Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why I Liked Oprah's Big Give

The philanthropic blogosphere has been buzzing about Joshua Horwitz's Chronicle of Philanthropy piece, The Nonprofit Profession Lost Out in Oprah's Big Give. After watching the show's finale on April 21st, Horwitz wrote:
"[T]he show ended up featuring amateur and embarrassing efforts at giving. It passed off as entertainment people wasting thousands of dollars of donated money and did little to help the American public learn what it really takes to change the lives of other people. Oprah’s last words on the show Sunday night were to encourage the television audience to “give big,” which is a worthy goal, but the television program failed to show average Americans how they can become effective and strategic philanthropists."
He also felt that, "Notably absent from this group was a professional foundation officer or any person skilled in evaluating effective giving." He suggested that at the end of each episode, "she [Oprah] should introduce a real hero — a trained foundation officer, perhaps, or an accomplished nonprofit leader — to save the day and make the money work."

Alanna Shaikh of Blood and Milk agreed with Horwitz's article, and was annoyed by people who made comments along the lines of, "Why would you ever criticize someone who is trying to do good?" Shaikh wrote:
"I find the tone-deaf comments extremely frustrating. They demonstrate to me that no one is taking charitable giving seriously; that somehow people believe all projects are equally valuable and effective. Give a car to a restaurant manager or an impoverished veteran. It's all the same. It's charity! And charity is good!"
On another note, in her article, The Dark Underside of Oprah's Big Give, Linda Diebel rightly points out that during an episode focused on helping two public schools, "not one contestant turned to another and asked how such bleak Dickensian conditions could exist in American schools in the first place."

I liked Oprah's Big Give, but my expectations weren't that high. I mean, it was a reality show on ABC, not The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.

Despite the endless Target promo spots, repeated messages that money solves all problems, and the ridiculously big donations by people and businesses who you know wouldn't have stepped up to the plate in the same way if it hadn't been an Oprah project, I enjoyed it. I watched every episode.

Why did I like it?

I liked watching the different kinds of givers.

There are givers who like to give in small ways, like Brandi Milloy, who bought all of a street vendors' roses and gave them away to happily surprised drivers as they stopped at the light.

There are givers who give in big ways, like the winner, Stephen Paletta, who organized, along with contestant Eric Klein, multiple donations and a community gathering for a woman whose husband had been murdered.

There are givers who are good at getting others to give, like entrepreneur Cameron Johnson who was able to raise thousands of dollars with his cell phone and his connections.

There are givers who give to the wrong people, like Angelo Adams, who gave a few thousand dollars to the war veteran he was trying to help, but gave the TGIF owner who hosted Angelo's event, a Ford Edge.

There are givers who give the wrong things, like Sheg Aranmolate who gave a poor family with 24 children (20 who had special needs) a party, when what they really needed was money for food.

There are givers whose ego gets in the way, like Rachael Hollingsworth who fulfilled a dying woman's dream to play the piano at Carnegie Hall, and her own, by singing along with her.

I liked when the giving wasn't about money.

Two of my favorite moments involved Stephen Paletta. In the first episode, Stephen had the wife and children of the murder victim tie notes for their father on helium balloons and release them into the sky.

In another episode, while washing dishes in a soup kitchen, Stephen listened to a fellow dishwasher's challenging life story. When Stephen asked the man how he could help him, he said he had, by listening. (Yes, I know they probably made him say the line over and over again to get the "money" shot).

It reminded me of what makes giving successful, even when the contestants failed.

1. Ask people what they need rather than decide for them.
2. Involve the community.
3. Give time, as well as money.
4. Compassion, respect and attention can be the most valuable gift.

Was money wasted? Yes.

Were there people who could have been helped in more effective ways? Yes.

Will its producers win a Nobel Prize? No.

But, 10 million viewers tuned in to watch the finale of a reality show about people trying to make the world a better place. Some of them went to the Oprah's Big Give web site and clicked on the links to Network for Good or VolunteerMarch to, "donate or volunteer near you."

Can you really say it would have been better if they hadn't watched at all?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 is Hiring Bloggers for Social Action Blog Network

Hey all you do-good bloggers!

Ben Rattray of wanted me to let you know that they are hiring bloggers. Positions are part-time, paid and start in June.

To apply, go to I've pasted the blurb below:

Hiring Bloggers for!

Want to blog on an issue you are passionate about for an audience of hundreds of thousands of activists and nonprofit leaders?

Want to create the premier online space for your issue and become a leading voice for social action? is launching a social action blog network this summer and is currently hiring a team of blogger/editors to help create a movement for change around the major causes of our time.

Positions are part-time and paid.

Each blogger will lead an online community focusing on a different social, political, or environmental issue, maintain a daily blog covering news and offering commentary, convene leading nonprofits and activists working on the issue, and help people translate their interests and passions into concrete action.'s blog network will include dozens of communities around issues, including:

Global Warming
Human Rights
Universal Health Care
Human Trafficking
Gay Rights
Global Health
Women's Rights
Public Education
War in Iraq
Global Hunger
Animal Rights
Fair Trade
Peace in the Middle East
Promoting Democracy
Immigrant Rights
Prison Reform
Disaster Relief
Humanitarian Relief
Autism Cure
Domestic Abuse
Mental Health
Rights of the Disabled
Sustainable Agriculture

For more information and to apply, go to

This post originally appeared on NetSquared.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Women of Color Resource Center: An Interview with Anisha Desai

"I think that people have long associated feminism with older white women and the idea of bringing that back to women of color, and bringing it back to young women of color and asking them what it means is an exciting time for me."
Anisha Desai is the Executive Director of the Women of Color Resource Center. Founded in 1990, the Women of Color Resource Center promotes the political, economic, social and cultural well-being of women and girls of color. Desai came to the Women of Color Resource Center from a Deputy Director role at United for a Fair Economy. She has co-authored publications on fair taxation, housing and the racial wealth divide. The following is an edited transcript of an interview I did with her on March 25th, 2008 for the Big Vision Podcast. You can also listen to it to on this little player:

Anisha Desai: Hi, my name is Anisha Desai and I am the Executive Director of the Women of Color Resource Center. The Women of Color Resource Center has been around for a little over 17 years and we are a pretty impressive place, I think, because we are one of the very few places in the nation, and globally, that holds the interest of women of color, and girls of color as a central piece of our work.

