Grantee & Partner News

April 17, 2019

A MESSAGE FROM THE FUTURE WITH ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ

Grantee News From Sunrise Movement:

TODAY, THE INTERCEPT launches “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” a seven-minute film narrated by the congresswoman and illustrated by Molly Crabapple. Set a couple of decades from now, it’s a flat-out rejection of the idea that a dystopian future is a forgone conclusion. Instead, it offers a thought experiment: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves?

What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like then?

This is a project unlike any we have done before, crossing boundaries between fact, fiction, and visual art, co-directed by Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt and co-written by Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis. To reclaim a phrase from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it’s our “green dream,” inspired by the explosion of utopian art produced during the original New Deal.

And it’s a collaboration with a context and a history that seems worth sharing.

Back in December, I started talking to Crabapple — the brilliant illustrator, writer, and filmmaker — about how we could involve more artists in the Green New Deal vision. Most art forms are pretty low carbon, after all, and cultural production played an absolutely central role during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.

We thought it was time to galvanize artists into that kind of social mission again — but not in a couple of years, if politicians and activists manage to translate what is still only a rough plan into law. No, we wanted to see Green New Deal art right away — to help win the battle for hearts and minds that will determined whether it has a fighting chance in the first place.

Crabapple, along with Boekbinder and Batt, have been honing a filmmaking style that has proved enormously successful at spreading bold ideas fast, most virally in their video with Jay Z on the “epic fail” of the war on drugs. “I would love to make a video on the Green New Deal with AOC,” Crabapple said, which seemed to me like a dream team.

The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet? More>

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March 20, 2019

Women, War & Peace II

Grantee News From Peace is Loud:

 

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The premiere of ​Women, War & Peace II ​on PBS!

This Women’s History Month, share ​four remarkable stories of brave women facing tremendous obstacles to pursue peace and significant political change in Northern Ireland, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Palestine. These films resonate more than ever, as ​Afghan women are being sidelined in the U.S. talks with the Taliban, and the March 29th Brexit date quickly approaches, bringing the historic Good Friday Agreement under threat in Northern Ireland.

Women, War & Peace II Airdates

March 25

  • ●  Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs 9pm est | 8pm c
  • ●  The Trials of Spring 10pm est | 9pm cMarch 26
  • ●  Naila and the Uprising 9pm est | 8pm c
  • ●  A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers 10pm est | 9pm c
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February 28, 2019

Gender-Lens Investing Strategies for 2019

News From our Treasurer, Emilie Cortes:

Photo by Yacobchuk/iStock

Four strategies that can help fuel the momentum behind investing in organizations, products, and services that benefit women.

After a decades-long outcry for data proving that gender-smart investing makes financial sense, today reams of evidence show that including women in government leads to more stable societies, educating women creates stronger communities, including women on company boards leads to better organizational performance, and access to contraceptives contributes to a stable economy.

Once viewed as a niche strategy, gender-lens investments are emerging as an important source of funding for organizations, products, and services that benefit women. According to Wharton Social Impact Initiative’s Project Sage—a landscape analysis of structured private equity, venture capital, and private debt vehicles—total capital with a gender lens cleared $2.2 billion in 2018 and is increasing. Investors are structuring portfolios and leadership teams to include the still-underserved half of the human population, and discovering that their actions are generating results beyond the bottom line.

But while gender-lens investing has enormous momentum, there is more work to do, especially in structuring organizational leadership to include all women. Here are four major themes that should be at the front of gender-lens investors’ minds in 2019.

1. The Time Is Now

According to the latest report by the gender-lens investment accelerator Catalyst at Large and investment advisor Veris Wealth Partners, assets under management with a gender-lens mandate grew 85 percent in the 12 months prior to July 2018, as global investors added more than $1 billion to a range of gender-smart strategies. Meanwhile, our impact investor network, Toniic, updated a T100 study of 100-percent impact portfolios and found that across 76 private portfolios, about $38 million was invested with gender lens as the primary criteria.

However, these amounts are a drop in the bucket of the overall financial system, and there remain investable opportunities across sectors, asset classes, and focus areas, including women-inclusive corporate policies, women’s leadership and capital, and products and services for women.

Ruth Shaber, a Toniic member and T100 study participant, embodies the “go for it” approach to gender-lens investing that more impact investors should embrace. Shaber is not just dipping her toe in the water; since she founded the Tara Health Foundation in 2014, she has committed 100 percent of its portfolio to identifying and supporting solutions for women’s health. The foundation actively seeks out opportunities to provide healthcare and reproductive care for women in the United States and abroad. Among its investments is Cadence Health, a startup that aims to make low-cost birth control pills available over the counter.

2. Impact Investing Is Intersectional

As gender-smart investing expands, we must make sure that the investing world’s growing focus on women does not leave behind women of color. For example, women and people of color receive only 0.2 percent of venture funding, according to a new report by #ProjectDiane. If we’re not conscious of this imbalance and the biases that have created it, we will continue to lock many people out of opportunities. We’ll also limit potential returns: A McKinsey study of more than 1,000 companies in 12 countries found that those in the bottom quartile for gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity were three times less likely to generate profits above the industry average.

