Archive for the ‘Philanthropy’ Category

Teaming up with Kiva to Empower the Poor

November 19, 2012

Community Knowledge Worker

We’re proud to announce that Kiva lenders can now support our high-impact Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) program!

Through our AppLab initiative, we’ve spent more than a decade successfully exploring ways to use mobile phones to improve people’s lives through information sharing about such areas as healthcare, business opportunities, finances and agriculture. In Uganda, where we’re focusing on agriculture, we do this through a network of “farmer leaders” nominated by their local communities to become Community Knowledge Workers. (more…)

A Productive Week in Asia

June 21, 2012

Shannon Maynard is Director of Bankers without Borders®, Grameen Foundation’s skilled-volunteer initiative. Maynard has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and volunteer mobilization. Before joining Grameen Foundation, she served as Executive Director of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, and managed strategic initiatives for the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. This post is the second in a four-part series; you can read her first post here.

While in Hong Kong, I start my days with the “international breakfast buffet.”  In my travels, I have actually grown fond of this tourist and business traveler’s treat. I can have a hybrid breakfast of dal and danish in Bangalore, pad thai and pancakes in Bangkok, or dim sum and doughnuts in Hong Kong.

The international breakfast buffet is particularly appropriate in Hong Kong, a truly international city to which everyone’s path seems to have spanned several global cities. As I begin the next leg of my travels, I leave Hong Kong reflecting on the many social-change agents I met. Just as my hybrid breakfast blends the best of multiple food traditions, these folks blur the lines between the social sector and corporate sector when it comes to fighting global poverty.

On Monday, I spent the day with the dynamic women of Grameen Foundation’s Hong Kong office – Sonia, Christina, Dilys and Sharada. Their careers have zig-zagged from banks and consulting firms to social enterprises and Grameen Foundation. They are all equally effective in their roles – which largely focus on cultivating corporate partnerships and donors for our work in Asia – because they know how to make Grameen Foundation’s work accessible to different audiences. They take the time to explain microfinance, social enterprise and other terms that we take for granted, and can do this easily because they truly understand how we are trying to improve the lives of the poor and poorest.

Shannon Maynard (left) meets with Grameen Foundation staff in Hong Kong.

Shannon Maynard (left) meets with Grameen Foundation staff in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, I had the chance to kick off the Bank of America Merrill Lynch(BAML) CSR Lunch and Learn series.  I impressed by the sheer turnout (including a waiting list for the event!) as well as by the diversity in the room. Some of the most senior people in the Hong Kong office attended the event and were the first to inquire during Q&A about how their teams could get more involved with Bankers without Borders. I have no doubt we will find a way to put their commitment and skills to work in the near future. Melissa Moi, who recently left a prominent post with a well-known NGO in Hong Kong to join BAML’s Corporate Philanthropy team, has a clear vision for how skills-based volunteering can help further the Bank’s philanthropic objective of helping women and children in the Asian-Pacific region.


Giving Back: A Simple and Powerful Idea

May 17, 2012

Alex Counts is president, CEO and founder of Grameen Foundation, and author of several books, including Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World.

On Wednesday, May 9, I had the pleasure of attending a book signing event at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City.  Meera Gandhi, a long-time Grameen Foundation donor and volunteer whose husband Vikram sits on our Board of Directors, has come out with a beautiful and moving book.  It is titled simply Giving Back.  I was fortunate to arrive early enough that I was able to get my copy signed early, and didn’t have to wait in the long line that formed later.

The book tracks the long philanthropic journey that Meera has been on by profiling 75 organizations – including Grameen Foundation – that she and her family have backed.  It is a diverse group that she divides into four broad categories: women’s rights, children’s issues, protecting the environment/battling disease and poverty, and promoting culture and the arts.  She believes so deeply that those of us who are blessed should give back to society that she has created the Giving Back Foundation to help carry on the work described in the book and a related film of the same title.

Giving Back book cover

Grameen Foundation is proud to be one among so many outstanding organizations profiled in Giving Back.  Walking through the Museum’s atrium, I met many people who are involved in organizations that have been touched by Meera over the years.  It was a uplifting and humbling experience.

I was also interviewed twice on camera, including once by International Television Broadcasting, Inc. (ITV).  I met a woman associated with the Birch Wathen/Lenox School, which is profiled in the book.  My brother attended this school in the 1980s, and I was pleased to be invited to speak there this coming fall.  (Meera spoke there previously and the students loved it!)

One of the best sections of the book is a brief one titled, “How to Find a Charity that Speaks to You.”  I’d recommend her advice to anyone, especially those just beginning their own philanthropic journey.  In this mini-chapter, she asks the reader a series of questions about their preferences in such areas as gift-giving, and then suggests how different answers might affect the way that someone can engage most productively and enjoyably in philanthropy.  Her basic message is this: Find both a cause and a way of engaging with it that excites and motivates you.  It’s a simple and powerful idea.

What is clear from Meera’s writing and actions is that “giving back” – when done thoughtfully and in the right spirit – does not leave the donor with less, but rather with more.