We are most interested in women of color, and girls of color who are the most economically and socially fragile. Our work focuses on advocacy, policy, education and political thought that helps to shape the dialogue and public conversation about the interests of these folks.

Britt Bravo: Can you talk a little bit about some of your programs and some of the things that the organization does?

AD: I think it is important to start by saying that the Women of Color Resource Center came out of a lot of political thinking and activism of the late '60s and '70s, when women of color really felt that it was important that their voices be heard in a movement that was largely dominated by men, and also white women and white allies. That's where this work really sprung out of in looking at issues of homelessness, looking at issues of women on welfare, and looking at women in prison-- those who were really most affected and most in need of their voices being lifted. That is really where the origins of the work came out of. Our work now mirrors and touches upon some of the things that were focused on back in the day.

We have two main program areas, one that is focused on peace and solidarity, and we are quite intentional about the peace and solidarity work focusing on global women's struggles, so, looking at the experience of women of color as they are affected by U.S. military policies globally, not just what's happening with women domestically.

Our peace and solidarity program is really unique because we look at the work and the experiences of women veterans, which is a group that is rarely looked at. A disproportionate amount of women veterans are women of color, and many of them have just recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan and are looking to get involved with the peace moment, and with their own political development, but also with their own healing, and what it means to heal after going through the incredible trauma of war. We also put together a popular education curriculum called Peace Games that focuses on the intersections of gender and militarism.

We have an economic justice and human rights program that focuses on welfare, and welfare policy in particular that is quite oppressive, and forces women into situations where they have no ability to make decisions for themselves. For example, policies like AB22, which is a family cap policy that basically restricts the amount of aid that a family can get after they have one child in the house who is getting welfare support. A lot of things out there that are designed to support women, in actuality are quite detrimental, and are disproportionately affecting women of color.

BB: You are relatively new ED. You started in December?

AD: In December, yes.

BB: What excites you the most about the work that the Center is doing, and its future, and then, what are some of the biggest challenges that you are facing?

AD: I think what excites me the most are also probably some of our challenges, exciting challenges. We are a Center whose Co-founder just left after 17 years of work in the organization, which is pretty impressive, I think, in the nonprofit world. You rarely find folks who have stayed on that long and really committed to building the infrastructure and the political roots of an organization. Stepping into that world after she left the organization is really very, very exciting.

It is a time where a lot of organizations are going through an intergenerational transfer of leadership, and a lot has been written about what does that mean? The baby boomers are retiring and young people are kind of coming up into that movement. I think it is a really interesting time because we have a young staff, and a staff that is very enthusiastic about taking on their own leadership roles, doing more writing, getting more politically involved, and developing their own skills of management and leadership within the organization.

That is the part that I feel very, very excited and challenged by. I also feel challenged by the question of what gender and feminism mean to young women of color in this day and age. I think we are hearing a lot with the recent debates, and political debates about what is more important? Is it gender, or race? What do we need to talk about?

I think we need to be talking about all of these things, that it is all interconnected. In particular, it is important to think about what young women need to be thinking about in this moment of time. Young women of color, what are the issues that are most important to them? Is it relevant anymore to talk about young women feminists?

I think that people have long associated feminism with older white women, and the idea of bringing that back to women of color, and bringing it back to young women of color and asking them what it means is an exciting time for me.

I think, of course, like all other nonprofit organizations, we are always struggling with our desire to grow and to get bigger and to do more things. We are based in Oakland, but we do work nationally, and in many cases globally, but our funding is always under constraints. The idea of building capacity, particularly in an economic climate that is harsh, is a huge challenge for us.

BB: What is the path that brought you to this work, why do you do this work?

AD: I feel like I have been asked recently, am I a sociologist, am I an economist, how did I end up in this work? I ended up in it from way back, from where I grew up. I grew up in Florida in a pretty narrow-minded, and very closed South Asian community. I also grew up at a time that was really heavily segregated, and I think that was a place where I started to develop a lot of my political and race consciousness.

Then, I moved into the world of teaching. I was teaching in high schools in Miami and the Bronx and San Francisco for some time, and really wanted to be around young people, especially during their high school years, which I thought was an interesting time of their political development.

I went on to do some Masters work, and went on to work at United for a Fair Economy, which is an economic justice organization, where I got more experience in leadership and economic justice work. I have always loved the Bay Area. I lived here for a bit and very much wanted to be back here, and then this opportunity came about. It has a lot of the things that I have wanted to do for some time: be in a small organization, lead an organization, and work for and about women of color. It is like a dream come true.

BB: I read in one of your bios that you received a Fulbright grant to go to Rwanda and study the reconciliation process. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that experience, what that was like, what was working, and not working?

AD: It was a pretty incredible experience. It is interesting to do something like that where it kind of came out of the blue It was a really, really important moment to go back (it was almost on the 10th anniversary of the genocide) to see what people were doing to rebuild their lives.

We met with President Kagame. It was this very incredible experience where we got access into people's lives and homes and memorials, things that I think ordinary folks would never have gotten the opportunity to do.

The greatest thing that I came away with is that the United States' and the European notions of what African history is all about, are so simplified. The whole conflict between Hutus and Tutsis was really reduced to a very binary kind of thing by the time that it had reached here, stateside. That actually wasn't the case at all. It is a much more complex and nuanced history. I really felt very grateful to be able to talk to folks who were on "both sides" of the conflict, and to really hear from some Hutus, who had nothing to do with any of it, that they felt like they were very much swept up into some kind of a brainwashing, and a tremendous under-swell of violence and grief. Many lost their own family members, and I talked to many Tutsis, as well, who had lost family members.

