The Commons
  Synergos News | Winter 2009-2010
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Top photo: Synergos is supporting Namibian health leaders to design and implement a transformative process to improve health services effectiveness; pictured are Ingrid Muhenye (left), a registered nurse at the Children-Women-Infant Clinic in Windhoek, and Marilyn Shivangulula of Synergos (Dominic Chavez photo)


Southern Africa Orphans and Vulnerable Children Initiative Builds upon Community Efforts

In South Africa and Mozambique, Synergos is part of a regional partnership to strengthen community capacity to address the needs of orphans and other children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Conducted together with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) in South Africa, the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) in Mozambique, and Synergos board member Kim Samuel-Johnson, this effort seeks to combine traditional and Western practices to enable communities to reduce the isolation and vulnerability of children in distress, and maximize the social inclusion of both children and caregivers.

The focus of the first phase of this effort, which began in early 2008, was inquiry – learning about African traditions of care in order to understand norms and conventions in the provision of love, care, and support for children. During the course of this inquiry, the FDC and NMCF provided holistic community-based services to almost 9,000 orphans and vulnerable children and strengthened the capacity of the organizations and communities that care for them.

The initiative is moving into a second phase, one focus of which is testing integrated approaches in four to six locations in Mozambique and South Africa that build upon local traditions. The second focus is engaging policymakers, government agencies, donors, and other development practitioners in order to influence the adoption of effective strategies for overcoming the isolation and exclusion of vulnerable children, their care-givers, and communities based on the results of the inquiry and the test approaches.


Public Health Improvements Taking Off in Namibia

Mother holding child being vaccinated Above: Child being vaccinated against measles (Dominic Chavez photo)
Below: Synergos’ Len le Roux (left) with Nahas Angula, Prime Minister of NamibiaPrime Minister Nahas Angula and Len le Roux of Synergos

The African Public Health Leadership and Systems Innovation Initiative supports in-country health leaders in the design and implementation of a transformative process to improve the effectiveness of health services. The effort has begun in Namibia, where the Initiative has support at the highest levels of government and is engaging actors at all levels of the health system.

Now the initiative is turning its focus to maternal health. “We decided to pilot an intervention to improve maternal health at an operational level, by bringing together all players-the nurses, the doctors, the pharmacists-to clarify problems and what we could be doing to address these,” says Deputy Permanent Health Secretary Dr. Norbert Forster.

“Maternal health captured the interest of Cabinet because of its poor performance in the light of the country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, one of which is to cut maternal mortality by 75% by 2015,” adds Len le Roux, who heads Synergos’ partnership-building programs in Africa.

So far, the reorganization of the Windhoek ambulance system has resulted in a drastic reduction in response times, and expecting mothers have benefited from a 30% reduction in wait times for ante-natal visits to health facilities. In one case, nurses pressed the government to open an ante-natal care facility that had been constructed but had lain dormant for over a year. Community-based facilities are now providing services to women who would otherwise have to walk hours for care, or choose between buying a meal or a taxi ride to an ante-natal care visit. And a recently-launched weekly radio program on good maternal-health practices, in local languages, is on-air, with health talks, phone-in segments, and a drama series.

Learn about health leadership development in Namibia


Investing in girls’ health and empowerment paying off in India

Above: Girls Gaining Ground workshop
Below: Nike's Maria Eitel on a panel at the World Economic Forum in India
Maria Eitel of Nike on a panel at World Economic Forum in India

The Girls Gaining Ground initiative is part of an effort to fight under-nutrition in India by empowering adolescent girls (between the ages of 11-19 years) to become more confident, aware and responsive toward the health and nutrition of their families and themselves. Already 5,200 girls from over 100 communities in the state of Maharashtra are participating in the program; the aim is to directly involve 10,000.

