Criminal Justice Reform and the Role of Philanthropy

The massive failure within the U.S. criminal justice system is no longer excusable or avoidable. The stark reality is that our history and our criminal justice policies and practices do not align with our principles.

Slavery, the Civil War, the failure of reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, Terrorism through lynching, resistance to the civil rights movement, endemic institutional discrimination and systemic poverty, and police brutality has resulted in a broken criminal justice system. The U.S. has the largest incarceration rate in the world with 2.3 million people imprisoned along with 7 million on probation or parole. Out of the 9.3 million people in the correctional system, 1 in 3 are African-American. Currently, the prison system makes $74 billion in profit, the gross domestic product of 133 nations. There is something fundamentally wrong and unjust with this situation. 

The failure to face history along with decades of misguided policies and practices has reinforced a corrosive legacy that affects domestic legitimacy eroding efforts to realize “a more perfect union”. Equally important, this reality strains international relations undermining progress towards a more secure, just and prosperous world at large.

Yet, across the country and across the political spectrum the moment for truth, reconciliation and justice is upon us. International Human Rights Day (December 10th) honoring the UN Declaration of Human Rights is an ideal time to rally around shared values such as justice, dignity, fairness and equality. By listening to the voices of the criminal justice reform movement philanthropists can help amplifying awareness, clarify issues, and focus on systemic solutions. Individually and collectively philanthropists are poised to make deep and lasting contributions to the movement for human dignity and justice.  

U.S. criminal justice reform is urgent, timely, ripe and catalytic making now the time for action. Funders have the opportunity to help strengthen and sustain the movement through alignment and advocacy. Find your area of focus within the field of criminal justice reform and apply your time, talent and treasure. 

To put it simply, in the field of criminal justice reform, hope and empathy needs to replace fear and anger. Each of us can make a difference. 

David Keller has been actively engaged in strategic philanthropy since 2002 and is the Founder of the David and Anita Keller Foundation. Additionally, David is the Chief Solutions Officer at Article 3 Advisors, a not-for-profit consulting practice working at the nexus of human rights and strategic philanthropy. He is on also on the board of The Philanthropy Workshop.

Ford Shifts Grant Making to Focus Entirely on Inequality

Full article via the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Written by Alex Daniels. 



The fight against inequality will take center stage at the Ford Foundation under a sweeping overhaul announced today by the nation’s second biggest philanthropy.

Not only will Ford direct all of its money and influence to curbing financial, racial, gender, and other inequities, but it will give lots more money in a way grantees have been clamoring for: It hopes to double the total it gives in the form of unrestricted grants for operating support. The doubling of general operating support to 40 percent of the foundation’s grant-making budget, projected to be in excess of $1 billion over five years, will enable Ford to create what its president, Darren Walker, calls a "social-justice infrastructure" reminiscent of the support it provided nonprofits during the civil-rights era.

"By giving a set of institutions core support or seed capital, we helped initiate and support entire movements," he said. "We contributed to an entire generation of social-justice leaders around the world."

Now, he says, Ford hopes that providing support without strings attached will help make organizations more "durable" and allow them more leeway in designing their own programs.

"We’re going to move away from bending our grantees to fit into our boxes and do a better job of listening and learning," he said.

Technology and the Arts

Ford joins a growing number of foundations pouring more money into programs that fight inequality. But its plans to look at every grant to ask how it reduces inequality is a more stringent approach than other foundations have taken. That said, the foundation is taking a broad interpretation of inequality — looking not just at wealth, race, ethnicity, and gender but also access to technology and the arts.

The changes announced today mark the first substantial revisions introduced by Mr. Walker, who became president of the foundation in 2013.

The new approach is a significant rejection of an approach undertaken in 2006 by Mr. Walker’s predecessor, Luis Ubiñas.

Under that plan, the foundation’s grant making supported eight causes: human rights, freedom of expression, democratic and accountable government, economic opportunity, education, sustainable development, sexuality and reproductive health, and social justice.

Now Ford will place a high priority on alleviating what it sees as the key causes of inequality, including broken political systems, discrimination, dwindling support for schools and other public institutions, and a belief that the free market alone can cure social ills.

The foundation will support programs that promote open government, push for more equitable distribution of wealth, strengthen education and opportunities for young people, showcase free expression, and work toward justice based on race, ethnicity, and gender.

Mr. Walker said the foundation will gradually "transition" to end its support for groups that don’t work on issues related directly to inequality. But he stressed that many of the causes Ford has long supported will still be in the mix.

For instance, he said, though it doesn’t fund scientific research on climate change and isn’t likely to in the future, it will continue to support charities working on sustainability. In 2014, the foundation made $23.8 million in grants designed to strengthen local communities’ control over their natural resources and to mitigate climate change among the rural poor. Future grantees, Mr. Walker suggested, will need to show they protect people who are disproportionately hurt by global warming.

And Ford, which started Lincoln Center in 1958 with $25 million in grants, won’t abandon its support of the arts, according to Mr. Walker. But to catch the grant maker’s attention, artists, filmmakers, and choreographers will need to focus on social justice and challenge "dominant narratives" that perpetuate inequality.

Support for Overhead

While Ford’s increased attention to inequality will probably attract the most notice in the public-policy world, Ford’s signal that it will spend lots more on helping groups pay their operating costs will probably spark the most conversation among nonprofits.

Mr. Walker says he came to the conclusion that more general operating support was crucial after the foundation asked grantees and others to provide feedback on what they most needed. The comments he got from some 2,000 people who responded to hisannual letter last September led him to believe that the foundation was "project-supporting nonprofits to death" without providing essential basic support to pay the rent, develop technology, and increase the number of staff members needed to carry out ambitious social-change efforts.

