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Friday, September 21, 2007

4th Meeting of Foundations from Portuguese Speaking Countries 

I haven't post in a while. Work and a soon-to-be-finished PhD, I hope, have kept me away from posting. Anyway, I'm currently in Luanda, in Angola, participating in what is the 4th Meeting of Foundations from the Portuguese Speaking Countries Community. For those more distracted, this community comprises Angola, Brazil, Cape Vert, Guiné Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Prince, and East Timor: which means, totally, more than 220 million people speaking Portuguese. The rationale of this event goes around "one common language as a strategic asset in the foundations intervention in aid and development". It’s very soon to conclude about the usefulness of this meeting, but so far, it’s has been thrilling to learn about the work of some African foundations despite their difficult political-social-economic-cultural national contexts. 3 foundations to follow carefully: Fundação Lurdes Mutola, and Fundação para o Desenvolvimento da Comunidade, in Mozambique, and Fundo Lwini, in Angola (this one, without an English website, unfortunatelly).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Calouste Gulbenkian International Prize 

The 2007 edition of the International Prize Calouste Gulbenkian will go for HAND IN HAND: CENTER FOR JEWISH-ARAB EDUCATION.

Hand in Hand, located in Jerusalem, Israel, is a non-governmental, non-profit organization established in 1997 to promote a new educational model of bilingual and multicultural education where Jewish and Arab children can learn together as equals. It operates three Arab-Jewish integrated bilingual schools having grown from 50 pupils the first year to over 750 today. The schools have a unique curriculum emphasizing dialogue, appreciation of each other’s culture, and co-existence. Each school has an Arab and Jewish co-principal, each class of equal numbers of Jewish and Arab pupils is co-taught by Arab and Jewish teachers.

The Calouste Gulbenkian International Prize, worth €100,000, distinguishes an individual or institution whose thoughts or actions make a decisive contribution to and have significant impact on understanding, defending or fostering the universal values of the human condition, with particular reference to the Respect for difference and inter-cultural, inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue.

The Jury of the Prize was chaired by Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal and UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, who was helped by HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, Crown Prince to the Hashemite Throne of Jordan, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brasil, Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Bronislaw Geremek, Member of the European Parliament, and José Gomes Canotilho, distinguished Law Professor at Coimbra University.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The cult of the amateur 

In my opinion bloggers should seriously discuss Andrew Keen's new book, "The cult of the amateur: how today's internet is killing our culture", because, from what I learn from here, it raises fundamental questions that go beyond the provocative statements it also contains.

For now, reading this, on his blog,

Enough of blogs and enough of bloggers! It's bad enough that there are 70 million of them out there, littering the Internet with fast breaking news about what their authors ate for breakfast. But blogs are just one piece in the digital media revolution. They are boring to write (yawn), boring to read (yawn) and boring to discuss (yawn).
What I really want to discuss is the impact of Web 2.0 on truth, education, memory and power. I want debate the increasingly Orwellian role of Google in our information economy. I want to talk about the way in which the Internet has unleashed a plague of pornography, gambling and intellectual dishonesty on our youth. I want to discuss the future of the book. I want to imagine the future of knowledge when, to quote
David Weinberger, everything is miscellaneous.
Anyone want to join me in this discussion?

I remembered TS Eliot (I always remember TS Eliot, on a large number of things, but that's another story)

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

From TS Eliot, The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven, in Choruses from the Rock, 1934

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Philanthropy (global) blogosphere 

I thank Lucy Bernholz for the link. I think it's important for the debate about philanthropy to have different (local, national and regional) perspectives.Despite their diversity – of mission, geographical focus, impact, or size - foundations and non-profit organizations worldwide share the same problems and face the same challenges. In the end it's all about how to address our missions in the most effective way.
I’ll try to bring to the table a “Portuguese” perspective.

Declaration of interest: I work for a Portuguese Foundation.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Susan Berresford, advocating for voluntary standards for transparency and accountability in philanthropy, here (The Guardian on-line), antecipating the European Foundation Centre's 18th Annual General Assembly (AGA) and Conference in Madrid.

Friday, June 01, 2007

New philanthropy? 

Susan Beresford, President of the Ford Foundation, to the Seattle Times, on the on-going debate about the changing world of philanthropy, taken from here:

«The emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs-turned-philanthropists offering their fortunes to tackle pressing problems has prompted reports of a philanthropic divide -- a generation gap between established foundations and their young counterparts. Such phrases as "venture philanthropy" and "social entrepreneurship" are in vogue. New foundations are said to be ambitious, strategic, entrepreneurial, innovative and focused on measurable results. Established foundations are said to lack those qualities.
As the president of an "old" foundation and a nearly 40-year veteran in the field, I am here to say this dichotomy does not fit reality. It does not capture the breadth of philanthropy's scope and history, and it has the potential to damage our field.»

I've been working for an "old-foundation" for the last seven years and I've have been learning all the buzz-words from the sector, mostly "imported" from the profit sector. So non of this is actually new. I can only agree with Susan Beresford, "new philanthropy" and "old philanthropy" are just to faces of the same coin, each one with its own specific role. One should not out-rule the other, but instead learn from each other.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mission Related Investments 

Following Lucy Bernholz's post about the American tax system and the preferential treatment given to private foundations, here, arguing that "we should align the tax benefits for charitable giving with the amount of money that actually goes to charity" and that the tax benefit should only be extended to the foundation's investiments "if endowment managers can demonstrate alignment between their investment policies and their charitable missions", Sean Stannard-Stockton replied that Lucy's proposal is "at least a decade too soon", here, because "the field of Mission Related Investing (MRI) is still in its infancy" and there isn’t "MRI opportunities available to absorb the half a trillion dollars in foundation assets". According to Sean:

MRI is an exciting area. But we are years away from having the shared infrastructure and vocabulary we need to have widespread adoption of the concept. I don't think I would agree with Lucy’s suggestion even if we did have all the needed elements in place. But I am sure that we are far too early in the evolution of MRI to contemplate making it mandatory. Doing so would hurt the MRI movement, not accelerate it.

If the field of MRI is still in its "infancy" in the US, in Portugal is simply non-existant.

According to the Portuguese law, foundations' investment policies are legally irrelevant, only the use of the income, whatever the source is, is tax challenged:

In order to maintain their tax status, tax-exempted (0%) foundations should be able to demonstrate that they spend in charitable activities at least 50% of the net income that otherwise would be taxed, until the end of 4th year following the year of the income. The consequence for non-complying foundations is the regular taxation (20%) of the part of the income that was not spent in the mission activities that justified the tax preferential treatment.

If the MRI debate is maybe precocious in Portugal, Portuguese foundations should start thinking, at least, in voluntary ethical standards for their investments.

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