What I was most interested in, and intrigued by while being there was looking at how they were rebuilding their political system. And I know, there has been a lot of conversation about whether Hutus are being included in that rebuilding of that political system. There is a lot of discrepancy about who is being included, and who is not. But, the one really incredible piece is that women figure so largely into their governing bodies, and that is a very, very intentional thing that they are doing as part of their work. So, that was quite inspirational. They just made it happen. They made a mandate, and they started to include women.

I think a lot about how it is such a struggle here in this country to get women to the table, and I look at our election process now, and the debate. It just seems like such a mind-leap for people to make. In so many countries that have struggled through many, many more difficult things than we have in the recent history, they seem to be able to do it.

BB: A lot of your work at United for a Fair Economy was raising awareness and doing research and studies about the racial wealth divide. What do you think are the main things that people just don't realize? It's not a term you see plastered all over the newspapers, "racial wealth divide." What should people know? What is going way below their radar?

AD: I think that what is going below people's radar is the cumulative effect that policies have on the current state of wealth disparity in this country today. We are a very ahistorical kind of a place, and people don't like to think about how the past may have impacted the present, but there are very concrete and tangible ways to measure the way that assets have been taken away from people of color, steps have been taken backward, and privilege has been afforded to other folks, mainly white Americans. Things like the Homestead Act.

No one thinks about the Homestead Act. There is a great piece of policy where white folks were privileged to basically get stolen land where they could do things with that land and develop it. And that is an asset. Land is an asset. There are people who are still living off of their grandparents' and great grandparents' land that was obtained through that Homestead Act.

There are people who look at that and say, "Well, African-American folks were allowed to be part of that Homestead Act," That is true, to some extent, but part of the policy was that you had to develop that land in order to keep the land. You had to improve the land.

Well, African-American folks at that time didn't have any ability to improve that land; therefore, they weren't able to keep it. That is still an issue today where there are huge pieces of land being lost in the south to African-American landholders; it is going on today.

You look at the mortgage crisis of today. It is supposed to be the greatest loss of assets since Post-Reconstruction for African-American folks.

So, that is a way where history has continued through, and the whole point of that project was to really raise awareness about how the policies that people put into place, whether the intentions are good, the outcomes are really what matters--to link those good intentions with the outcome as well.

BB: When I hear that I think, wow, that is a huge, depressing, systemic problem. What can people do to change that? There is raising awareness, saying, "This is an issue that you are not keeping in mind when you are creating policy," but, then, what is necessary to make that change?

AD: I think that a key tool, which we use here at the Resource Center as well is, is after folks know more about what the issues are, we're trying to build leadership amongst grassroots folks so that they can start to advocate for policies that matter to them.

We're constantly talking about the power vacuum in this country, and I think we do have a power vacuum in this country. The idea is for us to disrupt that power vacuum and to include more people who are the most affected by policies to get in the mix, to start advocating for themselves, and for their voices to be seen as more valid, or relevant, or salient to the conversation. That's one key piece.

The other thing is, we're in this really incredible moment right now where there's this little tiny window that's been opened, this tiny window of opportunity to talk about race, to talk about inequality. When you're in a moment where everybody's also feeling the crunch, you know, everyone talks about the squeezed middle class, this is an opportunity, where we can start talking about how these issues not only have affected people who are the most affected, but they're starting to affect everyone now. As they start to percolate to the top where they are affecting more people, I think, it's an opportunity to start building coalitions, cross-class, cross-race coalitions. People are often in their little silos, their issue silos, but I think, it's a moment where we can start building those alliances for greater change.

BB: Following on that idea of alliances, is there a role for white people in the Women of Color Resource Center's work?

AD: White allies have held a huge role for the Women of Color Resource Center historically. When you think about the women's movement in general, and you think about the role that the women who founded this Center carved out for themselves to be separate from, but in conjunction with the women's movement of the time, there's been a lot of tension that has stemmed from the feminist movement, and where women of color fit within that. Again, it goes back to, is race more important? Is gender more important? At the core of it, there are some general principles that we're looking at, and when we talk about bringing issues of women of color to the front, we're not saying to the exclusion of everyone else. What we're saying is, there are issues of opportunity, there are issues of power, and there are issues of speaking one's voice that have applicability to everyone. If the most affected are raised up, then that will make waves outward.

Women of color and white women have always been allies with the Center to be spokespeople for our work, to disseminate all of our publications, and to get out there in the world. There are a lot of white women in academia who have utilized our resources, data and statistics. And certainly, folks have always been welcome to be part of our celebrations and our policy work. Certainly, our policy work on welfare advocacy has stretched across race and class, and our peace and solidarity work has done the same. So, I think that, for us, the core is about developing leadership amongst women of color, and certainly that leadership development can happen in conjunction with white allyship as well.

BB: How can people who are listening, or who will read a transcript of this, get involved with your work whether they're in the Bay Area, or they're somewhere else?

AD: Well, there are a lot of different ways. If folks are interested in our women veterans work in particular, we're always looking for various healers and alternative medicine folks, people who are really interested in helping, particularly the women of color veterans, to do their healing work so that they can work more on their political work as well.

You can always buy our publications, read them and disseminate them. Participate in workshops, lead a workshop. That can happen all over the country.

Locally, we run a project called the Technology Empowerment Project of Oakland. That is a project that trains low-income women, or no-income women, to tell their own stories through audio documentaries. If you know of women who can participate in that, if you are a woman who can participate in it, we encourage you to call us.

And then, of course, you can always financially support the Center. We're a small organization of six staff members, and we're doing a lot of different work. Your dollars go a long way in terms of the work that we do, and the products that we achieve.

BB: Is there anything else that you didn't get to talk about, or cover that you want listeners to know about your work, or the Center's work, or anything related?