"I learned that people, especially nonprofit leaders, feel that foundations aren’t investing in building their institutions, building their capacity, and making them more durable and fortified," he says. "That was a consistent theme."

Ford’s pledge to increase general operating support would place it head and shoulders above some of its foundation peers, according to 2012 Foundation Center data on 809 foundations that the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy analyzed. In 2012, foundations gave, on average, 21 percent of their support in the form of unrestricted grants, according to the committee’s analysis. In the three years that ended in 2006, an average of only 14 percent went to general support.

Aaron Dorfman, the committee’s executive director and a supporter of unrestricted giving, says that when foundations make their grants too prescriptive, nonprofits are often locked into delivering services that can become outmoded or ineffective.

"Change is messy and unpredictable," he says. "There is a correlation between funding big societal movements and general operating support. General operating support is the way to make it happen."

Back to Ford’s Roots

When Ford last overhauled its overall strategy six years ago, the nonprofit world took an intense interest because the foundation is so big that its changes cause ripples throughout philanthropy, says Rick McGahey, a professor at the New School for Social Research, who served as director of impact assessment at Ford under Mr. Ubiñas.

Mr. McGahey says it’s no surprise that Ford would want to retune its approach. Mr. Walker, he noted, spent the first several months on the job traveling the world to learn firsthand from program officers and grantees. The foundation president also hired several hand-picked leaders, including Hilary Pennington, formerly of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Xavier de Souza Briggs, former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama, and they played a key role in shaping the new approach.

Under Mr. Ubiñas, Ford moved away from its role as a social-justice grant maker that supported civil-rights organizations for the long run into a more business-minded foundation that demanded performance from its grantees, said Stanley Katz, director of the Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies

"He wanted to refashion Ford as a modern strategic organization," Mr. Katz said. "It failed."

In an interview before the changes at Ford were announced, Mr. Katz said that Mr. Walker has steered Ford back to its traditional role of supporting broad social-change movements that can take years or even decades to bear fruit.

He is skeptical of the ability of a foundation, even one as large as Ford, which controls $12.1 billion in assets, to make a big dent in fighting inequality. But he said the foundation under Mr. Walker has taken the lead on specific problems, such as the "Grand Bargain," in which 10 foundations ponied up $370 million (including Ford’s initial $125 contribution) to help the City of Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

"That’s not bite-sized, but it’s taking on the problem at a level a foundation can address," Mr. Katz said.

Joining Other Grant Makers

Ford isn’t alone in staking out huge goals and focusing on ending the causes of social problems.

In recent years, several of the nation’s largest foundations have pushed for systemic changes to accomplish their missions, notes Richard Marker, a grant-making adviser. As an example, he points to the Gates foundation’s quest to eradicate malaria. The foundation supports a wide range of medical research, aimed at both prevention and cures. It also throws its support behind efforts to keep malaria on the agenda of policy makers in individual countries and at multinational organizations.

With $43.5 billion in assets, Gates dwarfs Ford. But Ford is still far bigger than other philanthropies: The third wealthiest is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with assets topping $10.3 billion.

"Their size empowers them to say: ‘These problems are solvable,’ " Mr. Marker says.

Mr. Walker acknowledges the size of the task ahead. But he stressed that the foundation is committed to building a movement to fight inequality whose impact will be seen over the long haul. The new strategy is just a starting point, he said. In the coming months, he expects to refine the foundation’s approach.

"It certainly could seem like we’re boiling the ocean," he says. "But we’re going to have a very focused and strategic set of interventions around which we will hold ourselves accountable. We have enough humility to know the Ford Foundation isn’t going to reverse inequality by ourselves. We hope we can contribute to slowing the trend."

Learn more: Read Mr. Walker's letter to grantees.


TPW Leads Philanthropists on an Immersion Journey in Human Rights


Where do philanthropists go to learn about strategic investing in human rights?  For that matter, where does anyone go to learn how to invest effectively and as leveraged as possible in social causes? For most, learning about the human rights movement and how to invest is limited to meeting organizations, joining boards, and attending dinners and events. For the past year, The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) in partnership with Humanity United and Article 3 Advisors has developed a two-week, modular curriculum designed to advance the knowledge of human rights funders, seek effective approaches to alignment with major institutions, and learn of new ways to advance the field.

People familiar with TPW know about the power of the annual program that educates fifteen philanthropists on strategies, frameworks, and models that span all forms of financial investment from advocacy and international giving.  Reviewed by many of the members of TPW as a transformative experience, we will have the same effect on the donors that participate in the new Immersion Journey: Human Rights.

Unlike any other course of its kind, TPW’s Immersion Journey: Human Rights takes the participants from the fundamentals of human rights law and precedent to the highest level opportunities for scaled investment by moving from pooled funding to advanced approaches to donor alignment.

Understanding the fundamentals

In conversations with Article 3 Advisors, new and experienced donors expressed universal concern with their limited knowledge of the fundamental conventions, treaties, and historical precedents in the field.  The human rights movement is legal at its core, thus effective philanthropists are challenged to spend their time understanding international laws and norms in a way that other philanthropic disciplines are not so required.

Immersion Journey is one of the first programs to delve deeply into the fundamentals of human rights by bringing in experts like Ken Roth, Areyh Neier, Bryan Stevenson and many others to explain key conventions and foundational precedents.  For those who participate, they will walk away with an unprecented resource guide for understanding these rights.

