, then frankly it's a natural decision," he said about his gifts. Other recent major efforts by Scottish philanthropists include a pledge of over $2 billion by Tom Hunter (who made his fortune in investment and retail businesses) toward charities in the United Kingdom and Africa over the next 10 years and a pledge over $100 million by Margie Moffat (who built her wealth in the travel business) toward charities. These sorts of big gifts with high-profile commitments of time to managing their philanthropy have led Wood, Hunter and Moffat, as well as people like Virgin leader Richard Branson, to be termed "new philanthropists" in the United Kingdom. But the "new philanthropists" are not without critics. Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of a nonprofit organization which works with abused children, worries that some new philanthropists try to enforce business principles on nonprofit groups in inappropriate ways, saying, "They force the charity into delivering something that doesn't actually work." In any case, philanthropy by wealthy individuals is growing in the United Kingdom and, according to the Charities Aid Foundation, millionaires accounted for 6% of all donations in 2005-06. (The Scotsman, September 16, 2007)
In memoriam: Robert Davies and Anita Roddick
Two innovators in the fields of philanthropy and social investment passed away this summer. Robert Davies was the founding chief executive of the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF -- www.iblf.org), which he helped establish with Charles, Prince of Wales in 1990. Today the IBLF works in 90 countries, encouraging business leaders to work with government and civil society in their countries and regions on critical social and environmental issues. Prior to that he had worked in a variety of nonprofit and for-profit ventures, all with social or environmental components. One example was his founding National Energy Action, which has installed energy conservation measures in four million homes and created job and training opportunities for half a million people in the United Kingdom in the past 25 years. Some of Davies' writing is available online at his blog at www.seeingthepossibilities.com.
Anita Roddick was founder of the Body Shop chain of cosmetics stores and became known globally as "a pioneer of the whole concept of ethical and green consumerism," as Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, put it, adding "There are quite a few business people today who claim green credentials, but none came anywhere near Anita in terms of commitment and credibility." Mrs. Roddick used her company, which she ran with her husband Gordon Roddick, and personal influence on issues including environmental conservation and animal rights, debt relief for developing countries, globalization and indigenous farmers, voting rights and anti-sexism and anti-ageism. She also founded the magazine The Big Issue, produced and sold by homeless people, and the nonprofit organization Children on the Edge, which helps children in Europe and Asia. She is said to have planned to give away most of her fortune. (The Times (of London), September 4, 2007; New York Times, September 12, 2007)
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