Month: February 2017

Karl Zinsmeister, Author of The Almanac of American Philanthropy, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Karl Zinsmeister, Vice President of Publications at Philanthropy Roundtable,  and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver:  If you stop and take a moment to think about endeavors that have been woefully underappreciated in terms of what they have meant in building and shaping America, philanthropy would most certainly be on that list. Karl Zinsmeister, who oversees publication at the Philanthropy Roundtable, has taken upon himself to address this with two recent books to help us better appreciate the pivotal role that private resources have played in solving public problems. Those books are The Almanac of American Philanthropy and What Comes Next? : How private giving can rescue America in an era of political frustration. And he is with us now. Good evening, Karl, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Karl: It’s great to be on your show, Denver!

Denver: Before we delve into the history of philanthropy and some of the fascinating stories you tell of philanthropists, first provide us with some context about the nonprofit sector itself, its significance and breadth, and what it really means to the American economy.

karl-zKarl: Boy, it’s such a huge secret, Denver, as you implied in your intro. People don’t realize that we give away $373 billion every single year in voluntary cash donations, and the value of voluntary time and labor that we put in is about that much more; so you can roughly double that. And just to give you a little perspective, that’s about twice the size of the so-called military industrial complex that people use as a kind of a metaphor for a big serious part of the American economy– big industry. It’s such a huge part of our economy.  And even more than that, Denver, it’s a huge part of our culture. Philanthropy ends up being kind of our risk capital… or our venture capital. It’s the thing that we pour into new problems, to sticky problems, to difficult problems because it’s much more flexible. It’s much more nimble. It’s much more inventive. It’s much more willing to make mistakes and to correct  course and to redirect itself than almost any kind of funding available–either governmental or corporate. So philanthropy has historically played just a giant role in fixing some of our really dreadful national issues and lots of little things as well.

Denver: Well, I want to talk to you about some of those… and some of the people who made it happen. In your book, The Almanac of American Philanthropy, all 1,342 pages of it, you really do tell, Karl, some fascinating stories of American philanthropists. There was a fellow who made his fame and fortune through Tabasco sauce, which is still sold in stores today. Who was he?  And where did his philanthropic interests lie?

Karl: That’s a great place to start. You know, people can’t imagine that a product like Tabasco sauce could actually accumulate enough money to change the world, but it did. And in this case, it’s a really delightful guy. I just kept finding these kinds of people the more I dug into philanthropy, Denver. There are thousands of them. This guy is named Ned McIlheny, and he’s a Southern boy, grew up in Louisiana bayous, and he’s just one of those kind of Forrest Gump-type personalities, had adventure after adventure after adventure. And at some point, he became very much of an outdoorsman and loved  nature.  And one of the stories I tell about him in the Almanac was that he realized that a bird he just loved– a fellow native of the bayous in Louisiana called the Snowy Egret– was disappearing. And what had happened, it was the egret’s feathers had become just a fashion craze for women’s hats. They were being hunted to death, and nobody was doing anything about it. And rather than dial 911, or call his congressman, or say somebody should do something about this, McIlheny went into direct action himself. The first thing he did was: he literally went out and beat the bushes on the island that his family owns down in Louisiana– still owns– and it took two full days for him to find two nests. That’s how rare these birds had become. And he finally found two nests, and he scooped up eight little baby fledglings from these nests and brought them back and raised them in a protected area on his own property. And over a period of about 10 years, he increased this flock to about 90,000  to 100,000 birds as a kind of  seed capital. And at the same time, he was working on this microscale, he was also talking to his fellow philanthropist friends like Olivia Sage and John Rockefeller, and he was saying, “You know?  A lot of these swampy lands along the Louisiana coast that people think is just wasteland? That’s really important to birds!  We should preserve that. You should buy that up and just hang on to it as kind of conservation land.” And he convinced them to do that. And with this kind of double-pronged approach, and this combination of his money and his energy and his ideas and his enthusiasm, he was really instrumental in bringing the Snowy Egret back from extinction.  This is the kind of personality we’re dealing with, Denver.

The American spiritual is just one of our original art forms, but it existed entirely  in an oral form. It had never been written down. And you forget that those kinds of things can disappear. It only takes one broken link generation in the chain, and it’s gone. So when he figured this out, McIlheny again just decided:  “I’m going to do something about it. I’m not going to wait for somebody else.”

And then I just love the fact that the second story I tell about McIlheny:  that’s also about extinction, but it’s a totally different kind of extinction… So I mentioned he’s a Southern boy. He grew up in the South, and he just loved Negro spirituals. They were part of his life, and he adored them. And he noticed, when he was getting to be an older man in his 60s, he just wasn’t hearing them anymore. People didn’t sing them on the porches like they used to. People couldn’t remember the words when he asked them to join him, and he became worried about this.

Now, you have to remember, this music, which is obviously deep Americana…. The American spiritual is just one of our original art forms, but it existed entirely  in an oral form. It had never been written down. And you forget that those kinds of things can disappear. It only takes one broken link generation in the chain, and it’s gone. So when he figured this out, McIlheny again just decided:  “I’m going to do something about it. I’m not going to wait for somebody else.”

First, philanthropy, as you know well, tends to be personal. So the first thing he did, he ran  around his neighborhood to figure out:  who remembers any of these songs? And he found these two delightful elderly women, both in their 90s, in his neighborhood, who remembered hundreds of spirituals– both the songs and the lyrics. And he then hired a musicologist,  and the two men sat down with these two ladies, and they just asked them to sing their hearts out. And while they did that, they scrupulously wrote as fast as they could,  to record all the melodies and the harmonies and the lyrics; and they got these down. Anyway, McIlheny published these as a book.  I’m trying to remember, I think there were like 125 spirituals in this book. And I went to some trouble when I was working on the Almanac to figure out how many of those spirituals had been recorded any other place and would’ve survived anyway. And it’s only like five or six that were written down anywhere else. And by the way, one of the spirituals that was saved by McIlheny in this way was the one that Martin Luther King Jr.  quoted in his very famous address– when he talked about: “Free at last, free at last; Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” That was one of the McIlheny spirituals.