A great example of innovation in this area is the female-led investment advisory firm Chordata Capital, created by Tiffany Brown and Kate Poole. Chordata Capital partners with inheritors and wealth holders to design and invest in portfolios that include an explicit commitment to racial, gender, and economic justice. Chordata helps investors direct capital toward businesses and communities led by women and people of color—for example, toward investments in credit unions or reparations loan funds in the southern United States.

3. Account for Gender in All Decision-Making

To make the systemic changes we need to achieve gender equality, investors and other stakeholders must ensure that women are included in every stage of organizational decision-making. While a company may have a women’s committee or task force, for example, women’s voices won’t get heard if they are talking about issues only among themselves. And while an angel investor may fund a new technology intended to help women track their health, an all-male development team may not realize it’s impractical for women to use. Overlaying impact at the corporate level ensures that both a company’s products and its leadership team create opportunities for women to thrive.

In fact, putting women at the helm of companies is good for business overall. Catalyst at Large compiled a trove of data showing that companies with women who have a seat at the table show improved financial performance. Credit Suisse found that companies where women hold 25 percent of decision-making roles generate 4 percent higher cash flow than the overall MSCI All Country World Index, which benchmarks equity-market performance around the world. Companies where women represent half of senior management produce 10 percent higher cash flows.

A look at impact investments made under UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality, taken from Toniic’s T100 Powered Ascent study of impact portfolios. (Image courtesy of Toniic Network)

The good news is that money is flowing into companies that support women’s leadership. The Toniic study mentioned above looked at investments that correspond with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most of the investments under SDG 5—gender equality—were in “women-inclusive corporate policies,” or investments in companies that focus on correcting gender wage inequality and unlocking the potential of female workers. All respondents expect these companies to yield commercial, market-rate returns. Investments in women’s leadership and capital came second, where investors build strategies around the expectation that women-led private companies deliver better financial results while improving gender equality.

4. Data Is Nothing Without Action

Despite all the data showing its potential, gender-lens investing is usually a side session at investing and social impact conferences—and the attendees are mostly women. For data to make a difference, everyone with investment power has to digest it and act on it.

Impact investor Suzanne Biegel—another Toniic member, and founder of both Project Sage and Catalyst at Large—hoped to nudge progress by creating the first Gender Smart Investing Summit in November 2018. The gathering brought together 300 investors from 42 countries, representing $42 trillion in assets. Participants included foundations, corporate giants like UBS and BNY Mellon, fund managers, government representatives, social leaders, and people focused on systems change—and many of these groups took action. For example, the Criterion Institute raised $7 billion in investments that address gender-based violence from delegates at the summit, contributing to its goal of raising $1 trillion. And the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which has committed $1 billion to invest in women in emerging markets, announced that it is applying a gender lens across its whole portfolio.

Toniic has also committed to putting gender-lens investing and racial justice center stage. Last year, we took a “no manel pledge,” promising to actively seek female speakers and avoid all-male panels at every event we organize, including at member events and conferences like SOCAP. Further, at the Compton Foundation, where I serve as treasurer, the investment committee has formally adopted an initiative to include a gender and racial justice lens across our existing portfolio and all new investments. We will also steer more grants and investments toward supporting women’s leadership.

Investing in women is not a risk—it’s an enormous opportunity to make change and enhance the well-being of half of the global community. While more capital and data are coalescing around gender-lens impact investing, there’s no need to wait for a “perfect moment” to be a part of it. The time is now, investors are already seeing the impact, and every action we take fuels momentum.

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February 14, 2019

Peace and Security Philanthropy Isn’t Just About Conflict; It’s Also Key to Curbing Climate Change

Grantee News From: Peace and Security Funders Group

Iconic images of World War II Europe and Japan, of Vietnam after Operation Ranch Hand, and of post-ISIS Mosul show total destruction of lives, communities, and ecosystems. They are also a reminder to philanthropists that investing in peace and security requires a focus on the environment.

Humans are inextricably linked to our environment, and we depend on clean air, water, and soil to survive. Delicate ecosystems support food chains that humans need, so it matters if certain species of plants and animals are depleted in the course of a conflict. In fact, every November, the United Nations recognizes an “International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict,” deliberately linking the two.

As former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon described it, “the environment has long been a silent casualty of war and armed conflict.” There have even been calls by some to declare “ecocide” — the mass destruction of ecosystems — an international crime, alongside genocide and crimes against humanity.

Yet foundation funding for climate security — examining the relationship between climate, natural-resource management, and conflict — was just 5 percent of all peace and security funding in most recent calculations. Philanthropy focused on promoting peace, security, and human rights must take stock of how conflict plays out in the natural environment. And it must consider how our changing climate will affect each and every grant-making area — nuclear security, refugee resettlement, women’s rights, and more — in the coming years. Here are three considerations for philanthropy:

Environmental destruction is exacerbated by conflict.

