HOW PHILANTHROPISTS CAN EFFECT CHANGE THROUGH PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
A discussion at the 2006 Global Philanthropists Circle Annual Meeting, October 12 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City
Jin Zidell, Founder, Blue Planet Run Foundation (Video highlights: WMV | Flash)
Dan Vermeer, Director, Global Water Initiative, The Coca Cola Company (Video highlights: WMV | Flash)
Michael Madnick, Senior Vice President, United Nations Foundation (Video highlights: WMV | Flash)
Amir Dossal, Executive Director, United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (Video highlights: WMV | Flash)
|Facilitator:||Beth Cohen, Acting Director, Global Philanthropists Circle, The Synergos Institute|
BETH COHEN: I'm Beth Cohen, Acting Director of the Global Philanthropists Circle, and it's really a pleasure to have so many of you here today. And it's a pleasure to begin our session to talk about partnership. I was just reflecting over the morning how we talked about turning passion into action and talked about innovation. Now we're going to be talking about partnership. And any one of the sessions really could've focused on any one of those three elements of strategic philanthropy.
I think that it's clear to all of us that any successful venture that any of us takes on will have all of those components present, so it's exciting to see those threads really traveling through all of the stories and examples we've heard today. So this session will focus on partnership primarily but I'm sure there'll be a little bit of talk of passion and also of innovation. And I wanted to start out with a quote that I heard the other week. Several GPC members and I had the opportunity to meet with the Afghani Minister of Education, and we were talking about the role of partnership and collaboration in addressing pressing social issues. And he cited an Afghani poem that I thought was very appropriate he said, "A drop is a drop, but if it joins a river it is a river." And I really think of Jin when I hear that. Because Jin has applied that philosophy and that modus really in everything he's done. He's joined his drop to so many others that he's created a river in bringing clean water to people in the world that don't have access. And so, Jin, I want you to feel welcome in talking about your project, Blue Planet Run, and that's a project that's going to be bringing clean water to 200 million people across the globe.
We're also honored to have Dan Vermeer, Director of Coca-Cola's Community Water Partnerships program, Michael Madnick, Senior Vice President of the UN Foundation; and Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the UN Fund for International Partnerships. And all of them are going to talk about how they've joined their drops to Jin's, and they're also going to talk about opportunities for partnership that they see between their organizations and some of the other initiatives that you all are working on. So before we introduce Jin to tell his personal story I'm going to ask all of you to turn around to the screen back there, and we're going to see a very quick video on Blue Planet Run, and then we'll turn back to the stage and Jin will begin. Thank you.
[BLUE PLANET RUN VIDEO PLAYS]
JIN ZIDELL: Okay. I've been asked to sort of respond to three different questions. One, what inspired me to start Blue Planet Run? What are you trying to achieve? And how are you using partnerships to further this work? I'm really not so sure that there was any particular inspiration... I'll give you just a quick genesis of how Blue Planet Run came into being. My wife died December 10th, 2000. One year and -- I spent that next year being very present with her departure. One year and one week after her departure I was walking with a friend of mine around a lake and we had our dogs with us. Two people ran by, and I pointed to the lady who was running, 'cause she was an excellent runner, and I said, "Wow, look at her run." Someone over my shoulder said, "That woman is the number one ultra-marathon woman in the world." That means they run 50-100 mile marathons. And at that moment I saw the words "world run one for the environment, $10 billion." So it was not an inspiration, it was a message that I think -- I think really my wife said, okay, you've taken a year -- boom, kick you in the ass, you know, now it's time to go out and start working again. So that's really how Blue Planet Run came about.
Since that time, that was in, I said, December of 2001 and we started the foundation in 2002. And what is it that we're trying to do? We're trying to bring safe drinking water to those who thirst for it. When we think of a billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water, and that billion people live at the bottom of the economic pyramid, they live on a dollar a day or less -- and we cannot be thinking of water in isolation. It literally is the first rung on the ladder out of the pit of poverty for those billion-plus people. And water really is the cure, it is the cure for the 20,000 who die everyday; it is the cure for the 200 children who die ever hour of every day of every year; it is the cure for the young girls -- or young children, primarily young girls who aren't going to school because they're spending their days fetching water.