AD: I survey the landscape of nonprofits constantly and look to see who is doing similar work all the time. I feel like we're a very unique organization in the work that we do. I don't see a lot of organizations that are so deeply rooted in developing the political and social thought of women of color, for women of color, by women of color.

I would say to really think about the idea of supporting and learning about organizations like this, even outside of election time. I think there's a lot of buzz around race and gender and these hot-button issues around election time, but we're here before election time, and after election time. We're doing this work regardless of what the political climate is. That's a really important thing to know about places like us, and other organizations that are doing this work.

BB: There's a directory, isn't there, of women of color organizations?

AD: There is, yes. In the past we have put out a directory of women of color led organizations that are all over the nation, and you can easily pick one up and order one from our website. We have all our publications listed on our website.

BB: Is there any quote, or mantra, or something that keeps you going in your work?

AD: I just think of, "little by little." Little by little. I'm constantly a little overwhelmed by what I don't know, and I think about everyone who came before me, and how they learned what they learned, and it didn't come all at once. I'm young yet, and I feel like little by little, we can get there.

The work that we're doing is big, sometimes quite depressing work, but it's the little victories along the way that keep us going, all of us.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Free is Good: Yahoo! Promotes Reuse

Did you know that reuse groups, like last year's 3rd place NetSquared Innovation Award winner, Freecycle, are the most trafficked on Yahoo! Groups?

Yesterday, Yahoo! launched its "Free Is Good" campaign to help promote reuse. From April 20 -May 4 Yahoo! will be hiding prizes like a Smart ForTwo Passion Coupe, a trip to a national park and organic produce for a year, in randomly selected reuse groups.

You can find a reuse group near you (there are over 5,000 worldwide) on the Free is Good site.

I've been a member of the FreeCycle East SF Bay Area Freecycle group for almost a year now, and it's awesome. Literally within 20 minutes of posting an item, I will receive 10 + emails from people who would like it. In fact, I've got a pile of stuff to give away that I haven't had time to post about lately. Anyone want my husband's old rock climbing shoes (: ?

This post originally appeared on the NetSquared Blog.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Celebrate National Volunteer Week April 27-May 3

Some of my favorite things I've done have been as a volunteer. Before I started working for myself, I used to volunteer in a community garden for People's Grocery. I volunteered in the classroom for Streetside Stories before I worked for them.

One of the things I've realized while doing the 29-Day Giving Challenge is that I "volunteer" a lot of free advice for organizations and individuals, but I haven't volunteered in my community for a long time.

How often do you volunteer?

Maybe together we can start up again during National Volunteer Week April 27-May 3, 2008. According to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan's blog, President Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1974 establishing National Volunteer Week as an annual celebration of volunteerism (who knew?).

A great place to find volunteer opportunities is VolunteerMatch. You can search for volunteer opportunities by zip code, and sort by areas of interest (i.e. animals, education, politics, seniors). You can also find information and resources about National Volunteer Week on the Points of Light and Hands On Network, Energize Inc., Youth Service America, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

If you work for a nonprofit organization, National Volunteer Week is a great time for you to organize a special volunteer project, or recognize and award your volunteers' work. The United Way Capital Area posted a call on their blog for people to participate in their United Way Days of Caring on April 25th. Fairfax County CERT posted a congratulations to all of their volunteers on their blog, and there will be a Fairfax County Volunteer Awards Breakfast next week.

Personally, I'd like to start volunteering at my local library. Aside from school and home, I probably spent more time at my local library while I was growing up than anywhere else. It makes me sad that the Oakland public libraries are so under-funded. Maybe I'll walk down to my local branch and see if they need some help.

Howabout you? Where are you going to volunteer?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Win 2 Tickets to the Global Fund for Women 20th Anniversary Gala

Many of you contacted me to say that you enjoyed my interview with Kavita Ramdas, the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.

If you are excited about GFW's work, take a moment to enter their raffle for a chance to win two free tickets to their 20th anniversay gala fundraiser in New York City on June 5th.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Honorable President of Liberia, as well as women leaders from Colombia, South Africa, Malaysia, Liberia, Bosnia/Herzogovina and Egypt will be honored at the event. Ann Curry, News Anchor for The Today Show, and Co-Anchor of Dateline NBC will emcee.

Enter the raffle by sharing an inspiring story about a woman, or women, who you consider to be leaders. Submit your story (in 200 words or less) using the form on the Global Fund for Women's site. The winners will be drawn on May 1, and a selection of stories will be published on the gala's web site.

Full disclosure: The Global Fund for Women hired me to help out with the raffle (:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Have Fun * Do Good Reader Appreciation Day

Hello Have Fun * Do Good readers! April 16th is Blog Reader Appreciation Day created by Robin Reagler of the OTHER Mother blog.

I wanted to say thanks to all of you for reading Have Fun * Do Good for the past 2 1/2 years by giving away three copies of the book I've enjoyed reading the most so far this year, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School At a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. If I buy the book through the link on the Three Cups of Tea web site, the Central Asia Institute, Mortenson's nonprofit, will get a percentage of the sale's proceeds.

Don't let the book cover photo of three little girls reading lead you to believe that this is a sweet, mellow book. Rather, it is a do-good adventure story of a former mountain climber who has spent almost 15 years building schools in remote mountain villages of northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. As you read it, not only will you be inspired by the impact one person with perseverance can achieve, but you won't be able to stop turning the pages as you follow Mortenson on his synchronistic, dangerous and exciting journey to build schools for boys and girls.

To enter for a chance to receive a book, please post a comment with the name of a person or organization that you think is doing innovative work around educating children (anywhere in the world) by 5 PM PT Friday, April 18th. I'll pick three people from the comments at random. Be sure to list some way to contact you on your comment so I can get your mailing address if you are chosen to receive a book.

Thanks again for reading Have Fun * Do Good, and for sharing it with your friends!

