Month: June 2017

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of City Year

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


Michael Brown ©

Denver: Today’s visit will take you to Columbus Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts in the headquarters of City Year. In 28 communities across the country, City Year brings together diverse young leaders to service AmeriCorps members who work full time in high-need schools to help students succeed. You will first hear from their co-founder and CEO, Michael Brown, and then from members of the staff who, as you will soon learn, feel very passionate and emotionally-connected to the work that they do. 

Michael: When Robert Kennedy said at the height of apartheid in South Africa that “every time a man or woman stands up for an ideal or acts to improve a lot of others here, she sends out a tiny ripple of hope that can create a mighty current that can wipe away even the highest walls of oppression or resistance.” What we’ve done with that with our corporate culture is the very first agenda item of every meeting.

  1.  Ripples. No matter what’s going on, no matter how hard the work is we start with ripples. What’s out there that’s inspiring us, is there something that the corps members have done. What that does is that just puts you on the mood to tackle hard things. The core of our corporate culture is to be prepared from an idealistic spirit to do really hard things.


Jennifer:  I feel like every single person I interact with here at City Year is laser beam-focused on delivery the best possible service we can to the highest need schools in this country to make sure that every kid we serve gets the supports they need to be successful. That is an incredibly unifying force even though, “Wow! We are so diverse at City Year.”

Charlie: A couple of things I would mention, our values drive everything we do, our values come to life in our work, in our schools, in our communities across the country, across the world. Erin mentioned belief in the power of young people. I’m also interested in the belief in the power of old people, given my age. But we have 10 values, two others I would mention. One our service to a cause greater than self and starting there, the other is students first, collaboration always. We feel like our values and the stories that represent our values really helped guide our daily actions and our work and motivate us, so I am really excited about that.

Jamaal: What I appreciated the most about my City Year experience is that it gave me a common language to connect with people who thought like I did and those who didn’t think like I did, but we’re all committed to making sure that the communities, the schools, and the students that we were working with were going to get everything that they needed to be successful.

When I think about the cultural pieces that stick out for me, especially from my lens, I think about level 5 leadership and I think about how we strive to build young adults who are socially conscious, who are aware of their skills and their areas of development and are courageous enough to step into positions that they made initially beyond comfortable with but will grow into them.

Erin:  We’ve committed to embodying a culture of idealism at the office space and I had the opportunity to give a tour to someone who just had a meeting later this afternoon at City Year and was visiting the offices and it’s always really great to see our office through the eyes of a new person. We have a lot of our logos, our values, our culture points, a lot of our founding stories which are parables and descriptive stories that have some moral or ethical implication that we can draw at time of need and at times of indecision. Right now I am staring at one about Stone Soup and it’s really moving for people who are used to various sterile office environments. It’s something that seems so simple to all of us here in the office because we’re around it everyday but the colors, the blues, the reds, the yellows are all really vibrant and really energizing because our work is hard and we need every little bit of energy that we can get and I draw a lot of it from our office space.


ChandI’m going to talk about something that people may not know unless they worked here and that’s the CY Mindful Community (CY standing for City Year), and that’s something that’s pretty unique about our culture. We focus on doing meditations Tuesdays and Thursdays or any sort of brain break related activities. I’m part of the leadership team group for it. We get together at the beginning of each month and plan what we want to do for the community. Anyone and everyone is welcome. 

Erin: We close those meetings with a spirit break,  which everyone gets up, you all put your hands in the middle and if you can’t reach the middle, you out your hand on the shoulder of your colleague to make sure everyone’s connected, and you think of a word that either symbolizes or inspires and sums up the meeting or sums up the work ahead, something like collaboration or students first is a good examples that you could use. For my team strategy and growth, it’s SNG and then you say the word and it’s a way to end the meetings in the same way every single time, but also to cap it off in a really symbolic way to have that inspiration to move forward.

Virginia: Another thing we share is joys and appreciations. We start our meetings that way, we start our days that way and we end our days that way. There’s a balanced when thinking about being in that challenging environment continually that you’re still focusing on the small wins, both with students in the schoolhouse but then also with each other and appreciating each other for the work that we do. I think that balance is really key for me and that’s something that’s is really important in our culture is that balance that reminds you no matter how challenging your day was, there’s still something to appreciate or to find joy in. That’s still a really big piece for me.


Grace: I’ve had a one-on-one with my boss. Outside of any performance management meetings that we’ve had, I’ve been able to have those meetings with my boss to figure out what are your long term goals, what do you want to get out of this job, what elements of this job do you enjoy and want to do more of and how can we provide you additional leadership opportunities to build on what you’re doing here and why you want to be in this role or what role as you see yourself in in the future.

Jamaal: When you have leaders who are as accessible and open to answering your questions, to providing you with the perspective needed to sometimes say, “Okay, I understand why this decision was made and now I can see myself moving the work forward,” I think it’s another piece of our culture that’s really unique and special. I sometimes take for granted how other organizations don’t have leaders who are as approachable and accessible.

Grace: Our CEO, Michael Brown, this year did something different where he put together a campaign to fund raise and pack packages that will be sent to every single City Year team across the country. Michael led these efforts, helped to fund raise. Our senior leadership team donated half of the funds for this entire effort to put together care packages for all 314 schools that City year serves our across 28 cities across the entire country. It wasn’t just the funds, but it was also the amount of time it took to organize that, the amount of time it took to put that together,  and I think that is a perfect example of their leadership and leading by example when it comes to the work that we do.

Charlie: We do have a pledge that our corps members say on a regular basis, that maybe I can call on Jamaal to do it with me right now, the City Year pledge. I call on Jamaal because he was on the dean’s council, so I can do that–10 years ago. “I pledge to serve as a City Year member to the very best of my ability, to honor the rules and expectations of City Year, to respect my colleagues and the people and the communities we serve, to provide excellent service, to lead by example and be a role model to children, to celebrate the diversity of the people, ideas and cultures around me, to serve with an open heart and an open mind, to be quick to help and slow to judge, to do my best to make a difference in the lives of others and to build a stronger community, nation and world for all of us.”


Denver: I want to extend my thanks to City Year CEO, Michael Brown, for allowing us to visit their offices to Tina Chong and Jennifer Merrill for organizing all of these and to those who participated: Chand Jiwani, Erin McIntosh, Grace Boal, Charlie Rose, Virginia Bette, Jamaal Williams, and Jennifer Jordan. Come to for this podcast, transcript and pictures of the participants in the office City Year.

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, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of First Book

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

Denver: Today, we will be heading down to our nation’s capital and to the offices of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials and other essentials to children in need. We will begin with their President and CEO, Kyle Zimmer, and then hear from the other members of the staff about the secret sauce that makes First Book a special place to work.


Kyle Zimmer and Denver Frederick

Kyle: Culture of the organization is paramount because it will affect everything you do… and a lot of things that you can’t do. It’s been important to us from the day we opened our doors. I believe strongly in team leadership. I don’t believe that having a single lone wolf at the helm of an organization is a healthy strategy; I don’t think it is a sustainable strategy. And so for starters, we have a team of four people at the top of the organization who are really co-equals in running it. In addition, we really work hard to elevate entrepreneurial thinking and to attract entrepreneurs into the organization

Jennifer:  I’ve been given opportunities to be challenged and to really manage up. So to do things that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before and really show and prove myself as a professional, and I think that’s really special and not every organization gives their employees an opportunity to do that.

Michael: The thing about First Book that always has me coming back for more is it’s kind of like coming to a playground of challenges every day and hanging out there with your friends. And so, under the big umbrella of getting more books out into the world, there are all of these smaller umbrella challenges, and smaller problems and issues and tasks to go through, whether it’s how do we get books to rural areas more effectively, whether it’s how do we let our network talk to each other so that they’re using our books more effectively or how do we make it easier for everybody in the US or people abroad to get books. There’s always this sense of there’s another great challenge, there’s another thing to work on, and you’ve got a lot of cool, interesting, smart people to roll up your sleeves with and try to figure them out.


Dan: And after we hit a great milestone, we’ll pop some champagne, we’ll eat and we’ll laugh and have a good time, and then we clean up and we get right back to climbing that hill. So I think it’s critically important that you’re able to come to a job that challenges you, that has a great mission, but also allows you to have a good time.