And we are building a movement. Literally, a movement of people, a movement of 20 million people worldwide who will help fund this project. And where we are today is really the power of partnership. The power of the partnership with Coca-Cola, with the UN Foundation and with the United Nations. The power of partnership is unbelievable because what it allows us to do is divide the tasks and multiply the results. Blue Planet Run is a very, very small organization. But with the help of Coca-Cola, the help of the United Nations Foundation, and with the United Nations itself we'll be able to expand this program around the world. And when you really think of being able to save a life, or send a child to school, allow a child to go to school, or to help them with their nutritional needs for $25 -- what you heard in the movie about 25 projects, now we've done 69 projects in ten different countries and we've brought safe drinking water to approximately 35,000 people. And our next goal -- our goal is the first run, the first event will happen, hopefully it'll lead to the steps of the United Nations. But the first run around the world will start June 2, 2007, and in the movie it said 100 days -- we think we can do it in 80 days. Around the world in 80 days by foot. Now it's not 16 runners, or 14, it's going to be 18 runners. 18 runners will leave the United Nations, they will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week relay style and 12,000 miles later after circumnavigating the globe at approximately 40 degrees north latitude, they will arrive back in New York City at the United Nations. And that is the beginning of the fundraising campaign for the world to get engaged, the world to get behind this movement.
Many of the people in this room have seen the Lance Armstrong gala bracelet. Well, this is our icon. Appropriately, it's a shoelace. So hopefully in a year or so you'll be driving down the street and you'll see one over somebody's rearview mirror, you'll see one maybe on a backpack, through hair, wherever. And what you'll know when you see that -- you will know that that person saved a life. What are overall brand is, it is really ordinary people doing something extraordinary toward their fellow man. It's extraordinary that 18 people are going to run around the world for the benefit of others. They're ordinary people, they're not professional athletes. It is extraordinary to have the opportunity to save a life for $25.
So Blue Planet Run is all about celebrating life, it's all about ordinary people doing something extraordinary for their fellow man. And I can say without any reservation, we would not be where we are -- Blue Planet Run would not be where we are if it weren't for these two men and their respective companies. Somehow fate brought us together August 28th, 2002 in Johannesburg at the World Summit for Sustainable Development. I went there knowing nobody. I happened to be staying in the hotel, the concierge called me up in the morning and said, there's someone who would like to share a cab with you. I get in the cab and it happened to be Dan Vermeer from the Coca-Cola Company.
That night I walked into a room a little bit larger than this, where there was a dinner to which I was not invited, and there were 500 people. There was one seat left; it was next to this man. [CHUCKLES] And so somehow I think the universe has provided -- no, the universe has provided the power of partnership between your organizations -- 'cause the Coca-Cola Company was the initial funder for Blue Planet Run. We have a new corporate partner, another corporate partner, Dow Chemical is funding the event so the event actually will happen. They've given us an extremely large grant to Blue Planet Run. So what I can say is stay tuned, we will be -- the lady from -- did Sheryl leave yet? Because it will be -- you'll be able to follow the runners on your computer or on your little handheld device, because the runners will have a GPS device on them that will send up their heart rate, their speed, where they are. And so you'll be able to follow the runners in real lifetime.
I think I'll end there with saying, once again, Peggy, thank you, Synergos, the partners who are helping bring this into a reality.
DANIEL VERMEER: I think I'll sit if that's okay. [CHUCKLES] I don't want to fall off the stage here. I want to thank you all for inviting me to be here. I feel very honored to be able to share some of our experiences with you and I feel very honored to sit between two very good friends and confidantes. I'm not a believer in synchronicity but it's hard to challenge the fact that on the same day four years ago we were all brought together, and we're sitting here today, I think, with maybe not such a different vision but a lot clearer sense of how we can accomplish the vision than we had four years ago. I am the Director of Community Water Partnerships for the Coca-Cola Company. My previous background -- I lived in India, in Nepal for several years and sort of the beginning for me around this issue was just down the road from the town where I lived was a temple complex, and in the temple complex there were many large shrines but there was a very small shrine over on the side of the complex that was a kind of bronze sculpture of a woman giving birth. And that statute had all sorts of red powder and rice on it, that parents had come to give offerings to. And I asked my Nepali friend, I said, well, what's this shrine about? And he said, well, this is actually where parents who have kids that are dying, many times of diarrhea, will come to offer offerings to the gods to ask them to save their children.