Denver: Thanks to Ned. Well, another great guy you talk about is Alfred Loomis. Actually, his great grandson is Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and he’s disrupted a couple of industries. But boy, what Alfred Loomis did was even more interesting and significant in many ways. Tell us about him.

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The Business of Giving Visits the Office of The Nature Conservancy

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


 

Transcript

Denver: And for this edition of Better Than Most, you’ll be traveling to Arlington, Virginia and the corporate headquarters of The Nature Conservancy, the largest nonprofit environmental group in the world.

We will begin with their President and CEO, Mark Tercek, and then hear from several of the dedicated members of the TNC team.

Mark: So we have 4,000 people on our team. We have 1,500 or so volunteer leaders we call trustees. Everywhere we work, we’ve got boots on the ground. In other words, therefore, we’re not just telling other people what to do. We’re trying to do it ourselves. Now, whenever we do these things on the ground, we’re doing it in partnership with others too, often local organizations, local people, but it kind of keeps you humble, keeps you focused. We don’t get carried away with crazy ideas. I think it’s a very good formula for us.

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Denver Frederick and Mark Tercek

Rosita: Another thing I love about this organization especially as a woman of color who works here is that the organization is constantly self-critical and trying to be better, and part of the team of that I work on is actually focused exclusively on how can we make this organization better in terms of a place where all employees feel valued and can actually thrive. And it’s a testament to that self-criticism that as an organization we don’t rest on our laurels and it’s always “how can we be better and smarter and more impactful?”

Gondan: I started off as a conservation staff and then after five years, I moved to development, and then went back to conservation and now, here, I’m in development, in changing countries at the world office. So at TNC, as long as you know what to do and you proved that you can do the work and that you can do it while you’re having fun, really lets you do whatever you want to do that fits with our mission and our core work.

John Bender: It is that ability to reinvent yourself that has been one of the greatest strengths I think of the organization. And part of that reinvention has been our recognition over many years of the desire and the need for a more diverse workforce. And we have a more inclusive workforce and we’ve taken a number of runs at it over my career here at the organization, but we finally, I think, have a lot of heft from the whole organization behind it, and that has made a big difference. I think that going forward, you’ll see many more different faces siting in the cubes, both here at WO and then around the offices, the business units outside of the US.

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Jon Fisher: And if you’re in a conservation organization, you kind of know the outcome before you do the science. So talking to colleagues at other organizations—I won’t name any—but the scientists’ job is to prove what you want the message to be. At the Conservancy, of course, we’re doing science to meet the mission, but when we have an inconvenient result, we still publish it. And so as somebody who has honest – one of our core values is integrity beyond reproach – and that’s something that I just really think is so important, especially at a time when trust in scientists is declining.

Johnny: I work in the legal department for The Nature Conservancy, and I tap dance to work. I tap dance to work because I love the people.

Professional development is really important to me and my supervisor has been really helpful. He empowers me to be the best person I can be, not only for myself but for the Conservancy, because a better me is a better conservancy. A great example, I support folks in Brazil. I told my boss, “I speak Portuguese but I think I could be better at it.” So he said, “You need a strength in that skill set, let’s send you to Brazil.” So I spent a month in the Rio de Janeiro office, both working and in a language immersion program. And it was an incredible experience because I got to work in a different culture, see the mission from a different perspective, learn Portuguese, and also work from the beach on occasion, which is a part of the mission.

Tom: Because the mission is what brings people here, but the people are what make you stay. I think I had more folks walk in to my office in the first week I was here at the Conservancy than in the first year I was at my last private sector job. And all of them were coming in largely with the message that said, “Hey. Welcome to the team. Welcome to the party. How can we help you be more successful? How can we help you help the mission and help us all be the kind of organization we want to be.” I’ve been around the block a few times like a couple of other folks in this room, and that really is something rare and it’s something that’s very special about this place.

John Bender: We have some guidance, we’re getting tons of input, but we’ve got leadership who are actually making what I think are some really interesting decisions and are really putting us on a path to some pretty heavy goals but also some really exciting work, and that is one of the things that I find so rejuvenating.

Jon Fisher: And I’ve come to realize that a lot of people don’t eat lunch together. I think it’s partly, aside from being introverts, a lot of people, we just have this almost panicked devotion to the mission. And so I think a lot of times, people are like, “I can’t take time for lunch. I can’t take time for coffee. I got to get back to saving the planet.” And so like I said, it took me a while to kind of get through that but it’s also kind of endearing in a way that it’s not that people don’t want to hang out with you. It’s that they’re all really caring about the same thing you’re caring about.

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Denver: I want to extend my thanks to Tom Casey and Geraldine Henrich-Koenis for setting up my visit and to those who participated in addition to Tom: Gondan Renosari, Johnny Cabrera, Rosita Scarborough, John Bender, and John Fisher. If you’d like to listen to this again, read the transcript, or see pictures of the participants and the offices of TNC, go to denverfrederick.wordpress.com and while you’re there, you can hear my full interview with Mark Tercek, the President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy.


*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

The Business of Giving Visits the Office of Generations United

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


Transcript

Denver: This week, I traveled to our nation’s capital to visit the offices of Generations United and to see how a smaller nonprofit organization went about creating a healthy work culture.

We’ll start with their Executive Director, Donna Butts, who will tell you about the goals of the organization, and then hear from some of the people who work there.

Donna: Well, Generations United has been around for 30 years now. We were founded by the leading children, youth and aging organizations at a time when people were really trying to pit the generations against each other. Our mission is really to develop solutions that involve the strengths of each generation and connect the generations, so we promote intergenerational practices, programs, and public policies.

img_0341Adam: One thing that I really like about working for a smaller organization is that it gives the staff here an opportunity to kind of be a jack of all trades. I think everybody here feels empowered to say that, “Oh, I’m really interested in doing this” or “this thing interests me,” whether it’s web design for social media or just things that maybe wouldn’t traditionally fall under their job titles. Everybody here, I think, feels empowered to step up and say that, and to kind of pursue maybe other avenues outside of just what their normal job title wouldn’t tell.