Girls from Latku village provide an excellent example of the impact of Girls Gaining Ground. With confidence and learning acquired from a training workshop, the girls confronted Latku’s sarpanch (elected leader) about lack of action to spend money allocated for water sanitation. The result was government action to provide a clean water tap in Latku plus inspiration for women in another village who also worked to have their own drinking water taps repaired.

The Nike Foundation, Synergos, and the Bhavishya Alliance, an India multi-sector partnership that Synergos helped create, are working together on this initiative. Nike’s Maria Eitel shared experience from the effort at a panel session at the India Economic Summit in November: “Adolescent girls are the mothers of every child that will be born in the next generation. The most important engine for growth for India and other economies is to unleash the enormous potential a girl has to transform not just her own family, but her community and her whole nation.”

Visit Bhavishya Alliance website
Read highlights from discussion at the India Economic Forum


Community Efforts Underway on Canada's West Coast

group doing trail improvement
Renovation work on the Walk the Wild Side Trail

The Ahousaht community in British Columbia, one of three communities participating in the Aboriginal Leadership Initiative, has renovated the Walk the Wild Side Trail, with bridge repairs, a new camping area, and the unveiling of a new welcome figure.

Canada’s Ministry of Housing and Social Development has approved a proposal to create four jobs, plus a supervisor and coordinator, to work on developing an ecotourism industry around the trail. The positions will involve marketing, welcoming visitors, and monitoring trail use. The Donner Foundation, BC Transmission Corporation, Coulson’s Forest Products, and others have made financial or in-kind donations to the tourism initiative, which is serving as a focal point for development activity in the community. To build the welcome figure, young Ahousaht members apprenticed with community elders and master carvers - helping youth to reconnect with Nuu-Chah-Nulth culture.

These efforts are part of the broader Aboriginal Leadership Initiative known locally as Ahp-cii-uk ("moving the right way"). Two other Nuu-Chah-Nulth communities on Vancouver Island are involved in this broader effort: the Tsheshaht community has established an artists’ market, and the Ehattesaht community is developing employment training.

Notably, Shawn Atleo, an early supporter of the initiative, was recently elected as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.


Arab World Social Innovators Get Technical Assistance from Booz Allen Hamilton

Social Innovators and Booz Allen Hamilton consultants
The Social Innovators with Booz Allen Hamilton consultants

The Synergos Arab World Social Innovators are receiving technical assistance from Booz Allen Hamilton’s Social Entrepreneurship Assistance Program’s volunteer consultants. The first round of this support, which focused on strategic planning and organizational design, aimed to help the Innovators increase the impact of their own organizations. Each Innovator has been paired with a Booz Allen Hamilton consultant to provide one-on-one feedback and guidance.



Graça Machel
Graça Machel

African Senior Fellows Meeting, Inaugural University for a Night in Africa

In August, Synergos organized its first University for a Night in Africa at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg. The event’s overall theme was “Building Bridges to a More Equitable Society,” and featured an opening plenary with Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund and a Synergos Senior Fellow; Achmat Dangor, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and a Synergos Senior Fellow; and Graça Machel, Chair of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique. Moderating the opening plenary was Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a Synergos Southern Africa board member.

Following the format of the global University for a Night, held since 1997 in New York, participants then met over dinner for focused discussion on particular topics. Most of these discussions were led or hosted by Synergos Senior Fellows or by other members of Synergos’ networks – for example, Kathy Ackerman Robins, another member of our Southern Africa Board, hosted a table on empowering girls.

The event also served as the opening for Synergos’ All Africa Senior Fellows Meeting, which continued the exploration of ways in which African leaders can promote more equitable societies.


University for a Night in New York Honors Kofi Annan, Sheela Patel

Sheela Patel (in green) speaking during the University for a Night plenary

This year’s University for a Night, held on September 21 in New York City, brought together a mixture of people from around the world to share experiences and ideas about how to make a better world.