And as I got to know families in Nepal it was routine that one, two, even three children they would've lost to diarrhea. I thought that is just really unacceptable that we live in a world like we do today and that so many children are dying of diarrhea because of unclean water. So that was sort of my personal connection to the issue, but I didn't really have a way to exercise that until I joined the Coca-Cola Company five years ago. About five years ago, my colleagues and I inside Coca-Cola began looking at the water issue. And it's something that Coca-Cola's known about, cared about for a long time. Actually, water is the heart of our business. Ninety-plus percent of every product we make is water. And so we have a real business interest in sustainability -- enough clean water for us to be able to produce our products.
I think the vision that we've begun to see and to act on is the fact that I think it makes good business sense for us to invest in the sustainability of water resources long term. And if we do it in a smart way, it's not just the Coca-Cola Company that can benefit, but we can benefit the world by helping to sustain water resources and provide clean water to people who don't have access. Well, that was sort of the initial idea. We headed down that path. We did a lot of soul searching, a lot of investigating inside our company trying to understand what are the real challenges around water and what should we be doing about it? What can we do inside our plants because it starts at home. But then at least as important to us is what can we be doing in the communities and the watersheds where we operate to really have an impact on water issues?
And I guess we started our Community Water Partnership program about three years ago -- a little bit less than that, actually. And in that time we went from, you know, maybe three or four projects focusing on water and sanitation and watershed protection around the world to now a portfolio of about 40 projects that we have going on in about 35 different countries around the world. And we've learned an enormous amount in this effort. We're working with UNDP and UNICEF, we've worked with the UN Foundation in providing long-term water system rehabilitation and development in tsunami affected areas. And we can see from our efforts this was the right thing to do in our local communities, and we need to do a lot more of that. And that's an effort that's ongoing. But when you begin to really grapple with the scale of the water and sanitation issue, you become very humbled.
You know, four projects or 40 local projects doesn't begin to make an impact on the 1.2 or 1.3 billion or whatever the latest numbers are -- people who don't have access to safe water. And even that is in the context of, you know, nearly half of the world's population without adequate sanitation, and all that happening in the context of watersheds that are degrading. And so it's a very humbling moment, even with a company that has a thousand manufacturing facilities across 200 countries in the world, it's a humbling moment when you realize there's a limit to what we can do alone. And that's what's really driven our effort to begin to reach out to partners. And very early on in the process we reengaged with both Jin and with Mike's organization. With Jin, what we saw was is a really beautiful concept by a person whose heart was in the right place, who really was committed to the right thing and doing the right thing. And it's hard not to love Jin and want to support what Jin does, in a way that was very consistent with our agenda as well.
So we did a lot of work over the last couple of years working with Jin, connecting him with the right partners and finding out a way to really get this race up and running. Alongside that, in addition to the tsunami related partnership that we have with the UN Foundation, we saw a need. We began meeting with a host of characters from foundations, and companies, and international organizations, and aid organizations. We held a series of what we called Water & Sanitation Leadership Forums. And as you began to sort of talk to people around the crowd, you know, each of these organizations -- "Yeah, I think we want to do something in water and sanitation. We're planning our own initiative. Oh, yes, we're going to plan -- sometime in the next three months we're going to be..." And we were doing the same thing. And I thought, that's a real darn shame for all of us to go off, do our initiative with our resources, and our interests, get our day of press coverage and then what? What there was a real need for is for us to create a platform that would be inclusive, that would allow all of us to come together to assemble the kind of creative energies, the interest, the mutual complementary sort of capabilities of our different organizations and do things that really honor the scale of the problem.