Alan: And it’s pretty much like wherever your interests are and if the interest align with GU’s mission, stuff like that, there’s really no problem in pursuing that. Generations United has made it easy to do that. You just have to speak what you’re interested in and the folks who are here who are either connected in some way or another with the opportunities that you want to take advantage of, they’ll help make that possible for you.

Jaia: I think we like to think of ourselves as fast, friendly, flexible, and fun. And I think a lot of that has to do with our size, but when we have an idea or we want to take action on something, there’s not a large bureaucratic process that you need to go through.

Emily: I also want to speak to how much I appreciate the balance between being in a really hardworking office. I think here, being on a small team, there’s this expectation that you are pulling your weight. And there’s not really room to not hold yourself accountable let alone one another accountable for doing your part to contribute to all the things that need to get done, but on top of that or I guess on the reverse of that, we’re a fun office, too. So we’re a hardworking office that also has just a general sense of humor and lightheartedness.

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Jaia: So if we have a young worker that we think is doing too much multi-tasking and on their phone while they’re doing this other thing, but what about that is a strength and how can we tap into that strength? Or we have this older worker—I’m totally playing into the stereotype here—who is struggling to pick up on the technology but is so skilled at telling a story, how do we tap into that strength and help connect the younger and old to maybe be mentoring each other in some way? But not focusing on how we have to change this young worker, change this older worker to fit a particular mold, so really focusing in on the strength. But we have to keep ourselves in check. I’ve found myself and other staff playing into this young worker-old worker kind of conversations, so you have to be real about it, I think, and be honest.

Alan: So we were doing our strategic meeting and the whole time the staff was doing this, they were planning a baby shower for my wife and I in the backroom. And to this day—my wife, I’m surprised she doesn’t get tired of me talking about it—but that was like “wow.” They went all out, like they have all these signs and stuff up.

Emily: I just want to give Donna credit as a leader. She really models the way and I think she sets the tone for the office. She models that balance of hard work and commitment to also being a fun workplace. She goes out of her way to get to know each of us individually and makes sure that in our own roles, that we’re fulfilled and know that we’re a valuable part of the organization and play to our strengths. So I just want to give her credit because I think she’s a huge part about the strength of our organization and how much we’re able to do.

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Denver: I want to thank Alan King who organized my visit and the others who participated as well: Adam Hlava, Jaia Lent, and Emily Patrick. Come to denverfrederick.wordpress.com for a transcript of this podcast, pictures of the staff, and the offices of Generations United.


*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

The Business of Giving Visits the Office of Venture For America

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


Transcript

Denver: One of the hot young nonprofit organizations that people have been buzzing about is Venture for America. So I made my way up to their offices at West 29th street to check it out for myself and to hear from some of the staff on what makes it so exceptional. 

We’ll start with their CEO, Andrew Yang, and then we’ll hear form some of the other folks who work there. 

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Denver Frederick and Andrew Yang

Andrew: Venture for America is a nonprofit that recruits and trains top college graduates who want to learn how to build businesses. We train them for a summer, and then we send them to work at early-stage growth companies in Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, and other cities around the country that could use an economic boost. Our goals are to help create American jobs through helping early-stage companies grow, and also to train the next generation of entrepreneur.

Natalee: Working here for the past seven months, I wake up every single day excited to come to work. I woke up late this morning and was wondering, “Should I just work from home?” And then I was like, “No. I want to be in the office. I really want to be with everyone because I just love doing what I do.”

Isa: The biggest event we do every year is our Summer Training Camp. So we bring all of the new fellows in our program together for five weeks to learn all the skills they need to do a great job as early stage employees at a start-up company, but we do that off-site. So every year, we’ve done it on campus at Brown University in Providence and that means that our team has to travel for five weeks up to Providence. And for the past couple of years, we’ve lived just off campus in a big house together. So we spend five weeks all in the house, working crazy hours but then coming home every night and just chatting with one another and hanging out.  I think the fact that we think that’s fun, I think is a testament to how great our team is.

Jason: In a lot of places, we have team members that are younger for their role and the leadership role they’re in is a stretch for them, so you have a lot of young, ambitious, energetic people at different stages in their career that are stretching to grow. I think as a whole, that type of organizational dynamic creates really exciting and challenging environment where I feel like I’m surrounded by people that are super ambitious, but also because of the nature of our work, super thoughtful and in line about much more than simply making a profit or serving shareholders but bringing impact to our communities, our broader country. And so I think a big part to me is that people are really strivers and ambitious and stretching themselves in their day-to-day.

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Natalee: We all get to share our perspective and basically build something beautiful together versus something happening on the top and then coming down to us. We all get to be a part of every part of the process.

Isa: We do regular “work-from-home Fridays,” so everyone on the team can work from home one day a week. We also do “gym mornings,” so every week, you can come in late one morning a week so that you can go to the gym and exercise.

Helen: And then someone else said, “Let’s bring in Andrew so he can approve it,” and he just popped over. And we had this thing approved all within about 20 minutes; whereas in a really large institutional organization, it would’ve taken a week or two because approvals just take such a long time. It makes collaboration incredibly easy. I can just lean over and ask someone a question rather than having to email or walk over or spend time or think about it. But it also is very distracting, which is why we have to work from home on Fridays so we can actually write our proposals and get the work done that we need to do.

Jason: Slack is something we’ve been using for about a year now. It’s been helpful to move information that was previously communicated in team emails and certain conversations into Slack, and it’s a great way to get information out to a team quickly and it’s great to distinguish between things like all-team announcements or fun announcements. Some of the great Slack announcements are the “3:30, there’s sushi at the kitchen table so grab it before it’s gone” pretty quick deal. So a lot of our business can happen on Slack channels when we just need quick tips from one another.

