Optimism, collaboration, rigor and innovation are the four values that come together to define the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation‘s approach to philanthropy as well as how they direct their “strategies” and grant making.
Co-chairs Bill and Melinda Gates, who describe themselves as optimists, have created a foundation that focuses on a select “few issues” rather than many as part of their efforts to have “a great impact”. Collaborating with partners around the world, in order to reach people on a broader scale, they are working to address issues such as “extreme poverty and health in developing countries” and the “failures of America’s education system”.
It is the belief of the Gates Foundation that these issues in particular create the largest barriers as people seek to “make the most of their lives”.
The Gates Foundation is committed to improving lives. They understand that true success can take years and decades to occur as opposed to days and months and they are willing to put in the amount of work and time necessary to see results. Taking on the role of “catalysts for change”, they state that they are “motivated to confront problems that others consider impossible to solve”.
The Gates Foundation is tackling some of the world’s most challenging issues and they understand that in doing so there is some level of risk involved. Their approach to handling this risk is simple – embrace it.
They “embrace risk and learn from failure”, helping others to avoid the same pitfalls in the future as they work to come up with more innovative ideas.
In his 2012 Annual letter Bill Gates eloquently stated, “When innovators work on urgent problems and deliver solutions to people in need, the results can be magical.”
The core message that seems to be fueling the work done by Bill, Melinda and the rest of the Gates Foundation and their partners is that “All lives have equal value”. Knowing the great value each human life holds regardless of background, socio-economic status, health, or education, they are taking risks, learning from them, making progress and changing lives. As for the results, they are magical indeed!
What happens when 15 international organizations come together in over 90 countries and partner with people around the world all in an effort to end poverty and injustice? Oxfam International happens.
The name Oxfam, derived from the term “Oxford Committee for Famine Relief“, describes the group of diverse organizations that came together to achieve a greater impact in the reduction of poverty and injustice on an international level.
Formed in 1995, not only does Oxfam deliver emergency relief but they also implement “long term development programs in vulnerable communities”.
Oxfam diligently works to help those “striving to exercise their human rights, assert their dignity as full citizens and take control of their lives”. It is their belief that all people have the right to live a life free from poverty and reside in a “more equitable world”.
Focusing their efforts in the areas of program development, emergency aid, raising public awareness, advocating for change and conducting research, Oxfam works with local organizations to support those living in poverty.
Addressing multiple issues including agriculture, HIV and AIDS, gender justice, minority rights, and education, Oxfam works directly with the communities they service seeking to “lift people out of poverty” and ensure that they have a “say in decisions that affect them”.
Currently, there are Oxfam organizations based in several global regions including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Mexico and Spain. Those working behind the scenes at Oxfam are passionate about human rights. According to their website “When people speak out, change happens” – and thanks to Oxfam and the organizations and individuals standing with them, change is occurring.
A recent Oxfam International Tweet that referred to “The Doughnut” caught my eye and I wanted to share the story behind it. Oxfam Senior Researcher Kate Raeworth penned a paper titled, “A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: can we live within the doughnut?”. The paper focuses on presenting an overall solution to the overwhelming reality that our world will soon house 9 billion people and cannot handle the 7 billion will have currently. The purpose of the paper is to “encourage public debate in the run-up to the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20) in June.”
The concept is simple really. There are 11 “Social Boundaries” which make up the center of the doughnut – including food, health, water – all of which were determined by governments participating in the Rio+20.
The outer edge consists of 9 “Planetary Boundaries”. These were determined in 2009, and are the crucial elements necessary to keep the world in the stable state of “holocene” – a state which the earth has been in for 12,000 years. We have already crossed through in three of these areas: climate change, nitrogen use, and biodiversity loss.
The idea is that as long as we stay within “the safe and just space for humanity”, all will be balanced and thrive. It was especially interesting to read the author write, “Who’s stressing the planet? The rich, not the poor“. According to Oxfam 13% of the world population do not have enough food, yet it would only take 1% of the global food supply to change this reality.
I think that the doughnut is a wonderful concept - albeit idealistic – and I don’t mean that it a negative way, because I consider myself somewhat of an idealist. It highlights what is important, and though there is so much that will have to change – not only in the way that we do things, but the way that we think - I am hopeful that the pattern of positive change and growing compassion which I see within my own circles and community will spread further and further.
What do you think about the doughnut? Realistic or idealistic?