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School At a Time Book Cover Image via Greg Mortenson's web site. Photo of Hushe Community School under construction courtesy of Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute.

Hat tip to Beth's Blog for letting me know about Reader Appreciation Day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Submit Your Questions for Governor Christine Todd Whitman About the U.S. and Climate Change

On April 17th and 18th, Governor Christine Todd Whitman will join global warming experts and Governors from across the United States at the 2008 Conference of Governors on Climate Change at Yale University. Whitman was the 50th Governor of the State of New Jersey who served as its first woman governor from 1994 until 2001. From January of 2001 until June of 2003 she served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman is also the President of The Whitman Strategy Group (WSG), a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues.

On behalf of BlogHer, I will be conducting a podcast interview with Governor Whitman on Friday morning, while she is at the Conference, as part BlogHer's ongoing Earth Day is Every Day coverage this month. What would you like me to ask her?

Please post your questions in the comments of my post on BlogHer before 5pm PT Wednesday, April 16, and be sure to include your name and blog as you would like me to attribute your question. The interview will be available afterwards as a podcast on BlogHer.

Whitman is also the Co-Chair of the Republican Leadership Council (RLC), which she co-founded in March of 2007, whose mission is to support fiscally conservative, socially tolerant candidates, and to reclaim the word "Republican." She is the author of, It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future America.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Join the 29-Day Giving Challenge: Change Lives One Gift at a Time

Visit 29-Day Giving Challenge

On March 19th, 2008, after spending 8 days in the hospital related to her multiple sclerosis, Cami Walker decided to give away one thing each day for 29 days:

"I decided to do the 29-Day Giving Challenge as an experiment. I was in a very dark period in my life dealing with a chronic illness (multiple sclerosis) as well as a major move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. One of my spiritual teachers, Mbali Creazzo, suggested that I try to give away 29 things in 29 days.

This was the perfect suggestion for me because I had been stuck in a very self-absorbed space for some time."

She started out writing about what she gave away on her blog, Manifesto, but after a week or so, decided to set up a 29-Day Giving Challenge social network so that other people could share the Challenge with her. As of this writing, 128 people have joined. Her goal is to inspire at least 2,000 people to commit to the 29-Day Giving Challenge by September 29, 2008.

Your 29 gifts can be anything, "material objects, money, your time, smiles or kind thoughts." To complete the challenge, Walker asks that you submit a story on your 30th day about the impact the Challenge has made on your life. Stories can be posted in the 29-Day Giving Challenge social network's forum, or emailed to It sounds like she might want to create a book out of it.

I signed up for the Challenge today and decided to celebrate Day 1 by donating to the BlogHers Act' "Donate Now to Save Women's Lives" campaign on Global Giving. I donated to a Relief International health clinic in the Zam Zam refugee camp in Darfur that trains indigenous doctors, midwives, and community health workers.

Jen Lee of Life Unfolds has donated to an AIDS ride, picked up a friend at the airport, and given another friend a handmade wish box.

KreativeK16 of Life Journeying got two emails over two days about the Challenge, but put it on her to-do list as something to do "later," until an incident on a bus changed her mind:

"While I was on the bus a young girl and her mom sat across from me. The mom was scolding the girl for not washing her face that morning. She continued reprimanding the child and criticizing her for blocks. I saw the sad eyes and blank stare on the girl's face. I continued watching them and when the girl looked up at me, I gave her a smile too. My heart beamed as I watched a big smile break out across her face. She kept on looking back at me, smiling, until it we reached my stop and it was time for me to get off.

And so I have begun the challenge."

During Maria Niles' terrific interview with Eve Ensler for BlogHer, Ensler said,

"I think we all think that we have to do these massively huge things, and that's how the world changes. In fact that isn't how the world changes. The world changes person-to-person, community-to-community."

Projects like the 29-Day Giving Challenge remind us of the power we have every day to make positive changes. Let me know if you join!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Got Hope? I Do, in Generation Y

"Beyond these trends and landmark event, I think we’ve yet to see what will define our Generation, a Generation with a profound sense of social responsibility and a Generation who does not accept 'impossible' as a valid word in our dictionary. Yes, We Can." --Andrea Zak, Here's What's Defining Generation Y Now on Brazen Careerist.

Last week I had the pleasure of facilitating a career counseling session for a group of Stanford students who were spending their "alternative spring break" meeting with social entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. By the time I saw them, they had met with staff at MicroPlace, Lenders for Community Development, IDEO, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Draper Richards Foundation, Upwardly Global, 826 Valencia, MAPLight, Taoit, People's Grocery, Whole Foods and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. They'd also had dinner with three Bay Area Ashoka Fellows, and met with Heather McLeod Grant, the co-author of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High Impact Nonprofits.

My job was to help them integrate some of their experiences into an action plan of next steps towards figuring out how they wanted to make an impact in the world. One of the things that struck me was that unlike my generation, Gen X, where a room full of "do-gooders" would have all been people majoring in education, sociology and other social sciences, many of these students were majoring or interested in engineering, product design, symbolic systems and business. They wanted to integrate social responsibility into their work, and make a decent living.

During the two-hour session, we did a brainstorming exercise that I learned from Carol Lloyd, author of Creating a Life Worth Living. They made 3 lists: a. issues and fields that interested them, b. qualities of their ideal work environment, and c. skills and tasks they enjoy doing. Then they got into small groups and brainstormed work or projects where items from 2 or 3 of the lists could be combined. They came up with all kinds of creative, innovative ideas like creating a job training program/baseball league for the homeless, writing a socially conscious graphic novel, starting an organization that helps nonprofits measure their impact, and designing workplaces that facilitate collaboration.

The next part of the exercise was to figure out what was stopping them from making their ideas real. Any places where they got stuck were "black holes." The group took a few people's "black holes" and brainstormed possible solutions for them. The only rules were that there are no bad ideas and the person with the black hole couldn't say no to any of the group's suggestions. Again, I was amazed by the quantity and quality of their ideas.