Helen: I also would brag about to my family that I work with really, really incredibly high-character people. My dad actually once asked me, before he understood what I was doing, he said, “Helen, do you ever have any concerns with the ethics or morals of your company?” And I said, “Well, no, Daddy. I work for a nonprofit for one thing, but we screen not only our fellows but all of our team members for character and integrity. I work with the most high-integrity people I’ve probably ever worked with in my life.”

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Denver: I want to thank Leandra Elberger and Antonia Dean for organizing my visit and to those who participated: Natalee Facey, Isa Ballard, Jason Tarre, and Helen Lynch Laurie. Come to denverfrederick.wordpress.com for a transcript of this podcast as well as pictures of the participants and the offices of Venture for America.


*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

Giovanni Traverso of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Dr. Giovanni Traverso of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

prof497Denver: Only about 50% of people take medication as prescribed. Some folks on long-term medication, well, they eventually just give up and stop taking it. This non-adherence could cost up to $100 billion a year in the US alone, so this is quite a problem. But with us right now is someone working on the solution. He is Dr. Giovanni Traverso from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT in Boston. Good evening, Doctor!

Giovanni: Good evening! Thank you so much for having me on the show.

One of the things that we recognize, and others have recognized this, is that making it easier for a patient to take their medication really increases the likelihood that someone is going to take their medicine.

Denver: So, tell us about your research to address this problem.

Giovanni: Absolutely. As you highlighted, non-adherence is an incredible problem affecting over 50% of the population and translating into significant cost to the health care system and access actually about $100 billion per year here in the US alone. Aside from the cost are the significant morbidity and mortality that are associated by the simple fact that folks just don’t take their medication. One of the things that we recognize, and others have recognized this, is that making it easier for a patient to take their medication really increases the likelihood that someone is going to take their medicine. So let me give you an example. If a doc prescribes a medication that you have to take four times a day versus taking that same medication once a day, people are more likely to take it once a day than four times a day just because it’s hard to remember to take it four times a day.

Denver: It makes a lot of sense.

Giovanni: Exactly. And actually there are some data out there also supporting that if you extend that a little further, that the likelihood of taking the medication also continues to increase. And so what I’m referring to is going from, for example, a medication that is dosed once a day to once a week and even once a month. There are some medications where you can do that, there’s only a limited number that exists in those formulations. And so, what we set out to do is to try and develop a system that allowed patients to take their medication more infrequently.

Let me just take a step back and tell you sort of a little bit about where we started this work. Several years ago, a team from the Gates Foundation came to visit us in the lab and then subsequently circled back to us with a challenge. They said, “You know, it would be great if we had systems that allowed us to give our patients, for example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, really resource-constrained settings, their full course of treatment in a single-administration event.”

Denver: Like for things like malaria, I would imagine.

Giovanni: Exactly. And you have to sort of put yourself in that situation. And really what you want to make sure is that folks on the ground in these really sort of limited setting have the ability to get the full treatment and the docs and other health care professionals there on the ground will ensure that the patients are dosing themselves correctly just to avoid any complications or antibiotic resistance, et cetera. And so that, working with the Gates Foundation, we actually set out to address this. And so what we did was develop a capsule that can stay in your stomach for a prolonged period of time, and by “prolonged,” I mean a week, two weeks, and perhaps even longer. When you consider a regular capsule, you take a regular capsule, you take it, and just as food, when you eat your food, that would go through your body in about a day.

Denver: Right through the pillories and out it goes.

Giovanni: Exactly. And so similarly, a capsule, typically when you go the pharmacy and you get an extended-release capsule. An extended-release capsule is for 24 hours and that’s really limited by a couple of factors, but one of those is just that our GI tract — our stomach, small intestines and large intestines – they’re actually thoroughly effective at transiting materials through them. And so what we set out to do is really to explore different ways of sort of slowing that down and then allowing essentially a system to really deliver a drug over prolonged period of time.

And so, the way that we did that was by developing a capsule that looks much like a star. The capsule itself looks like any other capsule, but when the shell dissolves in the stomach, out pops out a star that is able to stay in the stomach without causing any obstruction or any symptoms but that little star, the arms of the star, so the spokes of the star, are made of a polymer which is impregnated or loaded with a drug. What happens is then that drug can slowly come out over whatever time frame it is that one needs to receive that medication over.

Denver: So if I get this right, you are warehousing the medicine in the stomach?

Giovanni: That’s exactly right. In order to prevent that star system to essentially be expelled out of the stomach, there’s a couple of things that we had to work out in the lab. One of them was “what’s the best size?” What we know is that the exit of the stomach is about 2 centimeters, so we knew that a star had to be over 2 centimeters when in the stomach. And then the other thing that really is really important is that the stomach is actually a really strong organ and that it helps digest food and it really compresses material in the stomach, so we had to develop some materials to withstand those compressive forces. And then what we built into this system are segment that are capable of dissolving either in the intestine in case it passes inadvertently out of the stomach so that it breaks up and doesn’t cause an obstruction or that can break up over time. And so you have a star that you can control how long it will live or reside in the stomach.

We really want to bring this technology to the patients, and as part of that effort, we actually started a company in 2015 called Lyndra that is really focusing on bringing these technologies to patients and really building out all of the safety parameters and all of the data that’s required by the FDA in order to safely dose human.

Denver: Now, I know that you have so far managed a two-week diffusion but were working on increasing it to a month. How is that going?

Giovanni: It’s going really well. We’ve actually managed to actually keep these stars without any side effects in our pre-clinical models for over a month. And so, I think we’re well on our way. I think it will require more development. We really want to bring this technology to the patients, and as part of that effort, we actually started a company in 2015 called Lyndra that is really focusing on bringing these technologies to patients and really building out all of the safety parameters and all of the data that’s required by the FDA in order to safely dose human.

Denver: That’s fantastic. And I would imagine actually the dosage that people are going to get is going to be even more even than the spikes we get when we take that daily pill or that multi-day pill. Would that be correct?