And so that's what we've done in working both with Jin and Mike and several other organizations in creating what we've called the Global Water Challenge. This is a new organization formed just in the last year. You can find out more about it. There's a website, www.globalwaterchallenge.org just to give you a sense of what we're attempting to do. It's a very early stage but it's very exciting because I think what we're seeing is we don't have to do this alone. In fact, it would be silly for us to try to do this alone. We can do it together. And as you begin to assemble these organizations and get to know each other, you see the real strengths of each organization sort of come to the surface in meeting where there might be weaknesses in each of our organizations. The UN Foundation has incredible credibility, access to world leaders, being a liaison into the UN system, which may be difficult to engage. Somebody like Jin with just the grassroots sort of engagement in motivating a message that Blue Planet Run carries in raising awareness about this issue. Coca-Cola -- we can provide financial resources, and we are, but I think there's also a big opportunity for us to look at our distribution system. We're able to get Coca-Cola to the far corners of the earth. Shouldn't we be able to also get chlorine and filters to the far corners of the earth? We are a marketing company, so the ability to create buzz, and interest, and excitement, and people wanting to be part of something, it's something that Coca-Cola does.
So those are the kinds of skills and capabilities that we bring to the table. We have weaknesses as well that we are looking to our partners to help address. And I think there's a great opportunity -- I was asked to comment on what the role of a group of philanthropists like yourselves might be in helping to bring something like this to fruition. First of all, the door is open for any of you who are interested in working with us, in creating a shared vision and identifying opportunities for us to work together. I don't know this community very well. It's my first time working with you. But what I can imagine is the relationships that you have to people who are able to move decisions, and create alignments, and really build momentum behind these efforts is something that's very exciting about this. So as I see this, I see a roomful of potential partners that we can work together in service is a goal that's bigger perhaps than any of us, but which is infinitely solvable if we're able to really work together, trust each other, make the commitments and test out options and think big about what's possible. So I'm very happy to be here. I just wanted to share one story of what I think the transformative power of water is.
I was in Kenya last month and I had five women come up and approach me and grab me by the arm and say, we need to talk to you. We had put in a well system in a little distribution network that brought the water to four neighboring communities of about 2,000 people each. These women came from one of those little satellites where the water was now coming. These women had walked ten kilometers everyday to get unclean water. The water was not safe, so they were chronically sick. They usually took their kids with them, their daughters with them to get the water. They spent five or six hours everyday to get this water. Now that they had water, and it had been less than a year that they had access to water, they immediately had five or six hours of their day back. They had energy, they had time, they had clean water so they were healthy, their kids were healthy. They started using the water to irrigate some gardens, which they never had before because they didn't have the water and they didn't have the time. Now they were growing tomatoes, and onions, and cabbage, and feeding that to their children as well. They started producing a surplus of these vegetables and so they started taking it to the market and selling it. And they were working together and these five women were pooling the money that they were saving from the selling of the vegetables. And they had just recently bought the tables, and chairs, and tents that were being used for the commissioning ceremony at the local school. And so now they were renting out these tables and chairs for public events.
So within a year they had gone from being full-time carrying unclean water, which made their family chronically ill, to being entrepreneurs essentially in this local community. And I think what's beautiful about that is nobody planned that. All it took was the water, and the rest they did themselves. They had the vision, they had the resources, they had the intelligence and the ingenuity to pull it off.
So my vision, and I think Jin and Mike share this as well -- the vision of providing water, which creates a platform for people to be able to develop themselves I've seen in practice. And that's I think the vision of what we want to carry forward. So thank you very much. I appreciate having the opportunity to be here, and I look forward to meeting you all and hopefully being able to work with you in the future. Thank you.
MICHAEL MADNICK: Thanks, Dan. These are two very hard people to follow so I will try and make it easier for you, Amir. Well, thank you very much also for having me today. Many of you may know the UN Foundation from its founding by Ted Turner almost nine years ago now. And we'll certainly look forward to hearing from him later this evening. I think the part of the Ted Turner-UN Foundation story that's often less understood is the ethos and the approach of the foundation I've undertaken over the last several years, and sort of the viewpoint of Mr. Turner and the board that if all we did was expend his incredible gift we surely would not have accomplished nearly what's needed out there, given the scale of the challenge.
