Weekly podcasts on philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship, hosted by Alberto Lidji, former Global CEO of the Novak Djokovic Foundation. Insightful interviews with the leaders who are achieving remarkable change. Be inspired!
Weekly podcasts on philanthropy, sustainability and social entrepreneurship, hosted by Alberto Lidji, former Global CEO of the Novak Djokovic Foundation. Insightful interviews with the leaders who are achieving remarkable change. Be inspired!
CEO of ShelterBox, Sanj Srikanthan, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss disaster relief in the face of Super Cyclone Amphan and COVID-19 in Bangladesh and eastern India
Sanj starts off by providing an overview of ShelterBox’s origins; from a small outfit conceived 20 years ago in Cornwall, UK, to a global NGO providing disaster relief on the ground and via remote technical assistance.
It has only been a few days since super cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh and eastern India, and the latest estimates are that 10 million people have been impacted and 500,000 have lost their homes; this is on top of already being in an incredibly precarious situation as they grapple with COVID-19 in extremely densely populated areas where coronavirus is present.
It’s worth noting that a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh has 40,000 people per square kilometre, whereas Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) started has 6,000 people per square kilometre.
Sanj remarks that when the cyclone hits people are losing their homes and then moving into even more crowded settings for shelter, which then adds to the risk of coronavirus transmission. Therefore, ShelterBox needs to act quickly to provide family shelter; they’ve also got to provide hygiene materials to help people keep their hands clean.
This is a disaster on top of a disaster. This super cyclone is a natural disaster which is an acute emergency; you also have the coronavirus which is becoming a chronic emergency; and you also have the much wider development disparity with people living in extreme poverty. When you live in extreme poverty, you have less resilience and little ability to support your family. You don’t have a government that can provide you with a furloughing scheme and pay your wages, or that can bail out businesses, or provide healthcare.
Sanj recalls a conversation he had with someone in Monrovia, Liberia, in reference to the earlier Ebola outbreak. The man noted that Ebola doesn’t scare him since he’s already exposed to many risks that are alien to most Westerners. For him, dengue fever can kill him, malaria can kill him; he can’t afford healthcare, if he doesn’t work he’ll die. And so, for much of the world there is a lack of safety nets – the extreme poverty faced by millions is already life-threatening, on top of the acute and chronic emergencies.
Interestingly for a global disaster relief NGO, ShelterBox’s headquarters is in Cornwall, UK. They have approximately 110 staff in Cornwall and 20 staff in London. Sanj describes ShelterBox as both a community and an organisation. It relies to a great degree on volunteer support, from Rotary Club members to individual ambassadors.
ShelterBox has created response teams that go out into the frontlines when needed – made up both of professional humanitarians as well as volunteers. They have over 200 volunteers who are response team members in addition to their professional staff.
They run training programmes for volunteers that include a wide array of information, from how to run distribution to doing needs assessments. Training makes a big difference. They assess people for their qualities, for their appetite for learning and for their raw skills; but not necessarily their previous experience. They look for the potential in people.
ShelterBox works closely with the public and has a strong following of supporters. They’re working on developing more of an international base and now also have opened an office with a team full time in the Philippines and are looking at other countries, too. They take pride in partnering with local organisations on the ground – sometimes in very difficult circumstances in Syria, in Cameroon, in Somalia – and sticking with them, investing in their capacity and ultimately handing over responses to them.
Innovation is important. They have a ‘Horizons Team’ whose job is to spot new products for distribution and getting on top of the tech wave – thinking about what the world is going to look l
CEOs of Aga Khan Foundation in UK and India, Matt Reed and Tinni Sawhney, join Alberto Lidji to provide insight from the front lines; gender equality, women’s economic empowerment and more
This episode follows from an earlier episode of The Do One Better! Podcast featuring Matt Reed, which aired in October 2019. It is worth listening to that episode in conjunction with this one.
This conversation sheds light on the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Development Network at a global level and provides tangible insight to their work in India.
Matt Reed is CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation in the UK (and was formerly CEO in India between 2013 and 2016) and Tinni Sawhney is the current CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation in India. Together, they provide a multifaceted account of how they’re helping the most marginalised communities and individuals.
The Aga Khan Foundation is one of 10 development agencies that together form the Aga Khan Development Network, founded by His Highness the Aga Khan. They work across all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aim to:
Improve the quality of life, in all its dimensions, in all the communities where they are active
Enhance self-reliance and civil society
They’re active in approximately 20 countries across central and south Asia, east and west Africa, and the Middle East. They focus on the poorest of the poor, in some of the most remote regions of the countries where they’re active.