Giovanni: That’s absolutely right. Now, that’s a great point. Because you have the system in your stomach slowly releasing, it’s exactly as you pointed out. It gives you a much more even dose, constant dose, and so therefore, actually, in some situations, for example, you may need less drugs because you’re able to provide this continuous, steady dose as opposed to the peaks and valleys that you might face when you’re dosing a regular medication. And then I think the other piece to that is that because it’s there for prolonged period of time, any effect that sometimes are seen with food are really significantly removed because it’s there all the time. It’s delivering slowly irrespective of the food and that really, as you highlighted, really provides a much smoother level of drug in the body.

Denver: We mentioned malaria before. Give us a few other things that this might be useful for.

Giovanni: Absolutely. So we’ve been working on HIV and some other neglected tropical diseases. There are some parasitic infections that affect a lot of people, for example in Sub-Saharan Africa. And so a lot of our focus in the lab has been with the Gates Foundation on working on diseases affecting Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, for example. But HIV is another big area that we’ve been focusing on and parasitic diseases also. Lyndra is looking at a whole host of different things including psychiatric illness, problems with addiction. So really, I think, there’s a very broad of conditions that can benefit from this system.

Denver: It’s truly a brilliant platform and I know you don’t have a crystal ball predicting what the FDA is going to do, but how soon do you think this might get to market and people on our listening audience might be able to take a pill like this?

Giovanni: That’s a great question. So we’re starting the first in human trials this year and 2017, so as far as being on the market, likely in about three to five years.

Denver: That’s fantastic. Well, this is very exciting and important research with some real practical benefits to just countless people out there. Thanks so much, Doctor, for taking the time to share it with us tonight.

Giovanni: No, thank you so much, Denver, for your interest in really sharing it with your audience.

Denver: I’ll be back with more of The Business of Giving right after this.


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter and at facebook.com/business of giving.

Doug Powell, Designer at IBM, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

dap_headshot02_cropDenver: I am at the Measured Summit and I’m now speaking with Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM Design. Good evening, Doug.

Doug: It’s great to be with you. Thanks, Denver.

Denver: IBM embarked on a complete redesign of its company back in 2013, which is an incredibly ambitious program. You’re one of those lead designers. So, tell us, what inspired it and what are you doing?

Doug: Well, it’s really about connecting with the people who use IBM technology and really understanding who they are, what their needs are, and finding ways to design and develop tools and technology that really meet those needs in a very human way.

The users of our technology traditionally and historically have been deeply technical people – engineers and developers. And what we found in the last decade or so is that more and more of our users are less and less technical, so think about nurses and teachers and data scientists and small business owners. That requires us to think about the tools we’re building in a different way. Designers happen to have the skills to really address problems with a user and human focus, so that’s really what inspired the design-driven reinvention of IBM, as you said. It was about four or five years ago that the program was launched.

Denver: And I guess users today, they want something delightful and intuitive and fun and mobile.

Doug: Yes. And it has to be available to them anytime, anywhere, in their pocket, in their purse, in their backpack. The tolerance for a bad user experience has evaporated, whether it’s in personal technology or in the technology we use for our work, which is IBM’s focus, of course. That line between work and life has completely blurred at this point. The bar for a great user experience is incredibly high right now and we need to be reaching that bar and even setting that bar in the experiences we’re building.

Denver: And at IBM, Doug, you had about 100 or 200 designers or about 350,000 or 400,000-person organization. That has expanded dramatically.

Doug: Right. We’ve hired now more than 1,200 formally trained designers into IBM. We now have more than 1,500 in the company making IBM the largest employer of designers in the world, which is kind of a surprising little piece of trivia for many people. But it’s exciting. It’s really cool.

Denver: Tell us a little bit about the impact the design has had in the business world. Can you please give us an example or two of that?

Doug: Well, you go back now almost exactly 10 years to the release or the introduction of iPhone in early 2007. And that was a pivot point. That was really the moment that everything as we look back on this era is going to be before iPhone and after iPhone. And it really demonstrated that design and user experience is a business driver and it is increasingly the single way that businesses can distinguish themselves. Everything else has been commoditized. You can’t find an edge anymore in supply chain or manufacturing or materials or even advertising and media. It really comes down to the kind of experience, the quality of the experience that you can deliver.

Denver: What has the impact of design been in the social sector and particularly in health care and in education?

Doug: I think healthcare is a place where, quite frankly as we all know, os a pretty lousy user experience. We all are required at different points in our life to engage with the healthcare system, and I don’t know anybody who really looks forward to that experience. So that means that there is an opportunity. That’s an opportunity space for designers to make a difference and we’re just seeing so much cool stuff.

We’re going to see at the Measured Summit just some great examples of designers making a difference in health care, from the patient experience level of doctors and caregivers interacting with patients in different way up to the systems level, and at IBM that’s where we play, at the systems level. Our Watson Health business is just doing incredible work in making sense of just unthinkable amounts of medical data that is out there and packaging that data in a way that is consumable for clinicians who are making diagnosis so that they can have access to far more relevant data than they ever have before.

Denver: I think it was Thomas Watson who said, “Good design is good business.”

Doug: Indeed. In fact, that’s interesting that you point that out because we just discovered a memo that Watson Jr. had written to his executive leadership and it was dated December 20, 1966, which means that a few weeks back, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of “Good design is good business.” And so that’s pretty cool. It’s cool, as a designer, in the year 2017 to be able to reach back a half century into a great heritage of design and really be inspired by that.

Denver: Well, what you’re doing is pretty cool as well. Thanks very much, Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM, for being on The Business of Giving this evening.

Doug: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter and at facebook.com/business of giving.