Exploring the high level opportunities

For most in the human rights space, identifying a holistic framework for advancing the movement has been elusive.  Most approach the field in a piecemeal manner by focusing on specific countries or issues.  Through an extensive set of interviews with experts and human rights leaders, a positive opportunity for advancing the momentum of the past thirty years was identified. Throughout Immersion Journey: Human Rights we focus on the opportunity for investors to advance the accepted norms and laws of the human rights movement from the halls of international institutions to small communities on to the ground.  According to the Article 3 study, the time is ripe to explore models that advance the human rights movement from the halls of global institutions to the smallest communities in the developing world.  Immersion Journey seeks to amplify this trend and demonstrate the leveraged approach.

Advancing alignment

Until now, donor networks have traditionally showcased and facilitated pooled grantmaking models as collaboration. TPW has explored these models in the past with limited results, but in recent years major foundations, global institutions, and government agencies have shifted from collaborative approaches to those focused on alignment.  In this case, aligned donors and organizations agree to a common impact goal.  An example of such a model, The Freedom Fund, leverages the capital of Humanity United and Walk Free as major foundations with a common impact goal, and encourages other funders to align their own solutions with this goal.

Immersion Journey explores the opportunities for alignment across the many sectors of philanthropy (public, private, and otherwise).  Given that Immersion Journey brings together several philanthropists with access to both financial and experiential resources, we expect that true alignment among the participants and the experts they meet will be an outcome of the experience.

After nearly twenty years of producing donor education products to advance impact, TPW knows that donors are most effective when they have a clear sense of the funding landscape, available models, personal resources, and highly leveraged opportunities to advance change.  Immersion Journey: Human Rights is an opportunity for TPW members and others to come together through an advanced curriculum that explores fundamentals, holistic opportunities, and identifies alignment opportunities to advance extraordinary impact for all of the participants in the program and beyond.

To learn more about TPW's core program or Immersion Journey: Human Rights please visit, or contact Liz Sweet, Program Officer, at


Dr. Galaich, CEO, has led The Philanthropy Workshop West since 2009 with a dynamic staff and gifted group of board members. His career in strategic philanthropy started over a decade ago with the founding team of the Global Philanthropy Forum.  He was responsible for launching the first and second Conferences on Borderless Giving, which were attended by hundreds of leaders in philanthropy, nongovernmental organizations, and international institutions. In 2004, he joined The Philanthropy Workshop West to develop and launch an alumni program for over forty graduates of the nationally recognized program. Dr. Galaich also served at Human Rights Watch as the Deputy Director of Development for North America where he had strategic oversight of the Human Rights Watch Council, a network of supporters and opinion leaders committed to raising money for, and awareness of, human rights in five major cities. Dr. Galaich also had a brief career in AM talk radio as the founding Political Director of Working Assets Broadcasting, a national internet radio network, based in Boulder, Colorado, committed to social change media.  He holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Political Science, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California at San Diego.  He has written and published on the role of ethnicity in the formation of political parties, human rights, and in the use of political violence and repression in sub-Saharan Africa.

Family Foundations Let Affluent Leave a Legacy


This article is reposted in its entirety from the New York Times and was originally written by Kerry Hannon.

Stephanie Cordes, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, has a present from her father, Ron, that she treasures. It’s a handmade pink scrapbook, titled, “5 Life Lessons From Dad.”

Inside are whimsical photos of her with friends and family alongside typed pages containing his simple guidance. The chapters are: “Seek your passion.” “Do your best.” “Good enough is never good enough.” “No excuses.” “Make a difference.” “Go for it.”

She was moved. But what really touched her was a letter he wrote to her last fall, which concluded with: “You are my legacy.”

And she is, in more ways than one.

In mid-January, Ms. Cordes, 24, quit what she had called her dream job, working at Condé Nast, as an advertising sales assistant, to work full time for the Cordes Foundation, the nonprofit family foundation her father created when he and his two partners sold their firm, AssetMark Investment Services, to Genworth Financial in 2006 for $230 million.

“I am going to be the legacy of the foundation,” said Ms. Cordes, who is an only child. “It is really important that I am involved because it is going to be mine eventually.”

According to the most recent statistics, the number of family foundations like the Cordes Foundation has exploded since 2001. There are now over 40,000 family foundations in the United States, making grants totaling more than $21.3 billion a year, up from about 3,200 family foundations doling out $6.8 billion in 2001, according to the Foundation Center in Washington.

These nonprofits are on the upswing for several reasons. First, friendly tax breaks make the charitable vehicle appealing. And it offers philanthropists who want more control over their giving a way to give with fewer restrictions than would come with a donor-advised fund or writing a check to an established charity.

Then, too, there is often an underlying desire for baby boomers to instill in their children the significance of giving and compassion for those less privileged. A family foundation can curb a sense of entitlement that may come along with inheriting wealth.

The Council on Foundations defines a family foundation as one whose funds are derived from members of a single family. At least one family member must serve as an officer or board member of the foundation, and as the donor.

And you don’t have to be a billionaire to create one. Sixty percent of family foundations have assets of less than $1 million.

“We are not the Gates Foundation,” said Mr. Cordes, 55, who started his foundation with $10 million of the proceeds from the sale of his firm. “We have several less zeros on our balance sheet.” The challenge is “trying to figure out how you can really have an impact with a somewhat more modest amount of money,” he said.

“As a corporate C.E.O., I was involved in philanthropy,” he added. “My wife, Marty, and I gave money to lots of different things, but when I sold the company, I realized that I was able to open some personal bandwidth for myself that would give me an opportunity to have more direct participation in philanthropy.”