Organization Spotlight ~ Charity: Water – Making Clean Water Accessible To Those In Developing Nations
For many of us our thirst is easily quenched. All we have to do is simply head to the sink or refrigerator to grab a glass or bottle of water. Even when we are concerned about the safety of tap water or perhaps Bisphenol-A, we can easily correct that with a trip to a store to purchase a water purification system or a stainless steel bottle.
It is hard to imagine that almost one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. That is over three times the population of the United States, and nearly thirty times the population of Canada!
Unclean water and lack of sanitation claims the lives of 30,000 people weekly. Children are especially vulnerable, and sadly, make up 90% of this figure. For our Organization Spotlight today we are featuring an amazing organization who believe “Clean water changes everything”. Charity: Water‘s mission is to bring “clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.”
Families who simply have enough – enough water to drink, bathe, clean and grow their own food have the chance to become self-sufficient, reducing the potential for them to be impacted by famine, a lack of government assistance, or external conflict. Additionally, drinking related deaths would decrease, as would the hours spent by women and children each day walking to the source should “water projects” be built near their homes.
Charity: Water invites us to go on the same journey 1 of every 8 people face. A statement from their website reads:
“We invite you to put yourself in their shoes. Follow them on their daily journey. Carry 80 pounds of water in yellow fuel cans. Dig with their children in sand for water. Line up at a well and wait eight hours for a turn.”
The organization is vocal about the fact that they aren’t offering “grand solutions”, instead they are focusing on “simple things that work” such as freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters. They believe that $20 a person can help millions.
100% of donations by the public go directly to water project costs. This is made possible thanks to private donors, foundations and sponsors, whose donations cover Charity: Water’s operating costs.
To date, Charity: Water has raised 40 million dollars and funded approximately 4,282 water projects making clean water a reality for countless men, women and children.
There is a challenge taking place internet-wide, and it is literally going to change the world.
Many internet users are familiar with the web browser Mozilla Firefox, and according to Crowdrise, an online philanthropy site comprised of “online fundraising, crowd sourcing, social networking, contests, and other nice stuff”, Mozilla is working to raise funds to support some very important causes.
Causes for issues such as cancer, human trafficking, clean water and animal rescue are being backed my celebrities and non-celebrities all who share the desire to support the organizations they are passionate about. Mozilla is encouraging users to make an “individual action” which will result in a “global impact”.
This season people are afforded the opportunity to donate to a charity or even join that celebrity’s team. Participants are also given the chance to fundraise for their own cause and as if changing the world wasn’t enough of a perk, Firefox is collaborating with multiple teams in order to offer donors a chance to win prizes ranging autographed t-shirts and video documentaries to live chat sessions via Skype and visiting the set of a television program.
As for the challenge according to Crowdrise, the “cause” that raises the most money by January 11, 2012 will receive $25,000. To date each celebrity’s charity has already received a donation of $5,000.
This month Heidi highlighted several gifts that give back. Consider giving the gift of global impact this year. Celebrities such as Christy Turlington Burns, Zooey Deschanel and Jason Bateman are all working to support the causes they believe in and are hopeful that each of us will believe in the them too. Please take a moment and visit Crowdrise to learn more about the people and organizations that are making their mark on the world and to perhaps make your own mark too.
For the past five or so years – mainly since I first became a mom – I have been overwhelmed with a sense that I “need to do something more” to help make a change in the world. I recently touched on violence in the media and my thoughts on having a balance between the fear-mongering news, and being in the know and aware of what is happening around the world – and in the past I found that the more I learned, the more helpless I felt.
Eventually, this helplessness led me where I am right now – my space in a world of 7 billion people, where I am blessed with the ability to share and help bring awareness to some of the most dire circumstances and tragic events that are occurring worldwide.
There are so many amazing activists out there, pounding the pavement and starting organizations to get their message out and speak for those who do not have opportunity to have their voices heard. Without activists like some of the amazing people we’ve featured such as Jeremy Gilley, Jacqueline Novogratz, and Christy Turlington Burns, there would be much less of a chance for change and a better quality of life for all.
But where do the rest of us fit in? How can we help? That is why I am posting today.
I would like to announce a Call To Action for bloggers to join forces and unite to initiate change not only online – but in our own communities and those around us. Many of us are already doing Social Good by writing about issues that need attention, and there are some great resources available to help us do this, including Bloggers Without Borders.
We’ve taken this in a different direction and are creating a community where we can learn from each other, campaign together, pool our resources, and put focus on where it is needed, both locally and globally. Equally important – a space where charities can easily connect with bloggers to help raise awareness.
Bloggers Unite For Change is this community.
If you are a blogger (of any topic!) please contact Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org to join in and learn more.