Marcus Shingles, CEO of XPRIZE Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Marcus Shingles, CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

xv2y7drp8dalfslzz739Denver: As the world changes with some 3 billion people able to connect online….. and with so many of them holding extraordinary computing capacity right in the palm of their hand……it only stands to reason that the way we go about trying to solve our most complex social problems would change as well. One of the very first to recognize that was the XPRIZE Foundation, and it is a great pleasure to have with us this evening their Chief Executive Officer, Marcus Shingles. Good evening, Marcus and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Marcus: Thank you! I’m glad to be here. Appreciate it.

Denver: So tell us, Marcus, what is the XPRIZE?  And how did this whole thing get started?

Marcus: The XPRIZE is a nonprofit. It’s a foundation that’s based in Southern California.  Dr. Peter Diamandis is the Executive Chairman and the founder of the XPRIZE Foundation. He was CEO up until a few months ago when I was honorably given the privilege to take over that role. Peter is a prolific inventor and entrepreneur innovator. He’s wired in a very interesting way. He completed a doctorate from Harvard and has two degrees from MIT, so he  understands the science and the technology. He’s one of these individuals that is just a dreamer and an innovator.

A couple of decades ago, he announced the XPRIZE Foundation, which essentially was a competition that he arranged, inspired by Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic and that prize.  He was looking at a situation in which NASA and the government was really starting to shut down an era of space travel. There was this period in time a couple of decades ago when you saw NASA and others kind of backpedaling on the whole space exploration piece. Peter grew up very interested in that space, focused on it. At one point, he wanted to be an astronaut himself. As a matter of fact, I think he aspired for most of his life to be an astronaut. And so he wanted not to rely on the government to do this. He wanted to rely on entrepreneurs and innovators to do this, even private citizens to do it. So he launched a $10 million XPRIZE, which was to put a spacecraft up into sub-orbit– or 100 kilometers– and back down, and to do that twice in a two-week period.

Now, the reason why it was twice in a two-week period was the goal was to demonstrate that there was a “there” there in terms of private commercial space industry, and it had to be reusable technology, very similar to what you see Elon Musk doing right now with the repurposing and reusing of rockets. So he launched this prize– $10 million. It was called the Ansari XPRIZE. X was actually a placeholder until he got a sponsor because he didn’t have the $10 million he announced.  He thought that was going to be the easy part, and of course, he had a lot of people telling him:  “No!” mainly because they were worried:  “What if someone gets killed doing this?”

Long story short, Burt Rutan and his team– I think it was 2007– demonstrated with SpaceShipOne the ability to do this, and they won the $10 million XPRIZE. That SpaceShipOne is now hanging in the Smithsonian – I think it’s a space and science museum – right next to the Lindbergh plane that inspired the whole thing. So, just a really interesting background. Peter had a very good ecosystem around him, just with his colleagues and his friends and his ecosystem. He knew Elon Musk and Larry Page and all these individuals.

Denver: It’s a good crowd.

Marcus: Very good crowd!  And they’re all on the board today of XPRIZE.  But he knew them at a time before they were completely the rock stars that they are; I guess maybe they’ve always been rock stars, but they’re super rock stars now. They looked at the model and said, “This is very interesting.  If you think about what just happened, not only did we achieve the goal, but think about some of the things that just happened.

We put out a $10 million prize, and we had basically rapid experimentation through a bunch of diverse lenses of people that competed on this prize… teams that competed that we didn’t ask them for their resume, or their background, or their education. If they wanted to compete, they could compete. So we didn’t filter anything; there was no cognitive bias as far as who can compete and how they compete. It was: ‘Here’s a problem. Here’s how we want you to solve it. We’re not going to tell you how you’ve got to solve it. You’ve just got to put something up 100 kilometers into the orbit, back down safely, and do it twice.’” So, $10 million prize, but those teams cumulatively spent over $100 million to win the $10 million prize.

It was people donating their time and effort and finances to win the prize because it was for an impact.

Denver: That’s a way to leverage $10 million; that’s for sure.

Marcus: Exactly. So that was interesting, right? It was strong economics, strong leverage. It was people donating their time and effort and finances to win the prize because it was for an impact. The other thing that was interesting about that whole model was that you only pay if someone accomplished it. So that’s another good way to underwrite or mitigate your risk is: you’re only paying if somebody comes up with a breakthrough, and you’re getting a lot of R&D; you’re spurring a lot of R&D as a result of putting out the $10 million, but getting a lot of teams to focus on it.

And that ultimately was a domino that needed to be tipped at a time when people were losing  a line of sight on the private space industry. There was none. And Peter is very much attributed and XPRIZE is attributed with creating that line of sight to the private space industry that we have today. Richard Branson was literally on the final ceremony buying the intellectual property from the winning team that he then used as his inspiration and first domino with Virgin Galactic, which he has today. So it’s attributed to being a very important historical force in getting the private space industry launched, which you see now is a multi-billion dollar industry.

The magic comes from: you have a haystack and you’re getting a needle in that haystack to incentivize to come to you. And that haystack, you have to think of as a crowd… someone out there– could be anyone–who’s just wired in a way to think about how to solve for X in a way that maybe the experts say can’t even be done.

All of the smart people don’t assimilate right around your neighborhood necessarily. They’re anywhere in the world, and now you can reach them through internet and communications and social media.

Denver: Well, it certainly is a milestone achievement. And this XPRIZE competition is essentially, I guess from what you’re saying, Marcus, a form of “crowdsourcing.” What exactly is crowdsourcing?

(more…)

“Take Five” with Kyle Zimmer, President and Co-Founder of First Book

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Transcript

Denver: I’m here with Kyle Zimmer, the President and CEO First Book to do Take Five. Are you ready, Kyle?

Kyle: I am ready!

Denver: What idea in philanthropy is ready for retirement?

Kyle: Traditional charitable giving.

Denver: What is today’s most underreported story?

Kyle: The lack of education for our kids.

Denver: What did you change your mind about in the last 10 years and why?

Kyle: I changed my mind about market-driven forces and that small enterprises can shift a whole industry.

Denver: When was the last time you were totally disconnected from all your devices?

Kyle: When I was asleep last night.

Denver: If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?