Participants also honored Kofi Annan, Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and Founder and Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, and Sheela Patel, Founder and Director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres in India and Chair of Shack/Slum Dwellers International: they were both recipients of the 2009 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award.  Mr. Annan and Mrs. Patel were joined in the opening plenary discussion by Guilherme Leal, Co-Chair of Brazil’s Natura Cosméticos. Participants then met over dinner for discussions on topics such as “Funding and empowering women and girls as agents of social change,” “How business can work with governments and communities to address the HIV/AIDS crisis,” and “Slow food - Strengthening local economies and communities."

The tone of the evening was one of true exchange and listening, with Mr. Annan exemplifying this in his observation that “when we talk of leaders, that leadership doesn’t mean one must always be right, and one must always win, and one must always be in the lead. We should remember that a good leader is also a good follower.”

See video, plenary transcript and other highlights.


Global Senior Fellows Meeting

Senior Fellows meeting participants in New York

Synergos’ Senior Fellows network also had its annual global meeting in New York in September, with participants from 18 countries sharing expertise in a variety of formats, including peer-consulting sessions, group discussions on issues such as “Local Leadership Models at Work in the Philippines and in Africa” and “Democracy, Accountability, and Popular Education in Sustainable Cities,” and site visits to innovative development efforts in the greater New York area. Several Synergos Arab World Social Innovators and Global Philanthropists Circle members joined the event, which also included a panel discussion by Corazon Juliano-Soliman, a former Minister of Social Development of the Philippines who now serves on Synergos’ board, and Sheela Patel of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres in India and Shack/Slum Dwellers International.

Senior Fellows and other Members of Synergos Networks can continue the discussions online.


Global Philanthropists Circle Annual Meeting

Above: GPC Member Joshua Mailman
Below: Three generations of the Rockefeller Family spoke together at the GPC Annual Meeting photo

The Global Philanthropists Circle Annual Meeting in September brought one hundred philanthropists from around the world to New York to exchange successful approaches and challenges to poverty alleviation, increase their knowledge, and explore possibilities for collaboration. Sessions were held on topics including ways in which philanthropists can invest in social entrepreneurship in the Arab World, measuring social change, philanthropy in conflicted and post-conflict locations, and promoting the well-being of children. Among the featured speakers were Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; David Rockefeller; and Sheela Patel, Founder and Director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres in India.

See video highlights



This year, Synergos launched an advisory service for corporations, foundations and other entities that are seeking creative and sustainable ways to invest and operate in the emerging markets of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The aim of these services is to enable them to better realize both financial and societal returns on investment. Synergos’ service offerings include stakeholder-mapping and situation research, team field-learning visits, strategy development for social engagement, partnership design and management, and program implementation.

Learn more about Synergos Services




Peace education materials for students from Institute for Economics and Peace

The Institute for Economics and Peace has released its Building Blocks of Peace curriculum on its website for downloading free-of-charge. The teaching materials are available for students, classrooms, and groups to understand global peace and discover their own solutions to violence and conflict, going beyond conflict resolution to explore the broader meanings of global peace. The Institute was founded by Steve Killelea, a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle.


Isolation, Generosity, Giving, and Receiving

In the fall issue of Global Giving Matters, GPC Member and Synergos board member Kim Samuel-Johnson examined the importance of strengthening connections between donors and the communities they provide resources to, using the example of her own philanthropy.

Read article

Subscribe to Global Giving Matters


Chile’s Ciudad Viva Promotes Concept of Community Foundations

Ciudad Viva, the organization of Synergos Senior Fellow Lake Sagaris that promotes citizen engagement in urban planning in Santiago, Chile, produced a mini-documentary about the work of Community Foundations of Canada and the interest in Chile to adopt a similar approach. In the documentary, communities, business people, and social activists (among them Synergos Staff and Fellows) speak about the meaning of philanthropy, civic engagement, and social change. Watch the video below.


Philanthropy to Address Climate Change

Together with the Institute for Philanthropy, Synergos has updated and produced the briefing paper “Funding Strategically in the Field of Climate Change” to provide more detailed information about ways in which philanthropists can support efforts to adapt to and mitigate against climate change.

