gates foundation
Supporting work in more than 100 countries, run by 1,211 employees, and with grant payments totaling $30.1 billion, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become a modern figurehead for advocacy. “Inside the Gates” is a podcast series that provides a glimpse into the grants facilitating the organization’s impactful work.

The grants given by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation range from assisting global development to keeping kids in school in the United States. GAVI Alliance was granted $1.5 billion for expanding childhood immunizations. Gateway to College received $7.28  billion to expand a program that enables colleges to serve students who need remedial academic help.

How does the Foundation decide to whom they want to give their grants? Insights from “Inside the Gates,” as well as a newly streamlined evaluation structure, reveal this process.

The Foundation develops all of their grants and contracts using a four-phase process: (1) concept development, (2) pre-proposal, (3) investment development, and (4) management & close.

Concept development happens within the organization, “in consultation with foundation colleagues, researchers, policymakers, and other partners in the field.” Strategies –such as financial services for the poor, tobacco control and emergency response –are developed. More than two-dozen strategies have emerged from the goal of having the greatest possible impact with the greatest number of people.

Once strategic goals are set, the Foundation approaches organizations that they feel are well suited to the work. Request for proposals are also available online if the Foundation wishes to broaden their network or fund multiple organizations for a project.

The third phase, investment development, involves the legal and financial analysis teams from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. After a proposal, a budget, results framework and tracker are approved, the funded organization can begin their aid activities.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation prides itself on “maintaining quality interactions and clear and consistent communication” between a program officer and the grantee. The final step in the grant process is a final report that serves as a summary of the results achieved and lessons learned.

Since the premiere episode in 2012, the monthly “Inside the Gates” podcasts have highlighted grantees and employees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Listening to these podcasts reveals the ins and outs of this organization and the projects it sponsors. People like Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Program, discuss the impact of effective grantee engagement on the foundation’s work. Others, such as Peter Kithene, an intern at the Gates Foundation, share their stories about working in third world countries and pursuing their dreams in the nonprofit community.

Overall, this podcast series, as well as the recently overhauled grant process give the public a better idea of what the Gates Foundation is doing to change the world. To listen to the podcasts and read in more detail about Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grants, visit Inside the Gates.

 – Grace Flaherty

Sources: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Photo: Gavi Alliance

Open Hands Initiative

Silver Scorpion is not your average superhero. His crime fighting activities may seem run of the mill for a comic book protagonist, but his story has a twist. Silver Scorpion is a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident and is forced to use his mind control powers from the confines of a wheelchair. Silver Scorpion, along with a variety of other cultural, creative, and media based projects, is the work of The Open Hands Initiative. Inspired by the famous pledge by Barack Obama to “extend open hands of friendship and dialogue to all people of the world,” The Open Hands Initiative is a non-profit that aims to improve people-to-people understanding and international friendship. “Diplomacy” is the creed of Jay T Snyder, the founder of The Open Hands Initiative. In October of 2010, Snyder flew to Damascus with 12 disabled Americans to meet with their Syrian peers and create a new superhero. Snyder’s goal was to foster mutual respect between two groups of people that may ordinarily harbor hatred for each other. On May 7th, 2011, Comic book stores gave away thousands of free copies of Silver Scorpion, published in both English and Arabic, courtesy of Liquid Comics. To date, more than 20,000 people have read the comic online. To those at The Open Hands Initiative, and to kids across the world, Silver Scorpion is more than a superhero; “he represents a new phase of US-Arab and Muslim public diplomacy efforts and serves as a cross-cultural hero for the world that promotes tolerance, inclusion and equality.” Since that inaugural project, The Open Hands Initiative has championed a variety of causes. These programs range from facilitating the production, distribution and exchange of local art and music across cultures, to sponsoring journalism fellowships for young students. Student reporters who participate in the Open Hands Fellowship gain real-world experience in countries such as Egypt and Burma. Working with seasoned journalists and experts in media, politics, economics and culture, these students gain knowledge and networking connections. Not only does the program foster budding journalists, it supports democracies in transition by promoting free speech. The Open Hands Initiative does not practice cultural assimilation. Instead, they share the best parts of each society. “In doing so, we enrich each other, deepen our independence and respect, and build a reservoir of goodwill that can withstand even the most fundamental policy differences.” With hope, the reservoir of goodwill promoted by The Open Hands Initiative will bring a more peaceful world in generations to come. – Grace Flaherty Sources: Open Hands Initiative, Huffington Post

philanthropic soccer players
When the fans are cheering for their favorite teams in Brazil, people also notice that many soccer players give back to the society by doing charity work. Many of these philanthropic soccer players use their fame and foundations to help those in need. These top five soccer players go to a great length to help the poor and the vulnerable.