Instilling the value of giving back in their daughter was certainly part of the plan. Stephanie was 16 when her parents started the foundation. She knew that her father was selling the business, but she didn’t have any concept of family wealth, or the amounts involved, said Mr. Cordes.

“We never tried to push her into the foundation, but we wanted to put her in a position where those opportunities were available if she wanted to do them,” he said.

Establishing the foundation has also allowed Mr. Cordes, like many baby boomers starting an encore career midlife, to ponder the question of how to “move from success to significance,” he said. “How do you leave a legacy?”

Mr. Cordes beams with pride that Stephanie is committing herself to following that legacy, and will soon take a seat on the foundation’s board, which consists of her parents and four outside members. “I cannot think of anything cooler than that,” he said.

Creating a foundation requires much more than money. Among other things, foundation founders must familiarize themselves with the myriad tax and other regulations involved and carve out the time required to review programs for funding.

Traditionally, the chief complaints about creating a family foundation have been the time and cost involved, but that seems to be getting under control as more firms specializing in advising families are cropping up.

Costs vary by asset size and level of service and typically run the gamut from $5,000 for a plain vanilla setup up to around $35,000, said Elliot Berger, managing director of Arabella Advisors, a firm that specializes in philanthropic strategies and foundation management. Another, Advisors in Philanthropy, a nonprofit based in Chicago, offers web seminars and other educational and networking opportunities.

Ron and Marlys Boehm of Santa Barbara, Calif., were able to set up their $1 million family foundation, the Boehm-Gladen Foundation, in three days for around $10,000, with the help of Foundation Source, a private foundation advisory group, based in Fairfield, Conn.

“Our adviser made it very painless and quick,” Mr. Boehm said. “Although family foundations have grown in popularity, we found there were still not a lot of advisers who are knowledgeable about the ins and outs,” said Mr. Boehm, 60, chairman, chief executive, and primary shareholder of the publishing firm ABC-CLIO.

Annual administration fees can range from 0.86 to 1.62 percent of total assets, depending on the size of the fund and whether there’s paid staff, according the 2013 Foundation Operations and Management Report by the Association of Small Foundations.

And, by law, you must give away around 5 percent of average monthly assets each year, or face a 30 percent excise tax on whatever portion of it has not been distributed within a year.

Moreover, there’s the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 to file annually. Net investment income of private foundations is generally taxed at 2 percent, but often is pared to 1 percent through various tax strategies.

These I.R.S. filings are not to be taken lightly. In the past, the tax agency has scrutinized family foundations for a variety of abuses, including family members paying themselves more than $1 million to serve as foundation officers or charging exorbitant management fees. Bottom line: Auditors look for red flags that a family member is using funds as a personal piggy bank.

A lack of privacy can be a problem with a family foundation; all of your information is public information and your 990 tax form can be viewed by anyone — for example, via the Guidestar database.

The upside: “The main advantage to a family foundation is control and flexibility,” said Mr. Berger of Arabella Advisors. “You have control over who is on the board, how the money is granted, how it is managed.” And you have the flexibility to convert the foundation to a public charity in order to attract other funders to a particular cause. If you no longer feel the need to have a foundation, you have the ability to transfer the assets to a donor-advised fund.

If you want to be anonymous, a donor-advised fund is better. A donor-advised fund allows you to create a charitable account, say $5,000 to $25,000, usually through a financial services firm, like a mutual fund or brokerage firm. You allocate grants under an umbrella name, like the Jones Family Fund, but it is not considered public information. You can also avoid the costs and headaches of creating a foundation.

The fund companies take care of most of the administration and management. The three titans are Fidelity CharitableVanguard Charitableand, Schwab Charitable.

The drawback to a donor-advised fund is that you typically do not have as much say in specific investments, and the money must be earmarked for a recognized 501 (c) 3 public charity that is United States-based. Also, there are rules about how many generations can participate in grant-making.

Family foundations can walk a tightrope. On one hand, they can be a vehicle to teach children and grandchildren about leaving the world a better place. They can also bring family members together under a mutual mission, purpose and a passion.

And the parenting opportunities and learning that goes along with travel to check out potential grantees around the globe is something without a specific value. “The life lessons we pulled out of it for the kids though trips to rural villages in Africa, for instance, have been truly unexpected,” Ms. Boehm said.

“But when there are several siblings and multigenerations, squabbles can become a thorny issue,” Mr. Berger said. You can’t ignore “the groan zone,” he added. “What are the mechanics in place to deal with a divergence in opinions?”

Cordes family picture by Joshua Bright, NYT.

Putting Our Money Where the Internet Is

It’s time for a global fund for the internet. Civil society is the frontline for the defense of the internet and its users around the world. For years, the efforts of technologists, activists, and academics have kept the internet open and free; in many places today, these same people are best hope against balkanization and government consolidation of control. Despite their heroic and essential efforts, these groups remain chronically under-resourced. It’s time the internet supports its frontline defenders and the future of the net.

Over the past few decades, the internet has grown from a small network connecting a few academics and research institutes into a global network weaving together billions of people, cultures, and interests. Yet despite the rapid pace of growth and innovation, a significant issue has yet to be sufficiently addressed: How do we preserve an open, safe, and innovative internet landscape while avoiding fragmentation and consolidation?

In countries from the United States to the Philippines, from Brazil to Russia, from Jordan to Bangladesh, an active and vocal civil society has been critical in advancing freedom of expression and information, privacy, access, and innovation on and through the open internet.