Paula:  I’ve been at First Book for almost 10 years already, and one of my favorite things about the organization is how fearless we are and how we don’t settle for things that we have already achieved. We keep looking for more. We set challenges and goals, but once we have achieved those, we look for more.

Anna: But we really are trying to meet the goals of that corporate partner and the goals of First Book. So as we grow and change and the partner grows and change, we want to make sure that we’re fitting in and making the best out of all of the goals and the needs of both parties.


Jennifer: So in every single performance evaluation that I’ve had at First Book, my manager has given me the opportunity to talk about my performance and how I feel about it, but also talk about their performance and how I feel about their management style, what’s working for me and what’s not working for me, and what they can do better to make sure that I feel supported, to make sure that I feel successful, and to make sure that I’m challenged and see a future for me here at First Book. So that, I think, is really important to me. It makes me feel valued in the same way that each one of our members feel valued.

Dan: I ask them questions like “What is your professional Shangri-La when it comes to work environment?” “Would you prefer to work in an office alone or with other folk?” “Can you make a joke or take a joke?” These are things that are important to the culture here, so these are questions that I’m constantly asking candidates when their potentially looking for jobs, including “Why First Book? Why would you want a job here?”

Roxana: I think that’s the kind of environment that we come to everyday that makes it really easy to come to work, and I think we get to celebrate it with traditions that we sort of look forward to. I’m going to say one that I enjoy a lot just because I think it defines, for me, First Book – it’s our Halloween celebration. Because we go all out, people get very creative and very competitive about “What are we going to do for Halloween? Because we have to come up top. We’re going to have to really rock it this year.” And people are so committed to the work that they find ways to put thematic/themes into their costumes and just really have a lot of fun, so that makes coming to work really, really special.


Paula: We not only do that through our program such as the Stories For All program in which we try to bring to schools titles that speak to minorities and different groups of people, but we also do a lot of that within the organization. Wherever you look in the offices here in Washington, you’re going to see a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, and First Book does a great job of making them feel inclusive, included in every single thing that we do as an organization.

Chandler: I was going to talk about work life balance, which maybe I don’t achieve so well all the time, but, in a way , I kind of love that because work life balance sort of implies that the thing that you do during the day is somehow other than who you are at core. And I think for me and I think for a lot of us here, I get a lot of my identity out of this organization and who we are in terms of the work that we’re doing together.



Chandler: I think one thing that I’m really proud of with regard to our culture is really trying to encourage a culture of innovation. I think that a lot of groups do that and they tend to focus on good innovative ideas that work, which is great, but we also really try to celebrate good innovative ideas that fail.

The way we do that is something called the First Book Brick Award and our Brick Wall Award, sort of illustrating the fact that we know that sometimes you have a great idea and for whatever reason, you hit a brick wall and it doesn’t work. But the thing that we want to celebrate is the people that have ideas that really are passionate about them. They think about ways to lay them out. They don’t let a fear of failure stop them from sort of pushing the boundaries of creativity, pushing the limits of what we usually do, challenging conventions that we might always have held in the past. So by purposefully calling out once a year the best ideas that failed, we really try to encourage everyone to not let the fear of failure prevent them from trying that thing that might really propel us forward.

Denver: I want to thank Joyce Johansson who helped organize my visit and to all those who participated, Anna Anderson, Chandler Arnold, Jennifer Cobb, Michael Jones, Dan Stokes, Roxana Barillas and Paula Neira. Podcast, transcript and pictures of the participants in the office of the First Book are all up on


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, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

Salim Ismail, Author of Exponential Organizations and Founder of ExO Works, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Salim Ismail, Author of Exponential Organizations and Founder of ExO Works, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.


Salim Ismail ©

Denver: Many people discuss the extraordinary change that is occurring in the world and that lays in front of us, brought about as a result of accelerating technologies: artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, biotech, and a host of other things. But if your conversations are anything like mine, they’re a little scattered and all over the place.

What we could really use is someone to bring clarity to all of this. Well, there are few people, if any, that could bring the kind of clarity that we need any better than my next guest. He is Salim Ismail, the Founding Executive Director of Singularity University, the Lead Author of one of my favorite books of all time, Exponential Organizations, and most recently, the Founder of ExO Works. Good evening, Salim, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

 Salim: Thank you very much! Looking forward to this. 

Denver: We’ve lived in a world—and I certainly have been educated and trained for one—where the extrapolations have been linear and incremental and pretty predictable, all things considered. But you maintain that we have moved into one where those extrapolations are going to be exponential. Help us get our minds around that and the implications of it all.

Salim: So this distinction of linear to exponential is maybe the most important fundamental characteristic of transformation happening today. Very easily, if I take 30 linear steps, I’ll go one, two, three, four, and I’ll get to 30 meters, 30 yards down the street, and we can all predict really well where is one-third or two-thirds of the way in that progression. We’re very good at that. If I say “What’s 15% of 80?” people can figure that out– like that! But If I take 30 doubling steps – 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 – at step 30, I’ve gone a billion meters. I’m actually 26 times around the world, which is a bit further than 30 meters, and it’s very hard to gauge where is one-third or two-thirds of the way in that progression.

Ever since Gordon Moore made his predictions, and in fact before that, we’re seeing doubling patterns in computation where we’re doubling every 18 months the number of transistors that can go onto a chip. That doubling pattern that we’ve seen for 60 years now in computing – unfettered, by the way – continues to go. We’re now seeing that in about a dozen technologies: drones, bitcoin, neuroscience, 3D printing, biotech.

In neuroscience, the resolution at which we can image the brain is doubling every year. In drones, the range at which how far a drone can go with the same weight, et cetera, is doubling every nine months. And so if a drone can carry a 10-kilo package for 10 kilometers, in nine months, it’s carrying a 20-kilo package.  And nine months later, it’s carrying a 40-kilo package, nine months later, 80 kilos…and the really key thing is this acceleration doesn’t stop. Once it becomes an information-based paradigm, that doubling pattern just continues and that’s really hard to get our heads around.

Denver: It sounds, from what you say, it kind of sneaks up on us, doesn’t it? 

Salim: It totally sneaks up on you because for a long time it looks like zero. A really easy example is 3D printing. Lots of people are familiar with it and get excited by it. Very few people are aware that 3D printing is actually 33 years old. It is not new. But when it first came out, the price performance was terrible. You could print out like .001 widgets/hour. Two years later, it doubled to .002 widgets/hour. Two years later, 004…and for a long time it just looks like zero. Then it hit .1, .2, .4, .8, 1.6, 3.2, it starts really going nuts, and then we called it a Black Swan. So if you don’t spot these patterns early, they totally surprise you, disrupt you.  However, if you can spot them early, it’s the biggest advantage you can possibly have. 

Denver: Oh, I can imagine. So this disruption that we’re in right now, we probably think we’re in the middle innings, but you got us in the top or the first. 

Salim: Just starting. Because we’re just starting—

Denver: National anthem just stopped. 

Salim: Yes. It was just going. It’s just going.


Annie Griffiths, Executive Director of Ripple Effect Images, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Annie Griffiths, Executive Director of Ripple Effect Images, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.



Annie Griffiths         ©

Denver: My next guest was one of the first female photographers for National Geographic and has been to some 150 countries during her remarkable career, taking photographs that humanize all kinds of situations and cultures. She is also the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization called Ripple Effect Images, a collection of photographs that document the programs that empower women and girls across the developing world. She is Annie Griffiths. Good evening, Annie, and welcome to The Business of Giving!


Annie: Good evening!

Denver: Your love affair with photography really didn’t begin until college. How did you get the bug?

Annie: Right! I was a late bloomer. I think it came from the fact that my parents, when I was growing up, my parents always had National Geographic and Life Magazine, and I was intrigued with photographs, but it never occurred to me that I could make a career out of that. I pursued writing. I actually audited a class to learn how to use a camera better, and somebody didn’t show up the first day.  The professor gave me the spot! So it was really like falling in love because two weeks later, I changed my major. I was gobsmacked.

Denver: It took instantly.

Annie: It took instantly. Yes.

Denver: What was it like being one of the first female photographers down at National Geographic? This was around 1978. Were there concerns about sending a young woman to far-flung places around the globe?

Annie: Well, yes, there were… and well-intentioned concerns. The biggest thing I recall is being terrified because I was not only one of the first women, but I was by far the youngest photographer there.  And I was, in fact, being mentored by the great director of photography, Bob Gilka, who recognized that he needed to diversify his team. He was covering the globe with just a bunch of white guys. And so, a number of us were given a leap into the big magazine world because of Bob’s interest in grooming a greater variety of photographers.