Across the Network, they employ between 80,000 and 90,000 people – excluding the communities and volunteers they work with – and the Foundation itself works with approximately 40,000 civil society organisations annually. Annual operations across all 10 agencies is roughly $5.5bn.
Tinni Sawhney sheds light on the work of the Aga Khan Foundation in India. Their interventions span many sectors, including girls’ rights, women’s economic empowerment, gender equality, early childhood development and agriculture. Prioritising the needs of women is central to all their work.
On the issue of society’s attitudes in India towards women being active in the labour market; girls staying in school for as many years as boys do etc: Tinni notes that oftentimes, women’s work is unseen and unheard. At the Aga Khan Foundation, they want to make sure women realise just how important women's work is both to the communities in which they reside and also in their own households. It is also important to help men realise that the work of women is so fundamental to the economic development of their work and, therefore, they need to allow women to step out of their home.
Tinni talks with passion about an intervention that helps schoolgirls and young women have a voice. She sheds light into one programme that had identified that many girls were dropping out of school to stay at home and manage the house. But these girls definitely had aspirations.
So, they launched learning centres that provided a welcoming environment and enabled participants to gain some qualifications and vocational life skills - also making them aware of their rights and entitlements.
This life skills education led girls to realise they could have a different life. In the eyes of their immediate household these were now women who were contributing to the running of the household economy, so that increased their status within the household and, importantly, within the community there was also a greater acceptance of women working.
Many girls who complete this vocational training end up becoming role models to other girls in their communities. And, ultimately, that’s how change across the whole of society happens.
The Aga Khan Foundation is very much a facilitator and their interventions are sustainable, whereby they continue to yield benefit to local communities even after the Foundation is no longer directly involved, and whereby many of the benefits and ideas that result from their interventions actually originate within the local communities themselves.
Tinni goes on to shed light
Founder and CEO of Home for Good, Krish Kandiah, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss philanthropy, the global orphanage crisis, family-based care, fostering and adoptions
Home for Good is the charity Krish founded 5 years ago, which came out of his own family’s experience of fostering and adopting.
We hear how in the UK there’s a shortage of foster carers and adoptive parents; in the USA there are over 110,000 children who are in the care system waiting to be adopted and are ready for families. Globally, there’s a whole issue on how we care for children.
In the UK, the government is the corporate parent of every child that’s in the care system. There has been a huge upturn in the number of kids who are in care in England with 75,000 kids in care at present. The government is struggling to find carers.
Krish works very closely with the UK Department for Education and, also, he is increasingly working with the UK Home Office, since there is a pressing need for unaccompanied asylum seeking children who have fled war and terror in places like Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
Krish notes that asking someone to become an adoptive parent or foster carer is a really big ask. It goes well beyond asking someone to give money. Rather, we’re asking people to open their homes and welcome into their families strangers’ children who have had all sorts of on-going trauma; to love these kids as their own flesh and blood, not just for a hobby or a weekend but for the rest of their lives – that’s a huge ask. It’s a hugely philanthropic way of living.
During the conversation, Krish also shares his fascinating personal story and sheds light into his mixed race background, his mother’s experience growing up as a child in an orphanage and his own six children – three of whom are his birth children.
Krish’s dad was born in Malaysia, and his dad’s dad was born in Sri Lanka. His mother was born in India, and her dad was Irish. Krish notes how in the 1940s and 1950s it was quite unusual for a mixed race marriage to take place and, because mixed race children were not socially acceptable, his grandfather’s three daughters ended up in three different orphanages all over India. This was the case even though their mother was around and able to care for them.
As a consequence of discovering his own personal family history, Krish is now also quite focused on the issue of de-institutionalisation.
Most children in orphanages around the world have living parents. However, he notes that because of social stigma or well-intentioned philanthropy that hasn’t necessarily been thought out we are unnecessarily institutionalising children. This was Krish’s mom’s story – she didn’t need to be in an orphanage as a child yet she grew up in one unnecessarily.
Krish goes on to explain how, today, he now has three birth kids and three permanent other members of their family through fostering and adoption. It is through these experiences that Krish and his wife know both how challenging fostering and adopting are and, also, just how very rewarding they are as well.
Krish’ passion comes across loud and clear and he explains how the goal of finding a home for every child that needs one has been the operating vision of Home for Good since the very outset.