But despite their successes, these civil society groups remain chronically under-resourced and unequally distributed.  They are perennially absent from many key forums and decisions at the national and global level; struggle to keep up with complex regulatory and technical developments; and often lack the might and resources to engage a wider popular constituency. And although an army of promising new groups have sprung up around the world to defend the internet and the rights of its users, many of them remain fragile and isolated.

To protect the internet from consolidation and control, we need an empowered civil society that can bring together their global resources and local expertise to influence policy and mobilize grassroots support for the internet. Otherwise we risk an internet that is fragmented, poorly regulated and governed by interests that would obstruct the free flow of information across networks and borders.

The next few years will be critical in determining both users’ rights and the business models that underpin the internet. And users face entrenched opposition: powerful governments pursuing their own foreign policy and national security agendas, a host of companies with billions of dollars of revenue on the line, operators willing to trade services and surveillance for the right price.

To address these inequalities protect the interest of users worldwide, civil society requires resources in the form of funding -- and lots of it. That’s why, as Dan Gillmor and others have recently suggested we need to rally resources to the cause. It is time for civil society to form a global fund to protect the open internet and defend the rights of internet users worldwide.

A central role for the fund will be investing in the ability of civil society to positively impact policy decisions at national and global policy forums, develop campaigning skills, build relationships with media for effective public communications, and create space for civil society to share their on-the-ground expertise, strategy and practice .

This new endowment must enjoy long-term funding for a sustained period, and commit itself to working globally. Through a fair, transparent, and inclusive process that is sensitive to participant’s needs and opinions, the new fund could develop three core program funding areas, as follows:

Firstly, Advocacy and Coordination: Funding here will be committed to increasing the coherence and effectiveness of civil society advocacy by providing resources to convene various groups ahead of key decision moments and forums. Programming will focus on increasing collaboration among civil society groups working in related areas; enabling the smooth exchange of information, best practices, and lessons-learned among civil society; and investing in evidence-based innovative policy research and development among civil society groups.

Secondly, Organizational Development: This funding program will build and strengthen civil society’s existing capacity and structures. At the moment, nearly all funding from major foundations, governments, and corporations focuses on specific programmatic outcomes, while neglecting the core infrastructure needed to run effective and healthy organizations. By providing support for core funding, the endowment will develop sustainable core capacities of civil society groups, increase training on issues such as financial management, strategic planning, and fundraising, and facilitate best-practice peer exchanges among the various participating groups. Our battles ahead require strong and resilient infrastructure.

Finally,  Campaign and Communication: An organization’s policy expertise and professional capacity is only as powerful as its ability to find supporters and allies. Funding for campaigns and communication will provide civil society groups with the necessary resources to educate and engage the public, instill the importance of an open internet, and mobilize users creatively both offline and online to protect their rights and freedoms. We need a multistakeholder global movement that can respond to threats as they occur, which is principled, powerful and above all effective.

An open internet is not out of reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and even certain governments have an interest in preserving an open and innovative internet that drives innovation, job creation, and economic growth. Private foundations have an interest seeing the groups they support flourish and succeed in their missions. A fund to protect the internet demands that all these players come together and support this effort. Keeping the internet open is the challenge of our times, because it will increasingly be the enabler of all our fundamental rights. The upcoming RightsCon Silicon Valleyin San Francisco provides an excellent forum to develop this idea, and turn it into a reality.

Feature image by Flickr user, Symplio.


Brett Solomon is co-founder and Executive Director of Access ( and founder of RightsCon Silicon Valley. Access defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. By combining innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support, the organization fights for open and secure communications for all.

Brett was Campaign Director at, the world’s largest online activist community now with over 19 million subscribers in all 193 countries, and the founding Executive Director of GetUp!, an Australian grass roots online organization with over 600,000 members. Brett was Campaign Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia and prior to that worked at Oxfam Australia, where he founded the International Youth Parliament, an international network of young social change leaders from 140 countries tackling issues such as poverty, conflict and globalization.

Brett sits on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet. His organization, Access, was nominated and shortlisted for the prestigious Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament. Brett is an Arts Law graduate of the University of Sydney and holds a Masters of International Law from the University of New South Wales.

Pam Omidyar Reflects on the Work of Humanity United as Human Trafficking Awareness Month Comes to a Close

Increasingly, there is more awareness among people today that modern day slavery exists in our world to support the demands of a consumer driven global economy.  Today, many of the goods we use are often produced far from where they are bought, successively changing hands along complex and opaque supply chains.  Forced and child labor exist across too many these supply chains, with documented abuses throughout the production process. A growing body of research tells us there are an estimated 21 to 30 million people living in slavery around the world today.  In fact, trafficking in persons is one of the top-grossing criminal industries globally, with traffickers profiting an estimated $32 billion every year.  It is not acceptable to continue to allow people’s lives to not be free and to have millions of people forced to work without choice or beneficial return for their efforts.


In 2005, we established Humanity United to build peace, promote justice, and advance human freedom in the areas of the globe where these ideals are challenged most.  Today, I am very proud that Humanity United remains deeply engaged in the effort to combat trafficking and slavery around the world.

President Obama named January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to shine a light on modern-day slavery and the trafficking of human beings in the United States and around the world.  As this month draws to a close, let me share with you some of the important anti-slavery work that is being lead and supported by Humanity United on a number of fronts.


Since our founding, Humanity United has supported research and investigative journalism initiatives to increase the understanding and awareness of the issue of modern-day slavery.  Last spring, we began a partnership with The Guardian to increase the quality and quantity of investigative reporting on issues of slavery and trafficking around the world.  This partnership has resulted in the Modern day slavery in focus site, which continues to produce quality reporting from journalists from around the world.