Kyle: It would say “Equal education for all” and it would be in front of the White House.

Denver: What is the one book you would give as a gift?

Kyle: Winnie-the-Pooh, The World of Pooh. It was my favorite book as a kid and I still think the philosophy is pretty sound.

Denver: Given the choice of anyone in the world, dead or alive, that you could have dinner with, who would it be?

Kyle: Amelia Earhart.

Denver: When was the last time you sang to yourself?

Kyle: Probably yesterday.

Denver: To someone else?

Kyle: Probably yesterday.

Denver: What do you do to keep your organization nimble?

Kyle: Always bring in brand-new thinkers. We talk to other social entrepreneurs. We have a steady stream of them that come into the organization and explain their models.

Denver: You pick up a magazine to read. What is it?

Kyle: It is The Economist.

Denver: You started First Book in 1992.  What advice would you give to the Kyle Zimmer of 25 years ago?

Kyle: Don’t be afraid. Be fearless.

The Business of Giving Visits the Office of Population Services International (PSI)

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


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Transcript

Denver: And this week’s Better Than Most takes us to Washington, D.C., at the offices of Population Services International or PSI, one the blue chip names in global health. 

We’re going to start with Kate Roberts who leads the Maverick Collective, one of the initiatives of PSI, and then hear from other members of the staff.

Kate: Well, first of all, I should say that PSI is one of the largest health organizations in the world that nobody has ever heard of. We have about 9,000 employees… big organization. We have about $600 million annual budget. PSI focuses on market solutions for health programs. So we’re obsessed with measurement, and really our goal is to provide universal health care to the poor.

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Kate Roberts and Denver Frederick

Maria: I really want to talk about Karl Hofmann, our CEO. I like to say he’s like the godfather I always wanted. I’ve been to meetings with him, conferences abroad with him, and he’s always been incredibly accessible, very easy to talk to. He’s been very high up in his diplomatic career. He has “ambassador” in front of his title if you want to get technical, but he’s so easy to talk to. He has brown bags every quarter with all 250 of us. I just love Karl. He’s my favorite.

Pierre: Let me speak from the heart to say that one of the reasons that I value working at PSI is around this corporate culture of honesty. And what does that mean in practice? One of the beautiful things– when I moved here in Washington about 2014– that I started seeing was people admitting when things were going wrong, people admitting when they made mistakes. And that goes from Karl Hoffman to anybody else in the organization. And it’s (a) a really refreshing thing because it allows people to make mistakes; (b) it’s really productive because it means that it lances the boil of tension that is caused when people are quickly trying to find blame, and allows people to just move on, find a solution, and as my colleagues have been saying, “get things done.” So, honesty.

Kristely: So I graduated from GW in MPH program about two years ago, and I remember being in school, and PSI always coming up as a golden star in global health. So when you see or hear about PSI, you think it’s like the “Ivy League” of global health. So coming here, I was really excited about it, but I was also scared because it’s the “Ivy League” of public health. But I was really surprised to see that work-life balance is really important here.

Yasmin: I think if somebody were to say what makes PSI different from any other organization in development, it’s the value we put on action, and that’s right from our country programs to everybody here. We deal with intractable problems in development. It can seem like it’ll take a lifetime to do things like find the fix for HIV or malaria, but what PSI has managed to do through numbers, through programs, is make that real. So every single employee in this building… or in any of our field programs—and we have 9,000 of those in about 50 countries—will be able to say what they did today that led to a better market, or a better program for somebody that they have identified as their consumer… right that day. I think very few organizations in development can give that link of my action to my impact… to what gets measured for the whole organization.

Taylor: Someone with a lot of energy is a PSIer, and I think another key factor of being a PSIer, which I didn’t know when I started but ended up working out nicely with my personality, is a high degree of irreverence. I don’t think many PSIers take themselves very seriously. I think there’s a lot of trying to keep things light. As Yasmin said, we deal with some really serious issues, and you could get kind of bogged down in that, and that’s not the vibe at PSI at all. Fun, like people just really bringing their full selves.

img_1440Sandy: And what I love about PSI is that we have this—it’s actually part of our character– we’re locally rooted, but globally connected. PSI and the nature of this organization is that many of what we call our affiliates or members are actually locally grown organizations. They have their own boards of directors. They have their own staff that come from the local population. So for me, it’s really good to see that ideas are coming from the countries themselves and not just being dictated from Washington.

Yasmin: I was going to say I love the question:  “How do you unite 9,000 people over 50 countries to make them feel part of an organization?” Internet and social media is one answer, and we do it the old-fashioned way. If you ask anybody anywhere in the world who works for PSI: “Why do you wake up in the morning?” They’re going to say, “Sara”.  And what we mean by that is our consumer. We don’t say the marginalized population. We don’t say beneficiaries. We don’t say people who need our assistance. We give them the dignity of being a consumer. We give her a name, and we really make an effort to study who she is, what motivates her, what is her life like beyond the health problem. You can show up anywhere in any language, and that’s what brings 9,000 employees together. We wake up for our consumer, to give her the choice of living the life she wants and having the family she desires. And that sounds like a mission statement and, honestly, it is.  But it’s a mission statement I think 9,000 people with or without social media relate to.

Taylor: It’s just very exciting. My former team had a stuntman on it. So he had worked in Los Angeles. He’s in the Screen Actors Guild. He was a stuntman in LA for a few years. Then he got into innovation and doing design thinking and brought that to PSI. We had another person on staff who worked for Sesame Street and worked in public television, brought playfulness and that childlike quality which we have in spades at PSI. Karl, the ambassador background is not necessarily public health focus. So, yes, I think there’s just a very diverse set of perspectives and hopefully, it’s not an echo chamber. You don’t put out an idea and everyone nods their head and says, “Yes. That’s exactly right.” You have people saying, “Well, what if we did it this way?” or “I disagree with that.” Just adds to the quality of the work we put out.

img_1459Denver: Special thanks to Maria Dieter for organizing my visit, and to the others who also participated in the segment: Taylor Schaffter, Sandy Garcon, Pierre Moon, Kristely Bastien and Yasmin Madan. Now, if you go to denverfrederick.wordpress.com, we have this podcast with the transcript and pictures of the participants and the offices of Population Services International.


