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Apr 27, 2010

Thoughts from the Council on Foundations Annual Conference

I’ve been in Denver for a few days at the Council on Foundations annual conference. I’ve been unable to post updates as I did at the Global Philanthropy Forum because the technology infrastructure available here is, frankly, terrible. With that said, some brief thoughts, which I hope to follow-up with more detailed posts over the next few weeks.

Apr 23, 2010

Esther Duflo wins John Bates Clark Medal

Today Esther Duflo was announced as the winner of the John Bates Clark Medal. The award is granted to the economist under age 40 who has “contributed the most to the profession.“ The increasing recognition of Duflo’s groundbreaking work to bring experimental economics to bear on real world questions is a ray of hope that philanthropy and public policy can learn from what works.

You can read an extensive interview with Esther Duflo here.

Apr 22, 2010

Global Philanthropy Forum: Day 3

Some thoughts on Day 3 of the Global Philanthropy Forum including sessions on “flexible funding” and on measurement and metrics. I came away from the latter more discouraged than encouraged because it seemed that everyone needed to genuflect to the idea that randomized control trials, the gold standard of measurement, were too expensive, too narrow, too hard or just useless. If the sector continues to cast aspersions on the best tool we have for measurement, I despair that metrics will ever be used to make wise decisions rather than to justify what we already want to do.

Apr 21, 2010

Thoughts from Day Two of GPF: Cognitive Dissonance

The morning plenary of Day Two of the Global Philanthropy Forum focused on Global Health with presenters from the Gates Foundation, the Global Health Council and the White Ribbon Alliance. For me, it illuminated a lot of the core tensions in philanthropy, what you might call philanthropy’s cognitive dissonance. Actually it would probably be better termed philanthropy’s lack of cognitive dissonance. The presenters were saying quite different things, often contradictory, yet no one seemed to notice.

Apr 20, 2010

Global Philanthropy Forum: Nutrition

The most important thing about Singer’s steps is that they are all modeled on successful, cheap initiatives in other industries that didn’t require everyone to come to the table and agree in the first place. They are examples of individuals and organizations just starting their work and then getting others to join them. If we can replicate those successes in the nutrition space, we can fix this problem. We don’t need new innovations in nutrition, we just need to use the ones that are already there.

Apr 20, 2010

Thoughts from Day One of the Global Philanthropy Forum

Apr 15, 2010

How Not to React to Rigorous Evaluation

The past few weeks have provided some insight into the impact of rigorous evaluation of philanthropic programs on charities, donors and policymakers. Unfortunately those insights show that we’ve still got a long ways to go if the goal is evidence-based philanthropy and policy.