As part of our Grantmaker Training Series, Bill Somerville of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation talked to Hewlett Foundation staff about "Investing in People." During his talk, Bill challenged us to reduce the paperwork burden we place on our grantees and focus on people we believe can make a difference rather than our own concepts and strategies.
Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer recently sat down with the Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal for an interview about the Foundation's commitment to Open Educational Resources (OER). Among the hghlights:
LK: Part of our goal with OER is to change the way people think about openness and sharing. Our current education system bottles everything up with “all rights reserved” copyrights that can only be overcome with significant justification and effort. We want to flip the presumption, to make openness and sharing the presumed default. With such a shift in mindset, we could dramatically increase access and productivity in higher education—and maybe find a way to serve those next 100 million learners around the world.
Federal environmental regulators, citing risks to water quality and salmon spawning grounds in one of the world’s richest fisheries, moved on Friday to block the development of a giant open-pit copper mine in the watershed of Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska.
While the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency was not an outright death blow to the project, called the Pebble Mine, it left little room for the mine and its supporters to persuade the agency otherwise. E.P.A. officials said they would now start gathering additional information and public comment under a provision of the federal Clean Water Act that could end any chance of the mine project’s going ahead.
This is a clear victory for the environment, and one made possible by the work of many of our Environment Program grantees, including Trout Unlimited and the New Venture Fund's Bristol Bay United Project.
Effective Philanthropy Group Director Fay Twersky recently helped kick off Sobrato Philanthropies' new speaker sereis, Building Blocks for Creating Greater Impact. The panel discussion focused on "theories of change and logic models, aligned performance metrics, and business models focused on sustainability and scale." Part Two of the discussion is also available on YouTube.
State air quality control commissioners voted 8-1 on Sunday to pass the rules with the support of leading operators Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and Encana.
But they did so over the protests of much of the oil and gas industry, including the powerful Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Colorado Petroleum Association trade groups.
By passing rules aimed at reducing toxic emissions from oil and gas facilities, Colorado officials are trying to allow an energy boom while also protecting health and the environment. They needed to act because Front Range air already fails to meet federal health standards. The oil and gas industry is a growing source of volatile organic compounds that lead to the formation of ozone.
"This is in the best interests of public health," state health Director Larry Wolk said. "Methane and hydrocarbons being significant contributors to ground ozone — and climate change — anything we can do to control that is going to improve the health of our citizens — adults and kids. We have to look to the future."
"This is the toughest regulatory landscape in the country, no doubt about that," Noble vice president Ted Brown said. "But we really believe this rule is smart. It is cost-effective. It ensures that oil and gas is developed in the safest possible way for communities and the environment."
Great article by Susan Frey for EdSource about School Smarts, a program of the California Parent Teacher Association that help elementary school parents become more effective advocates for their children and their schools. Our Performing Arts Program provided funding for the pilot project in order to help build support for arts education across the state.
On a recent Thursday evening at Sunshine Gardens, about two dozen families gathered for dinner before the parents participated in the second weekly School Smarts training session. The sessions last from about 6:30 until 8 p.m. Child care is provided for the children in the cafeteria, while their parents attend the session in a nearby classroom.
Parents who have graduated from the program came to dish out the enchiladas, rice and beans and help the new parents – many new to the country as well as California’s public school system – get acclimated.
The graduates said the program has been transformative.
Erica Sanchez Vallejo, who graduated from the program three years ago, is from Mexico. “Over there parents do not get involved in education,” she said. “Here the focus is on educating the parents and being involved with your child even if you don’t know English. I want to see my daughter go all the way to college and graduate. This is what this program has taught me.”
Isela Ramirez said she has become more involved with her children since graduating from the program, expanding their learning beyond the normal school day.
“I read to them daily,” she said. “They’re involved in sports. I take them to the library. I do arts and crafts with them. I keep them engaged.”
A new study... challenges that assertion [that National Endowment for the Arts funding only benefits the rich], however, and concludes that federally supported arts programs attract people across the income spectrum; the wealthy, yes, but also many below the poverty line.
Gabe Kleinman, in a post at Medium, describes five specific ways to make grants more flexible and adaptive—and therefore effective—using human centered design. The first step is not to get overwhelmed by the new approach. Also key is retaining an exploring mindset that allows you to find action-oriented, nimble grantees and work with them to try new methods.
The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project released its 2014 Conservation in the West Poll today. It contains some fascinating results on westerners' attitudes toward everything from renewable energy to national park closures, but the bottom line, according to Walter Hecox, the Project's faculty director, is that “Westerners want their air, water and land protected, and where a candidate stands on these issues could potentially sway votes.”
Transparency is one of those things, like democracy, or marriage, that’s easier said than done. To say that a foundation will start “from a presumption of openness and full transparency,” as our president, Larry Kramer, did in his inaugural post for our blog, is one thing. Figuring out how to actually do it is quite another.
Even if we could simply flip a switch and turn the Foundation inside out, would that really be transparent? Without some kind of roadmap to the information shared, there’s a real risk that useful signals get lost in so much noise. And even when we are taking steps we feel are truly transparent—sharing the budget memos each program prepares for the Board in our annual reports, for example— when we don’t provide the context to help readers understand what they’re looking at, we reduce the value of what we’re providing, as Eric Brown, our communications director, has noted.
Once we identify information we believe we can and should share, there’s still the problem of working out a process for doing so. Our docket paragraphs are a case in point. These are the short descriptions that our program staff provide to the Board to describe the purpose, proposed activities and expected outcomes of each grant. We knew that the information in these paragraphs could be useful for grantseekers and others who want to understand our priorities and strategies. Nevertheless, their publication raised almost as many questions as they answered: Would we consult grantees before sharing? Who would be responsible for vetting each paragraph before it was made public to make sure it didn’t contain confidential information (about staffing changes at a grantee, for example) that would be inappropriate for us to share? And what changes would we need to make to our software, timelines, and procedures to facilitate this new form of transparency?
We answered some of these questions during a pilot project with our Global Development and Population program last November, and we’re in the process of answering others as we expand the pilot to include our other programs for next month’s Board meeting. None of the challenges we’ve identified are insurmountable, of course, but working through them requires care, thoughtfulness, and most of all, time.
A lot of transparency work is like that.
It’s good to know that there’s help available for foundations interested in becoming more transparent. The Foundation Center’s Glasspockets effort, in collaboration with GrantCraft, has just released a new guide called Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency. The guide makes a compelling philosophical case for transparency and explains its benefits for foundations. But the guide’s real value lies in the great examples and practical steps it provides to help any foundation become more transparent, whatever their starting point.
The thing that resonated most for me in the guide, in fact, is the idea that transparency has no end point—and not just because of the job security that implies for the people working on it. There’s always something else that can be shared, an idea that could be explained more clearly, or a new strategy to be described.
The Hewlett Foundation has been committed to transparency for a long time, and we’re proud of the fact that our Glasspockets profile has every item checked off. But that doesn’t mean we’re finished with transparency. In fact, we’ve got a number of projects we’re still working through, and we’ll use our blog to highlight them when they’re ready. Even then, we won’t be done, and it’s good to know that this new guide will be there to help us figure out what comes next.