Denver: You’ve said that it was actually a bit of an advantage being a woman working in this world.

Annie: Oh, huge advantage!

Denver: What were some of those advantages?

Annie: Well, I think that the most important element of photographing people is trust and earning their trust. And women just tend to be less…

Denver: More trustworthy, actually.

Annie: Yes. Probably more trustworthy, but less threatening.  And people tend to be less on guard. Also, when I eventually had my kids, the fact that I was a mother was also kind of an equalizer. It showed me as a real human being, not just as this aberration who arrived from who knows where and was taking pictures. So, I’ve always thought it was a huge advantage.

The other advantage that I still love is that I was able to be with the women and therefore understand the underreported stories that rule their lives. And that is priceless. I could go where no man could go.

Denver: So you’re actually covering stories that had never been covered.

Annie: Absolutely! Yes. Still am.

Denver: That’s a pretty big advantage. I’ve so enjoyed looking at your work, and I truly appreciate it. I just wondered how you go about choosing the subject and telling the story… and maybe how that’s evolved since you first started back in 1978.

Annie: Well, yes. I think your radar improves. You get a sense of something is going to work or it’s not going to work. I think as you mature in any craft, you kind of see ahead and anticipate things better. It’s a good thing because when we’re young, we have so much energy. We can just go and go and go. And as time goes on, you sort of listen better on a number of levels. And that’s also part of trusting your gut so that you get to the subject more quickly. (more…)

Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President of Global Impact and Philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, the Senior Director of Education at the International Rescue Committee, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President of Global Impact and Philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, the Senior Director of Education at the International Rescue Committee, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: And this evening’s semi-finalist of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change initiative is Sesame Workshop, teamed together with the International Rescue Committee to educate children displaced by conflict and persecution. And here to discuss their proposal with us is Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President of Global Impact and Philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, the Senior Director of Education at the International Rescue Committee. My thanks to both of you for being here this evening!

Sarah: Thank you!

Sherrie: Thanks!


Sarah Smith and Sherrie Westin  ©

There are 65 million people displaced around the world; half of those are children. Under 8, there are about 12 million. So it’s a massive, massive scale.

Denver: Let me start with you, Sarah. Give us an idea of the scope of the refugee crisis and that of displaced persons at it stands today.  And how many of those are children?

Sarah: Thank you. The scope of the refugee crisis today is unprecedented. There are 65 million people displaced around the world; half of those are children. Under 8, there are about 12 million. So it’s a massive, massive scale.

Denver: And if you would for a moment, what’s the difference—because we hear it used so much interchangeably—between a refugee, a migrant, a displaced person? What’s the distinction among them?

Sarah: The most important difference is that a refugee is somebody who has had to flee their country. So they’ve crossed an international border, and they have done so because they’re in fear of persecution, and they’re fleeing for their lives. A displaced person is somebody who has also had to flee their home, but they have not crossed an international border. So they have stayed within their country, but they’ve also had to flee because they are in fear for their lives.

On average, a refugee stays a refugee for 17 years, and somebody who’s been displaced in their country… for 25 years.

Denver: And whether you’re a displaced person or a refugee, how long on average do you remain displaced?

Sarah: It’s quite shocking and I think this is one of the most unbelievable statistics. On average, a refugee stays a refugee for 17 years, and somebody who’s been displaced in their country… for 25 years. So this is a long-term problem.

Denver: So this is not a short-term solution; this is their life. This is their way of life for a quarter of a century, in some cases.

Sarah: Exactly.

Denver: Sherrie, what is the impact of violence and neglect and these unimaginable hardships on children and their ultimate development?

Sherrie: Well, Denver, there’s been so much research and evidence in the last few years on how detrimental those adverse childhood experiences – what is often referred to as “toxic stress” – is on a child’s development, with long-term repercussions to their health, not just to their cognitive ability, but to their health, to their livelihood. So we know that if we reach children in those critical early years, that we can make a huge difference on children’s outcomes, particularly for children who have been subject to violence or trauma because they need the help to mitigate the damage from that experience. So when you think of refugee children, obviously, these are children who have had extreme experiences that can really alter their long-term opportunities. And this is an area we know we can make a difference.

Denver: Sherrie, if you look at the totality of this worldwide humanitarian system, what kind of emphasis is placed on early childhood development, emotional well-being, and education?


Dr. Frank Richards, the Director of the River Blindness Elimination Program at The Carter Center, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Dr. Frank Richards, the Director of the River Blindness Elimination Program at The Carter Center, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Dr. Drank Richards

Denver: And our semi-finalist for this evening in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change Initiative is The Carter Center, and their proposal is to eliminate river blindness in Nigeria. And here to discuss that with us is Dr. Frank Richards, who is the Director of the River Blindness Elimination Program at The Carter Center. Good evening, Dr. Richards, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Frank: Good evening! It’s a pleasure to be here.

River blindness is an infectious disease, and it’s caused by a parasite. Actually, it’s caused by a parasitic worm…it’s also a very terrible skin disease, as well as a terrible eye disease.

Denver: Quite a few people have probably heard of river blindness, but not too many people fully appreciate or understand what it actually is. So tell us – what is river blindness?

Frank: River blindness is an infectious disease, and it’s caused by a parasite. Actually, it’s caused by a parasitic worm. You can imagine a very thin worm that measures about 13 inches long, coiled up into a clump, living underneath your skin. That is this parasite that we call onchocerca volvulus that causes river blindness. The interesting thing about this parasite is that it is transmitted from person to person by the bite of a small black fly. The black flies breed in rapidly flowing waters, rapidly flowing rivers and streams. So when you’re close to those streams, you’d find lots of these black flies, and so you find lots of these worms.

…people catch river blindness, but people also cause river blindness. So that if we can use the tools that we have, this miracle medicine Mectizan to eliminate the parasite in the human population, it’s gone once and for all, unless it’s reintroduced from outside.

Frank:  I think it’s really important to recognize that these black flies are not born infected with this parasite. The parasite doesn’t live in the rivers; it doesn’t live in other animals or in the environment. This is a parasite that lives in human beings only, and the black flies serve to pick up the parasite and transfer it to another person. So the black flies are not infected; new infections cannot happen, but the black flies must be infected by another person. So I like to say people catch river blindness, but people also cause river blindness. So that if we can use the tools that we have, this miracle medicine Mectizan to eliminate the parasite in the human population, it’s gone once and for all, unless it’s reintroduced from outside.

The way that the worms cause blindness is that the curled up clump of worms living under the skin that I mentioned produce baby worms, which we call microfilariae, that get underneath the skin and also get into the eyes. These tiny little worms, about the size of a period on a printed page of paper, get into the eyes and cause inflammation and visual loss and in many people, ultimately blindness. It also gets under the skin and causes terrible, terrible itching and skin discoloration and depigmentation of the skin, and so it’s also a very terrible skin disease, as well as a terrible eye disease.

Denver: Boy, it certainly sounds horrific. How long is it before somebody would go blind?


The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of FSG

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

Denver: Much of the breakthrough thinking has occurred in addressing the most vexing social issues that challenge global society has come from an organization by the name of FSG. And that is where we will be going to this evening! To 1020 19th Street North West in their Washington DC offices. I asked members of the FSG team about working there and this is what they had to say.


Hayling: So what I love about FSG is that there’s one part of my brain that views a lot of these, frankly, social justice issues as market failures, so I’m able to layer on my grad school rigor lens on issues that I care about from an ethical and moral perspective. But then also engage with those who are hopefully beneficiaries of the work and create a vision that makes sense for their work.

Rahfin:  When I think about what stands out for me at FSG, it’s that every piece of work, every project we’re on has a clear line of sight to the world and the impact that it can generate

Ursula: I will also say in that same vein of having no hierarchy… instead of having traditional sort of bosses, if you will, managers, FSG does not take that approach. People have what we call PDLs — professional development leaders. And because we are, by and large, generalists working on different projects across different geographies, people have that constant PDL who help to coach their professional development, help them understand how they can sort of engage in projects that would satiate them in the most satisfying of ways. But it’s not a traditional boss, and the absence of that boss I think again, contributes to a spirit of camaraderie and co-creation that you really don’t find in any other places.