Source : SoccerTimes

1. David Beckham

Beckham is probably one of the most famous soccer players in the world. The former England national soccer team captain is also dedicated to charity work. He is one of the founders of the Malaria No More UK leadership council. His launched his own charity, the Victoria and David Beckham Charitable Trust, to give wheelchairs to disabled children. In total the Victoria and David Beckham’s trust has given nearly 1 million pounds to help hundreds of children from 2005 to 2010.

2. Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is the captain and top scorer of Côte d’Ivorie National team. His charity foundation, Didier Drogba Foundation, has main goal of to preventing malaria in Africa. Its campaign brings awareness of malaria through media, distributes medical materials and delivers life-saving prevention methods. Dider Drogba is also a pacifist. As a popular figure in Ivory Coast, he successfully helped to negotiate a cease-fire after five years of civil war in the country.

3. Nwankwo Kanu

Nwankwo Kanu was a legendary player in Nigeria. He was the Capitan of Nigerian National Team, and also a UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) ambassador. Kanu was diagnosed with a heart defect, but he coped with his disease and showed his soccer talent. Kanu established his “Nwankwo Kanu Heart Foundation” (KHF) in 2000, to help children in Nigeria and other African countries obtain heart surgeries and cardinal treatment needed. KHF had over 415 heart surgeries with a surprising 98.5 percent success rate.

4. Craig Bellamy

Craig Bellamy was a former Welsh soccer player and played for Liverpool, West Ham United and Manchester City. His foundation “Craig Bellamy Foundation,” based in Sierra Leone, gives children living in poverty the chance to play soccer and build new lives. When Craig Bellamy visited Sierra Leone in 2007, he saw the desperate poverty and also the local children’s passion for soccer games. He decided to use sports and education to inspire change in the region.

5. Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt is a famous Dutch soccer forward. Dirk Kuyt launched his own charity, the Dirk Kuyt Foundation, which helps homeless children in Holland and around the world. The foundation also supports and organizes events for people with disabilities. It believes that sports fun is for everyone, including those with disabilities.

Jing Xu

Sources: Mirror, Didier Drogba Foundation, KANU, Craig Bellamy Foundation, Dirk Kuyt Foundation
Photo: Mama Mia

african union
The African Union (AU,) founded in 2002, is the stalwart successor of the Organization for African Unity. Its vision is “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” In its many missions, the Union stresses cooperation. It is a tool through which independent, African nations can maintain and develop peace and stability, and stand in solidarity within the greater, international community.

It is generally agreed that Africa is home to 55 countries; 54 of which are members of the union. Morocco is excluded of its own accord. The AU has 13 main “organs,” each with varying tasks and varying degrees of power.

The Assembly, perhaps the most powerful, is the decision-making body. It determines policies and priorities, and has the right to advise other organs during emergencies and times of conflict. It is able to support or take action against Member States. All Member States are represented in the assembly by Heads of State and Government. Currently leading is Assembly Chairperson Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of Mauritania.

The Executive Council, like the Assembly, meets at least twice a year. Members of the Executive Council are all government officials appointed by their respective nations. Council members decide on areas of common interest between Member States and create an agenda to present before the Assembly.

The African Union Commission is the AU’s operational management. It represents the Union in non-AU forums, manages the AU’s budget, helps Member States implement AU policies and helps the AU determine the positions and concerns of Member States.

All AU organs are notable, but it would be remiss not to mention the Financial Institutions, of which there are three. The African Central Bank works toward a single African currency and the standardization of monetary policy across Africa. The African Investment bank works to “foster economic growth and accelerate economic integration.” This is done in part by using resources and technical support to aid both Member States and local development projects. But most of the investing, especially on macro-economic scales, is left to the African Monetary Fund.

These are just four organs amongst a host of others; such as the Pan-African Parliament, The Peace and Security Council and The African Court on Human and People’s Rights, for example. With such a strong system and such strong ideals working for its betterment, the future of Africa is looking bright.

— Olivia Kostreva

Sources: ISS Africa, African Union (AU) The Assembly, AU Executive Council, AU Pan-African Parliament, AU The Financial Institutions, AU The Commission
Photo: Free Logo Vectors

Millennium Challenge Corporation
1. It’s a breath of fresh air

Ever since the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) creation in 2004, it has been drastically different from other United States foreign aid programs. According to the Congressional Research Reserve, it places emphasis on “free market economic and democratic principles and policies, where governments are committed to implementing reform measures in order to achieve such goals.” Basically, it favors long-term economic development over short-term aid and calls upon poverty-stricken countries to design and apply remedial projects. This is in stark contrast to U.S. foreign aid policies pre-MCC.