A few months ago, The Guardian broke the story of the plight of Nepalese labor migrants living, working and dying in forced labor conditions in preparation for the 2020 World Cup in Qatar.  This story brought world-wide attention to this issue, and subsequent reporting from media around the world continues to spur dialogue and solutions about the need for improved standards for these workers.

Supply Chains:

Humanity United is working to engage corporations and businesses, who have an clear opportunity and a moral responsibility to meaningfully contribute to the eradication of slavery from their supply chains.  We are working to support specific efforts within the seafood and palm oil industries, and through efforts like, an online resource we launched with partners last fall to promote greater transparency and dialogue with corporations around the issue of slavery in supply chains.

It is encouraging to see corporations, consumers and investors respond as they learn more about this issue. I am hopeful that Humanity United’s efforts to engage companies around these issues continue to spur understanding and action to ensure no one on our shared planet is enslaved.

Policy Advocacy:

Humanity United convened and continues to support the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of 11 U.S.-based human rights organizations advocating for solutions to prevent and end modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. ATEST advocates for lasting solutions to prevent labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure safety and justice for victims and empower them with tools for recovery.

Trafficking in the United States:

When we hear about human trafficking, too many of us assume it is an issue that only occurs abroad, but the sad fact is that it is happening right here at home in the United States. Tens of thousands of people across this country are living in some type of modern-day slavery. And while human rights organizations work to combat this crime, survivors face a plethora of obstacles as they enter a new life and a system that is not equipped to support and help them.


Last fall, on the one-year anniversary of the President Obama's landmark speech on human trafficking and slavery at the Clinton Global Initiative, Humanity United – together with the federal government and other private donors – launched the Partnership for Freedom, a public funding challenge that asks communities and organizations to propose new solutions for helping victims of human trafficking in the U.S.

We have identified some exciting and innovative finalists from the first challenge, from which judges will choose winners later this spring, and we will launch the next challenge later in the year.


Humanity United joined the Legatum Foundation and Walk Free Foundation to recently announce the joint development, support and foundation of an ambitious seven-year effort to raise and deploy $100 million or more to combat modern-day slavery.  The Freedom Fund is the first private donor fund of its size dedicated to combatting modern-day slavery.

Our objective is simple – to seek and align significant funding to the cause while amplifying the impact of our efforts to combat slavery through collaboration – with the goal of measurably reducing slavery in key areas of prevalence by the year 2020.  The Freedom Fund will officially launch later this year.

During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and beyond, I am mindful of the millions who continue to suffer in enslavement.  I want to express my gratitude to the dedicated staff and leadership at Humanity United, as well as our many very committed partners, who work every day on these and other initiatives to combat the crime of modern-day slavery and create a free world for all.

It will take the engagement and significant collaboration of public, private, and social sectors to truly shift mindsets and culture around the hidden and shameful nature of slavery. Through greater partnerships, transparency and aligned intention, we can scale immensely to achieve our worthy vision of our shared global freedom.

Humanity United is a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom. At home and in the corners of the globe where these ideals are challenged most, we lead and support efforts to lift up the voices and will of people, ensure good governance and the rule of law, engage markets and business as a force for change, and encourage the exploration of promising ideas and innovations to end conflict and slavery—all with the belief that everyone has the right to a life that is peaceful and free. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter (@HumanityUnited) and Facebook. Humanity United is part of the Omidyar Group:


Pam Omidyar is the Founder and Chair of the Board of Humanity United, which she established in 2005. Humanity United is a philanthropic organization committed to building peace and advancing human freedom by leading, supporting, and collaborating with organizations that also envision a world free of conflict and injustice.

Pam and her husband Pierre are active philanthropists, guided by a common set of values – a deeply rooted belief in humanity, and a conviction that the world thrives when we prioritize treating others with compassion, dignity, and a respect for diversity. Working across many sectors and geographies, the Omidyars have contributed to causes ranging from economic advancement for the underserved and human rights to technology for improving kids' health and sustainability initiatives.

To fulfill their mission Pierre and Pam are deeply engaged in the organizations they founded, including: HopeLab, Humanity United, Omidyar Network, and Ulupono Initiative in their home state of Hawaii. While each organization across The Omidyar Group has a specific focus, they are united in that they all aim to improve access to create enabling positive conditions for people and their communities.

Glancing Back at 2013


This year was rife with important milestones, achievements and events related to the human rights movement. We’ve compiled the milestones that most resonated with us. Let us know what resonates with you in the comments section below. 1) Defeated Militia: Colonel Sultani Makenga, Commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern DRC, surrendered in Uganda along with 1,700 of his rebel fighters this past November. The M23 were ambushed by the Congolese army (also backed by 3,000 UN fighters) and were forced to either be captured or flee. It was under these pressures that they declared a ceasefire, ending a very bloody 20-month uprising.

2) In RemembranceNelson Mandela, former South African President and beloved anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5th 2013. Widely called “Madiba,” Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities during apartheid in South Africa.  Despite his imprisonment he preached the importance of reconciliation and represented survival in the struggle for human dignity. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and leaves behind a legacy of equality, justice and freedom.

Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and playwright who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1995, died on August 30th, 2013. One of his most famous poems spoke of suffering and conflict in Northern Ireland. Below is an excerpt; for the full poem click here.

History says, Don't hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.