Neeraja: I’ve really seen the magic and the power of the work that we do through this particular work that we’ve been doing over the past few years. We’ve had people who are so steeped in the technical expertise say to us, “We’ve never thought about this this way. You’ve helped us tremendously. You kind of helped us figure out how to move forward.” You’re actually facilitating progress in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to do. And when that happens it is both humbling, exciting, and a little bit surprising because you’re sitting there with people who’ve had expertise in these areas for so long. But it’s having someone to be able to bring the strategic lens, helping bring the facilitation skills to actually help people pull up from all of the expertise that they have and make sense of everything that they’re working on.

And this has really kind of have come to life for me on some work that I’m doing right now on helping to support accelerating the market introduction of new HIV prevention products in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. And that work has really had us entering rooms full of people with MDs, PhDs, longtime experts on HIV prevention, longtime advocates on HIV and I have to admit there’s a lot of trepidation when you walk into those rooms wondering if you almost have a right to be there, if you can really help push this issue forward with people who have been working on it for decades and to have all the technical expertise that comes with these topics in global health.


Aaron Hurst, Author of “The Purpose Economy” Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.


Aaron Hurst


Denver: One of the things we discuss on The Business of Giving, as much as anything else I suspect, is the corporate culture of nonprofit organizations and social good businesses. That is why I’m so delighted to have with us this evening, Aaron Hurst, one of my favorite thinkers on the topic and the pioneer of purpose-driven work. Aaron launched the pro bono service market by founding the Taproot Foundation in 2001, authored the best-selling book The Purpose Economy several years back, and is now the CEO of Imperative, a technology platform helping people to discover purpose in their work. Good evening, Aaron and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Aaron: Thrilled to be here with you.

Denver: I have always encountered people who are purpose-driven in their work and those who are simply not, but it sure does seem like we’re talking about it a lot more frequently these days than we have in the past, perhaps in large part because of you and your work. When did this subject first grab you, Aaron?

Aaron: I’ve been interested in work and how do we make work more meaningful since I was probably in high school. My grandfather was the original author of the blueprint for the Peace Corps, and a lot of that was really about the same idea of nobility of work and how work can be transformational. When I went to the University of Michigan, it was really what I studied, and really saw that service and work are all interconnected, and that we had lost our sense of the nobility of work in the American culture. I really have seen it as my journey to figure out: how do we bring that nobility back, because work is powerful; it’s so transformational, and it’s so much of what provides value in our lives.

Denver: It kind of got perverted along the way, didn’t it?

Aaron: Yes, went a little bit off track.

Denver: So much of your current work was informed by the venture you started some 16 years ago, the Taproot Foundation, which really continues to have a profound impact on the entire nonprofit sector, not to mention all the individual people who are engaged. How did that idea work?

Aaron: The Taproot Foundation was a really simple idea. I think good ideas tend to be simple with the right timing, which is the good luck part. But the basic idea is nonprofits need marketing, technology, HR, finance just like big companies do, but they’re typically priced out of the market; they’re not able to afford those services. So the idea was: how could we create a giant consulting firm where all the labor was pro bono and not paid work?  And how could we recruit business professionals– who are inherently generous– to donate not just their time, not just their money but their skills to help provide these services?  And over the course of a dozen years, we worked there. We went from becoming the small little nonprofit to the largest nonprofit consulting firm in the world, to then realizing that was kind of a fool’s destination because we were still only serving a tiny percentage of the market. We really switched the whole strategy to focus instead on: How do we create a whole marketplace for pro bono services?

By the time I left, it was about a $15 billion a year market in the US, with affiliates in 30 countries. It was amazing to see– from China to Costa Rica– this sort of business attitude around doing good using your skills is universal. It’s not just an American thing.

Denver: And when you look at purpose and work, what were some of the insights you were able to take away after having done that for a dozen of years or so?

Aaron: It took a while. It took me about 5 years to figure out because you have to manage teams, and you can’t pay them; you can’t promote people. You’ve really got to use intrinsic motivation. You can’t use extrinsic motivation. That’s why I always say, “You’re not truly an outstanding manager until you can manage volunteers.” That’s the true test of whether or not someone’s an effective leader and an effective manager. 

Denver: That’s a great point.

Aaron: I think I learned a ton about the attitudes that people bring to their work. I learned a lot about what the diversity is of things that motivate people, and not everyone gets purpose from the same things. But I learned most importantly– no surprise to you, given your work– people are inherently generous; people inherently want work to be meaningful, but we just need to create more avenues for that.  And we need to help create a narrative that supports it.


Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Founder and Co-director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Founder and Co-director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

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Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Denver: And we have reached the midpoint of featuring the eight semi-finalists of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. And tonight, it is a great pleasure to have with us Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Founder and Co-director of Rice University’s 360°: Institute for Global Health. Good evening, Rebecca, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Rebecca: Thank you so much.

Denver: Your life was changed forever back in 2006 when you walked into a two-room ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi. What did you see there, Rebecca?

Rebecca: You know, it was such a life-changing moment for me to walk into that neonatal unit,  and I was struck by, first, just the number of babies that were in a very tiny space. There were probably 50 babies, many of them sharing beds because they didn’t have enough bed space for each baby to have its own bed. And there were just a few nurses, all of whom were really busy trying to take care of babies that were quite ill.

But as an engineer, the other thing that really struck me was the lack of technology. When you walk into a neonatal intensive care unit in the United States, it is just full of big pieces of equipment, and that equipment has made a huge improvement in rates of survival, especially for babies who are born too soon or who born small. In this neonatal unit in Malawi, there was none of that equipment there. And just the contrast of all that made such an impression, and it made an impression both for me as a mom and for me as an engineer.


Andy Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Andy Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Denver: One of the expressions used to console a buddy who’s lost a girlfriend or boyfriend is to tell them not to be too down because “there are plenty of fish in the sea.” Unfortunately in recent years, that expression is a little less true than it once was due to things like overfishing. But my next guest believes that this is a solvable problem if we just follow a sound and sensible course of action. He is Andy Sharpless, the CEO of Oceana. Good evening, Andy, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Andy: Hi, Denver! Good to be here.

Denver: What is the mission of Oceana and what does the organization consider its job to be?


Andy Sharpless

Andy: Oceana’s job is to put more fish in the sea so that we can eat them. Now, you laughed, and that’s the right way. I once was on a show like this, about to go live nationwide, and a gal came over to me like the minute before we were to go on TV, and she said, “This doesn’t make any sense, Andy. You’re trying to put more fish in the sea so that we can eat them? Please explain that to me.”

Denver: There you go! Well, I think it’s nice and it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Well, the period of peak fishing supply was around, say about 1990s – 1995, 1996.  What has happened, Andy, since then that has depleted it so, where many of the world’s fisheries are on the verge of collapse?

Andy: So this is an interesting thing. You’ve all heard of peak oil; your listeners have heard of peak oil. Well, we’ve had peak fish, just like you said. Peak fish happened in the early- to mid-1990s, so meaning that the total catch in weight of the world’s fishing fleets– just added up– has been in decline after having grown basically for all of human history, for as far back as you could look. Is this because the fishing fleets aren’t fishing so hard? Is this because technology has retrograded? Is this because maybe the fish have gotten smarter, and they can’t get caught anymore? No. Of course not! It’s because despite all the additional effort, more boats, more technology, we can’t catch the fish.  And that’s proof positive that we’ve overfished the ocean.

Denver: Now, when you look at the major fisheries around the world, perhaps measured as you suggested by global catch weight, in what countries are they concentrated?

Andy: One of the really interesting things is, as is true with lots of phenomenon in the world, 80% of the problem is concentrated with 20% of the actors.  And in this case, it’s even more concentrated. So we made a list at Oceana of the countries whose oceans are most productive or most important to the world’s ocean by the weight of the catch that they provide. And it turns out that if you take just the top 10 countries on that list – there are nine countries in the European Union – you get more than two-thirds of the world’s catch coming from those countries. And if you go to the top 29 countries in the European Union, you get more than 90% of the world’s catch. Now, your listeners will say, “Wait a minute. He slipped in the European Union there. That sounds like a trick!” Because you and I  know that the European Union is now 28, soon to be 27.

And that’s not a trick because when the European Union was formed, one of the things that they centralized– that they put in Brussels’ hands– was fish. So, from the point of view of managing fisheries, Europe is a country.