To underscore how consequential this issue is to society, he presents some sobering statistics: for instance, kids who age out of the foster system in the UK make up 1% of the population but they make up 25% of the homeless population and make up between 40% and 50% of our prison population.
Krish's takeaway for philanthropists: Passion and heart are not enough to do effective philanthropy. As philanthropists we have go to be absolutely informed and clear that our interventions are actually doing good.
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CEO of the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA), Steven Serneels, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss how venture philanthropy is manoeuvring in light of COVID-19
We hear how five venture capitalists met in London approximately 15 years ago and explored how philanthropy could embrace more of an entrepreneurial spirit, and how venture capital assets could blend with philanthropy assets. Those were the origins of the EVPA.
There are many ways of defining venture philanthropy, and Steven likes to think about it along three dimensions: 1) yes, giving is good but it’s even better if you can measure your results and you know what you’re after; 2) as in venture capitalism, you need to go beyond the funding by exploring the value that one can provide by opening one’s networks, by providing capacity-building etc; and 3) being creative enough to provide tailored financing that is flexible and fits best with a given situation.
We hear how the EVPA is active in over 30 countries and has more than 300 members. They are an ecosystem builder and provide diverse services, from peer group convening to research and working closely with all stakeholders.
The EVPA also has a strong relationship with the European Commission and connects closely with academic institutions and policymakers. The typical profile of an EVPA member is mainly a European, cross-national organisation. Foundations and social investment funds are two of their main membership constituents, along with organisations such as NGOs and social enterprises that are more on the demand side of the equation.
While traditionally their members were organisations, more recently they have also started including high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and philanthropists in their membership – individuals who can bring key resources and expertise to the mix.
Steven notes that COVID-19 is presenting serious challenges and he views this pandemic in three phases:
1) The survival phase – ensuring, for instance, that liquidity challenges don’t lead social enterprises to failure.
2) The revival phase – say the next 6 to 18 months – how best to stabilise and get things back on line.
3) The building resilience phase – being much better prepared for whatever future crisis might be looming in the horizon.
Foundations are struggling right now as they consider how to address the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus; they’re being prompted to ask some highly consequential questions, such as:
1) Should I redesign my programme, perhaps by moving away from a traditional focus on, say, the arts to a new focus on health or tackling COVID-19 in refugee camps?
2) Should I shorten my investment horizon from a multi-year approach to a more short-term focus, right now, to support organisations with immediate funding to address their liquidity challenges? and
3) How should I react if my foundation’s endowment has taken a serious hit?
Steven notes that the EVPA is suggesting to their members that they become a bit more relaxed about the rigorous reporting requirements they’re traditionally asking of grantees and to be more flexible with the management of grants; they should ideally open up a little bit about where and when to use the money; become a bit more relaxed because it’s urgently needed now.
When asked about how the EVPA member organisations and industry stakeholders all share information with each other, Steven mentioned that they have just gone live with Unitus Europe – a European philanthropy and social investing impact hub – a joint initiative the EVPA was very involved in launching. They’re joining forces to ensure that the whole sector can have visibility on the different actions and initiatives that are being taken and, in the process, connecting supply and demand.
Steven also sheds light on the challenges being faced by social investment funds at this time and the partnerships that the EVPA has developed with various universities that are focused on applied research, such
Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Howard Taylor, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss their work and the increased risk COVID-19 presents to children globally
The organisation was founded in 2016 by the Secretary General of the United Nations; its Board includes the head of UNICEF and the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is a public-private collaboration that includes UN agencies, governments, industry and others. They have more than 400 members.
Collectively, they want to raise awareness, catalyse leadership commitments, mobilise resources, promote evidence-based solutions and support those who are working on the front line to tackle all forms of violence, abuse and neglect of children.
Early on in the podcast, we delve into the large amount of useful information they’re curating, which is available on their website, to help ensure children are protected during this period of uncertainty with the COVID-19 backdrop.
The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children acts as a focal point of evidence-based information that is of relevance across many sectors, such as health, education and social services. We are reminded that many sectors are involved in protecting children from violence.
Howard remarks that the risks children face right now are not new risks but they are exacerbated risks, due in great part to the high stress of COVID-19 in domestic environments -- confinement, isolation, job loss etc. We hear how children are spending much more time online, and this increases risk.
Collectively, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children is trying to ensure child protection is embedded in government responses to COVID-19 across the globe. This is a key priority. It is also imperative that child protection services continue to be seen as essential services and get resourced appropriately during this pandemic.
