Sunday, March 15, 2009

See the Change You Want to Be

Be the Change author Lisa Endlich gives great examples of effective social investors in her book's profiles of successful philanthropists. The book really drives home how there are so many ways to make a difference through giving. Not surprisingly, Endlich's book begins with the famous Ghandi quote: "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." Building on Ghandi's wise words, I offer that you must also "see the change you wish to be in the world." Before we can act on vision, we must have a vision. While we often turn to visionary leaders, teachers, writers and artists to guide us, we also can and must awaken the visionary within each of us. What is your vision of giving? A social investor has vision to direct philanthropy meaningfully and optimally. We all have that potential. To honor those remarkable givers who inspire us, send us your favorite quotes about giving, philanthropy, social investment. Why or how does this quote speak to you? What might you add in your own words?


  1. It is imperative that we awaken the visionary within us in order to accomplish real change. My vision of giving would most likely be to health related organizations that wish to make a difference in under served and underdeveloped countries through simple steps, like providing better sanitation or setting up a supply of clean potable water. I would ideally want to give myself (when I have the ability) but also raise funds for the causes I believe will have the most impact through the most efficient and cost effective way. As stated by Diana in her blog entry, “A social investor has the vision to direct philanthropy meaningfully and optimally.” I feel that extracting the most impact out of our donations is a fundamental element of the social investor.

    A quote that speaks to me and motivates me would be something Paul Tudor Jones, the founder of the Robin Hood Foundation, said. During an interview with the Lisa Endlich, he notes: “My twenties were my lost years because I was doing everything but thinking of other people. I was completely self-centered, but self-centeredness was the operative ethic in those days. The twenty-year-old today seems to have a completely different ethic than when I was growing up, much less selfish, much more concerned with the welfare of others and the wider world” (Be the Change, Pg. 6). I feel that while times are changing, the overwhelming people in their twenties are still rather self-centered and still need to be realize the potential they have during these years. I would classify myself in this group as well. This quote reminds me that there is a world out there apart from my professional goals and whenever I have the chance, in whatever way, I should do something to make a difference in it. I am positive that any other young person who reads this feels the same way. Many of us are like Paul and I suppose that we just have to realize that. The only little thing I would add to this quote would be something along the lines of “the time to act is now because; the earlier you get involved, the better.”

  2. P.J O'Rourke once stated “You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.” While I might not agree with his politics this quote really speaks to me. While the quote is speaking mainly of poverty, this concept can be applied to all facets of philanthropy. All of the examples we have looked at--such as the philanthropists in Lisa Endlich's "Be the Change,"--have had money but that is not what has made the difference. The difference lies in creative problem solving and intelligent solutions. Paul Tudor Jones learned this through his early struggles with the “I Have a Dream Foundation.” Jones realized that money was not the solution, education was. This has particular implications for the Fast Forward Fund. When resources are limited the implementation of funds becomes all that more important. In order to do the most social good, Fast Forward Fund has to invest in programs that don’t just through money at a problem, rather it should invest in ideas.
    This fits in with my idea of philanthropy, which would most likely be geared towards organizations that assist those in Latin America or those that help Latinos in the United States; as there are surprisingly few programs, comparatively, that I have encountered that target this audience.

  3. “A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.” That is a quote of unknown person who said in one sentence everything that I think about philanthropy, giving and social investment. That would be my vision of what giving should be. In that way I think we can have the most of people who are giving and that that is the best way to support others to give to (through work, money, support, or whatever they can offer). I do think that a good advice does worth something, but if we have example next to thought/advice it worth’s double.
    Furthermore, George Bernard Shaw said: “Some men see things as they are and say why - I dream things that never were and say why not.” That is what I think about the vision and its importance. It is just something that we need and that inspires. And if we have an idea (not important how impossible it sounds) and we have other people’s examples, and roll models in someone who made possible their ideas- we are on a half way to success. And we hope that other will follow.

  4. I would like to see people freely able to access any information that is available on the Internet. I believe that with the overwhelming number of computational devices that are being continually scattered to our worldwide population by cellphone companies who don’t fully recognize the devices they eagerly distribute are not merely for voice communication, we can expect see the entire worldwide population in possession of an wifi-able device by the next decade’s end. There is also the parallel development of ever improving router technology and wireless modulators that make up the backbone of free wi-fi networks in towns and cities. A non profit that subsidizes these wireless routers and develops open sourced software for them could give the ability to communities to take charge in using their cell phones with local wireless routers to create local village wide internets that would be designed to help organize and access a community’s information. Helping to centralize data on local government, what individuals have what skills in the village, and access to the non-profit Wikipedia for free education on any subject, could dramatically support local communities that are trying to make change happen but lack the organizational structures to do so.