Denver: Got you. And your focus really is on countries. A lot of people would think “Oh, you must be going to the international federations, international bodies,” but that’s not the right strategy.

Andy: Exactly right. It’s a country-by-country approach, and this is one of the things that really gives us confidence that we can do what we say we’re doing. And you’re right; it’s a bit of surprise. When you look at oceans, a map of the worlds for example, the oceans look like an international place. And so now, you’re imagining “Oh my God! We’re going to have to go to the United Nations, and we’re going to have to have an international agreement…” and as we can see from climate change and other such efforts, those projects are often destined to fail, sadly.

Denver: Takes forever at least.

Andy: They take forever at least. I hate to say this so bluntly, but it feels to me like a lot of international negotiations involve a committee of countries negotiating forever about the lowest common denominator outcome, and then agreeing not to enforce that. That’s the way—

Denver: No teeth!

Andy: So if we had to save the oceans through an international process, I would not be here talking because I’m too practical a person; it would drive me crazy. The thing that we realized is that you can take a country-by-country approach because coastal countries have exclusive control of their ocean – exclusive control of their ocean out to 200 nautical miles, which is 231 statute miles. It’s a long way out.

So, for example, nobody—and this happened in the 1980s—nobody fishes for fish that you can see off the American coast, unless they’re fishing under American laws and rules. We don’t negotiate with the Chinese on that; we get to set our own rules. We don’t even negotiate with the Canadians on that. It’s like our ocean; we get to set the rules. If we want it to be abundant, we can make it abundant. No international negotiation required. Same thing is true for China. If they want their ocean to be abundant, they don’t have to negotiate with us. Same thing is true for Canada, and so forth and so on.

So that list that I was talking about of the top 28 countries in the European Union, we can go to them country-by-country and say, “You know what? It’s in your self-interest to make your ocean abundant, and you don’t have to negotiate with anybody else to do that. You can pass the law, you can set the rules, you can enforce them. And then guess what? You’ll have a whole lot of fish in your ocean. Your fleet can catch them; you can sell them; you can make money from them, and you can feed a lot of people.”

Denver: And I gather from what you’re saying, this is where most of the fish are – by these coastal waters, not deep out in the sea.

Andy: Yes. That’s correct, Denver. And that is also counterintuitive. Most of the glamorous fish—it’s a little bit of a contradiction in terms, but there are such things. Glamorous fish. What are they? Tuna, very glamorous. Sharks, very glamorous. Big whales, very glamorous. Dolphins, quite glamorous. Turtles, kind of glamorous.  I hope I haven’t revealed too much geekery in my own view of the world, but I think average people can think that those are interesting fish.

What is characteristic of those big fish? They are predators, just like lions and tigers are really glamorous to us. They’re big predators. So the lions and tigers of the ocean, just like the lions and tigers of the land, roam big distances. They’re big predators; they roam, and so they make the mistake. They have the misjudgement to go out into the international zone of the oceans, which is that zone beyond 200 nautical miles. The technical word for it is the high seas. And when you’re in the high seas, you are in trouble because you are in the free fire zone of the ocean where anybody basically—

Denver: Anything goes.

Andy: Anything goes. Anybody who wants to catch you can catch you. Formally, there’s supposed to be some rules, but they aren’t really enforced, and they’re not really very tight. And so you’re in big trouble if you’re a big fish that likes to go in.

So we hear story after story about what’s happening to those animals, and it’s a bad thing, and it’s hard to fix.  That obscures the really good news that the less glamorous animals– the rabbits, if you will, of the ocean– staying in the coastal zone the whole time. And there’s a lot of wonderful creatures that deserve to be protected and, by the way, a lot of them… they taste good to eat. And so we can feed a lot of people, feed a hungry world without solving the international management problem. It should be solved, but you don’t have to wait for it to be solved to get stuff done for the oceans.

It’s not like climate change. This is really important. Climate change is an international problem. It’s a common atmosphere. It blows around the world every day. So people who worry about how a country-by-country approach to climate change have a reasonable point – not true about the oceans.

Denver:  And sticking to these coastal waters for a minute, how many people’s livelihoods depend upon fishing?

Andy: There are several estimates of this. If you count people who have seafood in their diet as a substantial part of their diet, you can get to two- or three billion people. If you count poor people, hungry people who live on the coast, you can get to hundreds of millions of people who are entirely dependent on fish. If you count people for whom, ask the question:  “Animal protein is…?” Fish is the chief animal protein you get, you can get to like a billion. So you have a lot of people who need ocean fish in their diet…or they’re going to suffer.

Overfishing is pretty easy to fix as a technical matter. You set and enforce scientific quotas; you protect nursery and spawning areas, and you reduce what’s called bycatch. You do those three things, and you will get an abundant ocean, and you will get it faster than you can possibly believe.

Denver: Well, let’s pick up where we started, and that is: Over the course of the last 20 years or so, the global catch weight – the number of fish we’re taking from the ocean – has been dropping. You have put forth a three-step program that you think if we follow, can address this problem and do it fairly quickly. The first is to stop overfishing. How in the world do we do that?

Andy: Overfishing is pretty easy to fix as a technical matter. You set and enforce scientific quotas; you protect nursery and spawning areas, and you reduce what’s called bycatch. You do those three things, and you will get an abundant ocean, and you will get it faster than you can possibly believe.

Why do I think that’s practical? Because of what we’ve already talked about. A country—take the United States—can pass a law. It did do that.  Our fishery law is called the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It was passed in 2000 and then strengthened again in 2006. And guess what it does? It mandates that you set scientific quotas, that you rebuild your fisheries if you’ve overfished them. It protects what’s called essential fish habitat, and it reduces bycatch. And guess what? Since the year 2000, all of the metrics on our own fisheries are getting better, and we’ve seen a 15-, 16-year period of rebuilding and more abundance and real progress measured by fish in the water in the American ocean.

Denver: You know, I’m sure you saw that story in the New York Times just about a month or so ago, or even less, and it was about China. And what China had done is that they pretty much have depleted their fish stock in their coastal waters, and now they’ve created this armada of distant water fishing vessels, I think they said 2,600 of them. Some of them are five or six stories high, and they’re heading towards Western Africa. And they are just having a devastating impact on countries like Senegal. Tell us what is happening there, and what, if anything, can be done about it?

Andy: China is one of the world’s most important fishing countries. It’s number one or number two. And depending upon whether you’re talking about an El Niño year,  in some years, if you count its domestic… its catch from its own waters, plus its catch from international waters, plus its illegal catch from West African territories, it can get to 12% or 13% of the world’s wild fish catch by weight. So it’s a huge actor and a huge consumer of fish.

So China has an outside impact on the world’s ocean, as it does in so many areas of the world right now. What are we going to do about that? Well, there are two or three things. Number one—I want to re-emphasize the point we’ve already talked about—you do not need to solve the Chinese problem to have an abundant ocean in much of the world.

Denver: It’s not a deal breaker.

Andy: It’s definitely not. The American ocean can be completely abundant because, guess what? The American Coast Guard will make sure there’s no Chinese fishing in our ocean unless they’re under our supervision and our rules. The Chileans can do the same thing. The Peruvians can do the same thing. The Canadians can do…every country in the world that has a coast and has a productive ocean doesn’t need to allow the Chinese fishing. And they won’t, and they will not, and they do not.

So we can make enormous progress, absent cooperation from the Chinese. What does that leave vulnerable though? It leaves the fish, the high sea zones, very vulnerable to Chinese overfishing, and it leaves weak countries or corrupt countries—there are some in West Africa that are examples of that—very vulnerable because the Chinese  come in, and they fish either illegally or they buy the right to fish through corrupt actions.

So what are you going to do about that harder problem to solve? What we have done, in partnership with Google and with SkyTruth, is launch Global Fishing Watch. This is a big step toward dealing with the Chinese problem, which is, by the way, it’s not only China that has distant water boats.

Denver: No, I’m sure it’s not.

Andy: The Spanish fish the hell out of the world’s oceans. There are some other big, international fleets. The Japanese, the Koreans, the Russians even. So there’s people with fleets all over the world. You can in fact see this if you go to What does is something the world has never done before. It makes visible to anybody with an internet connection for free a nearly real-time view of more than 35,000 of the world’s largest commercial fishing vessels as they fish, with a historical record of everywhere that they fished, everywhere that they’ve been. You can zoom in on a place you’re interested in. You can zoom all the way down in and find out names of individual vessels and follow them and where they’ve been… and what their flag state is… and what their identifiers are.