3) AppointmentsSamantha Power’s appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations began on August 5th, 2013. Power is widely considered one of the most important thought leaders and is most known for her strong human rights background and specifically for her extensive genocide research. She wrote “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” a study on the response of U.S. foreign policy in regards to various cases of genocide. She also authored “Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World,” a book about the heroic life of Sergio Vieira de Mello.

4) Symbol of Defiance: Surviving a gunshot wound to the head for defending her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai continues to promote girls education and serves as an inspirational role model for millions of girls around the world. Malala publically debuted with a moving speech to the UN to mark her 16th birthday.  Malala tells her story of being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in newly published book, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.”

5) Most Perplexing Conflict: Syria’s civil war continues to escalate in intensity, complexity and scope. For more than two years, violent conflict has ravaged this country and has maimed or taken the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and produced an epic refugee crisis with estimates of 6.5 million people now forcibly displaced with little access to aid or security. Widely considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises partly due to the internal chemical weapons attacks that have killed more than 10,000 Syrians, international observers remain baffled as to a viable political (non-military) solution that would result in meaningful peace and lasting stability.

6) More than Meets the Eye: When Edward Snowden, former CIA worker, leaked classified details of the NSA surveillance program, he initiated a controversial, if not historic, debate on privacy vs. security in a post 9/11, digital world, questioning how far the government should go to protect the American public. At the core of this debate is whether the metadata surveillance collected in the name of national security is pursued at the expense of civil liberties, such as privacy rights and freedom of expression. Human rights defenders say current surveillance policies must be reformed to respect privacy and maintain freedom of speech. This is a debate worth following as the implications are serious and far-reaching. For more information click here.

7) Notable Movies: 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Anita and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

8) Favorite Reads: The Lemon Tree, The Glass Palace, Long Walk to Freedom, The Kitchen House, Strength in What Remains.

9) Favorite Tweets

@CivCenter: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” -Kenyan proverb

@AmbassadorPower: Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality can't come eventually; we must fight for it now.

10) Stunning Statistic: The NSA tracks 5 billion cell phone records daily!

How Howard Buffett Will Use His Grandfather’s Recipe For Riches To Disrupt Philanthropy


This article is written by Greg Ferenstein and originally appeared on Co.Exist. It has been reposted here in its entirety.

Howard Buffett is attempting to unify the scattered world of independent nonprofits through his grandfather's multi-billion dollar investment strategy: Invest in a portfolio of smart people and let them flourish. Having just taken the reins as Executive Director of the family foundation after holding posts in the White House and Department of Defense, Buffett has ambitious plans to pay the world's savviest nonprofits to collaboratively tackle the full spectrum of food security, from third-world farmer education to public policy

"My grandfather, in part, has been so successful because he has identified the best human capital for managing businesses," Buffett tells Fast Company. Emulating the strategy of investing in people who have proven strategies, the younger Buffett is building a coalition of already-successful leaders in each niche of food security.

The approach, he hopes, will become the standard for his family's growing network of mega-philanthropists: rather than dolling out cash to independent, uncoordinated actors with the most heart-string-tugging story, they could take on an entire social problems (like food security or breast cancer) by systematically lining up nonprofits to tackle each part of the causal chain, from federal policy to victim resources.

Getting Rid Of Redundancies

"If you are an NGO, doing the exact same thing as another NGO, and that other NGO is doing better than you're doing it, then you are in business for the wrong reason," Buffett says in an exasperated rant against the individualist nature of charities. Overlapping operations, he says, not only waste money through redundant overhead, but keep brilliant minds occupied with logistical distractions that sap their potential impact.

"We will give you money to execute your mission," Buffett says, "if you work together and identify the most cost-effective and successful ways to achieve that."

Meanwhile, looking at the entire causal chain of a crisis is key to revealing missing links in the solution, such as political or logistical hurdles that are essential to success, but not appealing enough to raise dollars.

Buffett learned the importance of interconnectedness after witnessing efforts to save forests be thwarted by starving locals. "They're going to cut down the forest, burn the trees, and then try to grow food on something that has horrible productivity value," he says. The horrific conditions led the foundation to not only shift from environmental stewardship to food security, but to the current strategy of solving problems as a closed ecosystem. Now, the Buffet foundation sponsors everything from an endowed political science chair at Texas A&M that studies conflict and hunger to public awareness campaigns.

A New Take On Evaluating Philanthropic Impact

"Emotion is not fungible, so to measure success through the emotional feeling we get from doing something is not an effective way of measuring," says Buffett, who needs a way to objectively evaluate the unwieldy volumes of grants proposed to his own foundation. But, unlike money, he says, "there is nothing that exists as a universal measure of impact for a philanthropic endeavor."

To make the tough comparisons between education, hunger, veterans, or disease eradication, Buffett designed an "issue agnostic" survey of scope, relevancy, cost-efficiency, and risk of any proposal.

The first question, for instance, is "Assuming we are successful, how many people would we reach directly with the funding of this gift?" Proposals gets 3 points for affecting +1 million people, 2 for greater than 100,000, and 1 for less than 100,000. Those proposals with a less ambitious scope can secure a coveted spot on the portfolio team by being particularly unique or cost-efficient.

He maintains that the measure helps him balance caring for the needy with the harsh realities of inefficient programs. "There's absolutely nothing wrong" with emotion, he says, admitting that the crisis of global food security has a particular effect on him. "My fear is when emotion clouds rationality."

Selling Suffering

"In the philanthropic world, the problem is the product, in the business world, the product is the solution." says Buffett, who argues that NGOs are forced to "sell suffering." The needless focus on sappy narratives often overlooks sophisticated solutions that can't be easily marketed with a T-shirt-clad celebrity holding a small child.

