A Valid Comparison of Science and Philanthropy?

By Sarah Keyston

As fellow UG Team Member Ranjani noted previously, nonprofits and governments can have an even greater impact when they work together to achieve growth and development. I am an International Development Studies major at UCLA, and I investigated these collaborative possibilities in a recent class.

The seminar, entitled “Entrepreneurship and Social Change in the Global Context,” turned out to focus on the biotech and nanotech industries, rather than on international philanthropy (as I had hoped would be the case!). Even so, in my final paper, I was able to combine my interest in international nonprofits with our class discussion of these scientific industries. It is particularly interesting how the idea of an “interdisciplinary research program” can be translated to the nonprofit realm!

Below I’ve included the conclusion from my paper examining this idea… I decided against including the entire 14 pages of my research J, but this excerpt showcases the main argument. Hopefully it is not too research paper-y… perhaps even somewhat enjoyable!

…We can see from these associations that the idea of the interdisciplinary program, as conventionally seen in university research, translates to NGOs and the development arena. Rather than collaboration between firms, academic departments, and the public and private sectors, we see collaboration between NGOs, governments, private foundations, and the media in order to contribute to development and global change. These interdisciplinary networks leverage resources in order to provide more impact combined than each member organization would have on its own, much like the ability of interdisciplinary research programs to generate and commercialize research that otherwise might not have been produced.

The interdisciplinary networks centered on the work of NGOs are a new organizational form that is arguably based on the model of the interdisciplinary research program. These networks geared towards development demonstrate similarly strong practices in leadership and organization, which are essential for any collaborative effort—research or otherwise—to be successful. The NGO network identifies a problem, proposes and implements solutions, and evaluates results, just as any research program approaches R&D.

Though any interdisciplinary program or network faces challenges when it comes to merging ideas, management practices, and resources, the right leadership and institutions can overcome these and generate economic growth. The Clinton Global Initiative is a prime example of successful navigation of the interdisciplinary network issue. CGI combines the resources, economic and political influence, and ability to enact change of its members in order to provide both viable solutions to global problems and economic development—just as an interdisciplinary research program combines the knowledge, influence, and ability to act of its members in order to provide commercial products and solutions to consumers.

Thus the idea of the interdisciplinary program translates successfully into the development arena, at least on a macro-scale. On a micro-scale, there are considerable differences in practices, knowledge transfer, and content because research within the nanotech or biotech industry is in theory very different than tackling global issues, although often these industries can provide solutions to global health problems, thereby becoming a part of the interdisciplinary network themselves.

Any thoughts? I would be interested to hear if those involved in scientific industry welcome this comparison!

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UniversalGiving Partners with Link TV

By Cheryl Mahoney

Interested in getting an inside look at a school in rural China?  How about a soccer team in Kenya?  (You know you want to watch a program described as “Kenya’s Soap Opera for Social Good”)  Or maybe you’d like to learn about a young man who’s writing an alphabet for his people, as they have never had a written language.

If you’re interested in powerful, personal stories from all over the world, Link TV is a resource you have to explore.  With documentaries and series, Link TV covers issues and highlights cultures many of us aren’t familiar with–but are fascinating to explore.

“The Alphabet Book,” referenced above, is one of my favorite stories.  The documentary tells about the Kalash people, a community of 4,000 living between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  According to local legend, they’re descended from Alexander the Great’s armies!  They preserve a unique culture, ancient pagan traditions, and their own language.  They have an oral tradition of storytelling, but no written language–until now, that is.  Taj Khan is working to create an alphabet for his people, so that their stories and traditions can be preserved in their own language.

That’s just one example of the inspiring stories on Link TV.  And I am so pleased to say that UniversalGiving is working in partnership with Link TV, so that if you’re feeling inspired, you can do something about it.  As you know, UniversalGiving is designed to help people find ways to take action on the causes they care about.  So now, you can watch a documentary about a Kenyan soccer team…and then send a soccer ball to an impoverished child.

So visit Link TV and find out when their programs are airing in your area–or watch them online.  And then look for a way to take action with UniversalGiving.  🙂

Placing Women on the Map

By Cheryl Mahoney

Who would you put on the map?  Not where–who.  I’m talking about the International Museum of Women’s “Women on the Map.”  In honor of International Women’s Day, they’ve launched this amazing, interactive way to honor the women in your life.

You can head to their website, and put a virtual pin on the map to mark a special woman.  Write her name and a brief message, and other visitors to the site can learn about her too.  And, IMOW will email her to tell her that you put her on the map.  The result is an incredible map showing that there are women all across the world who are inspiring others and creating change.