This is a big step toward making the Chinese fleet accountable for what it’s doing. So it’s not going to be invisible anymore that they’re fishing the hell out of West Africa because you can go to Global Fishing Watch and see it. And it would make it possible, for example, if you were an honest West African… Let’s say you’re a journalist in West Africa and you were hearing, as any such journalist would hear, reports from the small African fishermen that the fish are gone. Why are the fish gone? Because the big Chinese trollers have taken them. You would be able to go to your local government with the information on Global Fishing Watch and say, like “What’s going on here?” They can’t hide anymore. So, it’s a big step forward.

…it’s fish that have been killed in the course of fishing for something and not sold, not brought, not landed, not sold, not used, not eaten…basically just wasted. Nobody knows exactly how much there is.  But people estimate it could be anywhere from 10% to 25% of the total killing that the fleets do on a global basis.

Denver: It sure is. That’s the kind of transparency we really need in these waters… no pun intended. You mentioned a second ago, and this was your second thing, is to minimize bycatch. Say a word or two – what is bycatch?  And what fish are most impacted by it?

Andy: Bycatch is a technical term, and I apologize for using it. It’s the accidental killing of the non-target species. Accidental isn’t really even a correct term. It’s the killing of the fish that are in your net that you’re not going to sell. If you drag a net through the water, which is what a troller does, or especially if you’re fishing for something small…What’s something small that people like to eat? Oh, shrimp – appropriately named, very small. So therefore, you have to have a net with very small holes. Therefore you catch everything else along with the shrimp.

American shrimp fisheries, which are going to be amongst the best managed in the world, catch four- to five pounds of non-shrimp for every pound of shrimp. Imagine…so it’s dumped all off on deck, and the shrimp fisherman sorts out the shrimp from everything else, and in many cases discards at sea, dead and dying, all of the non-shrimp. That’s the bycatch.

So it’s fish that have been killed in the course of fishing for something and not sold, not brought, not landed, not sold, not used, not eaten…basically just wasted. It’s hard to estimate because, of course, much of it is not measured because it’s discarded at sea. So nobody knows exactly how much there is, but people estimate it could be anywhere from 10% to 25% of the total killing that the fleets do on a global basis.

We have fished the ocean for so long that in some cases we do not even understand how abundant it could be. And we underestimate the opportunity that we will gain by putting in place these three basic things: quotas, habitat, and bycatch protections.

Denver: Well, they say we waste 40% of our food that’s produced on land, so we have 10%, 25%.  So there’s a lot just going down the drain. The final thing is to protect the habitat. What are some of the things being done here, and those that Oceana is advocating for?

Andy: This is, in some ways, the simplest thing to understand, and it’s to create ocean parks and to create zones where you restrict fishing activity… or in some cases prohibit fishing activities so that you get a fully-abundant and rebuilt place. You can think of it as a fish bank because the fish will become very abundant in that place, and that does a number of things. Some of those fish will then swim out, and they can be caught when they leave the park. It will also show you, the scientists, and everybody else how good “good” is. We have fished the ocean for so long that in some cases we do not even understand how abundant it could be. And we underestimate the opportunity that we will gain by putting in place these three basic things: quotas, habitat, and bycatch protections.

So, create ocean parks. They’re called typically marine-protected areas. If you want to sound really smart, you will call them by their acronym, MPAs, but it will be better to call them marine parks and everybody would understand what we’re talking about.

Denver: Good idea.

Andy: And there has been some real big progress on that in the last, again, 15 or so years. People will celebrate that President Bush and then President Obama together created the largest fully-protected ocean area in the world, second only really to the Ross Sea, which is an international zone that was created down in the South… but just recently.

But at worst case, the second; in some cases, I think it’s the first because it’s all in American water…so it will really be protected. The Ross Sea is international, so it was going to be subject to some of those difficulties you talked about. The largest, fully-protected area……President Bush started it, President Obama expanded it using his authority under national monuments. It’s around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and these are uninhabited, remote islands.  It’s going to be a spectacular place, and it’s going to show a lot of good stuff, and it’s going to create a lot of fish that will swim out, and people can catch and eat.

By the way, it is one of the decisions that President Obama made that President Trump has announced he will review. And so we are worried that President Trump will revoke that decision. And then there’s a similar but much smaller protected area off the coast of New England. It’s a canyon off the coast of New England. And because it’s a canyon, it has lots of nooks and crannies where baby fish grow up and becomes a real fish bank to feed ocean abundance elsewhere. That was also protected by Obama, and that is also being reviewed by the Trump administration.  And we are very worried that they will take that protection back.

I love this about ocean conservation…I think it is the biggest problem that the world has that (a) it can fix, and (b) it can know it fixed. It can measure the results of it. We don’t have to believe in some model’s estimate that long after I’m dead, we’ll have done this thing. You can know it…

Denver: I bet. Well, you know, if you take a look at how these fisheries have been depleted, and let’s say, instituting this three-step program, intuitively, I would think this is going to take many, many, many a year to try to have them recover. But that isn’t the case. It can happen remarkably quickly. How does that happen? And give us a couple of examples where it has happened.

Andy: Fish are an incredibly fertile and robust part of nature. They lay eggs; many species will lay eggs by the millions, and they are capable of producing rebounds in 10 years. You can have a full rebound—depends on the species—but many species will deliver a full rebound to what’s called maximum sustainable yield– the maximum level of abundance that you want if you’re going to fish them— in about a 10-year period. Some even a little faster, some a little bit longer.

How does that happen? I more or less explained it. Because they lay eggs by the millions, and they’re just like:  give them a little bit of help; give them a little bit of support – quotas, habitat and bycatch – and you can see results.

What  are the results or examples? There are many around the world. Haddock have come back. Arctic Cod have come back. Japanese snow crab have come back.  There are many examples—

Denver: Norwegian Herring?

Andy: Norwegian Herring have come back. Many of these were badly overfished, badly depleted. Finally, governments put in place some or all of the measures we’ve talked about – scientific quotas, habitat protection and bycatch – and the fish rebounded. It is one of the great, satisfying things to do. Most conservation projects, terrestrial projects…you want to rebuild a rainforest? You’re not going to be around to see the results. It’s going to be more than a hundred year project. This thing, saving the oceans, rebuilding the oceans, you can hope, you can believe that you will see measurable success in your lifetime sometimes in 10 or 15 years, and we’re having success stories.

I love this about ocean conservation, but I think it is the biggest problem that the world has that (a) it can fix, and (b) it can know it fixed. It can measure the results of it. We don’t have to believe in some model’s estimate that long after I’m dead, we’ll have done this thing. You can know it, and I love that about this.

Denver: Well, we live in an instant gratification society. It is about as close as you can get. And, you know, one of the proposed solutions, which taking a closer look at seems to make an awful lot of sense, is fish farming for things like salmon and tuna. But upon further inspection, that just might not be the case. What’s the problem with fish farming?

Andy: Very intuitive, but wrong idea. Fish farming falls into three categories: good, bad, and indifferent – green, red, and yellow. What determines which category you’re in? What the fish that you’re farming eats. So think about this for a second. What’s a commonly farmed fish that you, Denver, have probably eaten in the last week or two that lots of Americans eat?

Denver: Salmon.

Andy: Salmon. Exactly. What does salmon eat? Salmon are a carnivore. They eat meat. They eat fish. They’re like a cat. Think of them as a cat, not as a cow. So when you farm salmon, you need to feed them wild ocean fish. So that’s what salmon farmers do. They catch wild; they buy fish meal– which looks like dog food but smells like fish, and is ground up wild fish. And in the process, you take four pounds of wild fish that you and I could be eating, and you convert it into one pound of farm fish. So you reduce the total amount of healthy—

Denver: That’s a negative direction!

Andy: Exactly! In the wrong direction. You take four pounds of healthy marine fish, and you convert into one pound of farm fish. And by the way, you have equity impacts because those fish that you’re feeding would be cheaper than the salmon per pound. They would be therefore more likely to be eaten by working class people, poor people, regular people. The farm salmon is going to be flown north and fed to a rich American or a rich European or a rich Japanese person. And, by the way, it’s going to underprice your good, honest American wild salmon fisherman… who, by the way, is doing a good job right now. The wild American Alaskan salmon fishery is a good fishery– well-managed, pretty abundant, and it’s twice as expensive as the farm salmon.  But that’s a fish. If you want to eat salmon, you should pay for the American wild salmon.


