The Pacific Northwest Global Donor’s Conference was held on May 17th, as a forum to promote global philanthropy. As this is a great opportunity to connect with others in the philanthropic community, and learn about the initiatives and innovations of other non-profits, some members of the Jolkona team attended. The goal of the conference was to create an environment in which connections could make a real difference, as expressed by the opening speaker: “We have all the technology and solutions to solve the world’s problems. But, it is leadership and organization that will make it happen.”
Here were the impressions of our team:
The conference promised to unveil a new model with utility for the non-profit community. What was the model, and how did it work?
The model is for the new conference structure. The day started with a rapid fire of 7 minute quick talks, and after lunch, it went into “open space”. A few people with topics in mind would make the topic suggestion, and then people go to join a table. At any point you were free to move around so you could spread the ideas around.
Did you learn about something that you thought was inspiring, intriguing, or worthy of interest?
I picked a workshop on travel for philanthropy. I met a lot of interesting, trip-leading veterans from 11plus, EcoViva, Pangea, and others. I felt like we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to considerate, sustainable trip leading. They have much more advanced approaches on how to prepare the community before a foreign visit and lessons learned (when they went to see someone in a slum community, his landlord raised rent on him assuming he got a lot of money from the white visitors).
Were there any exciting new foundations or organizations at the conference? Who were they, and what do they do?
I really like some of the impact investment groups that I met, and heard from quick talks. Impact investing is about focusing on impact, which is not the same as return on investment. A company with great products makes a good investment because they make a lot of profit. These groups invest in them. But, nonprofit/social for-profits don’t make a lot of money but make positive impact on our population, and these investment companies balance their portfolio by investing in them also.
Did you meet any new potential partners for Jolkona?
Village Volunteer is an exciting partner, and their new projects are great. One project is to make biodegradable sanitary pads for rural communities out of an invasive species that looked like water lily. EcoViva has interesting projects with the indigenous communities in Guatemala, in an area with largest mangroves still remaining in the world. One women’s human rights group talked to me about being a Jolkona partner as well.
What did the speakers talk about that you found most interesting?
Gates Foundation had an interesting way of applying modern financial tools used in established economies and, transferring it for use with the poor. They learned a lot making this transition.
IDEX is a group that stays with their projects for the long haul, even if their mission changes. One of their partners went from micro-finance to human rights, and all of their funders left because it didn’t align with what they support anymore. IDEX stayed. They believed it was the right strategy shift for their partner and was able to continue funding them
Was the experience worth going to, and what could have been improved?
It is clear that the active philanthropist community is small and tight, so it was nice to start to get used to the faces. But, the conference (and all of us) needs to be able to reach out to other groups.