Get briefing paper

With the Global Philanthropy Partnership, we have also updated another briefing paper on the connections between climate change and poverty.

Get briefing paper

The summer issue of Global Giving Matters looked at ways in which philanthropists can help countries and communities respond to the pressure of climate change, with examples from the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and the Good Energies Foundation in Ethiopia.

Read article


Corporate Social Responsibility in Challenging Times

Synergos Global Philanthropists Circle member Felipe Custer and Andrew Mack, his colleague at AMGlobal Consulting, published an article entitled Working smarter: the need for a new CSR in our changing economy. The authors encourage companies to increase investment in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and reassess company policies to better utilize the advantages of invested time and money.

Read article


Searching for hope in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Darfur

Chip Duncan

In November, Synergos and SelectBooks hosted a discussion with Chip Duncan, author and photographer of Enough To Go Around: Searching for Hope in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Darfur. Chip and Jennifer Buffett, who wrote the book’s foreword, shared their thoughts on ways in which people affected by natural and man-made disasters are defying the word “victim” while embracing the future. The discussion was covered on C-SPAN's BookTV.

Watch the video
Learn more about the book



Pamela Hawley on TV

Global Philanthropists Circle Member Pamela Hawley was honored with the Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service and featured on the CBS Evening News for her global philanthropic work. Hawley founded Universal Giving, which connects donors and volunteers with top-performing, quality organizations all over the world through a web-based service, as well as helps corporations manage giving and volunteer programs.

Watch news report
Learn more about giving through Universal Giving

The December 21 issue of The New Yorker magazine features an in-depth look at Greg Carr and his efforts to promote sustainable development and environmental protection in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Gorongosa National Park is a wilderness the size of Rhode Island at the southern tip of the Great Rift Valley. The article explores the difficulties of balancing economic development and ecosystem preservation with respect for the traditions and authority of the local peoples. “I’m a human-rights guy and a conservation guy trying to do both at the same time,“ as Carr puts it.

Foreign Policy magazine included Senior Fellow Jacqueline Novogratz in its first annual list of 100 Top Global Thinkers “ for helping to build a new generation of social entrepreneurs” with her non-profit venture capital fund, Acumen Fund. Jacqueline is in good company among others who had “big ideas that shaped our world in 2009,” including President Obama, Iranian Green Revolution activist Zahra Rahnavard, economist Nouriel Roubini, and world-renowned microfinance innovator Muhammad Yunus.

Members of the Southern Africa Community Grantmakers Leadership Cooperative came together in July, and again in November, for learning and planning events aimed at strengthening the capacity its member organizations, which come from Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. A key focus was participatory evaluation of this growing network.

Raghda el-Ebrashi, a Synergos Arab World Social Innovator from Egypt who runs youth and micro-loan programs in poor communities in Cairo, receives an Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement from King Abdullah II of Jordan at the 2009 World Economic Forum in the Middle East.

Synergos Arab World Social Innovators Rabee Zureikat of Jordan and Raghda el-Ebrashi of Egypt received Youth Innovation and Achievement Awards from King Abdullah II of Jordan at the 2009 World Economic Forum in the Middle East.

Agence France Presse covered the efforts of Synergos Arab World Social Innovator Kamal Mouzawak to perpetuate Lebanon’s rich culinary tradition through his Souk el Tayeb farmers’ market, which is helping several dozen small-scale farmers and producers from diverse political, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

In an article in the Business Mirror (Philippines), Synergos Senior Fellow Malu Erni argued that corporate social responsibility is more important during periods of economic crisis.

Senior Fellow Bharati Chaturvedi wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times about urban scrap collectors and how governments and societies should integrate them into the formal economy.