And I do mean ALL across the world–there are pins on six continents (make it seven, if you know a woman in Antarctica), from San Francisco to the Azores Islands to Russia to Kenya to New Zealand.  And as someone who looked at the map a few days ago, and then again today, I can personally confirm that the number of inspiring women is growing fast.  Better claim a spot for your inspirational woman today before they run out of room!

Just kidding.  There’s plenty of room for inspiring women in the world.  I think that’s one thing we can’t have too much of.  🙂

So take a look at the map for amazing stories from around the world.  You could look through the San Francisco pins to find the one for our CEO, Pamela.  And after you’ve read a few stories…why not share your own?

How to Change the World

By Cheryl Mahoney

Do you want to tell Congress to ban goods made by modern-day slaves?  You can.

Would you like to tell the Olympic Committee to serve sustainable food?  You can.

Do you want to make a statement for human rights in Darfur?  You can.

Do you want to keep up with the latest news on social entrepreneurship, the environment, and homelessness?  You can do that too.

How?  By going to Change.org.

Change.org is an incredible site, with information and action opportunities for a wide range of issues.  It’s kind of like a lot of different social issue sites all wrapped up in one. 

Looking for blogs about social issues?  They’ve got at least a dozen–probably more. 

Looking for a social networking site to connect with other people who care about the same cause as you?  You can do that here too. 

Looking for ways to take action, maybe through a petition?  I haven’t a found a count anywhere, but I would be bet that there are hundreds of petitions available, on many different issues (and if you don’t see one for the issue you want, you can start your own).  Almost 100,000 actions have been taken this week.  Not month, not year–WEEK.

Looking for a way to support your favorite nonprofit, and keep up to date on their latest news?  Lots of nonprofits have profiles on the site, including UniversalGiving.

So check out Change.org for frequently updated content about the causes you care about, petitions to sign and people to connect to.  Do you want to create change?  You can.

Gratitude and Giving

By Cheryl Mahoney

I don’t expect many people to read this post the day it goes up.  I don’t expect many people to be on the internet on that day either.  I won’t be–I’m typing this on Wednesday, not Thursday, though thanks to delayed publishing that’s the date you’ll be seeing at the top.  I don’t expect many people to be reading on Thursday because, as I likely don’t need to tell you, Thursday happens to be Thanksgiving.  And I expect people will be a little too busy to be reading.

Busy with turkeys, and football games, and traditions, and long-distance calls to relatives, and arguments over drumsticks.  Busy appreciating our blessings and being thankful.

Gratitude is an important theme in UniversalGiving’s culture.  We believe in giving to others and changing the world.  We also believe in appreciation and affirmation and being grateful for the people around us, for the accomplishments we achieve, for the blessings in our organization and in our lives.  So even if no one’s here reading on Thursday, I couldn’t let the day go by without an acknowledgment.

One thing I’m grateful for: having a CEO who puts a strong emphasis on gratitude.  Our founder and CEO, Pamela Hawley, has written some beautiful thoughts on gratitude for her blog, Living and Giving, in the past.  It only seemed fitting to share an excerpt today.

Right now, can I think a positive thought? What is going well?  No matter how tough it gets, there has to be some thing that is going well.  Thank you that the sun is shining. Thank you that I have a great father, or wonderful relationship with my sister.  Thank you that I have a wonderful new bed that allows me to sleep peacefully.  Thank you for the rosebush on the street, that blooms so radiantly, and is free for all of us to smell and enjoy. 

For the challenges that seem to keep you stuck, remember, it will pass. The mountain will pass and at some point, you get to start walking downhill.  So keep climbing, keep being grateful, and…. keep going.

My 97 year old Oma and grandmother, one of my best friends once told me,” Whenever I feel down I find something to be grateful for, and I find someone else who is in a worse situation and help them. It helps me be grateful.”

Gratitude gives us a humble confidence to continue pursuing our dreams, step by step.

Gratitude brings a sense of joy, peace and then confidence so that we can maintain our course. Go for it – – and be grateful along the path!

Whatever day you’re reading this, thanks for being here.  I’m grateful that you are.  I hope you have much to be grateful for in your own life, and, if you feel moved to do so, I hope you’ll think about finding someone else to help too.