    An even greater vision I could see would be a designated part of the radio/television spectrum not in use becoming regulated to broadcast alongside cellular network frequencies for non-profit use. By having the non-profit subsidize the costs of both their own and their corporate partner’s cellular frequency transmissions, existing telecommunications networks could give all cellular devices access to a rudimentary internet on public frequency that would be limited to non-profit websites. These sites, in order to avoid conflict with telecommunication industries pay-for-use cellular internet services, would use a specified ICANN domain ( In this sense, the ability to access the Internet fully would remain a pay service, but rudimentary services and gateways would be open for cell phone equipped individuals to tap into the world’s non-profit foundations and their tools (ranging as far and wide as OpenOffice, Mozilla, Wikipedia, Linux, and more).

    “The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner.” – Tim Berners-Lee

  5. One quote about giving which I have come to love is very old, 700 years old in fact. It's actually a page long, but the parts which apply here are found throughout: "Good leaders make the mind of the community their mind...they make the eyes and ears of the community their eyes and ears...thus are they ultimately able to realize the will of the community and comprehend the feelings of the community."

    One vision which I return to has a lot to do with the idea of personal change and reframing the way we think about - and act towards - philanthropy and social justice. Just as FFF's claim that "Philanthropy is action" reframes what the connotative concept of philanthropy was and is for most people (fair assumption?), I envision a time when fulfillment, satisfaction, and personal growth are wrought from improving others' lives and in the process, one's own. I believe that sort of process is innately gratifying for people, and inherently positive; thus my role, and perhaps all our roles, is to shorten the distance between the individual or group or community or people, and the process of positive contribution.

    Imagine you're on the subway, and a homeless man or woman passes you asking for change; you give them a few coins, feel briefly contented, and the individual gets a few coins closer to a meal hopefully. Where is the lasting effect of this interaction? I say nowhere. On the other hand, if an interface exists which pairs compassionate people with needed causes, directs their funds in ways which maximize the impact AS WELL AS those individuals' participation (read: philanthropy = action) in that social change, then you've helped generate lasting impact for all parties.

    Thus, my vision is to witness FFF embody that ethic, and reframe what people have, unfortunately, come to see as philanthropy (read: inert charity).

  6. Saranda

    “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

    One may say that it doesn’t relate to our discussions, yet it is conceivable to me that a social investor needs to have a vision. This is a vision that he believes in and that he fights for.

    Ironically enough, the Nietzsche passage reminds me of a parable book “Who Moved my Cheese” by J. Spencer” where Haw, miniature human in essence, abundant with cheese (cheese represents a goal/vision) finds what he was looking for.

    Bluntly speaking, Friedrich and Spencer, one may say, share nothing except the “love” for metaphor and aphorism, even though it is yet arguable. However, and I cannot agree better with Diana’s quote that “Before we can act on vision, we must have a vision.” And this is what links us here. Classical philologists such as Nietzsche, contemporary writers such as Spencer, thinkers, and ordinary citizens per se envisioned their goals and acted on them.

    Given this, why we, young revolutionary thinkers, with an enormous tactics, and patience cannot make some changes for better?

  7. As my interests lie in health care/public health, my vision would directly relate. Health care not only needs to be accessible, but the quality of care is an issue that needs to be addressed. Although I do not have a complete vision of how to achieve or promote a quality, and sustainable health care system, one aspect I want to focus on is interconnection/interdependence: I feel health care (perhaps even more so in the U.S.) is very individualistic. I would like to this a change in this mentality. When asked, “Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?” Obama replies, “I think it should be a right for every American…” hopefully this train of thought will continue.

    Quote: The first quote I chose has less to do directly with philanthropy, but I think the message can be applied (I am taking this quote out of context-my own interpretation…)
    “The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough”-Ralph Waldo Emerson. I chose this quote because I like how the concept of “health” is in turn related to what we demand/wish to see in society. To extend this quote further/what I would add: As long as we continue to observe our surroundings (especially where we see flaws) we can then see the necessary changes that need to be made.

  8. I have been reading a lot about poverty alleviation and I am sometimes overwhelmed with ideas, but at the end of the day I am humbled by my lack of experience. I might be familiar with part of the literature on the subject, but I have never been to a developing country. I hope I will have the chance to do so in the near future, and perhaps discover my calling. I think truly visionary ideas originate from specific issues one is very familiar and attached to. For example, everybody knows that education is very important and that millions of children are unfairly deprived of it. Foundation Rwanda made it its goal to specifically provide secondary school education for children born from rape during the 1994 genocide. The founders of the NGO remarked the tragic situation of these women who are not only victims of violence and humiliation, but also pariahs in a society that stigmatizes rape, and decided to step in and fill the niche.
    I was also very inspired by Donna and Philip Berber, who founded “A Glimmer of Hope Foundation” in order to help improve the livelihoods of the rural poor in Ethiopia. I admire not only their generosity and commitment, but also their modesty. When interviewed by Lisa Endlich, Donna insisted that the people they help are well aware of their needs and the actions needed to solve them: “I would say one of the greatest things that I have learned during the process is to continue to listen, and just as soon as you thought you’ve listened as well as you can, listen more.” The Berbers admit that a key factor to their success is the support of their team of local experts. Also, they have made it a point not to simply give money away, but to make sure it is invested properly by establishing partnerships directly with the beneficiaries. I think some people forget that the act of giving is all about altruism. Despite good intentions, some people become too preoccupied with their own priorities and principles, and forget that the people they are trying to help might have different needs and standards.
    I remembered another quote about selflessness and generosity that I liked: “Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men.” The person who said this is Einstein, and not Gandhi or other established humanist. I think this ties in with what Paul Tudor Jones said about wasting years of his life because of being self-centered. Each of us is part of a greater community, an increasingly globalized one also, and I believe it is duty to become actively engaged in the lives people in need.