A lot of folks in the nonprofit sector are talking about the nonprofit leadership gap. As Rosetta Thurman reports in her post, Closing the Nonprofit Leadership Gap: What Have You Done Lately?:

"Is this not cause for more alarm? The nonprofit sector is on the verge of experiencing what many are calling a 'leadership deficit.' To cite a recent Bridgespan Group report, by 2016 the sector will need to attract a whopping 640,000 new senior executives to step up and take charge of the nonprofit landscape, which is 2.4 times the number currently employed."

I don't feel worried. When I see the good hearts and ideas of students like these, or work with graduates of Green MBA programs, or hear 23-year-old, 2007 Brower Youth Award winner, Jon Warnow talk about how he and five friends created the Step It Up campaign after asking themselves the question, "What does the climate movement look like?" I'm not worried.

Whether they work for nonprofits, become social entrepreneurs, run socially responsible businesses, or are simply "extra-organizational" activists in their daily lives, I have no doubt that the next generation will think outside the boxes that the generations before them have built, and make the world a better place.

For more information about Stanford's Social Entrepreneurship in the Bay Area spring break, check out their wiki and blog.

Note: For those of you, like me, who don't know who is Gen X and who is Gen Y, according to a USA TODAY article, Generation Y: They've Arrived at Work with a New Attitude, Generation X was born roughly between 1965-1976 and Generation Y was born between 1977-2002.

Photo: The fabu students who participated in the Social Entrepreneurship in the Bay Area spring break (and me)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Global Fund for Women: An Interview with Kavita Ramdas

"I think there are many different ways in which you define leadership. As a feminist, and as a feminine feminist, I truly believe that we don't do a very good job in the United States of believing that you can lead by serving, and I think the United States needs to think deeply about being in service of the rest of the world." -Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women.

Kavita Ramdas is the President and CEO of the nonprofit, the Global Fund for Women. She has been the recipient of many awards, including Fast Company's 2007 Social Capitalist Award, and the League of Women Voters' Women Who Could Be President Award. I had the opportunity to interview her on March 6th for the Big Vision Podcast, and have included an edited transcript of the interview below. It's long, but I hope you'll take time during your coffee or lunch break to read, or listen to her inspiring words. I think it's worth it (:

Kavita Ramdas: The Global Fund for Women is the largest independent, publicly supported grant-making foundation to advance women's human rights internationally. It works in over 160 countries around the world. I think what makes us unique is that we are really investing in women's leadership and women's creativity in developing local solutions to some of the world's most challenging problems.

Britt Bravo: I think one of the things that make the Global Fund special is how women can submit grants, the lack of bureaucracy involved, and maybe you can talk a little bit about how you choose the people who are funded.

KR: The Global Fund for Women has an extraordinary commitment to keeping our doors open so that as many organizations working to advance women's human rights internationally can really gain access to resources that they so desperately need. Therefore, we are the only foundation I know of that will accept requests in any language, and in any format.

You can email us, you can fax us, you can write to us in Kiswahili or in Arabic, and it will be our responsibility, using our wonderful network of supporters, volunteers and paid translators, as well as our incredibly language proficient staff, to be able to respond in a way that makes it accessible, no matter how remote a corner of the world your organization happens to be based in.

I think my favorite example of that is a women's group from the highlands of Bolivia who wrote to us maybe seven or eight years ago. They were a group of illiterate women who dictated their requests to a priest in the village, who then hand wrote the request. They wanted to create a literacy program for themselves because now there was a school where their children could go to school, but they felt embarrassed that they couldn't support their children because they themselves were illiterate.

I remember that the letter was signed with five thumbprints of five illiterate women. Three years later when we received a report back from the group about how they had done, there were five shaky signatures.

To me, that sort of sums up something very special about the way in which we try to make these resources accessible to women-led initiatives that are often some of the most creative that we are seeing on issues ranging from the environment, to health, to education, to building peace and sustainable communities around the world.

I think the biggest challenge for us is trying to make hard decisions. Each year we receive over 3,500 proposals from women's organizations all around the world. Many of them do really meet our basic criteria of being women-led, of reflecting the work of a group of women, rather than just one or two individuals, and of really tackling critical human rights challenges and societal challenges in which women are playing key roles. We simply don't have the resources to be able to fund all of those, and we need to make some hard choices.

In that context, something else that sets us apart is the use of a very extensive advisory network that the Global Fund uses as our eyes and ears on the ground, women and men from many different parts of the world who are based in the countries where we are making grants to support and advance women's human rights. They help us by going to visit the groups, by recommending groups to us, and by talking about some of the broader challenges that face women in the particular context that they are in.

Those advisors also help us set some priorities, which we use then to sort of say: OK, if we only have this much money for Latin America, and we know that the women of Haiti and Colombia, because of the violence and because of the poverty in those two countries, are in particular need, and our advisors from all different parts of Latin America have said that to us, then we are going to prioritize requests from those countries.

And yes, it may mean that a group in Argentina, that is certainly deserving by our basic standards, may not get a grant this year, so that we can support very worthwhile and important requests from a group that has even less access to resources in Haiti. Those are some of the ways in which we try to make those decisions.

BB: How do you know that you are successful? How do you know that you are making a difference or an impact; how do you measure that?

KR: I think we all want to be able to get a sense of how the investments that we are making in women's leadership, in women's empowerment, and in women's real innovation around some of the world's most pressing challenges, whether that is HIV/AIDS, or whether it is violence against women, or whether it is economic underdevelopment, what kind of difference we are making. I think it is always a challenge for any organization to be able to really assess what difference their own investments have made to the outcomes that they want to see.

The Global Fund tries to measure those results, not so much by our own standards, but by the standards that the groups that we support set for themselves. In the case of the women I spoke about earlier, they really wanted to measure their success by being able to read and write and sign their own letters, and write their own reports. The measurement of success was the annual report that we got from them three years after the signatures, which had originally been thumbprints, that now had signed signatures. For them, that was a measure of change and a measure of impact.