Andy Sharpless and Denver Frederick at the AM970 The Answer Studio

Denver: Got you. One of your major undertakings to address this entire issue is a partnership that you have with an organization called Rare, and with Encourage Capital.   And this is being funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies with a focus on a couple of key countries. Tell us about Vibrant Oceans Initiative and the impact that you’re seeing from it.

Andy: Bloomberg challenged us about three years ago in a way that was really helpful to our strategic thinking. He came to us and said, “I’m thinking about doing ocean conservation, but I’m not going to do it unless you can deliver a measurement for me, a consistent measurement on what you’re getting done.” And he asked us to think about it the same way they thought about the battle against tobacco.  And Bloomberg, as you know, has funded a lot of battles to stop people from smoking. And he measures the results of all, and a lot of that is through policy advocacy – tax cigarettes, make it hard for children to buy them and so forth and so on. He measures the results of that by lives saved – people still living because they didn’t get addicted to cigarettes. So he asked us, “Can you do the same for fish?” And my first answer was “Absolutely not. I don’t know how to do that.”

Denver: Where do I go?

Andy: Yes. I mean, we’ll have a turtle campaign and a whale campaign and so forth, and I don’t know how to  add  three turtles equals one whale… equals four reefs… equals a shark. And so, then I went away and thought about it and said, “Wait a minute. There is a way to do this,” and that’s to measure the food value of a rebuilt ocean, and that gives us a consistent measure of what we’re achieving for Mayor Bloomberg.

So we went back to him with that idea. He said, “I love it. I’ll fund you to go to the Philippines and to Brazil and to win policy changes in those countries that will put more fish in those oceans.” And we’ve been doing that in partnership with Rare and Encourage Capital for the last three years. We just had a board meeting about two weeks ago in the offices here in New York of Bloomberg Philanthropies and reported very directly back to our funders there on our progress. We’ll have a big five-year initial grant, five-year period. So we’re going to come up to a real test in about a year or so on whether he’s happy with what we’re doing. But I think we’re going to have a really nice success story to talk about.

Denver: Well, congratulations to you because it really is a brilliant metric. It encapsulates everything. It encapsulates the environment because you’re going to have more fish with a healthier ocean and everything else that goes along with it. And for somebody like me who’s kind of like, “Well, boy, you can relate to the number of meals that are being served.” So it really touches every single person in a way that is accessible.

Andy: Well, thank you. The number, I should make sure that your audience knows the number. We estimate that by 2050, if we do our job well and the world rebuilt its ocean—the top 30 countries, most of them did a good job—more than a billion people every day could either have this seafood meal and do that forever.   Unfortunately, we’re headed for about half that number by 2050 because of the decline that started in the 1990s. So there’s a delta there, there’s a difference of 500 million meals a day for the world—

Denver: And a projected two billion more people by 2050, when they think we’re going to be up to nine billion people. So, it’s really an issue.

Andy: Right. So we’re at just under 800 million hungry people right now at a population of seven billion worldwide. We’re headed for 9 billion, 9.5 billion– there’s various estimates, by 2050. That’s two Chinas more people than we have now.  How are we going to feed all these people?

Denver: That’s a lot.

Andy: In fact, I have a story to tell. You asked about the Chinese fleet. About 10 years ago, I was in Geneva to lobby the World Trade Organization to set rules forbidding government subsidies of commercial fishing. One of the reasons that we overfish is that many countries hand money over to their commercial fleets to buy boats, buy gear, buy fuel, buy bait. And as a result, there’s whole lot of fishing that’s not even really for fishing. It’s fishing for subsidies.  It’s kind of crazy, really. You’re taking tax dollars and using it to overfish the ocean.

How do you fix that? You get all the countries of the world to agree simultaneously that it violates their trade rules, just like they do in other areas – textiles, steel and so forth. And I met with the Chinese ambassador Mr. Liu, and I said to him, “You don’t want to be subsidizing the fleet, do you, to overfish the world’s ocean because that would really be bad. We’d like your support for an agreement here to make sure that fishing is done without subsidies.” And he said, “You know, we have a billion people to feed. The West has been fishing really hard for a long time. We’re going to take our turn.” And in the 10 years since, in that article of the New York Times that you’ve mentioned, they have subsidized the creation of a colossal fleet. And so, it’s a big problem.

I took from that conversation that we were failing to emphasize the food value of a rebuilt ocean that the Chinese ambassador didn’t understand.  Actually, he was putting the food resource at risk by that subsidy program. And so we actually launched the program that we called “Save the Oceans, Feed the World”  to try to  make it clear that we’re not just turtle huggers. I mean, I think people have a stereotype, that I’m in here “Hug the starving child; Hug the turtle… Which is it that you want to do?” Most people want to hug the starving child.  I’m sorry about the turtle, but I’m not going to hug the turtle if I can’t hug the child. And I’m here to tell you if you care about that starving child…

Denver: Feed the hungry child!

Andy: Yes, feed the hungry child with a rebuilt ocean, which, by the way, will be good for the turtle.

Denver: Yes. That, too. And talking about that, you wrote a book a few years ago entitled The Perfect Protein. Why do you say that fish is the perfect protein?

Andy: There are so many benefits to rebuilding an ocean that go beyond feeding a hungry world, and I’m going to call out four of them. What happens when you rebuild the ocean and start feeding a billion people every day? Well, first of all, you feed a lot of people. Let’s not forget about that. Number two, you help with climate change. How can that be?  A really big driver of climate change is methane emissions from livestock.  Both ends of your basic cow will emit, because it’s a ruminant, methane gas.

Methane gas is an intense driver of climate change. In the year 2050, you would like people to be eating a whole lot of fish because when they’re eating fish, they’re not eating hamburgers. And if they’re not eating hamburgers, that means they’re not driving climate change. So, a really good lever on climate change is make sure you have an abundant ocean. Number three, biodiversity protection on the land is helped if you have an abundant ocean. How can that be? The biggest driver of biodiversity loss on the land is what?

Denver: Arable land.

Andy: Agriculture. Exactly. You have to cut down the varied biodiverse place– the forest– and you plant a cornfield or a soybean field, or you make it range land, and you radically simplify the habitat on the land, and you eliminate a lot of different kinds of life. Livestock production is the most intensive form of agriculture, whether you’re doing it through a feed lock or through range lands. So, you want to minimize the future’s call for livestock. What’s the best way to do that? Make sure there’s a lot of wild fish to eat because, again, if you’re eating a fish sandwich, you’re not eating hamburgers.

So look at that. So we’ve got three big things – we’re feeding a billion people, we’re helping with climate change, and we’re helping protect biodiversity on the land. And I haven’t even gotten to the other two, and I’ll tell you them real quickly, Denver – aquifer protection, freshwater supplies are depleting. A lot of that goes into irrigation of crops, fewer crops to feed livestock you’ve helped, and then lastly, your audience will guess it. They’re screaming it out already – human health.

Your doctor has been telling you, she has, Denver – stop eating so much red meat. Please switch to healthy fish, and you will see less obesity, less heart disease. You will see less cancer. It’s all in the medical literature. This is proven medical evidence.

Denver: It’s exactly what she said. And it just seems like everything we’re doing on land is at tension with one another. Whereas in the sea, it’s all in harmony. The environment works with the production of food. It’s all in sync.

Andy: It could be. It’s not the way we’re doing it right now, but it absolutely could be. And what percent of the surface of the planet is covered by ocean? Seventy percent. Because we don’t live in the ocean…. It’s not a place where there’s a direct head-to-head conflict between human needs and the needs of the ocean.

Denver: Andy, talk to us a little bit about different kinds of fish, the ones that are in  shortest supply, the kind of fish  you would like to see on more menus, and maybe the ones we should really feel guilty about eating.

Andy: So the simple rules…I want to give you some simple rules because  this can get complicated real fast, and people are too busy. So eat wild, small fish. That’s the simple one-sentence rule. Eat wild small fish. By small fish, I mean fish that are still small when they’re adults. So eat the rabbits of the ocean, not the lions and tigers of the ocean. What’s an example?  Sardine,  anchovy,  herring. These are classic rabbits. Small fish, very abundant. What’s a classic lion or tiger?  We already mentioned them – swordfish, tuna, and so forth. So simple rule: eat lower down on the food chain, and eat wild fish instead of  farmed fish for the reasons we’ve talked about. Now, there are a couple of other exceptions. If you’re eating farmed, there is one category of farm fish that your audience can eat and feel so virtuous.  And that is the farmed clam, oyster, or mussel. Basically shellfish like that.

Denver: Eat all you want.

Andy: Eat all that you want, and feel so good about yourself because if you’re farming those things, those things filter the water so they don’t eat anything that we want to eat. And they actually make the ocean cleaner.  And those farmers are business people who will be  strong opponents of ocean pollution because you can’t farm clams in a polluted ocean.  The way the world works, your local businessman who hates a polluter is a good ally to have in the battle against  pollution. So we love those guys, and we want you to eat as much farmed shellfish as you can possibly eat.

And then I would be careful, if you can, be careful about imported stuff. We have done tests at Oceana of whether the fish that you buy is correctly labeled. And about a third of the fish that we’ve  tested, and we have now tested more fish than anybody in the history of America– more than a thousand fish– more than 30% of the time, it’s not correctly labeled. And the Americans are slowly tightening the rules on seafood traceability and trackability. So your American swordfish is not guaranteed to be honest, but more likely to be honestly labeled than your foreign fish.

Denver: Let me ask you about one last big fish, and that’s shark. I think you wrote an article recently about “dead or alive.” Tell us a little bit about the stories of shark.

Andy: Sharks are under intense and dire stress right now. Seventy-three million sharks a year are killed chiefly for what? Their fins. Shark fin soup, chiefly served in China and in Hong Kong, is a culturally very prestigious meal. And as hundreds of millions of people have moved into the middle class in China, the demand for shark fin soup has skyrocketed. Sharks, unlike the other fish that we talked about, do not reproduce quickly. They give birth to live babies. They’re like mammals. They give birth to small numbers of live babies at a time. So they do not reproduce quickly. If you’re killing 73 million sharks a year, you are likely overfishing sharks, and all the evidence shows that that’s what happened. Shark populations are down a  single digit percentage of what they were in the 1970s.

So we’re at a desperate place for sharks, and they need to be protected. How are we going to do that? Well, the key step would be—the final goal here is to get China to ban the sale of shark fin soup.  And we are taking a big step here in the United States toward that outcome. Eleven states have now passed state laws banning the sale of shark fin soup. That just happened in the last two years. New York is one of them, California is one of them, Texas is one of them – there’s a bipartisan blue-red state mix of state shark fin bans.

And we and the Humane Society have just worked together to have introduced into Congress– in both the Senate and the House of this Congress, the newly-elected Congress– bills to ban the sale of shark fin soup nationally in the United States of America. The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate. One of the lead sponsors is Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Your audience will recognize that that represents a fairly wide, ideologic span.

Denver: You’re right on that one.

Andy: This suggests to us that this bill can get through this Congress.  And we’ll get through this, and we’re committed to getting that done this year or next before the end of this Congress. That will send a very good message to the world. We want shark fin soup to be felt like elephant ivory is now, like rhino horns are, like tiger penises are. You don’t sell these in honest commerce. You just don’t because you can see that it’s destroying an important part of life on the planet. So we think we can get there, and this will be a big step forward.

Denver: And sharks are big business. I tell you, the way people are renting boats and going out to sea…there’s a lot of commerce that’s going to be hurt, in addition to the humane aspects of this.

Andy: Right. And scuba diving. We’ve done a study that in Florida… One of the few senators who is hesitant about this represents the state of Florida where there’s some American sharkers. And we’ve interviewed the scuba diving outfits up and down the coast of Florida to prove that the sheer business value of the diver business, going to look at sharks, far exceeds the value of the dead sharks that are being—

Denver: and all the fin soup of the world!

Andy: Correct. One of the wonderful things your audience could do right now is to contact their senator, their congressman, and tell them that they want the act to pass, to ban shark trade in the United States of America and to get that bill through this Congress. People need to speak up now and get this bill passed.

Denver: Andy, let me ask you a little bit about your organization, Oceana, the kind of team that you have built, and the kind of corporate culture and work environment you have looked to create?

Andy: So we’re 15 years old, and we were founded by a very hardheaded group of five very business-like foundations, and I could name them if you want me to. But these are people… foundations that knew a lot about the collapse of oceans and were so frustrated that the governments of the world were not responding– that the big conservation groups were not responding– and they told us that they would fund us but on the condition that we delivered results in short time periods.

So what do they mean by results? They mean national policy changes that are won…that are actually won. And in three- to five-year periods, deadlines of three to five years from when we start what we call a campaign to win that policy outcome. So, it’s a very practical organization where we give ourselves very concrete goals. We know who the decision maker is that we have to get to move. We give ourselves a deadline to get there, and we hold ourselves accountable on a win-loss basis. And we report back to our board and to our funders – we got it, we didn’t get it, we got half of it – and we own up to where we are. We’re different. I have to contrast us with a lot of NGOs which make two mistakes in my opinion. Number one, they work on things.

Denver: No A for effort.

Andy: Well, I say:  What do you do? Well, we work on this. Well, when do you want to get it done? Well, we’re working on it. Eventually… and there’s not a deadline-oriented culture. Number two, they spread themselves too thin. They do, out of having good hearts, but being bad managers.

Denver: They don’t stay focused.

Andy: They don’t stay focused, and they can’t say no—there’s a million good things you can do for the oceans, and they say “yes” to everything.  And therefore, they do just enough to lose on everything. That’s not an effective strategy. You have to be willing to look at  a list, and you and I could come up with the list of 25 things that would be good for the oceans, and we have to force ourselves to say no to 22  of them, and pick 3. And pick 3 that will matter, and then give ourselves a deadline, and then land on them hard. Put resources into them, and win, damn it. You know what I mean? And so that approach is what we do. We don’t always win, but we’re accountable and honest about where we are and what our record is, and we’ve been able to get a lot of victories.

Denver: A results-oriented culture. Let me close with this, Andy. World Ocean Day is coming up pretty soon. It’s going to be on June 8. What’s your message to people for that day?  And what actions, in addition to the one you’ve given us, would you like to see them take?

Andy: I think that the most concrete thing you can do in the United States of America is one or two or three things. Number one, help pass the shark fin trade ban. Number two, stand up to President Trump’s possible revocation of the big protected area around the northwest Hawaiian Islands and the protected area, a smaller one, off the coast of New England. These are important and good things that President Obama did that President Trump is considering undoing.  And he should be told that they, that he should continue to protect the ocean and stand up for those. They also had the support of President Bush. These are bipartisan things, and they deserve to be protected. And then the third thing is just to make sure that the basic fishery law is not changed. A bill has been introduced in this Congress to weaken the core fishery law in the United States of America. It’s called the Magnusen-Stevens Act, and you should let your congress person know that you do not want any changes made to the basic laws that protect the American ocean.

I’m sad to say, there have been bills introduced to do that. If you want a fourth one, there should be no expanded ocean oil drilling.  It’s hard to believe after DeepWater Horizon, what we saw happen on  the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It’s hard to believe that anybody would propose expanded ocean oil drilling.  But guess who’s considering it!  President Trump. This does not make sense. It’s not good for the ocean. It’s not good for ocean-dependent coastal businesses, tourism businesses, restaurant businesses. We have 120 resolutions up and down the East Coast from businesses and towns and communities that depend on a healthy ocean, that they don’t want ocean oil drilling off their coast. We’re worried that the Atlantic and the Arctic and the Pacific are now all up for grabs.

Denver: Well, Andy Sharpless, the Chief Executive Officer of Oceana, I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. This is an incredibly important story, and I think people are going to want to know more about it. Where can they go to get some additional information about these issues and about your organization?

Andy: As you would expect… on the internet, on the web. You can get lots of information about Oceana. If you go to Google and search us, you’ll find our website. You can join our organization, and we’ll barrage you with things you can do to help us; we’ll occasionally solicit you for money if you want to do that.  We have a group of several million people. We call them wave makers, and most of them are just activists. Some of them are donors We’re very happy for their support. I hope people will come to our website and find out about us. Go to Global Fishing Watch as I said earlier,, and learn about the global fishing fleets of the world.

Denver: Well, thanks Andy.  It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.

Andy: My pleasure. Thank you.


Andy Sharpless and Denver Frederick

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, @bizofgive on Instagram and at