Monday, February 23, 2009

At FFF's launch, forecast ahead to its 10th anniversary!

Amidst celebrities, global social entrepreneurs and world leaders, I couldn't help but think that the participants' Commitments to Action were the real stars at last weekend's Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in Austin, TX. This is where real change happens: the intersection of inspiring vision and hard work. Over a 1000 students, 100 university Presidents, and nearly as many social leaders gathered together to make their commitments of action for global change in: poverty alleviation, climate change & energy, health, human rights & peace, and education. As we launched the Fast Forward Fund, announced by former President Clinton at the CGIU 2009 Press Conference, I felt humbled and inspired to help drive a new path on the global social agenda: youth investment activism.

Through FFF, social investment--how we give and direct philanthropic capital, is a new form of activism, and becomes a means of global civic engagement. To pursue youth social investment as action, we need a better handle on how we give today and how we can imagine giving in the future. So, take a moment of reflection and let us know: what is your current thinking about social giving? What are your associations with and assumptions about strategic philanthropy? What is your experience if any as a social investor? How do you see young adults and college students as philanthropists? Look around and tell us what you see as the most creative, innovative trends in youth giving. And stretch your imagination: if you could forecast youth social investment 10 years into the future, what would it look like? Paint a picture of the Fast Forward Fund on its 10th Anniversary.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Launching FFF at CGIU with a push and a pull

Over President’s Day weekend, the Fast Forward Fund will be launched at the Clinton Global Initiative University, amidst a gathering of those people who most inspire FFF: young adults making bold “Commitments to Action” that tackle the greatest global challenges we face today. While CGIU promises to catalyze a new generation of social entrepreneurs, FFF promises to create a new generation of social investors directing philanthropic capital and partnership to youth-led social innovation. Arriving on the heels of the awesome TED conference and just weeks into the new Obama Administration, the 2nd annual CGIU heralds a historic moment of global social change, imperative, and opportunity. While times like these compel us to look at our leaders for inspiration, CGIU & the FFF remind us that we must also look at each other, and at ourselves.

Who inspires you? When we think about who inspires social change, great names come to mind: historic leaders and heroes, philosophers and visionaries, activists and martyrs, writers and artists. But when you consider who really shapes your personal approach to making a difference in the world, very often it’s someone far closer to home: a working mom or step-father, a 2nd grade teacher, a wise co-worker, a childhood friend, your first love. Someone who’s life has personally touched yours.

An old family friend and mentor of mine, Don Gould, “Uncle Donny” to me, was a huge figure in my young adult life, at 6’4” literally towering over my 5’1.75” frame (all people under 5’2” know their height to an eighth of an inch!). He used to talk about needing both “a push and a pull” to create real social change, whether that plays out in your personal life, your professional arena, or the wider world around you. The push for change comes from the challenges, trials, problems and unsolved puzzles that keep you up at night. The pull comes from the opportunities, dreams, visions, hopes, and possibilities that get you up in the morning. Of all the lessons he taught me, this “push-pull” dynamic is the one I keep recalling as I consider what it takes to be an effective social investor, what it might take to drive the global social agenda today.

I see this push-pull dynamic emerge as a common theme underlying the successful social change-makers profiled in Elkington & Hartigan’s book, The Power of Unreasonable People. These social entrepreneurs transform global challenges (that’s the “push”) into market opportunities (that’s the “pull”), corresponding to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. Looking through a Fast Forward Fund lens, these opportunities cultivate the field of social investments we’ll be considering as FFF builds up its portfolios this year in four areas: climate change and energy, global health, poverty alleviation, and human rights & peace.

As you consider social investment opportunities, ask yourself this: what is your push and what is your pull? What keeps you up at night, and what gets you up in the morning? Let us know! We want to hear from you. How you answer these questions may serve to guide you well in deciding where and how to direct your social investments, and guide us as we shape the Fast Forward Fund and prepare to launch at CGIU.