Senior Fellow Maryam Bibi wrote a day-in-the-life piece for the Sunday Times (UK) about her struggle to run a women’s charity in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Wendy Appelbaum, a board member of Synergos Southern Africa and of the Global Philanthropists Circle, launched the Wendy Appelbaum Foundation in Johannesburg on September 29 to empower women in South Africa. Read about the launch event in the Mail & Guardian and about the hurdles for South African feminism in The Times.

Barron’s magazine included GPC members Helen LaKelly Hunt and Swanee Hunt in its list of The 25 Best Givers in 2009. The sisters were commended for “harnessing the power of other wealthy women to help women at large” with their organization Women Moving Millions. Helen and Swanee launched Women Moving Millions, along with the Women’s Funding Network, to encourage other wealthy women to donate gifts of over $1 million to foundations committed to improving the lives of women and girls., building upon Barron’s 25 Best Givers, put forward several philanthropists who they felt should have made the list, including GPC member Jerry Hirsch, highlighting Hirsch’s Lodestar Foundation and its collaboration award, calling it a “vital trend to encourage.”

The New York Times Magazine also profiled Helen LaKelly Hunt and Swanee Hunt in its examination of the special characteristics of philanthropic giving by women.

The Global Social Innovators Forum in Singapore in early October featured Cherie Nursalim and Enki Tan, as well as Synergos’ Surita Sandosham. See video and photos at the GSIF website.

Mohammed Zaid Al-Kilany, an Arab World Social Innovator, was recognized by Nokia and the International Youth Foundation for Souktel, his initiative that enables job seekers in Palestine to use their mobile phones to search and apply for jobs. The Times of India interviewed Al-Kilany about the initiative.

Russia Today interviewed Arab World Social Innovator Rami Mehdawi, who discussed ways in which people in the Arab world are using online tools to expand beyond traditional journalism and political discourse.

The September issue of Alliance Magazine, edited by Senior Fellow Caroline Hartnell and available online for subscribers, looked at civil society’s and philanthropy’s responses to economic crisis.

Fellow Gilda Haas has launched a new website to educate on the economy, urban planning, and democracy, under her pseudonym Dr Pop. View videos, cartoons, articles, and community discussions at the Dr Pop website at

GPC member Ben Goldhirsh has helped create a new venture, BrandAid, that indentifies artisan communities, helps them create a brand name, and positions their work online and with retailers.

Senior Fellow Kate Miszewski shared a sad story with The Star (South Africa) about three young brothers whose mother was killed by AIDS and the struggles they face. Paying subscribers can read the article online, or view a PDF of the article at Synergos.



Synergos thanks our donors, who help make our work possible. Listed below are donors who gave to Synergos in 2009.

Muna Abusalayman
Miriam Adams
Wanda Engel Aduan
Cities Alliance
Hylton and Wendy Appelbaum
Loreen Arbus
Valentin von Arnim
David and Dorothy Arnold
The Atlantic Philanthropies
José Ignacio and Verónica Ávalos and Family
Janet Averill
Ronda and Mark Axelowitz
Emilio Azcárraga Jean and Family
Alberto and Tere Baillères and Family
Richard Bayles
Ian Benjamin
Othman and Leila Benjelloun
Edward Bergman
Stanley and Marion Bergman
Richard A. Berman
Angelica Berrie
The David Bohnett Foundation
William Bohnett
Amy Brakeman
James M. Brasher III
Ron Bruder
Magalen O. Bryant
Bsaibes Family
Carlos Bulgheroni
H.E. Butt
Greg Carr
The MCJ Amelior Foundation and Ray Chambers
JPMorgan Chase
Laura Chasin
Dhanin and Tawee Chearavanont and Family
Mark Chen
Petr Chitipakhovyan and Family
Aimée Christensen
Frederic Corneel
Alejandra Cortés De Milmo
Joy Craft
Elizabeth Strong de Cuevas
Richard Debs
Alan Detheridge
Youssef Dib
Judy Dimon
Donner Canadian Foundation
William H. Draper
Sam Dryden and Sandy McLeod
Peggy Dulany
Robert H. Dunn
Kurt A. Engelhorn  and Family
Philipp Engelhorn
Corinne Evens
Anthony Evnin
Daniel Feffer and David Feffer
Feirstein Capital Management
James Ferrari
The Flora Family Foundation
Mimi Frankel
GAIN - Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Nili Gilbert
Eleanor Gimon
Give to Colombia
Dorian Goldman and Marvin Israelow
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Grassroots Business Fund
Eileen and Paul Growald
Mimi and Peter Haas Fund
Nadine Hack
Roland Harris
Sarah Hashwani
Pamela Hawley
Margaret Heller
Marlene Hess and James Zirin
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Linda Hill
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Jerry Hirsch
Frank and Sorcha Holmes
Jeffrey Horowitz & Family
Barbara L. Hunt
Helen Hunt Family
Patricia S. Huntington
Institute of International Education
International Development Research Centre
Itaú Unibanco Banco Multiplo S.A
Raza and Neena Jafar
Dale E. Jenkins
Franklin and Catherine Johnson
Cynthia Jones
Patricia Kahane
Dr. Natalia Kanem
H. Peter Karoff
Kele Contracting LLC
Peter Kellner
Shiv Khemka and Uday Khemka