And so over the last several years the foundation has tried to leverage sort of a few very unique assets. The generosity of its initial founding resources from Mr. Turner, a unique relationship with the United Nations and in particular with Amir and the UN Fund for International Partnerships. Our status as a nonprofit as a 501C3, not as a private foundation, and institutionalizing into our work proactive fundraising and partnership building capabilities to combine with the expertise of the staff we have on site and with our UN partners to say, collectively, what's the big problem? What are the big solutions that need to occur? And what are the roles that need to be undertaken by different sectors to come together to accomplish very specific large scale goals? That in even making that statement reinforces the point that no one can do it alone, which is a rhetorical statement you hear time and again, but gets proven over, and over, and over again at increasingly larger scales, as increasingly larger partnerships, some of which Synergos itself is helping to convene right now -- its Partnership for Child Nutrition is a good example of that.
So with that as sort of a backdrop let me just say that I think this is really a celebration of Jin, and I think it's a celebration of an individual philanthropist who understood from day one that he could be so much more powerful and impact on the issue that he cares about through collaboration. That there's so much more he could get done collectively than he could on his own. And this whole journey of Blue Planet Run and this openness has proven that one individual philanthropist can reach scale. And that's essentially what this is now going to become. You know, when Dow Chemical announces a multi-multi-million dollar announcement of resources, not just to spend money on X amount of water projects in the developing world, but rather to fund a global movement and an awareness program -- it's not by accident, for those of you who may or may not have seen Dow Chemical commercials lately, that it starts with water and ends with a runner. And what you will see is a very sophisticated, ever-developing with greater momentum campaign that will kick off and coincide with the launch of Blue Planet Run next year, which will turn on the American public at a scale on this issue that they've never had the opportunity to be informed about before. It never would've happened without a partnership.
Taking one step back from that, if Coca-Cola didn't have the wisdom to sort of see the opportunity of Blue Planet Run and invest in Jin's ability to build a strategic plan that would enable himself to attract somebody or an organization like Dow, let alone the UN Foundation or the UN who share the vision of scale and expertise, we wouldn't be sitting here today having this conversation either.
So I appreciate the notion -- the luck of us all meeting in South Africa, but I think you give yourself not nearly enough credit for understanding that this is a bigger goal than you could accomplish on your own. And you set out from day one to do this in a collaborative manner. So I think that for us, it's an honor to be able to work with you because Mr. Turner has a public persona and people hear about the UN Foundation, but really the example that you are now making happen is really the essence of what the whole idea behind the UN Foundation is, which is collective solutions to large scale problems. And acknowledging that every sector and every individual in the organization has a role that they can play that is not in and of itself complete. So you're a great embodiment of that.
I think the only other comment I'd want to make if we're going to go into some questions, is also to acknowledge Synergos' Bridging Organizations program, because I think -- as you think about the scale of an effort like this, it means you need on the ground capacity and expertise, and relationships, and networks. And so an example of why that program of Synergos has such value is it's able to feed into opportunities like this to help them accomplish the goals that they need in the regions. It's one thing for someone to sit up here and say we need scale and we need expertise; it's another thing to build a global program that has a global vision and local partners. And so organizations like those are a part of that Strengthening Bridging Organizations program, those that have worked with the UN country offices -- again, why is the UN sitting here as part of this process? Because if you seriously want to achieve progress on water on the scale that Jin's talking about, you can't not but work with the UN, with its global presence, its global scale, its expertise in countries, and its relationships with country governments, who without you wouldn't be able to do this work in those countries. So what you see is an alliance behind a much larger goal than any one of these enterprises could do on their own.
So I think I'll actually stop there and just again congratulate you, Jin, on what you've done and say that, you know, give yourself a little more credit. You've earned it.
AMIR DOSSAL: Now that's a real hard act to follow. Listening to Jin, of course, as you will probably agree, we should recruit Jin as the inspirational speaker at the UN as well. Jin, thank you very much for bringing such an important idea to the table. Single-handedly you will reduce the number of people who are struggling with safe drinking water by one-fifth if this initiative works. So we're very grateful for what you're trying to do and we want to thank you very much again.
When Jin came to us with this idea, to the UN Foundation, it was in colloquial terms, one might say, a no-brainer. The UN, while it works with the private sector, works with foundations and civil society organizations, it often tries to build on local expertise and it tries to harness the skills of NGOs, the skills of foundations, the skills of companies. You heard what Coca-Cola has been doing. Dan actually -- he didn't mention a number of other things which you've been using Coca-Cola's expertise for. For example, we're using their distribution network through their local bottling plants to provide condoms to tribes in Africa, for example, and literature on prevention. And I remember clearly the time when the Iraq War happened. Coca-Cola provided water for the Iraqi population. Coca-Cola provided water to the victims of Archie and to the victims of the earthquake in Kashmir. So we're very grateful for what you do.
