Toilets, Tony Blair, and other takeaways from this year’s Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF)

Talking Toilets

It is an occupational hazard of this job—translating knowledge for practical use—to be at constant risk of getting overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes our way. But when the same model pops up three times in two weeks, I start paying closer attention. That’s what happened with iDE, a social enterprise whose Cambodian latrine project was profiled by Jeff Chapin at the TEDxChange event we co-hosted on April 5th, was awarded the inaugural Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize on April 12th and was the example given by my fellow GPF participant Laurence Lien of how his Singapore-based foundation, the Lien Foundation, is addressing the need for improved sanitation solutions in rural Asia. Even if you’re not focused on building latrines, the model offers useful lessons to donors on how to co-design solutions and learn from early mistakes so those solutions work for the communities you aim to help.

Tony Blair

One of the most interesting—and eminently quotable—speakers at the GPF was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who is engaged in an encore career leveraging his political experience for philanthropic purposes. A sample:

  • On the odd journey of holding political office: “You start at your most popular and least capable and end at your most capable and least popular.”
  • On being a member of a party not in power: “When you’re in the opposition, the saying IS the doing.”
  • On his hopes for the Africa Governance Initiative which advises the presidents of several African countries on how they can relieve their people’s poverty: “Our ambitions with you is to wave the donor community goodbye.”

The Role of Capital for Impact

Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund unveiled new research from The Monitor Group outlining the various roles that different types of capital can play in supporting organizations from “blueprint to scale”. The report makes the case for the need for philanthropy in impact investing if donors and investors are to achieve the social change they seek: From Blueprint to Scale: The Case for Philanthropy in Impact Investing.

I’m sure I will have many more takeaways as I reflect on the dozens of conversations I had with donors, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and advisors, all focused on improving the lives of others. For those who could not attend in person, you can watch many of the sessions here and let us know what you take away.