Stress on ecosystems and natural resources can be caused by population flows and refugee camps established in places without the necessary infrastructure. Last year, the U.N. and Bangladesh’s Ministry of Environment and Forests studied the impact of refugees in makeshift camps after 700,000 Rohingya fled from sectarian violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh. The study concluded that there is major environmental impact, such as ground-water depletion, contamination from latrines, and deforestation because of firewood extraction.

In addition, environmental degradation as a result of militarism exposes an unequal view of human value. Take, for example, uranium mining, nuclear fallout, and radioactive contamination from atmos­pheric and underground nuclear testing. These practices disproportionately affect those who had no say in nuclear policy, such as the indigenous residents of the Marshall Islands, Australia, and the American West, especially on Native American land.

Environmental damage isn’t simply collateral.

The United Nations Environment Program has indicated that in the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all intrastate conflicts have a link to natural resources and that this link doubles the risk of a conflict relapse in the first five years after the end of a conflict.

In other words, conflict and environmental exploitation are a feedback loop. Armed groups exploit the environment to gather resources for their wars, including through deforestation, diverting water (or forcing flooding to create blockades), “scorched earth” tactics of setting fire to oil fields, and toxic and exploitive methods for mineral extraction. In turn, scarcity of resources creates unstable environments of competition and can cause mass migration, further fueling instability.

Deliberate destruction of the environment is a tool of war. Although destroying the environment of one’s enemies is as old as warfare itself, this tactic pricked the public conscience when the U.S. military used Agent Orange and other herbicides to deliberately destroy hardwood forests and mangroves in the Vietnam War. This damaged the Vietnamese ecosystem and communities that depended on it for years afterward, to say nothing of the destructive health effects on humans, including military service members. Foundations like Chino Cienega have supported reforestation programs that not only helped restore the local ecosystem but also provided residents a source of income and a “green fence” to keep livestock and villagers away from highly toxic “hot spots” created by leftover military ordnance.

Climate change can accelerate environmental instability and resource scarcity, leading to greater conflict.

Beyond environmental degradation, climate change is a threat multiplier, says the U.N. The Pentagon agrees. As former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in 2014, “The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere. Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline and trigger waves of mass migration.” Ignoring this warning is to bury our heads in the sand and hope that the storms and wars don’t come for us. Foundations like the David Rockefeller Fund and the Stanley Foundation have been working to move climate security beyond politics and instead promote collective solutions to this very real global problem.

Foundations and philanthropists can help stop these trends, but only if they act now, and act differently.

First, philanthropists should adopt an “environment-sensitive” approach when crafting strategies, especially as they seek to invest in peace, security, and human rights. Taking an environment-sensitive approach means taking stock of how natural resources are used to fuel conflicts or how communities depend on natural resources to live securely. Philanthropists can also assess how investment in ecological infrastructure — such as replanting trees and promoting alternative, community-managed energy infrastructure, such as solar power — will multiply the work of locally led efforts to build peace.

Second, foundations can look at and restructure their endowments. Caitlin Stanton, former director of partnerships at Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, suggests “divesting from drivers of climate change and reinvesting in greener energy solutions and green jobs. After all, if, say, a funder is giving grants for children but has their endowment all tied up in fossil fuels, they may be doing more to hazard the future of those children than they are doing to support them.”

The movement for Divest/Invest Philanthropy began a few years ago with an assessment of the harm of fossil-fuel investments in endowment portfolios, both for the planet and for people. As Ellen Friedman, executive director of the Compton Foundation, has noted, not only do endowments without fossil-fuel holdings perform the same as (if not better than) traditional asset mixes, but they allow foundations to go all-in with grant making and investments to make breakthroughs we need on issues of peace, security, human rights, and justice.

Environmental destruction is a collective crisis, made exponentially worse by conflict. Foundations and philanthropists who want to see progress on peace, security, justice, and human rights must take stock of how this destruction will continue to affect humans — soldiers and civilians alike — long after the bullets have stopped.

By Cath Thompson 

Cath Thompson is a program director at the Peace and Security Funders Group.

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January 31, 2019

Seeking Peace Stories of Women and War

Grantee News From Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security:

Seeking Peace is a new podcast that explores the roles of women in war and peace. Women are not just victims of conflict. They are leaders, and often unsung heroes. We bring you their stories. This podcast is a production of Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security. Listen and subscribe on iTunes/Apple Podcast AppStitcherSpotify or Google Play. The show explores women’s roles in conflict. It includes interviews with celebrities and global leaders – beginning with Kristen Bell and Hillary Clinton – as well as stories from women on the frontlines. It’s hosted by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, produced by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and…made possible by the Compton Foundation.

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January 30, 2019

Announcing a New California Funder Collaborative to Advance Gender Justice

January 9, 2019

Organizing in Trump Country with George Goehl

November 1, 2018

BEI BEI at DOCNYC

September 25, 2018

One Small Step for Feminist Foreign Policy

August 7, 2018

Forty-One Minutes to Save The World: Investing in Nuclear Security