Partnerships for the UN is not new actually. We have been working on partnerships one way or the other, but it really took off when we elected a rock star secretary-general way back in 1997. His first speech to the outside world was, we cannot do it alone. We must engage all the actors. Governments have a role to play, civil society has a role to play, the private sector has a platform, and so do foundations. And it is in the same year another rock star came on the scene, which is Ted Turner. And since that time, the UN has never been the same again. We have moved into partnerships in a very comprehensive, concrete way.
My office was set up, as Michael mentioned, to serve as the counterpart for the UN Foundation's relationships. Over the years we've grown into an office of partnerships. We manage a number of other initiatives, we access facilitations, and really we learn from what Peggy has done. Peggy Dulany, as some of you might be aware, was advisor to the Secretary-General on how best the UN can reform itself to work with civil society. And the far reaching recommendations under what is called the Cardoso Report because the panel was chaired by the former president of Brazil, President Cardoso -- called for a more robust engagement by the UN with the private sector, with civil society. We recently started a new fund for democracy building. And based on the recommendations of that report, the platform for that is civil society engagement. We have a commitment that at least 60 percent and down the road converging to 80 percent of our programs will be implemented directly by CSOs rather than by UN organizations. So it is quite a change for the UN as well, for UN agencies not to be directly engaged in implementation, but they provide advisory services.
So things have changed at the UN It's certainly not enough. We feel that initiatives like Blue Planet Run will raise the profile on some of the pressing challenges that you have. You all know that aside from the one billion people who don't have access to safe drinking water, there is a greater number which does not have access to sanitation facilities. So if we start with that you'll have a multiplier effect. And you heard the Kenya example. That is the classic thing which we talk about -- if you get people safe water, clean water, they'll be healthy, their IQ goes up, they can study better, they can become income earners and create sustainable livelihoods.
So it's really about wealth creation and less about poverty alleviation. That's the kind of business model we've adopted and we want to pursue in a very strong way. So thank you very much, and I'm delighted to be a part of this.
ZIDELL: I would like to take off on something that Dan and Mike said. This is an open partnership from Blue Planet Run's perspective, and with our agreement with Dow Corporation, we're allowed to have five additional sponsors. We're going to limit it to three additional sponsors. And since it is a global issue and a global event, we think it's appropriate to have global sponsors. So we're looking for a partnership in Asia or Africa, Latin America with corporations who would like to be additional sponsors. And what's even more important, what we're looking for is partners who are in the water implementation field. Raising the money is going to be a large task, but spending it efficiently and effectively is going to be a much larger task. So we are looking for partners to fund -- not only are we looking for corporations to help sponsor the event, but we're looking to give money to partners who are implementers of the safe drinking water project. So if any of you are in areas of the world where you know of NGOs that are in that space, please direct them to us, www.blueplanetrun.org, and we would be most appreciative of that.
Once again, Peggy, thank you. Synergos, my partners in this process, and stay tuned for June 2, 2007 and follow the runners as they go around the world. In 2009 -- the first event is the Blue Planet Run team. 2009, we'll be inviting a team from each continent to join us. and 2011, there'll be another team invited. We're going to double it every year after that. But the first year we think it's enough trying to get one team around the world. So thank you all.
COHEN: Thank you all for sharing your stories, sharing your passions, and sharing how you've all played a different role in this partnership. And I think that's so important, because throughout the morning I think people were interested in understanding how do I fit into this picture? And I think that we all play a role in addressing some of these critical issues. And you provided such a great case for how to do that, so we really thank you for those examples.
I also think that it's clear in this case how private philanthropy can really play a leadership role. How through passion, through the idea, through a drop started by one individual you can really create a river and set the course of that river. So we hope that that example will inspire others here. I know that our colleagues here on the stage will happy to talk to others, not only about water but about other issues that they're working on, and other possibilities for partnerships that some of you might want to explore. Thank you.
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