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Live from Google: Alternative Approaches to Financing Social Change

By Tom Watson on April 13, 2007No Comment

We continue our coverage from the Global Philanthropy Forum at Google with this reporter from guest blogger Janice Schoos, senior managing director at our sister company Archimede Philanthropy Partners:

While the name of the conference is the Global Philanthropy Forum, many of the sessions on the second day at the Google headquarters focused on the need for approaches other than philanthropic dollars to address the world’s complex problems.

To paraphrase Jean Case, co-founder and president of The Case Foundation, ‘we are a point in time where the same old approaches are not going to make an impact.’  A combination of tools are needed such as for-profit businesses with a social mission, equity investments in small business that offer modest financial returns, as well as philanthropic grants that can build the capacity of social entrepreneurs and sustainable projects.

Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution and co-founder of American Online, talked about the blurring of the lines between the social and business sectors.  While the concept of non-profits undertaking commercial ventures is not new – think Girl Scout cookies – what is new is the full integration of a social mission with the business’s commercial objectives. Historically, businesses created and operated corporate foundations aside from the core business. Today, consumers want to do business and work for companies that stand for more than increasing the bottom line. Corporations see the value of connecting consumers with philanthropy.

Case cited American Idol’s upcoming episodes that will feature philanthropic support for a variety of nonprofits.  In addition to its corporate sponsors, it will also harness support from its millions of viewers.  American Idol could have simply created a corporate foundation to make grants, but by using its core strength – its viewing audience – the impact will be magnified both in raising awareness and dollars for social good.  Leave it to Sanjaya to make his way into the world of global philanthropy! [Editor's note: the Case Foundation is a client of Changing Our World, onPhilanthropy's parent company].


This week, Google hosts the 6th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum Conference at its headquarters in Mountain View, CA.  The conference considers ways to apply market mechanisms to the problems of endemic poverty, disease and climate change.  Entitled “Financing Social Change:  Leveraging Markets and Entrepreneurship,” the conference brings together 450 donors and social investors, as well as 80 Googlers, to discuss innovative approaches to systemic change.

The conference was created by the World Affairs Council to build a community of strategic philanthropists committed to international causes.

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