I think an area in which we are constantly striving to improve is to be able to do more of an amalgamation of what is the collective impact of many, many, many, many of these kinds of investments. Maybe the best way to give you an analogy for that is when you drop a stone into a pond, it creates a ripple effect. You can see the ripples kind of spreading out, but you don't know whether one ripple caused a tadpole to swim a different direction, you don't know whether a bird flew away because the ripples made it change its mind, you don't know whether a flower that might not have grown in that place now is growing in that place.

I think that is an area in which in our new strategic plan we are really committed to strengthening that understanding of how do all these efforts collectively contribute to stronger, more sustainable, more democratic communities. We have sort of an instinctive sense that they do, and we have many anecdotes that give us a sense of what change this is creating, but I think we need to do a better job of being able to balance both the quantitative numbers, that we can actually put together, with some of these qualitative stories, and that is an area in which we are continuing to try and do more work.

BB: You said that the advisers you have are always giving you the lay of the land to tell you what are the issues that are most pressing, or which areas need the most assistance. What are those issues or areas right now that you are seeing really need the most help?

KR: I think a major concern, from the very founding of the Global Fund, has remained a concern despite the fact that this year we celebrate our 20th anniversary of grant making, and that is access to the financial resources necessary to take the work that women do on a daily basis in their communities to the next level of impact.

One example of that I could give is that the organizations that we fund, collectively in the last 20 years have access to maybe annually something like 75 million dollars (philanthropic dollars) that they have the ability to use and pour into the work that they are doing.

If you compare that to the budgets that we spend in just one day on fighting a war in Iraq, or the cost of an F16 fighter jet, you get some sense of how inordinately skewed those are. But even if you don't compare it to those kinds of investments, but simply investments in philanthropy, a recent study that just came out from the Foundation Center showed that it is about 5.8 to 5.9% of total philanthropic resources each year that actually directly go to benefit women and girls, and that includes both domestic and international grant making.

When you think about the 90 billion odd dollars that go each year in support of philanthropy, you can see that there is still a lot of work to be done. So that is one critical area, just simply access to the resources themselves.

A second critical area for women in general across the world, whether it is in the former Soviet Union, or Eastern Europe, or in what we know as the developing world, or refer to as the developing world, is the ongoing question of violence: violence inside the homes that affect women from the time that they are born, even whether they can be born in countries like India and China where female infanticide and sex selective abortion are commonly practiced, all the way to domestic violence, violence that happens as a result of things like honor killings, violence that happens as a result of spousal abuse. All of those forms of violence combined with violence outside the homes.

Women and their children are disproportionately victims of outside violence as well. If there is a war, or if there is an ethnic conflict, or if there is a civil war within a country, women and their children are the majority of those who tend to be displaced. They are the majority of those who actually experience physical violence. Increasingly, rape of women is being used as a tool of war, not just in large scale wars as we saw in the Serbian and Bosnian conflict, but as we saw recently in Kenya and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

So violence continues to be a really significant challenge that women face, and the women's rights groups that the Global Fund for Women supports worldwide focus on how to both educate the public and the general community and families about why violence occurs, what are the root causes, how can we shift behaviors and patterns, how can we use negotiations to end violent conflicts, and also to teach that violence only breeds more violence because mothers understand that children who have been victims of abuse in turn are much more likely to either be abused themselves, or to grow up into abusers.

That same lesson I think women have taken to a whole different level in being on the forefront of peace work internationally. I just saw a remarkable film made about a grantee organization that the Global Fund had supported for many years in Liberia. A truly remarkably story of very every day mothers and daughters in Liberia who were just so sick of the civil war between Charles Taylor, and then the rebels in Liberia, being funded with Sierra Leone diamonds essentially, that they mobilized an entire community of women around peace.

My favorite scene from the movie is these women, all ages, all sizes, going to surround the peace talks in Ghana, which were essentially going nowhere. They had been sitting for two weeks and nothing had happened, no one was willing to really make a compromise, and the women joined hands and they locked the men, it was all men who were actually in the peace negotiations, into this room and said, "We will not let you out until you come up with a deal."

When you hear something like that, I think you begin to get a sense of the power that women actually have to collectively mobilize. Even though they are the victims of violence, I think they are also the most creative in imagining solutions, and defining solutions to ending violence. We have seen that in other places as well such like in Rwanda, and in the Middle East and numerous other places.

I think a third major issue that women face is not the challenge that women's organizations face in terms of funding, but just the poverty itself that women and children find themselves in. Women and children are 70% of those who live on less than $2 or $1 a day. They are disproportionately vulnerable to malnutrition, to all kinds of abuses that follow from extreme poverty: sexual exploitation, selling of their own bodies as a way in which to survive, what is often called survival sex, the entire vulnerability to trafficking, the lack of economic security. I think a large number of women's rights mobilizing efforts are really focused around building and strengthening economic independence for women.

What we know, when you asked earlier about impact, is there have been enough World Bank studies to show that when you ensure that a mother or a women in the household actually has control over increases in income, that shows up almost immediately in the increased well being of everybody in the household, whereas the same thing is not true if you are talking about increases in male income.

I would say that those are some of the challenges that the women's movement faces today. I think another major one is the challenges that have come from globalization. Women now form the majority of those who are migrants in the world. The challenges around how women's poverty is exacerbated by a process of globalization, which on the one hand gives them new opportunities, and on the other hand takes away certain kinds of economic securities that they have known in the past. We have been seeing an increased attention that women's rights groups have been bringing to this whole question of globalization and migration, and how women workers are being affected by this.

Lastly, I would say the fourth issue that I think remains a very, very critical factor for women, and a very high priority, is the environment. Women and girls are really on the frontlines of where the rubber hits the road in terms of the destruction of our natural resources and our natural environment, and people tend not to think about that.

