Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer and Fay Twersky, Director of our Effective Philanthropy Group, respond to new research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy on Foundation CEOs' assessment of their own organizations' impact.
According to the survey, CEOs are not—by their own admission—as well informed as they believe they should be about the extent to which they are achieving their goals. When asked what would improve their ability to assess progress, they cite a need for improved communication across organizations about what is being learned and a need for more evidence-based information. Despite feeling less than fully informed, the CEOs nevertheless say they believe that their foundations have “contributed a lot” to what progress has been made.
We think these data underscore the need for foundation leaders and staff to be at once more reflective and more open. By reflective, we mean that foundation leaders would be well-served by asking and actively seeking answers to questions like: How would we know if we are on a path to achieving our goals? Are we on that path? What progress are we making and what obstacles are we encountering? What are the key enablers and inhibitors to progress for us and our grantees? Which of our assumptions about how change would happen have been proved right and which wrong? Given such lessons, what might we do differently next time? Fully engaging with questions like these requires some data, some deliberation, and a healthy dose of open-mindedness and humility.
Somehow we need to change incentives, make it so foundations are expected to share—are, indeed, rewarded for sharing—what they have learned about what works and what doesn’t. That way, we can learn from each other and accelerate progress towards achieving important, shared goals. While some cynics thought it gimmicky, the Giving Pledge launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett has been quite effective in moving wealthy individuals to give most of their wealth away. Maybe it’s time for foundations to think about doing something analogous, a kind of Openness Pledge that helps move our default position to one of sharing information.
As of 2010, about 2.1 million U.S. women were using an IUD, the highest level since the early 1980s, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights organization with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Of women using contraception, about 5% use an IUD, which is still significantly less than the 27% who use the hormonal pill—the most popular method.
The IUD is 20 times more effective than birth control pills, the patch or vaginal ring, according to a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That is because the IUD virtually eliminates the risk of human error.
Whatever foundations do to cope with polarization in the short run, there can be no doubt that everyone’s long-term welfare requires taking action to alleviate it. For this reason, the Board of the Hewlett Foundation recently agreed to explore an initiative to tackle polarization head on. It’s a daunting proposition given the size of the problem. Yet it’s the kind of challenge the philanthropic sector is uniquely situated—indeed, has a responsibility—to address.
Our President, Larry Kramer, spoke recently at The Rockefeller Foundation's 100th anniversary event, A Celebration of American Philanthropy. He joined a number of other speakers making "big bets" in philanthropy—Larry's was on our new initiative to address gridlock in our political system.
The Hewlett Foundation’s Education Program published a new white paper on Open Educational Resources last week:
The idea behind Open Educational Resources (OER) is simple but powerful—educational materials made freely and legally available on the Internet for anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute. These digital materials have the potential to give people everywhere equal access to our collective knowledge and provide many more people around the world with access to quality education by making lectures, books and curricula widely available on the Internet for little or no cost. By enabling virtually anyone to tap into, translate and tailor educational materials previously reserved only for students at elite universities, OER has the potential to jump start careers and economic development in communities that lag behind. Millions worldwide have already opened this educational lockbox, but if OER is going to democratize learning and transform the classroom and teaching, then it must move from the periphery of education practice to center stage.
The Foundation plans to help pave the way for that transition and this white paper describes how we plan to accomplish that goal.
An important development in the conservation world has gone largely unnoticed. It shouldn't have. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a directive that embraced a "landscape-scale" approach to mitigating the environmental impacts of major highway, water, energy and other infrastructure development projects. This is a big idea that deserves notice, and the support of developers and the environmental community alike.
This is the first of our “linked list” posts, which point towards interesting content—either on our own site or elsewhere on the web. If you have something you’d like us to consider sharing, please email us at email@example.com. –ed.