2. Fastidious selection process

Although withholding aid from a deserving country sounds ignoble, it’s a necessary step for the MCC to ensure its efficacy. Before awarding grants, the MCC scrutinizes potentially eligible countries, checking for stable government, transparency and a general “sound track record.” An impoverished but corrupt country cannot receive aid.

3. Enabling (never prescribing)

The MCC does not decide what “aid” looks like. Rather, it funds problem-solving initiatives led by the impoverished countries themselves. This empowers the people who best understand the critical issues, meanwhile inspiring local innovators and inventors. If prescriptions are tawdry and shortsighted, MCC is authentic and enabling.

4. Enabling (never controlling)

Selected countries not only design the economic growth initiatives, but they implement them as well. The MCC works closely with these countries to support and refine tactics, but it is the responsibility of the selectee to drive the bus. While impoverished countries steer and navigate, MCC fuels.

5. Partner accountability 

One technique the MCC uses to motivate its partner countries is a five-year deadline. By the fifth year of funding, the problem-solving projects will have been completed and their successes will have been gauged. This keeps selected countries accountable.

6. Self-accountability 

The MCC works hard to remain as accountable and as transparent as they expect their partners to be. It tracks its achievements and evaluates its impact scrupulously. Successes can then be duplicated, and shortcomings can be fixed.

7. Big achievements

The Millennium Challenge Corporation gives two types of awards: Compacts (five-year grants) and Threshold Programs (smaller grants.) Since its creation in 2004, MCC has, in total, awarded $8.4 billion to initiate and support poverty-reduction projects. Over 38 impoverished countries, from Albania to Zambia, have received grants.

8. It’s only growing

In March of this year, the fiscal year 2015 State Foreign Operations budget request, was released. According to this issue it will provide the MCC with $1 billion. This is 11 percent more funding than it received over the 2014 fiscal year.

— Adam Kaminski

Sources: FAS, MCC, USA

Compared to surrounding countries, the educational system in Djibouti is flourishing. Though illiteracy remains a problem in the small country in the Horn of Africa, the government has made significant progress in the last decade to make education accessible to a greater percentage of the population. For many reasons, the future of education in Djibouti looks even brighter.

1. Modeled after French educational system
The French educational system has consistently been considered one of the strongest in the world. It separates schooling into three levels (primary, secondary and higher education) and focuses on ensuring that all children enter primary school at a young age. The structure of Djibouti’s educational system is modeled after the French system, and the African country maintains the tradition of trying to enroll as many children as possible in the first years of primary education.

2. Not exclusively French
Although Djibouti follows France’s example, education is not exclusively available to those that speak French. In the past, education in Djibouti was somewhat of an elitist concept. People that spoke the native language could not attend the schools because the lessons were taught in French. Fortunately, this idea has been abandoned and schools readily accommodate the various languages spoken in Djibouti.

3. Number of schools
Djibouti is a small country. Approximately 846,000 people inhabit its less than 9,000 square miles. Given that most of these people live in the capital city, the number of schools in Djibouti is impressive in comparison to other developing countries. In terms of public schools, there are 81 primary schools, 12 secondary schools and two vocational schools. There is also a university.

4. The University of Djibouti
The University of Djibouti is the only institution of higher education in Djibouti, but its effects on the educational system seem much greater. The university offers arts, science, law and technology instruction. The professors are qualified to teach their respective subjects and frequently communicate with professors outside of their own country. The university highlights education on topics related to current affairs in Djibouti, such as the economy, to guarantee that its students graduate with comprehensive knowledge about the market and the “real world” that they will enter.

5. Gender equality
Truthfully, more boys than girls go to school in Djibouti. However, compared to many developing nations, the ratio reflects an improved sense of gender equality. The drop-out rate for females is 1.6 percent, while it rests just below 1 percent for males. At the start of schooling, however, the Ministry of Education in Djibouti takes care to establish equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.

6. Government attention
The government recognizes the importance of education, and has taken steps to make the educational system a primary focus. The country’s national budget allocates more than 20 percent to education and has done so for the majority of the 21st century.

7. Rising enrollment
Due to the government’s high attention to education and the tradition of French education, Djibouti works to increase enrollment rates of children in primary schools. In 2002, 43 percent of primary-aged children were enrolled in formal schooling. That statistic increased to 66 percent in 2006 and 71 percent in 2009. The enrollment rate has been increasing steadily since then.

Most of the progress in education in Djibouti has occurred in the capital city, also called Djibouti. The more secluded and rural areas of the country still need to see improvements in accessibility and quality of education, like many other developing countries.  However, the attention to educating citizens of all ages proves that the government of Djibouti is one of the most proactive in encouraging the growth of academics.

— Emily Walthouse

Sources: Maps of World, UNICEF, Study Lands, Africa Africa
Photo: Vimeo