Not my Problem (?)

by Anis Salvesen

Recently my husband and I attended a friend’s wedding in India – in Chennai (formerly Madras).   The foreign guests, like us, had met the groom in graduate school.   Our little group consisted of the following:  a Finnish girl who spent most of her life in Germany but was now living in Switzerland with her German boyfriend (also in attendance), a Japanese girl, a fellow whose parents were German but had been born in South Africa and had been living in Italy since the early ‘90s, a Hispanic-American (me) and my Norwegian husband.

As you may know, Indian weddings last multiple days, and our little international group attended two of those days.  Maybe because we already had a common denominator (our school), we focused on what was different about us.  We joked about the German (and Norwegian) need for precision, for detail.  We commented on the American propensity to smile a good deal of the time.  We teased the South-African born German guest when he arrived late, sporting designer sunglasses and a suit with no tie, about being more “Italian” than German.

After the wedding, my husband and I continued our travels in India by flying up north to tour the “Golden Triangle.”  I found myself continuing the trend of spotting the differences in my existence, in my daily life, from that of other people around me.  One morning, when the hotel lobby door opened, I could have sworn someone had just set a fire in the parking lot, the air was so polluted.  But I did not see it as my problem.  It was their air which was polluted.  It was their streets which were lined with refuse.  It was their people who were living in poverty.

And to some extent that’s true.  There are people here in San Francisco (near Union Square where we live) that stand on the street and ask for money, but they are not trying to climb into our rickshaw, grabbing at my husband’s clothes.  Or trying to snatch a guidebook  right out of our hands.  But that does not mean that my existence here is completely immune to the serious issues that plague developing nations.

Poverty, even somewhere far away from San Francisco like Peru, increases the number of people willing to risk jail time to transport drugs, which helps  increase the influx of drugs into the US.   The local drug addicts this influx helps create then join the ranks of people asking me for money every day on my way home.  Or worse, they become like the muggers who assaulted two of my friends  (separately) in the past year.  And the air I’m breathing?  “Some researchers believe at least one-third of California’s fine particulate pollution—known as aerosol—originates from Asia.” (China Environment Forum).

Thinking about things this way could potentially be a bit depressing.  But here is the good news.  It works both ways.  Sure the problems can cross borders readily, but so can the solutions.  You can take part in a development project in Peru.   You can help conserve wilderness in Central Asia.  You might not be able to single-handedly solve all of the world’s problems; but if you’re anything like me, you will be glad to stop feeling helpless and start feeling empowered.

All Together for Good

By Cheryl Mahoney

Lately I’ve had a lot to say about ways to volunteer from home.  And we all know that if you want to cross borders and travel to exciting places to do your volunteering, UniversalGiving is your best destination.  So how about if you want something in between?  You’re happy to go outside, but can’t commit to a trip to Kenya right now–where do you go for that?  Well, UniversalGiving actually does have some national opportunities…and I also want to share with you about one of our latest partner organizations that can help you find the perfect way to do good.

I’m talking about All for Good.  This website is designed to bring together volunteering opportunities from many different sources, to provide a vast database of ways to get involved with the community.  Inspired by President Obama’s call for volunteering and service, a group of engineers, developers and designers all got together to create the site.  They’re coming from cool places like Google, The Craigslist Foundation, YouTube and more, so maybe it’s no surprise the way this has taken off!

I feel like I should tell you how to use All for Good, but there isn’t much to tell–it’s all fairly straight-forward.  Just pop over to the website, put in your location, and scroll through the results.  Find one you like and click for more info.  That’ll take you to the organization that contributed the opportunity, and you can explore more there.  Then, start doing good!

One thing I love to think about is all the people and organizations involved at every stage of the process.  First you have the organizations contributing their volunteering opportunities to All for Good (UniversalGiving included!)  Then all the organizations with people working on the All for Good team.  And All for Good sends the volunteering opportunities on to other websites too.  Have you heard of Serve.gov?  If so, you might have heard about it from President Obama, or from Michelle Obama.  Serve.gov gets its opportunities from All for Good.  Did you notice your favorite TV characters talking about volunteering and giving to the community about a month ago?  That was part of iParticipate, an initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.  And if you go over to iParticipate to look for volunteer opportunities, you’ll find out that they’re coming from–All for Good.  Another example: MTV is on board with this too!  Even taking the volunteers out of the equation, it’s exciting to think about all these diverse, high-power groups working together.  And of course, we can’t take the volunteers out of the equation–because they’re the whole point, people finding ways to give back and contribute.

It’s also exciting to think about how much All for Good has done in a very short time.  Which means…what else might be possible?