Howard notes they must ensure that they get the right evidence-based advice to parents, caregivers and to children themselves. And, he underscores the importance of providing ‘evidence-based’ information since there is a lot of questionable information sloshing around out there. He notes it is a privilege to be working so closely with UNICEF, the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and many others – drawing on a wealth of experience and expertise.
One of the challenges right now is packaging this evidence-based information in the appropriate way to ensure it’s reaching the right audiences, with the right messages, in a timely fashion, to equip parents, caregivers and in some cases the children themselves to stay safe.
Countries are at different stages in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 and are embracing different responses. Irrespective of each country’s particular circumstances, Howard wants to ensure governments are taking child protection seriously. It is important to note this issue doesn’t go away once a coronavirus vaccine is made available. The violence, neglect and abuse experienced by children today will have very long-lasting effects on individual children and national economies.
There are approximately 1.5bn children who were previously in school and now are out of school due to COVID-19. Much of what these children are doing today is online; and they’re not connecting in person with teachers, friends or social workers – the network of people children normally have around them who can serve a protective function.
It’s important that parents and caregivers know what children are doing online. Moreover, we hear how there is also a role for technology companies and telecoms companies to play as well. There are certain things they can do in terms of making their platforms, their social media and their learning spaces as safe as possible; and, they can also help push out child safety messages and help detect, disrupt and stop any harmful activity that’s going on.
The episode also touches on the increased vulnerability of certain at-risk segments, such as children w
Corporate strategy and COVID-19. Dalberg Advisors’ Global Managing Partner, Edwin Macharia, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss their advisory work in the global south during this pandemic
Dalberg is a strategic advisory firm serving a wide range of clients, from foundations and NGOs to private firms and governments. The firm was founded in 2001 and aims to create a world where all people everywhere are able to reach their full potential. In this episode we discuss how they're tackling COVID-19 implications and advising their clients accordingly.
Development and impact is key for Dalberg and, today, they are a group of companies with 30 offices globally and interests in a wide range of activities, including: human-centered design, data analytics, on-the-ground research, transaction advisory, media and advocacy, and increasingly implementation capacity.
Edwin started his career at McKinsey & Co in New York in 2001. He notes how 9/11 was actually his second day at work and it was a defining moment in his life that helped shape his outlook and appreciation of impact and the importance of things besides traditional shareholder value maximisation.
Dalberg works closely with national governments, the UN ecosystem and multilateral agencies. They’ve become the largest top-tier advisory firm in Africa; larger even than those that don’t focus on mission and impact to the same extent. They appreciate that many markets in the global south are the most forgotten and the least able to access professional support, and they’re keen to ‘localise’ their approach, meaning that in any given country where they operate, between 60% to 80% of staff are from that country themselves.
Thematically, they cover everything across the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since, as Edwin notes, everything is tightly interconnected. You can’t fix malnutrition in children, for instance, by focusing on health alone. The drivers may well be agricultural issues, or trade issues, or education issues – everything is interconnected.
COVID-19 has been a major shock to every single client they serve; private, governmental, philanthropies; it has impacted everyone across the board. When advising clients on how best to brace themselves for the arrival of COVID-19, there are three core things they’re focused on:
Firstly: Understand thoroughly what the situation is today, and respond appropriately. If you’re a private venture, consider your supply chain, your workforce and your distribution networks, for instance. If you’re a government, what does this do to your fiscal space and your ability to raise taxes. If you’re a philanthropist, which places do you invest in, and are you taking a portfolio view. Even in this immediate context, what are the things you can do today that can have a long-term impact for your own organisation and business. Edwin emphasises that in the middle of a crisis nobody has perfect information, so you need to have a system to constantly assess what’s going on so you can respond accordingly. Also, recognise that the decisions you made yesterday may not be the correct ones for today, since you may now have new or better information that you didn’t have before.
Secondly: Start understanding what are the mid-term impacts that COVID-19 will likely have on your firm, government or philanthropy, and make decisions that provide for the best possible floor for your organisation so you don’t crash through it and therefore are unable to recover when this crisis concludes.
Thirdly: Proactively start to plan for what the post-pandemic world could look like. Because the decisions you make today could lock you in a negative space if you don’t think long-term enough on what recovery begins to look like – you may be tempted to get rid of capabilities or assets or partnerships that you might need to reacquire further down the line.
It is important to recognise that the first thing you’ll feel is panic; the world is falling on your head and you don’t know what to do. It’s im
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I’m listening to each and every single episode. Each week is different and incredibly impactful! Thumbs up!