As an example, he notes, hunger-stricken continents are perfectly capable of offsetting their own crises , since famine and food surplus hit neighboring countries in the same year. If food-swap agreements were in place, the surplus country could donate food when they have more crops, knowing they'd get reciprocation in an inevitable drought.

"I see this as sexy," he says, half-jokingly. Buffett argues he's able to harness these kinds of sophisticated solutions because of his foundation's unique approach to objective measures and a broad-spectrum tackling of whole social issues.

A Business-Minded Approach To Philanthropy

Frustrated by the bureaucratic restraints of government and inspired by the nimbleness of the growing social entrepreneurship industry, the 27-year-old Buffett aims to bring some private sector savvy to the philanthropic world. He hopes his coalition strategy will encourage nonprofits to consider their "comparative advantage," and that his universal measure of "impact" can be as fungible as money. Finally, he aims to move charities away from selling narratives to selling solutions.

He even imagines a world were nonprofits can acquire one another. "You want to bring this back to the business world, there are no incentives for philanthropic organizations to merge," he says, adding that there are no easy legal means by which nonprofits can combine their resources as for-profits do.

Buffett was raised to blur the lines between nonprofit and for-profit: He is the product of a billionaire grandfather who has both pledged to give most of his money away and maligned the concept of inheritance as perpetuating "members of the lucky sperm club."

Yet, grateful for the opportunities his family gave him, and the legacy of giving his grandfather catalyzed, Buffett aims to make this exceptional charitable philosophy a mainstream belief for his generation.

"Our old definitions of success were wealth, power, and fame," he says. "We need to see those as a means to an end, and those need to be impact."


Women Inspiring Women: Past, Present, and Future by Lisa Stone Pritzker, MNA

March 8, 2012 marked the 103rd International Women’s Day, an annual event dedicated to celebrating and inspiring women all over the world. March is also women’s history month. How fitting, then, that the New York Times recently ran a couple of articles about the feminist icon Gloria Steinem (pictured to the right), and that on 3/19, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand officially picked up the Democratic nomination in her bid for re-election.

The theme of this year’s women’s history month was women’s education and women’s empowerment, issues that have had long and distinguished histories in the United States. Interestingly enough, Kirsten Gillibrand is an alumna of the Emma Willard School, named for its founder Emma Willard, a human rights activist who dedicated her life to women’s education. And Willard was the mentor to Olivia Slocum Sage (pictured below), a woman whose charitable work had an enormous impact on the 20th century, paving the way and setting an example for generations of female philanthropists to come.

Olivia Sage was born in 1828, the daughter of well-to-do parents who lost their fortune and struggled to make ends meet. At the age of 41, Sage—after working as a teacher for many years—married family friend and millionaire Russell B. Sage. Russell Sage was not known for his generosity, but his death in 1906 granted Olivia access to over $50 million, most of which she distributed to philanthropic causes. Olivia Sage strongly believed that her change in circumstances obligated her to help those who were less fortunate.

Although Sage did not identify as a suffragette, empowering women was one of her philanthropic priorities. When she established the Russell Sage Foundation in 1907, she made sure to include women on the foundation’s board, a practice that was highly unusual at the time. Like many of her contemporaries—she was a philanthropist in the same league as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller—she supported education, providing generous grants to her alma mater, and establishing Russell Sage College, a comprehensive college for women.

At the 2010 Ted Women Conference, Hillary Clinton said, “Let women work and they drive economic growth across all sectors. Send a girl to school even just for one year and her income dramatically increases for life, and her children are more likely to survive and her family more likely to be healthier for years to come.” Women’s history month is the perfect time to reflect upon the connections between women like Clinton, Steinem, Gillebrand, Willard and Sage—women who, in their efforts to empower other women, are and were able to empower themselves. It’s also a good time to acknowledge female activists and philanthropists who have helped—and continue to help—make the world a better place for women, like the lawyer and philanthropist Helen Lehman Buttenweiser, whose legal practice centered around helping women and children and preserving civil liberties. Another example is the philanthropist Rachel Mellon Walton, a major benefactor to the arts, music, medicine, education, conservation and the welfare of women. Today there’s Mavis Leno, who has been the chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan since 1997. In 1999, in a gesture that now seems way ahead of the curve, Mavis and her husband Jay Leno donated $100,000 to educating the public about the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban. And last but not least, there’s Jennifer Buffett, co-chair and president of the NoVo Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on creating a more just and balanced world through cooperation and partnership, primarily through the empowerment of girls and women.

In one of the recent New York Times pieces about Gloria Steinem, the writer Sarah Hepola asked why no one has stepped in to fill Steinem’s role as the face of feminism. Steinem herself sees this as a positive thing—she believes “it’s obviously a great sign of growth and success that the media no longer try to embody the bigness and diversity of the women’s movement in one person.” In that case, perhaps there are some other questions worth asking about the future of feminism. And maybe one way to formulate those questions is to compare what women have done in the past with what we are doing in the present. To that end, here is a list of women and organizations whose contributions to female empowerment are definitely worth further investigation:

These organizations are also noteworthy:

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie said, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” But not every woman has access to the resources necessary to tap into those gifts, and that’s where philanthropy and advocacy enter the picture. The women discussed in this post prove that it is possible for one person to make a significant difference, to help women, past and present, obtain the tools they need to fulfill their dreams.

Lisa Stone Pritzker is an advocate for women and children's health and education.

Photos from top to bottom: Gloria Steinem and Olivia Sage.