Stephen Killelea
John and Pat Klingenstein
Daniel Kropf
Frieder Krups
Muslim Lakhani Family
Deborah and Rocko Landesman
John P. Lennon
Bobye List
Laura Lopez
Oscar Lopez
John D. and Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation
Vincent and Anne Mai
Joshua Mailman
Mannheim LLC
Strive Taputair Masiyiwa
Chris Mathias
Maria Matilde Bonetti
Sally McDaniel
Felipe Medina
Ferne Mele
Mérieux Family
Peter Miscovich
Cynthia and George Mitchell Family
Deborah A. Moore
Marcos de Moraes
Lúcia R. Moreira Salles
Mario Morino
Patrice and Precious Motsepe
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Kenneth F. Mountcastle
Enrique Muñoz
Elizabeth Munson
Nike Foundation
NoVo Foundation
Abby O'Neill
Open Society Foundation for South Africa
Open Society Institute
Ayşen and Hüsnü Özyeğin
Sergio Palleroni
Ann Partlow
Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney
Martin Ping
Fern Portnoy
Alejandro Ramírez Magaña
Marie Rautenberg
Michael Rennie
Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc.
David Rockefeller, Sr.
David Rockefeller, Jr.
The Rockefeller Foundation
Carlos Rodríguez-Pastor Persivale
Shelley and Donald Rubin
The Shelley and Donald  Rubin Foundation
Instituto Rukha
Cynthia Ryan
Michael Sacks
Kim Samuel Johnson
Scandia Foundation
S. Bruce Schearer
Linda Schejola and Family
Daniel Schwartz
Tsugiko and William Scullion
Maria Alice Setubal
Shell International Ltd.
Adele Simmons
Pedro Sirotsky
Alan B. Slifka Foundation
James Sligar
Gordon V. Smith
Michael Sonnenfeldt and Katja Goldman
John Spencer
Theodore and Vada Stanley and Family
David Stewart
Christopher Stone
Jon Stryker
Michael von Stumm
Washington Sycip
Lynn  Thoman
Laura Thorn
Robert C. Timpson and and Peregrine Whittlesey
Sarah Timpson
Theo Tobé
Turney Tse
UN Secretary-General´s Special Envoy for Malaria
Stephen M. Unfried
United Nations Foundation
US Agency for International Development
Diderico van Eyl
Richard A. Voell
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation
Hermine Warren
Curtis M. Webster
Western Union
The Whitehead Foundation
Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation
Winsor Family
Wolfensohn Family Foundation
Richard Woo



The name The Commons comes from the English and early American term “commons,” which was an area of shared land, which the entire community could use for public discussions, local events or even grazing livestock.

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