*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.

The Business of Giving Visits the Office of GlobalGiving

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

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Transcript

Jen: We have what we call our “kudos jar” in the common area, and that is filled with different types of candy have meaning to them. So Life Savers are for you to recognize someone that really pulled you out of a bind. Extra Gum is for the times that someone went the extra mile and went above and beyond to get something accomplished. And you go down the list, there’s a bunch of candy that represents different types of recognition that people can have.

Chase: And an example I’d like to give is within the first month of the fellowship, one of the other fellows was getting married in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the entire office came together and crowdfunded our trip to rent cars, rent a place to stay. The office sent out an email request for funds and they handed over an envelope full of cash and sent us up to the wedding. We came back with great stories and great memories, and an even deeper community across the Fellows. I think that’s been kind of one of my biggest embodiments and examples of what GlobalGiving is and what it means to me and what the people here stand for.

 

Cathy: And if you’re like doing this work with this heavy burden all the time, I don’t think we can sustain the energy amongst us and the positivity for our partners. So for me, I feel like that’s something very sort of GlobalGiving, is that we can be very serious about our work but also we can have fun with ourselves and bring a lightness to how we deliver our work.

 

Emma: One of the things that I love about GlobalGiving is how everyone is a high achiever and is constantly striving to take their work to the next level and is really committed to self-growth, organizational growth. We set goals, but goals are not kind of the point at which we’re trying to hit. The goals are kind of the starting point. We’re trying to exceed them beyond limits.

 

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Jen: It’s as important to us that people are hitting their goals inside of GlobalGiving as it is that they are developing themselves personally. And so we spend a lot of time investing in the individual, whether that be having the professional development program that we’ve had where folks have a pool of funds that are available to them, a third of which can be used to pursue any kind of personal goal that they have, all the way to we did a Spirit Week earlier in 2016 where we had basically everyone stepping away from their desks for a couple of days to engage in personal development kinds of activity.

 

Nick: I think the culture here is one of made up of high achievers. We’re going to continue that, repeating that cycle until it gets where we want it to go. Having that mindset I think is really unique and something that for me and my role, I think really informs how I think about a lot of problems in a way that I might not do as naturally if it wasn’t such an omnipresent part of the way GlobalGiving operates. So that’s something that I think is really unique and that I’m really thankful for.

 

Jen: That premise is what is infused in just the way that we operate and the kind of person that’s attracted to working here, really questioning what is accepted to be the way that you have to do things and consulting the crowd or your colleague or what you have you to enrich your response or whatever it is that you develop as a solution. And then I think building upon that comes things like, well, we’ve got guiding principles but not hard and fast rules. Or you’ve got to make sure that your people are really quick, smart, high achievers, and able to think creatively about how to iterate on things, learn, and grow in order to keep that essence of the organization thriving.

 

Chase: I rank in my mind all values equal but if I have to pick a favorite right now, I would also say that my favorite is “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” because that relates to transparency at GlobalGiving, which I think in my experience has been something that I’ve never seen at any other organization that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, in a sense that all decisions kind of are crowdsourced in a way at GlobalGiving and that’s something, which is rare, I feel like in other organizations. And not even just like decisions, but failures are not hidden or covered up at GlobalGiving. And this just kind of relates back to “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” because a part of that is learning how to fail and fail effectively and fail productively, and failing fast and not continuing to fail and acting like you’re not failing.

 

Cathy: I’ll also ask instead of like “Tell me about yourself,” and I’m sort of notorious for this question, for the person to describe themselves as either a glass of water, iced tea or orange juice. And there are pros and cons to each of those things but it forces you to think differently about how you’re going to give your response.

 

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Emma: Those kinds of additional interests and knowledge areas and passions don’t just kind of come into play in kind of the daily work together, but we also do things like today, for example, we had a brown bag where one of our fellows led a session on learning the Cyrillic alphabet and then talked to us a little bit in Russian, and next week, he’s leading a discussion on Russian politics. And we have a guy here whose background is in neuroscience and he’s led some brown bags for us on…we have someone in the office who’s a juggler and he’s taught juggling. That kind of creativity is such an important outlet because we are I think constantly on the move, trying new things, iterating, being really vulnerable and talking about failures and challenges and so having those moments to kind of shift our brains a little bit and let that creative energy out and build relationships a little bit more, I think that’s really important.

 

Nick: And so someone will hit the bell and stand up and say, “We just got $50,000 donation from someone we never heard of before. Isn’t that cool?” and everyone will clap. And it’s a great way to kind of celebrate just little wins. We also have a gong for really big wins. It happens less frequently, but is terrifying when it happens because it just catches you right off guard. Inevitably, every now and then, someone will accidentally brush the bell and everyone has this Pavlovian response of “What happened?” People will stick their heads out of conference room doors and that person will have to stand there and say something to make them go away. But it’s just another great way of keeping the lines of communication open, sharing successes when they happen, and I think it’s a great little microcosm of what makes GlobalGiving GlobalGiving.

 

Jen: The Space is intentionally underscoring this flat feeling that we have here where we don’t have executives down a long hallway with office doors that are closed all day long. Everyone’s mixed in at every level of the organization together. It’s very bright and open — lots of sunlight, lots of color, bright orange and green and our brand colors everywhere. Lots of pockets for people to gather on an ad hoc basis. Either in the lounge or in our little island that we call Fiji which is literally like a cubbie with no doors and a hula person with that bobblehead in there with a sandbox. It’s a free open environment to encourage open communication. Lots of collaboration and transparency and if you’re walking by and you hear something that you’re interested in, you’re invited to join in on the conversation and offer your perspective.
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*The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @BizofGive on Twitter and at Facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving.