Philanthropy

Dayle Haddon, the Founder and CEO of WomenOne Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Dayle Haddon, the Founder and CEO of WomenOne, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in NYC.


 

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Dayle Haddon © IMDb

Denver: When your first act was that of a supermodel, gracing the covers of over 100 magazines, and being the only person to have ever had contracts with the four major beauty companies: Max Factor, Revlon, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, it’s a little hard to imagine that your second act could be as successful. But for my next guest, it has been… and, may I dare say, more meaningful as well. She was recently the recipient of the Philanthropy Award by the UN Women for Peace Association and was nominated as one of the Top 50 Philanthropists by Town & Country Magazine. She is Dayle Haddon, the founder and CEO of WomenOne. Good evening, Dayle, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

 

Dayle: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here, Denver.

Denver: Tell us about WomenOne and the mission and goals of the organization.

Dayle: WomenOne is a non-profit that I founded when I saw that there was an opportunity to make a difference for girls. I had been with a larger organization, and I just felt that girls education was a game changer. At WomenOne, that’s what we do. We find girls most at risk,  and we get them into school and get them educated so that they have their place, their chance, their voice in the world.

Denver: Let me pick up on what you just said there. There is no shortage of challenges out there, Dayle, and you could have picked any one of them. But you just said, educating girls was a game changer. Why do you believe this is the one that can have the greatest impact?

Dayle: Being privileged to have been a UNICEF Ambassador for so many years, I had wonderful opportunities — fascinating opportunities to travel the globe, especially Africa, but also South America — to really witness the works that they do. And what they do is really important.  And it is very hard to pick, whether it’s clean water or food or vaccinations, or a myriad of other things. But I felt that education– the studies that I did– education changed the other ones. It had the biggest impact. And educating a girl– The UN says that when you educate a girl, it’s like educating seven people because her impact on her family and the community is so huge. As a matter of fact, Muhammad Yunus said that he focuses on women because he says in his book, Banker to the Poor, that when he gives to a poor man, the first thing he does is spend it on himself.

Denver: Right.

Dayle: But he finds that when women have their first earnings, first it’s spent on her children, then her home, and then the community.

Denver: I think that women plow back 90% of what they earn into the family, while men only do about 40%.

Dayle: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think it’s that nurturing quality as well. But a new thing that I just found out from the book, Drawdown.  It’s extraordinary about the environment that educating a girl has a number six positive impact on the environment. When a girl is educated, she positively affects the environment.

Denver: What does it mean when a girl gets educated? What does it mean to her children… or the number of children she has… or when she gets married?  What are some of the ramifications of getting a girl an education?

Dayle: An educated girl usually will have less children, and they will be healthier. She is the first teacher in a way, so her children will probably be educated. That’s just some of the positive effects. Her choices will be better. There are less occurrences of HIV-AIDS, when a girl is educated. Less occurrences of violence when a girl is educated. As a matter of fact, when I was in Turkey, I was in a room that was educating women over 60– the first time that they were learning to read. And one woman came in late and was so excited,  and we were saying, “What happened? What happened?” She said, “Because I can read now, it’s the first time I could get myself to the hospital by myself because I could read the signs on the bus.” You don’t really think about that.

Denver: Yeah. But it is very, very sweet and very important. As you said, you were a UNICEF Ambassador. You did that for about 12 years, and you traveled the globe, and you really got involved. You were not staying in the cushy hotels, but you were out there getting your hands dirty right on the front lines.  Where along that journey, Dayle, were you moved to start up a nonprofit and to launch what was to become WomenOne?

Dayle: Well, I thought about it a lot, but I wanted to get a lot of experience under my belt. I couldn’t pick a better organization than UNICEF to learn and to be in that UNICEF family. Some of them are saints on the ground that are working there. But it was in a trip in Angola, and I was in a rural clinic with a group of people. And women had walked all night with babies strapped to their backs to get medical attention because it was the only place for medical attention for miles around. And one of the doctors pulled me aside and said, “Wow! Could you help us?” and I went, “Yeah, sure!” And he said, “We are missing two microscopes. So if you could just help us get those two microscopes.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, no problem!” So I went up to the organization, I said “Could you give them two microscopes so they can do their job better?” And they looked at me and they went, “Dayle, that is way too small for us.” So at that point, I just thought: Oh my gosh, it’s not too small for those women that walked all night! So there is room for a smaller organization to work alongside the larger organization that is dealing with  bigger problems… and to work together.

Denver: Very smart.

Dayle: And that’s when the idea of WomenOne was born.

Denver: There you go. Well, quality education and gender equality. Now, those are two of the United Nations 17 sustainable goals. How is the world doing in seeing that girls are getting a quality education and are being provided the same educational opportunities as boys?

Dayle: The numbers differ a little bit, but it’s about 65 million girls out of school globally still. So it’s still a problem, as is quality education. Basically, the tendency — traditionally in many of the homes, especially in the developing countries — the finances that they have will go to a boy, not to a girl. And a girl that turns age 12 or 13 is where we approach the girl and we try to keep that girl in school. For every year that we can keep her in school, her earning power will go up. The GDP will go up for the country… Generally, a girl that age will be either brought back into the family to work; she will be married off, or she will be sold off.  We try to stop that as best we can, or we support and work with the community to help them realize why the community will benefit and how it will benefit if they keep their girls in school.

Denver: We’re doing pretty well, I guess, across the globe with primary education, but as you suggest, when they get to the secondary education, that’s where the fall off really occurs.

Dayle: The government, a lot of times, pays for primary but not secondary. So that comes out of the family pocket, and that is the challenge. So you need organizations like WomenOne that are around. And there are a few of us, quite a few of us, that really supplement that. It’s coming from the private sector to help support that because sometimes you think: Why am I going to help a girl so far away? I live in America or whatever. But actually the world is getting smaller and smaller, and it is extremely important. It is essential, as a matter of fact, that we create pockets of sanity, pockets of calm all over the globe because eventually we will be affected by that lack if it doesn’t happen.

Denver: Yeah, you are so right. It was really striking to see how many of these girls, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, get pregnant or give birth between the ages of 15 to 19. And then to compound that situation, the school often stigmatizes them and doesn’t let them go back to school. Correct?

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Gary Reedy, President and CEO of American Cancer Society Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Gary Reedy, President and CEO of American Cancer Society, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

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Gary M. Reedy © PRNewswire.com

Denver: Nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes, and I dare say that not a single person listening has not been personally impacted by this disease. Leading the fight against cancer in the United States for over a century now has been the American Cancer Society, but it is also an organization that has reinvented and reimagined itself for the modern era. And with us this evening is a key architect of that transformation. He is Gary Reedy, the President and CEO of the American Cancer Society. Good evening, Gary, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Gary: Good evening! Thank you.

Denver: Let me start with a question I think is probably on most everyone’s mind, and that is: Where are we in the fight to end cancer?

Gary: We’re making great progress, and I think that’s something that everyone needs to know. Since 1991, the mortality rate for cancer has dropped 25%. As a result of that, there’s about 2.1 million lives that had been saved during that time. Today, there’s about 15.5 million survivors that have actually beat the disease. So the good news is, today, there’s more people actually surviving the disease than are dying from it.

Today, there’s about 15.5 million survivors that have actually beat the disease. So the good news is, today, there’s more people actually surviving the disease than are dying from it.

Denver: Let me ask you a little bit about the American Cancer Society. As I’ve said, it’s over a hundred years old, founded in 1913 right here in New York City. Tell us a little bit about its history and some of the major milestones along the way.

Gary: Well, the first thing you said which is really important, it was founded here in New York in 1913, and I think it’s important to understand how it was founded. It was a group of physicians and a group of lay people that got together because they wanted to do something about raising the awareness of this disease that was just then really being recognized as cancer. So that was the foundation of the Society as far as volunteers working with medical physicians to do something about this disease.

So we started out in 1913 trying to go around educating about cancer and raising the awareness of it. A couple of big milestones: In 1930s, the Women’s Field Army was formed. At that point in time, we had about 15,000 volunteers. This was actually a group of women that got together, actually had them put on uniforms, and they decided to band together and go door-to-door to educate about cancer and to help raise money to fight cancer. During that time, we went from about 15,000 volunteers to over 700,000 volunteers through the efforts of the Women’s Field Army.

In 1946, at that time, Mary Lasker got involved with the American Cancer Society.

Denver: Great woman.

Gary: A phenomenal woman, phenomenal leader, phenomenal volunteer. Another important thing to remember: when we were founded, we were not the American Cancer Society; we were the American Society for the Control of Cancer. And when Mary got involved in 1946, she did a few things that really changed the course for the rest of the century with the Society. “First of all,” she said, “we need to change the name. We really need to make it something that’s easier to say and easier to remember.” So the name was changed to the American Cancer Society. She also said, “Look,” at that point in time, we were only spending about a million dollars a year for research, she said, “We really need to be putting more money into research and doing more, too. If you really wanted to cure this disease, it’s going to be through research.”

So, as a result of Mary’s efforts since the late ‘40s, we have funded over $4.6 billion worth of research. We have been involved in just about every major breakthrough that’s occurred in cancer. We fund mainly basic research, which is on the front end of the research. Of the researchers that we funded, 47 of them have gone on to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine. So Mary had a huge impact on the society.

And then another significant thing that occurred in the late ‘50s, based upon work that the American Cancer Society had done, is we shared the definitive link between smoking and lung cancer. And up to that point in time, people didn’t really know. If you remember back then…

Denver: I do remember! Four out of five doctors recommend Viceroy cigarettes.

Gary: Oh, there you go! It’s funny. We have pictures in the archives of even our board of directors sitting around, smoking. But we published a paper that the Surgeon General  used in 1964 when we came out with the warning that’s on cigarette packages today… about the link between smoking and lung cancer and other health issues. So that was huge.

And then we also have done a lot of studies, mega studies, of just enrolling people that want to participate… average citizens that want to have their health tracked. The first couple of studies, the first one had over a million patients enrolled. The next one, about a million. The one we just completed is around 300,000 patients. But out of tracking those patients over a period of 20-25 years, we’ve also found that we discovered the link between obesity and different types of cancer – a definitive link. We discovered that aspirin can actually help reduce your risk of colon cancer. So there’s a lot of research that’s been done along the way by the Society that has really led to some major breakthroughs– as far as the things that we do, the things that we eat, the things we shouldn’t eat.

Denver: That’s right! Let me ask you one other thing about your history. You know, I think most of our listeners are well aware of that now iconic sword on the left-hand side of your logo. What is its significance?

Gary: Great question. Once again, the society has a terrific history with New York. In 1928, we had a poster contest to come up with what should be the logo for the American Cancer Society or at that time, the American Society for the Control of Cancer. The poster contest was actually won by a gentleman here in Brooklyn. He came up with a sword, and the sword is to represent the crusading spirit of the cancer control movement. And then you’ll notice at the bottom of the sword, there are two serpents that were to represent both the medical and scientific work of the Society. So since 1928, that’s been our logo.

Denver: I have always wondered about that.

Gary: Well, there you go!

Denver: Thank you for the answer. Well, as I mentioned in the opening, you have recently emerged from a transformation process. First of all, I want to congratulate you, Gary, for undertaking it because there are so many legacy organizations that really need to do so, but just don’t have the fortitude to face it. One of the things you did was reorganize American Cancer Society, which had been very decentralized, into a single corporate entity, which is quite an engineering feat, I might say. Why did you do this? And what were the keys that actually made it happen?

Gary: Well, I’ll tell you, this actually started back when I was a volunteer with the Society. I was a volunteer with the Society for 15 years and became CEO two years ago. So my predecessor, Dr. John Seffrin, he and I were like partners in crime from the staff and volunteer standpoint, because we saw a need to really bring the society together. At that time, we had a federated model. So we had 13 different groups around the country that had their own board of directors, their own governing structure. And if you’re looking at it holistically, you’re saying, “Okay. If we really want to have the greatest impact possible of fighting cancer, then we all need to be working together and going in the same direction.”

We were making progress back then, but we were also somewhat constrained. I’ll give you a great example. If we wanted to do a partnership with a major corporation on a nationwide basis, at that point in time, we could only do that if each individual governing board agreed to do it. By the time you went through that process—

Denver: The company had moved on to some other effort!

Gary: The company had moved on, and they’d gone out of business! So we needed to take all the resources and all the efforts and bring them together and say, “Okay. We can have greater impact. We can have greater relevance. We can be more nimble as a Society. We can make decisions quicker—

Denver: The world’s getting faster; you better keep up.

Gary:–if we’re a single enterprise.” And we went through—it was a very deliberate process because we’re a volunteer-led organization, so all the volunteers had to agree that this was the best way to move forward with the society. We cannot make that decision as staff and say: “This is what we’re going to do.”

Denver: People always say you’re never really a great manager until you’ve managed volunteers.

Gary: Well, I would actually agree with that.

Denver: It’s a skill.

Gary: Thank goodness for our volunteers because we wouldn’t get anything done without them. But the volunteers are very vested in the Society, so they want the Society to be as successful as possible. So we went through the process, and the volunteers all agreed over a period of time that this is the best thing to do.  So we became a single enterprise.

Today, we have one board of directors; we have one CEO. We’re still not as quick and nimble as I would like for us to be, but we’re working hard to get there, to where we can move much quicker.

Denver: Well, as part of this transformation, you had three overarching themes, and I’m going to ask you to say a word about each of them: mission, relevance, and revenue.

Let’s start with mission. How was your mission changed?

So our mission is very simple. We’re here to save lives, celebrate lives, and to lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Gary: First and foremost, when I first volunteered with the Society, I was automatically drawn to the mission, just being out there, trying to have an impact against cancer and to fight from a volunteer perspective, but also now from a staff perspective. So to me, mission is first and foremost.

Denver: It sure is.

Gary: We have to be clear on what our mission is, what our purpose is, and why we’re here. So I’ve said from day one as a volunteer– and now as CEO– we can never forget why we’re here and what we’re trying to do.

So our mission has not changed per se, but we did change our mission statement. Our mission statement—it’s funny. I looked at our mission statement the whole time I was a volunteer, and it’s like 40-some words. Even after 15 years, I couldn’t repeat it back to you. But we just recently said, “You know what? We’re not changing our mission, but we’re going to change our mission statement. Make it short and something that people can remember.” Because one of the problems we have is everyone knows the American Cancer Society, but they’re really not clear on all the great work that the American Cancer Society does.

Denver: You’re absolutely right.

Gary: So our mission is very simple. We’re here to save lives, celebrate lives, and to lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Denver: Nice and tight.

Gary: Nice and tight. And I’ve got to tell you, Denver, we made that change in January this year, and people love it. Anytime I go out and talk, people will automatically repeat it back to me. So what’s happening now is people are saying, “Okay. Yeah, American Cancer Society – save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”

And now what we’re really trying to do from a mission standpoint, which gets into the second part about relevance, is: I believe in today’s environment, especially as a nonprofit, you really have to be seen as being relevant in what you’re doing. So my question has been, from all the great mission-work we’re doing: Is it relevant today in the 21st century? It may have been relevant 50 years ago, but is it relevant now? What type of impact are we having?

So we’ve decided to go back and look at our mission and all the work that we’re doing and… excited about some of the things we’ve come up with. The first thing we decided to do, and I talked earlier about research… Right now, we are the largest, private, not-for-profit funder of research in the United States. We fund about $125 million worth of research per year. We made a decision last year that we’re going to double that amount. So by 2021, we’re going to be funding at least a quarter of a billion dollars worth of research.

Denver: Big time commitment.

Gary: Yes. We’re excited about that. We’re energized about it, and we see that this is one way that we can help accelerate the elimination of this disease.

We also are in the process of developing a cancer control blueprint, which is basically putting to paper everything we know about cancer and what we don’t know.  And then, what are we going to do, as the American Cancer Society, to get the answers to those questions?  Now, this is going to be a blueprint that we’re going to share with the country because we can’t do this by ourselves. We have to all be in this together, working together towards the goal.

Denver: Well, that sounds actually like a nice change of pace, sharing your blueprint with the country.

Gary: Yes! Exactly.

Denver: From some people we know.

Gary: Well, now you know. So we’re going to publish that at the end of this year, and it’s actually pretty much based upon specific cancers, not just cancer in general. So we’re excited about that.

And then from all the great work that we do with patient services and around screening and education and prevention, just making sure that what we’re doing today really resonates with the public at large. And really make it in such a way that people can grasp it and can understand it. A great fact about cancer is:  you can reduce your risk of getting cancer by over 50% just by individual choices that you make.  And we really want to get that word out there. So if people don’t use tobacco, they can reduce their risk of getting cancer by about 30%… just by not using tobacco. If you add on top of that:  eating properly, exercising, getting your screenings, then you can add another 20%; so you’re already up to 50%, a little over 50% chance.

So we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that everyone understands that they can take control of this to an extent and help reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Denver: Well, speaking of relevance then, and particularly doubling of your research budget from $120 million to $250 million or so…that leads us to revenue. Now, your signature program for a number of years has been Relay For Life, but I know how difficult it has been to grow these programs after the last couple of years. Tell us what your plans are, as well as some of your corporate partnerships, and others with entertainment and sports.

Gary: I definitely will.  So it’s all about mission, and then it’s all about relevance. Because I believe that if you are clear on your mission and you’re doing things that are relevant, then that gives you the opportunity to raise revenue or increase your revenue.

Denver: I know when you started, you actually had it:  mission, revenue, relevance. Then you said, “You know what? Relevance has to precede our revenue.”

Gary: I did! And I said to the organization, “I messed up. I got the Rs in the wrong order.” I said, “It’s got to be mission, relevance and revenue.”

Denver: But you pivoted!

Gary: We have. And I tell you, talking about Relay For Life, that is an incredible community event. We’ve been doing it for 32 years. It’s our source of revenue right now. But over the last seven or eight years, the revenues have declined from Relay

Denver: With everybody, in every one of these activities, no matter what the organization.

Gary: I think that’s what’s happening now, and we are pivoting. Because back in the day when Relay was started, people’s lives were not as complicated as they are. There were not as many competing priorities, especially for themselves and for their children. So people would go out for a day, for 12 hours, 24 hours, and they’d walk the track. It was a huge community event, and the community was coming together to make a difference in cancer.

And that’s what we’re doing now. We’re trying to work with communities and say, “Look. If Relay is still important to your community, then that’s awesome, and let’s do it. BUT, let’s do it your way. You do it. It doesn’t have to be 24 hours. It can be as many hours as you want it to be. It can be two hours. It can be three hours. It can be six hours…whatever the community wants.” In other areas where relay is kind of like dying a slow death or a quick death, we’re saying to the communities, “Look. We know you want to fight cancer. We know you want to help us fight cancer. So what would you like to do in your community? How would your community like to come together to help fight this disease?”

So, we’re still going to be very active in the communities to bring the communities together, but then we are working now at a different level where we haven’t worked for a long time. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we had a lot of celebrities that would do cancer educational material for us. But then, their agents got involved, and they wanted to start charging. Obviously, being a nonprofit, we couldn’t pay those fees. But we are now branching out into the entertainment industry and have had some entertainers come to us and say, “Hey. We want to be part of this movement. We want to use our platform to make a difference for cancer.”

One of our major ambassadors right now is Taboo, and people are going like, “I don’t know who Taboo is.” Well, he is one of the singers from the Black Eyed Peas. So he actually had a cancer scare himself. So he now is committed to working with us, to do everything he can to raise the awareness on cancer, and he’s bringing some of his other friends in to work with us.

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Denver Frederick and Gary Reedy at AM970 The Answer Studio

Denver: Wonderful!

Gary: In the sports world, we have a great partnership with the National Football League that we’re expanding. We have a partnership now with US Track & Field. We have some other sports partnerships that we’re working on.

And what I’m seeing is, as we are changing and have changed and said, “Look. It’s all about relevance, and it’s all about eliminating this disease,” then we are seeing that a lot of people who in the past had been on the sidelines are actually coming to us and saying “We’d like to be involved. We’d like to be engaged.”

Denver: And also, as you said before, as a single entity now, a corporate entity, you can engage them much more easily than you could in the past.

Gary: That’s exactly right because, to your point, I don’t know a person that has not been impacted by cancer, either directly or indirectly. And I don’t know a person that doesn’t want to fight, to eliminate this disease. So it’s just a matter of us, first of all, showing what it is that we’re doing and how we’re relevant to that fight, and then inviting people to help us.

Denver: Let me ask you about a few specific cancers, if I may. One statistic that really shocked me was that if lung cancer in nonsmokers had its own separate category, it would rank among the top 10 fatal cancers in the United States. Wow! Tell us about some of your public health initiatives around lung cancer.

Gary: Lung cancer today is the deadliest cancer out there. Literally, we lose more people on an annual basis– men and women– to lung cancer than any other cancer. So we have made great progress through a lot of the work that we’ve done with our anti-tobacco efforts. The lung cancer rates have continued to drop, have dropped pretty significantly for men, but due mainly to men not smoking the way they used to. They’re starting to drop now…the same with women, but women started smoking later, but they also stopped smoking later…but at least we’re seeing the rates come down.

We think there’s more that can be done there, and one of the platforms that we’re looking at now is really trying to bring groups together and put a stake in the ground, if you will, and say, “Over the next 10 years, let’s try to reduce the mortality rate in lung cancer by 50%.” And that’s going to be by continuing to fight, to get people not to use tobacco.  Never use it!  Or stop using it!  To get smokers who have been smoking for some time to get screened to see if they do have lung cancer, because lung cancer, like any other cancer, the sooner you can catch it, the higher the probability of success. So we’re putting and building a whole campaign right now just on, to say, “Okay. Let’s go after this deadly cancer and see how much of an impact we can have working with others to really reduce the mortality.”

Denver: You know, despite some of the remarkable advances that had been made against cancer, a study that your research has led showed that there was an increase in colon and rectal cancer among young and middle-aged adults. Tell us more about this and what needs to be done to reverse this trend.

Gary: I think we were all surprised. The Society, we spend about $25 million a year doing internal research. We publish all the statistics on cancer facts and figures, and we’re looking at all the cancers and what progress is being made. And this finding surprised us…that colon cancer is appearing at a much younger age now.

So one of the platforms that we have been working on since 2014 is to have everyone that is age-appropriate to be screened for colon cancer by 2018. So we call the campaign 80 by 18, so we have at least 80% of the eligible population to be screened. The process we’re in right now with this new finding is, let’s say, “Okay, let’s make sure that everyone who is 50 years of age and older is being screened for colon cancer… and that does not mean a colonoscopy per se. We just want people to be screened. So even if they just have the stool test, which is very simple, very easy to do, that will suffice. So it’s not like I want everybody to say, “Oh, we all need to get colonoscopies now. Just get screened.”

As far as the data we just found with the incidence occurring in younger patients, we’re in the process now of really looking at that data and working with our guidelines committee to say, “Do we need to change the guidelines? Do we need to say that people need to be screened at an earlier age so we can catch it earlier?” So this has just happened, but we are laser-focused on it. Because the public depends on the American Cancer Society to weigh in on these issues and say, “Okay. What should we do?” or “What should be done?”       

Denver: Provide some direction. That’s what they want. That’s what they’re looking to you for.

Gary: That’s exactly right.

Denver: Well, as you know, we’re in the heart of the summer season, Gary, and I know you folks have also designated July as UV Safety Month. So what is the latest research? And what are some of the things that we should be keeping in mind when we’re working in the garden or heading out to the beach this summer?

Gary: Real simple. Just use your sunscreen. First of all, stay out of the sun.  But if you’re going to be in the sun, make sure you have on sunscreen.

Denver: What number sunscreen do you guys recommend?

Gary: At least 30 or above. And depending on how long you’re going to be in the sun, but at least make sure you have a good sunscreen with 30 level protection or above. Wear your sunglasses; wear hats…just do everything you can to protect your skin. And do not go to tanning salons. Do not use tanning beds. Because it’s unfortunate that so many of us who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s…I can remember my sisters, they used to lay out in the sun and they would put iodine baby oil all over their bodies and just lay there and fry like a piece of bacon.

Denver: Speed it up.

Gary: So now all of us are actually seeing the implications of that with the greater rise in skin cancer. On a personal basis, I went in in January this year for my annual skin screening. The dermatologist found a couple of places on me that she was a little worried about but not too worried. And I said, “Well, let’s just go and take them off.” And actually, as it turned out, the one on my forehead was melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer. And fortunately, it was in situ, which means it did not spread. It’s contained right there at that one spot, but I had to have surgery to have it cut out and make sure the margins were clean.

Denver: Good call, Dr. Reedy!

Gary: I want to share that! I want to share that with everybody because we all need to get our annual screenings of our skin, get our skin checks just to see. And if you see anything suspicious on your skin – a mole, a spot, or whatever – make sure you go to your doctor and have it checked out. Because, as I said before, fortunately, in my own personal situation, if I had said, “We’ll just leave that there. Don’t worry about it,” in three or four years, it could’ve been a totally different story.

Denver: I had the same thing happen to me last year.  So I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I think another thing about suntan lotion is that it’s not a panacea. And that’s what some of these people think. They think if they put it on, they’re protected, and they can stay out in the sun as long as they want.  And that probably is not a smart thing to do, correct?

Gary: That’s absolutely correct. Another point on using sunscreens is a lot of times, people put them on in the morning and think, “Okay. That’s great. I’m good for the day.” And that’s really not great. They really need to be applied fairly frequently throughout the day when you’re out in the sun. So every couple of hours would be terrific as far as making sure that you, whether you spray it on or rub it on, about every couple hours that you’re reapplying it so that you really are protecting your skin.

Denver: Got you. Let’s move on to something else. Health care reform is Topic A these days…an issue that every American is deeply concerned about. How would some of the possible reforms impact cancer patients? What is the role that  the American Cancer Society is playing here?

Gary: Going back to the mission – we do research, we do patient services, we do education and screening, and the last part of our mission initiative is around advocacy. So we advocate on behalf of cancer patients, both at the federal and at the state level. We like to say we’re totally non-partisan. And what I like to say is that we are advocating through the lens of a cancer patient. So we’re out there fighting to make sure that all cancer patients have access to good care and to affordable care.

So what’s going on with health care reform right now? We are actively engaged in that initiative.  We are being very, very vocal, very visible. We are enlisting all of our volunteers to talk to their congressperson, to their senators. Because what we want to make sure happens is: whatever happens in terms of health care reform, we want to make sure it’s better than what we currently have. So things that are really important to the American Cancer Society and to cancer patients, and actually to all people, are making sure that there is coverage of pre-existing conditions. Because you can imagine if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and then you can’t get insurance… if you lose your job and have to get insurance someplace else… and you can’t because you have a cancer diagnosis, that’s not good.

So, make sure that the coverage of pre-existing conditions stays in there. We want to make sure that the essential health benefits stay in. There’s a lot of debate right now about trying to reduce Medicaid expenses.  And all we’re saying is there are a lot of cancer patients right now who have access to treatment through Medicaid. So if Medicaid is reduced, let’s make sure that we have something there that’s not going to leave those patients out in the cold.

But I can assure you that we’re fighting every day, and we’re being very vocal, very visible.

Denver: Very intentional.

Gary: Very intentional. I just can’t stress enough that it’s totally non-partisan, and we don’t take sides. We don’t take sides–whether it’s a democrat, a republican, or whatever.

Denver: The only side you’re taking is the cancer patient.

Gary: That’s exactly right. We’re on the side of the cancer patient. So we don’t even look at whose bill is introduced, or by whom, or by which party. We look at: what does that bill say? And how does this look through the lens of a cancer patient? And that’s what we’re fighting for.

Denver: You know, there’s been a lot of energy in the cancer community around the Cancer Moonshot project that is being spearheaded by former Vice President Joe Biden. Tell us a little bit about it, its objective, and some of the recommendations that have come out of its blue ribbon panel.

Gary: I tell people all the time when President Obama, I guess in 2016, announced “the Moonshot” and that Vice President Biden was going to be in charge of it. I was elated that that happened because ever since Nixon signed the War on Cancer back in 1971, there’s been a lot of progress that’s been made. But we were on the edge now of just making exponential progress, and I thought what the Moonshot did… I think it did a couple of things. It really raised the awareness in the public again that we can end cancer as we know it if we focus on it as a country. So that was number one, raising the awareness.

The other thing that was terrific was it became very obvious to everyone that to do that, we all have to work together. And to me, that’s one of the biggest things that came out of Moonshot, is former Vice President Biden was in charge of all the government departments that have anything to do with cancer. When he was there, he made it really clear that all of you are going to be working together now to help end this disease.

Denver: That’s great.

Gary: And then in the cancer centers, it’s been made very clear that we all need to work together. We need to work together, and we’d get there much quicker. So is it happening? It’s happening like anything else. It’s happening in spots. It’s not happening consistently, but at least the message is there. And I know at the American Cancer Society, we are doing everything to can to support the Moonshot, to support the recommendations coming out of the Moonshot, and we’re saying to anyone that we will be glad to collaborate and to work with you if by so doing, we can have 2x, 3x, 4x the impact than if we did it, each by ourselves.

So we’re trying to take that movement towards collaboration and really make sure that it continues to move forward. We’re trying to “walk the walk” as well.

Denver: Well, that’s really encouraging to hear because collaboration has been something that’s been missing from our entire sector, not just in the cancer community, but everywhere. We have a common enemy, but we very rarely work together and speed it up. I think a lot of the hope comes from these exponential technologies, and I don’t think that people understand that sometimes this exponential growth starts very, very slowly. But now, you’re beginning to see that doubling and doubling and doubling, so this could be a very exciting period that’s coming up.

You’re the American Cancer Society, but I also know that the World Health Organization estimates that more than 500,000 people will die of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa… more than malaria as a matter of fact.  And the cancer burden is projected to just mushroom in the next 15 years. You recently announced an initiative in this regard. Tell us about it and how global work fits into the mission of the American Cancer Society.

Gary: We’re very excited about this. We are partnering with the Clinton Health Access Initiative to really work in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa to bring chemotherapeutic agents to these countries. In the US, the cancer burden is bad enough, but as you mentioned, outside the US, it’s exponential. And in sub-Saharan Africa, we found out that a lot of times, patients are dying because they don’t have treatment.  We’ve been working for years to try to get pain medications for these patients because they were dying, and they were dying in pain. Now, working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, we’ve actually worked with them and with two other companies – with Pfizer and with Cipla – to expand access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications in these countries: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

So this is a start, but we’re excited about this. And what we’re wanting to do is find partners outside the US that we can work with to take our knowledge for the last 104 years… and some of our resources and our talents and our efforts, and work together to start addressing the cancer burden outside of the US.

Denver: Great! Let me ask you a little bit about the corporate culture of the American Cancer Society. That’s one of our favorite topics on this show, and we’re always talking about how you keep your people motivated and engaged. I just would like to have you speak about that a little bit and also how this recent transformation has impacted that culture.

Gary: The great thing about the American Cancer Society and the culture is everybody that is working there wants to be there, and most of them have a personal connection. They’re there for a very personal reason…in some way, cancer has impacted them. So we’re very fortunate that people really want to work at the American Cancer Society.

But to your point, over the last four or five years, there have been some major transformations and transitions going around, which has resulted in quite a few reorganizations and some positions being eliminated, and unfortunately, some associates losing their job. So we’re right now very focused on the culture, and we’re very focused on—going back to what to I said earlier—“Let’s all remember why we’re here. Let’s remember what our purpose is, and let’s all work together as a team. We’re all on the same team here. So let’s go forward, and let’s get there as soon as we can.”

What I say to people all the time is: when I first started out in my career on the business side, in the corporate world, I used to say: “ Let’s work hard and play hard.”  And then I realized that that was wrong because you can work hard and not really accomplish anything. So now what I say is: “ Let’s work smart,and let’s have fun.”  So what we’re trying to do now is, as we work our way through the end of this transformation and transition is really start focusing on how we’re working together and creating a new culture that’s very proactive, very inclusive, very nimble. I tell folks all the time, I say, “We have to take risks. We have to be aggressive because we’re here to help eliminate cancer. So we have to change  things up and do things differently and constantly change.” I’ve told the entire staff and volunteers that as long as I’m in this position, we will constantly be changing because the world is changing. So we have to keep on changing and trying to improve ourselves.

Denver: If you’re standing still, you’re falling behind…

Let me pick up on what you said about being in the corporate world. I think most recently, your job was as North American President of J&J’s Ortho Biotech division. What’s it’s been like to go from the corporate world to the nonprofit world?

Gary: I get that question a lot because I’ve spent 37 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, and most of that was with Johnson & Johnson, which is a terrific company. But people ask me that question all the time, and my answer is always the same. For me, it’s been pretty seamless because I was a volunteer at the Society for 15 years. I was on the National Board. As I said before, I really helped lead, from a volunteer standpoint, this transformation. So I’m taking my business experience, my 37 years of business experience, and just applying everything that I’ve learned to how we at the American Cancer Society really fight this disease. So it’s all about empowerment; it’s all about accountability. It’s all about impact, relevance, results.

So I actually was in the corporate world one day and leading the American Cancer Society the next, and I believe we are a business.  We may have a nonprofit status, but we are a business, and we have to act like a business. I say that whether someone decides to invest in the American Cancer Society $25 or $25 million, we have to treat that exactly the same because they are investing whatever resources they have in us because they feel that we are going to be able to do something to have impact with that money. So I’m just trying to get that mindset that we’ve got to be the best stewards possible that we can be, and that everything has really got to be focused on relevance and on impact.

Denver: And you never know if that $25 donor might be a $25 million donor someday.

Gary: Well, you’re absolutely right! The other thing about that $25 donor, and thank goodness, we have lot of those throughout the country, they never know that $25 that they donate could very easily be going towards the next breakthrough in cancer. So, they could be a part of that.

Denver: Let me close with this, Gary, and I want to do that by going back to the very beginning of our discussion, which is: How are we doing in the fight against cancer? Is there one area, whether it be in research or prevention or detection, that you are exceptionally excited about these days and believe just holds enormous potential to fight this deadly disease?

Gary: Absolutely! And it’s what’s going on in research right now. We are making exponential progress, maybe not on a daily basis, but certainly on a monthly basis. What we’re finding out, and I’m saying we collectively, not just the American Cancer Society, but all the researchers out there, the biggest challenge we have right now is keeping up with the research. Seriously. And I tell people that we’re finding out, we’re finding new information every day, and we’re failing faster, which is really important, because we’re finding out that something is going to work or not work quicker.

Denver: You’re learning.

Gary: And right now, there’s a lot of excitement about immunotherapy or using your body’s own defense mechanisms to fight cancer so you’re not using chemo; you’re not using radiation. It’s a very exciting area. The best example I give all the time is President Carter. Two years ago, at age 90, he had metastatic melanoma to the brain. He was treated with immunotherapy, and now he’s cancer-free and very active and very engaged.

So I want everyone to know that we’re making incredible progress today. We’re really able to look at all of these cancers at the cellular level and see what’s going on there and what mutations are occurring, and then very quickly determining – do we have something that will stop that mutation? And if we do, then let’s use it; if we don’t, then what do we need to have that will block that mutation or shut it down? So from a research standpoint, very, very exciting.

I’m very optimistic. I tell people—it’s funny. I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by a reporter from Newsweek. Her last question for me was: What’s your vision for the American Cancer Society in the next 10 years? I said, “To be out of business.”

Denver: Amen!

Gary: I said, “That’s my vision. I would love for us to be out of business.” I don’t want to say that we’ll eradicate cancer in the next 10 years, and cancer will always be around because a lot of it is genetically predisposed. But I do feel that we’re getting to a point now to where  some of these cancers are being cured, and where I think a lot of them, if they’re not cured, that they will be able to be managed as a chronic disease. So it’s truly, truly exciting what’s going on.

Denver: It sure is! Well, Gary Reedy, the President and CEO of the American Cancer Society, I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about your website, the kind of information you have there, and how people can get involved to help support the work of the American Cancer Society?

Gary: Well, I’ll be more than happy to, and thank you for this opportunity. First of all, I tell people all the time: if you get that diagnosis of cancer, or if you have a friend or a neighbor or a loved one, there’s two things you can do immediately that’s going to make you feel a lot better:

We have a toll-free number that you can call. It’s 1-800-227-2345. It’s available 24/7, 365, and we’re there to answer your questions and to help you get the help you need. You can also go to cancer.org, which is our website. There is a ton of information there in layman’s terms that gives you resources, support, and actually provides information about the specific type of cancer that you may have or may want to know about, once again in layman’s terms.

So please call our toll-free number; go to our website. Like I said, we’re there 24/7, 365 for you. Also on our website, there is a place where you can volunteer. Today, we have about 2 million volunteers throughout the United States, so we’ve grown in the last 104 years from that 15,000 to 700,000.

Denver: Ever since the women got involved, you’ve grown.

Gary: And I tell you what, thank goodness they did! But we have over 2 million volunteers, and I’d love to have 2 million more. So we’d love to have you volunteer for the American Cancer Society. You can express your interest to do so on our website. You can call the 800 number and tell people you’d like to volunteer.

Denver: And you can click on that “donate”  button, too, right?

Gary: Well, you can. You absolutely can! I tell people today I’ve gotten rid of the term “donor.” I use the term “investor.” I tell people that I don’t want them to give us money, but I want them to invest in us if they think what we’re doing is relevant… so that we can be even more relevant.

So it still says “donate” on there, but maybe one of these days, we’ll change it to “invest.”

Denver: You’re the boss. Go ahead and do it!

Gary: We’d love to have anyone and everyone engage with us in this fight because I can’t think of a better time to be involved in it.

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

Gary: Well, thank you very much.

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Denver Frederick and Gary Reedy


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 http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

rodger derose

Rodger DeRose © Kessler Foundation

Denver: There are certain organizations that just bring with them a blue chip label. The Kessler Foundation, whether you’re speaking about their research, their programs, or their work culture would be one of those organizations. So, it is a great delight to have with us this evening, the President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, Rodger DeRose. Good evening, Rodger, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Rodger: Thank you, Denver! Appreciate the opportunity.

Denver: Tell us about the Kessler Foundation, and the mission and goals of the organization.

Rodger: Kessler Foundation is over 30 years old now. It was formed as part of the fundraising arm of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation back in the mid ‘80s. We owned the assets of Kessler Institute as the foundation, and we did a hospital conversion back in 2003 and 2004 and came into a sizeable endowment.

At that point in time, we had to make a decision: How are we going to spend the money? The two areas that we decided to focus on were: research in the areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS; and the other area was in the area of grantmaking, in terms of providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities because it’s one of the most stubborn issues that people with disabilities have… whether they’re born with the disability in life, or they have a disability in life in terms of getting into the workforce and remaining a productive member of society and the workforce.

So we decided that those would be the two focus areas. One, research in terms of addressing the functional issues that people with disabilities have in the areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS. The second area being: How do we help individuals with disabilities re-engage with the workforce?

Denver: Two great focus areas. Now, you continue to work closely with the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute, which is over in West Orange, New Jersey. What’s the relationship between the two of you now?

Rodger: You know,  while we’re separate organizations, separated by firewalls and we have our separate boards. We sold the hospital – Kessler Institute – to Select Medical, which is based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and they really are a dominating force across the country in terms of medical rehabilitation hospitals. But we are still very, very close. We’re as joined at the hip as possible. We have our research center, our major research centers in West Orange on the Kessler campus, and that, of course, is part of the Kessler Hospital.

So the great thing about that, Denver, is the fact that when we’re conducting research, we’re almost vertically integrated where patients– either inpatients or outpatients that are coming there for their service in terms of the rehabilitation service–  they can actually migrate right into our research programs. And so when you have access to patients, you have the ability to do your research in a very effective and efficient way.

Denver: Absolutely. Truly translational.

Rodger: It is. It is truly translational. That’s the end benefit, I think, for Kessler Institute, is the benefit that they receive in terms of the new medical interventions that we are creating in these areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS that they can actually apply right in the hospital to the patients.

Denver: Great! Well, let’s take a couple of those that you just mentioned. You have six specialized laboratories in this research center. You mentioned a moment ago stroke rehabilitation–that research lab. How many people in this country, Rodger, have had a stroke?

Rodger: In the US, there are 800,000 new stroke victims every year, and the areas that we address, of course, are the areas of cognition. For example, the area of spatial neglect is a specialty that we have within the foundation.

Spatial neglect is:  if you think of the brain as a GPS system and it losing its ability to go left if you’ve had a right brain stroke.

Spatial neglect is a very, very special need, and it’s something that we have become a leader in, not only in research but also in terms of applying it now to every stroke patient that comes through Kessler Institute.

Denver: Speak a little bit about that because that’s really interesting.

Rodger: Spatial neglect is: if you think of the brain as a GPS system and it losing its ability to go left if you’ve had a right brain stroke. In 50% of the cases of an individual who has a right brain stroke, it’s a common occurrence to have what we call “spatial neglect” where you have an absence of leftness. So, for example, Denver, if you are an individual that has spatial neglect, and you’re eating a plate of food and we asked you if you’re finished, you would have most likely eaten the right-hand side and missed the left-hand side completely. And as we turn the plate, you would then start to see the remainder of the food that you missed. Or if you’re shaving in the morning, you would shave the right-hand side of your face but miss the left-hand side. Same with a woman applying makeup.

So it’s called spatial neglect, and it’s an area that we have specialized in over the last seven years and developed a very straightforward approach in terms of how we address this issue in 10 sessions, less than 45-minutes per session; in terms of helping individuals regain leftness; in terms of where their world can be complete again, whether they’re looking at an album, a picture book of their family members and being able to see the entire family; or in the case of driving, being able to go out and drive again. So what we’re trying to do is give them complete independence where they can go right back into the community, into the family, and into the workplace. The areas of paralysis with stroke is something that we deal with every day, but spatial neglect is a very, very special need, and it’s something that we have become a leader in, not only in research, but also in terms of applying it now to every stroke patient that comes through Kessler Institute. Now, all of their nurses and practitioners are trained in this methodology.

And now what we’re doing, Denver, is rolling this out across the country and around the world so that other medical rehabilitation centers become aware of what spatial neglect is because it really has been something that has been absent from neurologists.

Denver: Neglected.

Rodger: Yes.

Denver: No question about it. I just can imagine how dangerous that must be just in terms of walking around and taking falls.

Rodger: Well, that’s it! And then they end up back in the hospital or back at Kessler Institute for another issue that they might have had from the fall.

Denver: Any other symptoms of stroke that are somewhat invisible?  Or things that people don’t know about and that you’re addressing?

Rodger: Well, you know, aphasia– in terms of the ability to think and be able to speak clearly– is always an issue, and that’s something that’s addressed very clearly in almost every major stroke organization that deals with this from a rehabilitation perspective, Denver. But the area that we have really focused on in our research is this area of cognitive deficiencies that come from a stroke.

Denver: You know, one of your centers of excellence out there is your traumatic brain research center. What’s some of the work that you’re doing over there?

Rodger: In traumatic brain injury, the common areas are not only cognition-related issues, but also mobility-related issues. So the areas that you would see us focus on are in cognition– helping individuals think, learn, remember again, and address those issues of cognition deficits. And then the other areas that we’re working on are balance. One of the major issues with traumatic brain injury patients is regaining balance, and this leads to the type of issues that you mentioned with stroke patients– spatial neglect where they would fall. In this particular case, we’re working with the Department of Defense in a major area of helping individuals, civilians as well as veterans, address this issue of balance and how they regain it.

Denver: How is your research funded?

Rodger: Our research is funded by two methods, actually, Denver. We’re very fortunate that now that we have an endowment.  It does give us the ability to fund many startup programs that otherwise, you wouldn’t have the pilot data to collect this important information that allows you then to go to federal agencies to win the major grants. So we fund ours through the endowment in terms of giving them startup funds– our researchers, our scientists, our own scientists–startup funds so that they can get their pilot data. And then they can use that pilot data to go after the large federal grants at NIH or the Department of Defense or the VA or other federal agencies.

We’re also very, very fortunate in New Jersey, Denver. If you talk to competition that we might deal with across the country, they would call it an unfair competitive advantage.  And that is the fact that we have in New Jersey, the New Jersey Brain Injury Commission and the New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury Commission. They allow us to apply for grants and, again, collect pilot data that we can then use and leverage in terms of advancing research at the national level. And that’s what our scientists are really doing. They’re competing on the world-class stage in terms of these areas of brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS.

Denver: And they’re winning a lot of those grants!

Rodger: They do. They are very successful at it. Yes!

Denver: Well, let’s talk about your other focus area that you mentioned at the beginning, and that is employment opportunities for the disabled. Now, from what I understand, there are about 60 million people in this country who are disabled. Of that group, how many of them are of working age?  And what percentage of those are working?

Rodger: That’s a great question. It grows each year, especially as we start to see the Baby Boomers rotate out of the market force. But of that 60 million, there are about 30 million that would fall into the category of 18-64, so that they would be in the working age population. The big issue is that of that group, only about 25% are actually working, and there’s a number of reasons for that. From an employer perspective, there’s always the stigma of disability and the fact that I call the fear, uncertainty, and doubt factor in terms of:  If I hire somebody with a disability, are they going to be able to perform? How are my other employees going to react? What happens if I have a legal issue and I have to, unfortunately, find a way to let that employee go?  Does that lead to potential lawsuits and complications? And actually, it’s just a reverse of that in terms of the employment funding that we have done across the country in the last 13 years. We’ve invested probably around $40 million in this area where we give funding to other nonprofit organizations that are creating innovative, new ideas to create employment opportunities for people with disability.

So let me give you an example of that, Denver. You had on your show back about a year ago or so, Carol Glazer from the National Organization on Disabilities. Carol and the NOD had received funding from us to do what we call the Bridges Project, which was in Lowe’s Department Stores. So we are sort of like a venture funder, if you will, and give organizations  like NOD the funding that they need to start up and do that three test market site in Lowe’s Home Improvement centers where they ended up being the consultants, if you will, on where to find people with disabilities with the Lowe’s management team, how to train individuals with disabilities against the skill sets that they were looking for in their distribution center, and then also how to train individuals in the workforce at Lowe’s on their first encounter in terms of how to work with people with disabilities. These of course are not sheltered workshops in any way. These are individuals that are working side by side with able-bodied individuals at Lowe’s Home Improvement centers where they’re earning the same pay, being held accountable for the same metrics, and getting benefits as well.

So what you see then through these demonstration projects – and there are hundreds of them throughout the United States that we have funded – is the ability to convince businesses that hiring people with disabilities adds shareholder value to them. No business is in business to hire people. They’re in business to do transactions, to make a better product or lower the cost of that product, and then they hire people. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is make sure that they understand that people with disabilities can be just as productive, just as creative, just as loyal as an able-bodied  a person, and make a contribution to that organization.

Rodger Derose and Denver Frederick

Rodger DeRose and Denver Frederick at the AM970 The Answer Studio

Denver: So, you do the proof of concept with that funding.

Rodger: We do. And I don’t think it ends there, actually, Denver. I think that the bigger picture is not just in…if I was the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, the way I would be looking at it is: I would be looking at it from a customer perspective: How do I create best products that serve not only the needs of able-bodied individuals, but people that have disabilities? And then I’d be looking at it in terms of talent: How do I hire diverse and inclusive workforce? And then I’d be looking at it from a production productivity point of view as: How do I put the best processes in place that are going to address the workforce issues and the production of my product in the most economical way?

And if you address those three areas, you really come to the conclusion that you’re going to be developing products, services.  You’re going to be hiring people with disabilities; you’re going to be developing products for all individuals with universal design, and you’re going to be looking at productivity in a different way as well because you’re going to set up  your line operations and your manufacturing operations in a completely different way.  If you had people with disabilities working side by side with able-bodied people, that’s going to benefit every worker in that chain, that line of production.

…over 60% of individuals with disabilities wanted to work.

…there is an appetite, there is a need. Nobody is going to get rich living on Social Security disability insurance, that’s for sure. And so they would like to do anything that’s possible to earn an income, pay taxes, be a productive member of society…

They want to be productive members of the workforce and they want to be proud of it as well.

Denver: Absolutely. You mentioned before, we have 30 million people who are disabled; about 25% of them are in the workforce. Are people who are disabled… do they want to join the workforce or not? Have you done some studies on that?

Rodger: We have, Denver. In 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we did an updated survey, and that survey clearly indicated that—and this was with 3,000 individuals with disabilities–

Denver: Good survey.

Rodgers: –it clearly had a very high statistical confidence level, but it clearly said that over 60% of individuals with disabilities wanted to work. It was finding ways that they could actually get into the workforce and convince those that are making the hiring decisions to hire them.

So there is an appetite; there is a need. Nobody is going to get rich living on Social Security disability insurance, that’s for sure. And so they would like to do anything that’s possible to earn an income, pay taxes, be a productive member of society, and have the ability to go to an office party or a party.  And the second question that comes out from a person that you meet at that party after you make your introduction with your name is “Well, what’s your profession? What do you do?” Well, the last thing you want to do is be able to say “I sit on the couch and watch TV, and I collect the Social Security disability insurance paycheck.” They want to be productive members of the workforce, and they want to be proud of it as well.

Denver: Absolutely! A real sense of self-worth around there.

Rodger: It is.

… mandates only do so much. Working from the heart and doing things out of good will only do so much. You really have to attack this issue from the perspective that it is good business sense. It’s going to add shareholder value by having an inclusive workforce.

Denver: I know how I would feel, you know what I mean? So that really brings it home. You know, I noticed it’s always evolving, but what does the current law say about disability and employment today?

Rodger: Well, there was a law that was passed under the last presidential administration called the 503 Act, and that had required that any organization that had federal contracts, they had to hire 7% of their workforce with disabilities. Now, they started out very slowly. They didn’t really enforce that, and then near the end of the last administration, they started to enforce that.

I happen to believe, from my perspective, Denver, that mandates only do so much. Working from the heart, and doing things out of good will only do so much. You really have to attack this issue from the perspective that it is good business sense. It’s going to add shareholder value by having an inclusive workforce.

So, in the same ways that marketers market products to Asian-Americans or African-Americans or Hispanic population or the disability community, you have to look at the 60 million Americans as one of the largest majority minorities in the country, and their families and their friends– which make up over 50% of the population– and you have to say “What does that mean from an economic value perspective?  And how do I participate in that?” And once you do that, and you look at it from a business perspective, I think it starts to address the issue of employment in a more comprehensive way than just a mandate.

Denver: A more self-enlightened way, and it is self-enlightened. We have a hard a time finding good people, and there are a lot of them around in the disabled community that can fill many gaps within these organizations and corporations. Can an employer ask a job candidate whether they are disabled before they extend the job offer?

Rodger: No. You do not want to approach it that way. If it’s a physical disability that an individual has that you can actually see, you can ask the individual if there are any special requirements that they might have. But you’re really not supposed to dive into the disability. Now, the issue that many individuals with disabilities have is there are hidden disabilities that you and I would never see in the interview and, of course, you’re never going to go there as an interviewer. But you can ask: Are there any special requirements that you might have?

For example, there are some individuals that have back issues, and they may need a standing desk, for example, and that’s something that we provide to our employees if that’s something that they need. So those are issues that you want to tread very carefully on, and you want to make sure that you’re talking to your human resource department in terms of making sure that you’re asking the right questions.

I think that the culture in any organization that hires people with disabilities changes. It changes for the better…having a workforce that includes people with disabilities makes managers better managers…better parents…better citizens of the world. It makes them, I believe, better human beings that are going to approach issues in the workforce in a different way.

Denver: You know, we tend to look at the disabled through the lens of the limitations that they have. But boy, they can bring some incredible assets to an organization that we just tend to overlook. Give us a few of the special things that a disabled person brings to a workplace?

Rodger: I think that the culture in any organization that hires people with disabilities changes. It changes for the better. I think that having a workforce that includes people with disabilities makes managers better managers. It makes them better parents. It makes them better citizens of the world. It makes them, I believe, better human beings that are going to approach issues in the workforce in a different way. And so I think it will change the culture of that organization once you start hiring people with disabilities into the organization.

But as I was mentioning earlier, Denver, in terms of productivity, creativity, loyalty, these are the types of things that add value to any organization. When you can reduce turnover because you hired somebody with a disability that perhaps this is the first job that they’ve had, and they’re going to do everything that they can to make sure that they’re a productive member of that workforce, and they’re going to give you loyalty instead of looking for another job on the outside as long as you’re treating them fairly. That adds value to the organization because we all know what turnover costs are like in any organization.

Denver:  Much more than we expect.

Rodger: Exactly!

Denver: Absolutely. You mentioned Lowe’s before. Any other employers that stands out as exemplary in your mind?

Rodger: We have worked with funding projects with Pepsi, which is hiring people in their bottling plants and in their vending machine repair organizations. We’ve hired with OfficeMax, Office Depot. We’ve done a lot of innovative projects as well, where we’ve been funding the entrepreneurial spirit of people with disabilities in terms of if they have a special talent in the arts, for example.  How do you get that to come out in terms of their personality?

And so we’ve done smaller projects. We have done projects in terms of training individuals with disabilities on how to become lab technicians in New Jersey– with the pharmaceutical industry being one of the largest in that scenario– that there’s a growing need as well. So we’re trying to address it across different technology and different sectors in industry in terms of how we can address these issues for people with disabilities and make them employable.

Denver: Let me talk a little bit about your personal journey, Rodger. You’re one of those executives that has moved from the private sector over to the nonprofit sector. You were at SC Johnson and then Arthur Andersen, and became the President of the Kessler Foundation back in 2008. What are some of the differences that you’ve noticed in leading a nonprofit organization, as opposed to leading an enterprise in the private sector?

Rodger: I would say that in business, you move very, very quickly.  At SC Johnson, which was a family company, we had the ability to spin on a dime because we didn’t have to answer to shareholders, and we could make investments that other companies couldn’t necessarily do. So coming from an organization like that, coming from Arthur Andersen– which was a partnership before the Enron scandal– which, by the way, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, but by that time, they had unfortunately lost all their clients.

Denver: Damage had been done.

Rodger: But the one thing, moving from a for-profit into nonprofit, is many people get a sense that there’s a lack of urgency in the nonprofit sector. I think if you can be sensitive to that and try to address those needs as you come into an organization… address the cultural issues that go with that in a nonprofit organization, you can be successful in terms of making the transition.

I think the other area is dealing with a nonprofit board versus a for-profit board. Many of the individuals that come into a nonprofit board come from a business or a legal or a financial background, so they have a mindset of operating in a for-profit segment, if you will. And when they come to a nonprofit like Kessler Foundation… or any other nonprofit organization or public charity, they have a certain mindset in terms of expectations. So you have to make that adjustment as well and work with them… make sure that they are understanding of the needs of the organization, and get them to understand how we’re moving forward with the mission of the organization.

So those are some of the complications that you typically go through in any organization from for-profit to nonprofit, but you can make the transition. The problem is, I think, for many individuals that try to leap and make it too fast, they stumble; they expect it to turn around like a for-profit organization and operate like a for-profit.  And when they stumble, often times they can create hardships on the organization and start to have very, very high turnover of key asset personnel. So you want to be very careful when you’re making that cultural shift to a nonprofit organization.  

… be human first; be a manager second, and still do the best thing that’s in the interest of the organization.  But know that your key asset that is helping you make all of these business transactions that you’re doing on a daily business are your people.

Denver: Well, you were careful, and you’ve made it really, really well.  And that’s why the Kessler Foundation is considered one of the best places to work. You’ve been on New Jersey Business list for six years in a row. You took a big jump, higher on that list this past year, and the NonProfit Times has the Kessler Foundation as the fourth best nonprofit organization to work in the United States. Tell us why people say that… and a little bit about the corporate culture at Kessler.

Rodger: I believe, Denver, that any great organization has to treat its most important asset, which are its people. They have to have competitive salary, and they have to have competitive benefits. But I think beyond that, they have to relate to the mission. It’s one thing to be working for a tobacco company. It’s another thing to be working for an organization that is actually helping to change the life of an individual that has a disability, and actually see it first hand in the work that you day in and day out. And so relating to the mission of the organization is fundamentally critical, and I think that that’s first and foremost, in addition to making sure that the playing field is level in terms of benefits and pay.

I think the other area that is so important is if you manage your organization with a real human element– where you are human first and manager second, it really shows in the culture of the organization… and how you address personnel issues, for example, that are going to live with the organization for a long period of time. Every organization has to release somebody at some point for not meeting the performance metrics. How you release that person, for example, says a lot about the organization. If you do it in a very dignified way, in a way that allows an individual to leave with grace and dignity, it says something about the organization. And that as that person leaves, that you continue to have a very meaningful discussion or relationship with the person, so that it’s a positive relationship as opposed to a negative one. That translates to how people view you in the marketplace.

That’s an example, but my point to you is: Be human first; Be a manager second, and still do the best thing that’s in the interest of the organization.  But know that your key asset that is helping you make all of these business transactions that you’re doing on a daily basis are your people. And I think it comes through in how you manage and how you lead the organization.

Denver: That’s a great point, Rodger, and particularly, as you were talking about releasing someone. I’ve been with so many organizations that when they do that, they’re completely unaware of the impact that it’s going to have with everybody else who is still there. And they pretty much all say to themselves, “Oh, I see what’s going to happen when my time should ever come and how they’re going to treat me,” and they make their plans accordingly. So that’s a wonderful point.

Well, you talked a little bit about individuals, and I want to close with that because we’ve been discussing your two major programs: research and employment. But at the end of the day, what you’re doing is you’re impacting one person, one family at a time. Give us a success story of one of those people that Kessler really has played a role in touching them and changing their lives.

Rodger: I would suggest to you that there’s an individual by the name of Chris Tagatac. Chris is an individual that lives in Vermont, fell off his roof, had a spinal cord injury and was destined to be in a wheelchair. He is a business person, a finance individual, and he really wanted to address a number of issues. Those issues for him, even though he knows that at this point in time in the history of spinal cord injury, that he’s going to live a good portion of his life in a wheelchair, that he wanted to address the complications so that he could have a higher quality of life. And that being issues like bone density loss, muscles mass loss, urinary tract infection, sexual function, circulation, pressure sores, pressure ulcers that create the long-term medical complications of being in a wheelchair.

He was one of the early participants in our robotic research that we started back in 2011 as one of the very first centers in the country to move into robotics for spinal cord injured patients. He’s become an ambassador for us in terms of a spokesperson that not only talks about the fact that being in a robot–which is like exercise for you and I in terms of going to the gym each day– if you can be walking in a robot several times a week and getting that exercise and addressing these issues of bone density loss, muscle mass loss, circulation, pressure sores, urinary tract infections, et cetera – those are life-changing issues that he has to address from a functional perspective that’s going to keep him out of the hospital.

So that’s a personal story that Chris would tell you is life-changing from his perspective until we can find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Denver: Well, Rodger DeRose, the President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about your website, some of the information that is there, and how people can get involved in helping support your organization.

Rodger: They can go to kesslerfoundation.org and learn about the foundation. They can certainly volunteer. We’re always looking for new board members that can come to the board and want to have an impact. They can reach out to me personally on our website by just emailing me, and I’d be happy to have a conversation with them and carry on the great work that Kessler Foundation does every day.

Denver:  It sure does. Well, thank you very much, Rodger. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.

Rodger: Thank you, Denver!

Rodger Derose and Denver Frederick

Rodger DeRose 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 http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving

Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and CEO of GlobalGiving Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and CEO of GlobalGiving, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Mari Kuraishi

Mari Kuraishi © GlobalGiving.org

Denver: Crowdfunding is a fairly recent phenomenon, with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo changing the way money is raised to support and finance many a project. But did you know that there was a fundraising venture to fund nonprofits and good causes all the way back in 2002…before Facebook, before Twitter, before social media as we know it today? Well, there was, and with us now is its co-founder. She is Mari Kuraishi, the President and CEO of GlobalGiving. Good evening, Mari, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Mari: Thank you, Denver! I’m pleased to be here.

Crowdfunding is a way for anybody really to ask other people to fund them… this is an amazing thing to use the web to get people to come together for a common cause.

Denver: Before we get into the work of your organization, for those listeners who may only be casually acquainted with crowdfunding, tell us what it is and how it works.

Mari: Crowdfunding is a way for anybody really to ask other people to fund them. So you can go to a site like Kickstarter, someone’s got this great idea for how to build a new and better cooler, and he shows people the prototypes, photographs and how he’s going to attach a boombox to the cooler.  And the cooler is going to have these wheels, and it’s going to do all these awesome things, and he says, “I can build this if I get $100,000 from you all.” People can give as little as $10 for these things.  And Lo and Behold!  People look at the cooler and think, Oh, this is going to be so awesome for my barbecue in the summer; I’m going to go and take it to the beach…I’m going to give this guy $80 and get the first one that comes off the production line. So that’s one form of crowdfunding.

You can crowdfund for a documentary, which you might get a DVD… but it’s not as tangible as a cooler. You can crowdfund for somebody who’s fallen on hard times. So someone’s daughter gets sick with cancer; their medical insurance can’t cover all the cost. They put up that cause on a crowdfunding site, and they can get people to donate. It’s not all tax-deductible. I use the word “donate” sort of in a conceptual form, but this is an amazing thing to use the web to get people to come together for a common cause.

Denver: Good explanation. Well, you can also finance for a good cause. So tell us about GlobalGiving and the mission and goals of your organization.

Mari: So we founded GlobalGiving to make it possible for anyone in the world to give to a grassroots project, again, from anywhere in the world. I worked for a long time at the World Bank, and I traveled the world, and I would see people in the hardest places to work, where electricity wasn’t reliable; transport wasn’t reliable. The hurricanes would come through, but they were doing amazing things. They were helping girls get an education. They were providing water for a community that didn’t have access to clean water unless they walked 10 miles to the next village. They were everyday heroes, and yet they’re unknown to most of us here. So could I take their work? Could I show everybody what was going on in these remote communities and make it possible for people to contribute to those things?

We’ve been able to send over $260 million from over half a million donors to 17,000 or so projects in 166 countries. We’ve also worked with almost 200 countries along the way.

Denver:  And as I said in the opening, this was founded in 2002. What have you been able to accomplish over the course of the last 15 years in terms of the projects, and the countries, and the amount of money, and things of that nature?

Mari: We’ve been able to send over $260 million from over half a million donors to 17,000 or so projects in 166 countries. We’ve also worked with almost 200 companies along the way.

Denver: That’s very impressive. Well, you mentioned a second ago you were at the World Bank, and that’s a very well-respected organization.  But they deal at the very highest levels – the minister of finance – and they address problems with a lot of money often, and it’s kind of a top-down. So GlobalGiving, as you described it, is really just the opposite of that. It is on the ground, bottom-up, in communities with those problem solvers. Tell us what instigated this dramatic change of approach with you.

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David Peter Stroh, Author of Systems Thinking for Social Change, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between David Peter Stroh, Author of Systems Thinking for Social Change and Founder of Bridgeway Partners, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

 

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David Peter Stroh © Bridgeway Partners

Denver: One of the great frustrations that we all share is that many of our social problems, despite well-intentioned people providing additional resources, just don’t seem to be getting much better. In fact, sometimes they’re actually getting worse. My next guest maintains we just may be thinking about these problems in the wrong way and that a different approach will yield different results that will be better. He is David Peter Stroh, the Founder of Bridgeway Partners and the Author of Systems Thinking for Social Change: A Practical Guide for Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results. Good evening, David, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

 

David: Hi, Denver. Thank you very much for having me!

Systems thinking…is the ability to understand the connections among those elements in such a way as to achieve a desired purpose, not the purpose that the system is currently necessarily achieving.

Denver: So, David, what is systems thinking?

David: So, systems thinking…I’ll start off with a definition of a system because even there, people get a little confused. A system is a set of elements that’s connected and organized to accomplish… something. Now, that’s a really strange definition, but one of the pioneers in systems thinking– a woman named Donella Meadows who’s sadly no longer with us– coined that definition. So, an interconnected set of elements, coherently organized to achieve something. And that last word you think of– from an expert– the best they can do is “something”?

And the reason that that is there, is there is a principle that systems are perfectly designed to achieve what they’re achieving right now. And you kind of go, “Wait a second. This system is so dysfunctional. How on earth can you say it’s accomplishing anything?” But in fact, it is. For example, our homelessness system based on shelters is perfectly designed to help people cope with homelessness, but that doesn’t mean it’s designed to help people end homelessness. And that’s a very important distinction.

So systems thinking, I define, is the ability to understand the connections among those elements in such a way as to achieve a desired purpose, not the purpose that the system is currently necessarily achieving.

Denver: We’re going to get back to homelessness a little bit later because I think that is the perfect example, but I know exactly what you’re saying. People in that community say the word “solution” to homelessness never comes up. It absolutely never comes up.

What are the core principles of how systems function?

David: Great question. First of all, I want it to be clear that we are all natural systems thinkers. It sounds like very esoteric stuff, but imagine when you were young: Did you find yourself picking up after your kids, often year after year?

And what happens is—it happens in my house—I have my son, and I say, “Hey, Jonathan. Pick up your clothes.” Now, you’ve got to see the hamper in his bathroom is 5 feet away from the pile of clothes in his room. I said, “Jonathan, pick up your clothes.” He doesn’t show up. “Jonathan…” I can’t stand it anymore. I finally take the laundry, pick it up, put it in the hamper, Jonathan comes wandering back in, looks at the spot where the clothes used to be and says, “Oh, that worked.”

Denver: Again?

David: It works because he thinks in nonlinear ways. He’s accustomed to the idea of time delay shifting the burden of responsibility to me…that’s all systems thinking.

Denver: And you give him great feedback and pick up his clothes!

David: Yes, right.  I fall right into the trap, which is another way of saying that as good as we get at systems thinking, we still have these traps that we have to learn to not fall into.

Coming back to your question, though…So, we are natural systems thinkers, but we tend to get it educated out of us through the normal educational process we go through. Some of the important distinctions here: First of all, in a simple system: If I cut my hand, I put a Band-Aid on it, I’m done; simple problem, obvious problem, simple solution. But in complex systems… the kinds that we are trying to improve, there is actually a non-obvious connection, both in time and space, between the symptoms as they appear and the underlying problems. So that’s one very important distinction.

I talk about food aid as a dramatic example of that. It looks like the problem symptom is starvation, and so the obvious thing to do, the linear thing to do, is to provide food aid.

Denver: Well, that’s what we do. And it’s also, I think in many people’s mind, the main thing to do. You see people; they don’t have food; there’s been a disaster, so let’s pack up the cans; let’s send money, and let’s help these people out. Now what is wrong with that approach?

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Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, Author of Problem Solved, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, Founder of CSE Consulting and Author of the book, Problem Solved: A Powerful System for Making Complex Decisions with Confidence and Conviction, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Cheryl Einhorn

Cheryl Einhorn © LinkedIn

Denver: If someone were to ask you what your decision-making process was when addressing a big problem or facing an important decision, what would you say? Well, for many of us, the answer would be pretty imprecise, a little circumstantial, and far from rigorous. In fact, we might come to the realization that there isn’t much of a system at all.

That observation was not lost on my next guest.  So she set out to do something about it, and the result was her new book, Problem Solved: A Powerful System for Making Complex Decisions with Confidence and Conviction. She is an award-winning journalist, media consultant and adjunct professor at Columbia University. She is Cheryl Strauss Einhorn. Good evening, Cheryl, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Cheryl: So happy to be here. Thank you!

Denver: Well, you have certainly identified a significant need that exists out there, but what gave you the impetus to develop a system and then write a book about it?

Cheryl: Well, really it was such an unexpected journey. My background is in investigative journalism, and I spent a decade working as an editor and columnist for Barron’s, the business magazine. At Barron’s, I sort of ended up specializing in what you might call the “bearish company story” – those stories that take a skeptical look at a company’s finances or at their strategy. When these stories would come out, a lot of time, there’d be a big reaction – not only would the share price fall a lot, but regulators could get involved, and sometimes these kinds of stories really had a very big impact. And I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable about the fact that it wasn’t just impacting somebody’s retirement account or their portfolio, but actually their ability to go to work or to buy the products and services from those types of companies.

And so I started to really think about: Is there a way that I could have better confidence and conviction in my own decision-making? And also, Could I better understand the incentives and the motives of the sources who often gave me those stories? And right about the same time, all this new research was coming out saying that we’re all flawed thinkers. We have these assumptions, biases and judgments. They certainly help us every day, so that when we’re in the supermarket, for instance, we’re not overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices in the cereal aisle. But those same well-worn pathways, those shortcuts, they don’t go away when we’re solving for complex problems.

And so given my background in research, I started to think about:  Could there be a way where I could apply a process that acknowledges that we really can’t say we’re going to be objective… and just be objective, but that instead recognizes maybe I should go all in on my mental flaws? And could I construct a process that works within the fact that we have these biases, assumptions and judgments, and be able to better understand how to solve problems more holistically… by also accounting for the incentives and motives of others?

Denver: And then you throw in an emergency appendectomy in the process and say, “I think I have the time!”

Cheryl: That’s exactly right! I was getting down after I had an emergency appendectomy, and I was thinking to myself: I really need a good project. So I had already written up my AREA Method, which is what Problem Solved introduces into a textbook to use at Columbia Business School –and also at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism– and I thought: You know what? I have so many friends asking me:  What do I do about my aging parents and helping them find the right housing accommodations?  Or, my son’s about to start the college journey, or I want to switch careers; I want to re-enter the workforceand when I looked on Amazon to see what’s out there for you and me…

Denver: Nothing!

Cheryl: That’s exactly what I  realized, and I thought I’ll rewrite the textbook into a general interest book because we all deserve the ability to have a system that can uniquely help us to solve high-stakes decisions for ourselves.

…we’re very inconsistent decision-makers. If we’re faced with the same decision, but we’re in two completely different situations–either environmentally, or socially with different people– we may make entirely different decisions.

Denver: Make it accessible to everybody with this kind of a book. How do most of us go about making our decisions? Is there a typical pattern that we generally fall into?

Cheryl: Well, I think that’s a very interesting question. I think the best that I could answer that is that we’re very inconsistent decision-makers. If we’re faced with the same decision, but we’re in two completely different situations–either environmentally, or socially with different people– we may make entirely different decisions.

So I think that what I was looking for here is:  Could there be a way where we wouldn’t just rely on who we’re with, or where we are, or the well-worn pathways that have served us well when we make small decisions? Is there a way that we could actually pry open cognitive space to allow for new information and new insight, which is what we really need when solving for complex problems?

The AREA Method inverts traditional decision-making… instead of saying: What problem do you want to solve? AREA inverts it to ask what I think is a far more empowering question, which is: What constitutes a good outcome to you uniquely?

Denver: Well, before we get into the steps of the AREA Method, tell us if there is an overarching philosophical view that kind of undergirds this approach?

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

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.

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Salim Ismail © veja.abril.com.br

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.

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

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.


 

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Annie Griffiths         ©natgeocreative.com

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

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!

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Sarah Smith and Sherrie Westin  © gt.foreignpolicy.com

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?

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

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.

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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?

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