  9. In the world of social giving and philanthropy it is always good to remind ourselves of the changes we want to see. It is not only about the idea to start an activity or the idea to start giving money for good causes; it is more about the idea of realizing what our actions can really do for the common good. I believe that in order to be a good philanthropist and to contribute to a positive change in the world, it is not necessary to be a millionaire or to have enormous assets. We all can make a difference in the world we live only if we are able to see the difference, feel the result and start the action. In my opinion, the first and the most crucial step when one wants to make a social change is the step of visualizing the results, realizing the final “product” and foreseeing all the required steps that will bring us to the desired end of change.
    In many cases seeing the result would be easier that seeing the first and the second step of any particular action. Sometimes the things that are closest to us are the ones that we often miss and neglect. For one to be a good philanthropist or a social giver, one needs to look for the changes that can be done on a personal and local level first. In order to make a difference on a broader scale, we need to start thinking about creating changes at a smaller level. In this order of thoughts, one of my favorite quotes is by Mother Teresa: “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start”. To me, these are great words, said by a great person. I share Mother Teresa’s idea that in order to make a global change and a huge social impact in the world, we need to start creating differences within us and within our own environment. If we cannot change our own believes and if we cannot bring the desired change we want to see in the world within us, we would never be able to achieve what we strive for. If one is not able to love the people that surround him/her, how is it possible for him/her to love the poor African kid in Kenya, for example?
    What the quote really says is that in order to achieve something huge, one needs to achieve something smaller first. Let us start making a difference in our own little words and one day, when we unite our actions, we will be able, together, to create great social changes on a global level. Let us start caring about people around us, and then we will be able to care about people on other continents.

  10. I couldn't help but recall a quote by the man who founded the institution where I intern, Andrew Carnegie:

    "I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution."

    My knee-jerk reaction to the quote, tellingly, was "well, Andrew, that's nice and all, but how about advice for us mortals who don't have a freaking steel empire?" After all, almost all of us live on tighter budgets than we would like, so how facile is philanthropy, really?

    The thing is, we all have survived on less. Our needs expand to meet our incomes, not the other way around. And isn't part of that "wise distribution" yourself, at least to an extent? Surely feeding yourself would be a rather wise choice.

    My second reaction to the quote is that we can all, to some degree, give of what we have to those who have less. We manage to end the day with change in our pockets, and we throw away both time and resources that could be better used elsewhere. So why not tighten our belts, not eat out as much, and give the extra money to some worthy cause?

    This prompted my third response, which was two thoughts: first, not only CAN we give, but we SHOULD give; and second, it is the determination of what is a truly worthy cause that was the overt subject of Mr. Carnegie's quote.

    On the first thought, I recognized another way to interpret "wise": if philanthropy can help whatever society we claim a stake in, isn't it wise to help that society? Such giving would enrich not only others but, in the end, ourselves through the enrichment of that society. Even Randians would have to agree that giving, on this level, is a reasonable action.

    On the second thought, I realized that, as Eli wrote, giving money to the homeless so that they can buy a sandwich is very low-impact. It also harks back to Rachel's quote. It's not enough to give, and it's certainly not enough to sit around amassing wealth. You have to give to the right places. In this, I think, people like you are needed. What is a cause that will help people, that will be both impactful and useful in its impacts? We need people to, as the entry's quote puts it, 'see'. Visionaries move the world forward, and it is through them that great things are accomplished. Material possessions enable such visionaries, but those same possessions would be squandered if not for the visionaries' wisdom.

  11. I found two quotations that inspire me -

    "It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it." - Albert Einstein


    "No one has ever become poor by giving." - Anne Frank

    Einstein's words are so timeless and universal. To, at the very least, give what you take is to constantly give to others in direct proportion to your own earnings or benefits or leisure or fortune. Paul Tudor Jones, Melinda Gates, Connie Duckworth all give of themselves so greatly because they've received so greatly. And everyone takes, so everyone can give.

    Anne Frank's words are simple but brilliant and poignant. It's incredible how there is sometimes little correlation between earnings and giving. As in, do the rich overall really give more proportionally or more frequently than the poor? I somehow doubt it. Giving is not about how much you have, it's about how much you care. And sometimes, those with fewer resources to spare are wiser, more careful, and more effective in their giving.