I think in the United States, the environmental movement is seen very much as a movement that is about protecting species, and is in a way almost a privilege of an upper class white elite. That isn't the case in the developing world. In the developing world, or for that matter actually, in poor communities across the United States, poor communities disproportionately bear the brunt of environmental degradation. They are often in the places where toxic dumps, and other kinds of dumps are housed.

And women in the developing world, who are responsible for the collection of fuel and water, they know firsthand that if you have deforested a region, they have to walk not two miles or three miles in search of firewood, but maybe 10 miles or 15 miles. They are the first to know if water sources are polluted because they are the ones who go to fetch the water. They are the ones who wash their clothes in the river and they know what the state of the rivers are.

So, it is not surprising, again, that we see women stepping up as leaders in environmental activism and a resistance to the total destruction of planet earth.

I remember a very wonderful woman from Sierra Leone, Sarandabba, saying to me, "You know in a war, women are raped, but Mother Earth is also raped. We know what it is like to be raped, and we don't want our Mother to be raped." I think that would be the fifth area that I would highlight as being a really critical one that has emerged as a real priority for women and their communities.

BB: Why do you do the work that you do, what brought you to this work? There are any number of things you could take this passion and use it towards, but what causes you to do this work?

KR: For me it is very simple. I think I was very fortunate to be inspired by my "she-ro", who is my mother, and by her mother, my grandmother, who is an extraordinarily independent, feisty 93-year old.

My mother believed very deeply that being privileged middle class Indians, the community that I grew up in India, required us to have a commitment and a sense of giving back to the communities that we grew up in and around, and to really seeing those communities. I think it is very common, particularly the poorer the country that you live in, if you are privileged within those countries, sometimes to make it through the day you build up a hide so thick that you inure yourself to the suffering that you see around yourself.

My mother did a good job of stripping away those protective layers, and forcing us to look at, see, understand and question, why the vast majority of Indians lived under the poverty line and didn't have access to resources. She made it almost impossible for me not to look at those questions. I didn't necessarily know what I was going to do about them then.

I also think I do this work for my daughter. If I am inspired by my mother, I am also driven in some sense by the next generation. I believe very deeply that the choices we make and the opportunity to really achieve gender equality in the 21st Century are the kinds of decisions which our daughters will look back at and say, "I am able to do this because my mother was there, my mother did this, she stood up for it, she fought for it."

I think in the United States, it is rare these days to remember the sheroes. It is a good thing we are doing this in Women's History Month. I think if I asked an average American woman walking on the street who Jeannette Rankin is, they wouldn't know who she was. They wouldn't know she was the first women to be elected to the US Senate. They wouldn't know she was a pacifist who twice voted against the United States going to war, both in World War I and then again in World War II. They wouldn't know she had stood with Gandhi in his resistance to the British, and supported his policy of nonviolent resistance to British colonialism.

Women like Jeannette Rankin, women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women like Alice Paul, women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and Gloria Steinem, and this extraordinary list of giants on whose shoulders we stand now in the United States, have made it possible for us to take our rights for granted.

I am quick to remind people in the United States that those rights were fought for. 70 years ago you and I would not have been sitting here having a conversation about doing things internationally, much less being able to even open a bank account in our own names. Those are the same struggles that women are facing in other parts of the world today.

I really want to be a part of making a difference for the future of my daughter, and having her live in a world where all people and all children, girls and boys, women and men, really have the opportunity to fully realize their human rights. I think that is what really motivates me to do this work.

BB: You just published an article in The Nation where you were talking about how you are getting all these emails from feminist leaders saying, "This is why I am supporting Clinton," or "This is why I am supporting Obama," and the point that you made, which I thought was wonderful, was you felt that the arguments were missing any sense of how our decisions affect the well being of people across the planet.

I wondered if you could talk a little bit about that, because I feel like that's such an important point that's really being missed in all this coverage and discussion of who is the best candidate.

KR: First, I want to point out that the feminist movement in the United States actually has always been strongly internationalist. People like Robin Morgan, people like Gloria Steinem, many people before them as well, always had a deep sense of international solidarity. I think Robin Morgan coined the phrase "Sisterhood is global." People like Charlotte Bunch at the Center for Women's Global Leadership, spoke first about women's rights being human rights.

I don't want us to get confused. I think feminists in the United States have always had a strong sense of international solidarity. I think what's different is that overall the United States is insulated from the rest of the world, and our politics are particularly insulated from the rest of the world, so that although we think about international solidarity and global solidarity with the women's movement when we are focused on, "women's movement issues," we don't seem to bring that same sense of connection when it affects something that is seen as being primarily a domestic issue, which in this case is the Presidential elections.

Having said that, I do believe that America straddles this very interesting place, where on the one hand it sees itself as a leader in the world, and it sees itself as an exceptional power in the world, but then it's sort of ambivalent about whether or not it actually wants to take on that mantle fully. In the same way that I think it's ambivalent about what I believe is its greatest strength which is, like Barack Obama if you will, that the United States truly is a microcosm of the whole world in a way that many other countries can't even dream of being.

Almost nowhere else in the world can you go and find the range of nationalities, ethnicities, race, language and backgrounds that you have here--not to mention the delicious food. Yet, I think this is a country profoundly ambivalent about whether or not that is a good thing and a strength, or whether it's somehow eroding the core, puritanical Anglo-Saxon values that define this country, which in itself is a bit of myth because this is country with a strong Native American tradition that far predated the Anglo-Saxon visitors who arrived here. In fact, some of the earliest roots of the democracy that the United States is so proud of are actually rooted in that Native American tradition that we rarely stop to remember.

I think my comment in The Nation was really more about that. Was really to say, we can't at once be the most powerful, forceful, military, economic and other might in the world, and then not be conscious and aware of the fact that something like the election of who will lead this country has profound implications for the rest of the world, particularly profound in the aftermath of eight years of a Bush administration that has been really seen by the rest of the world as being completely cavalier in many ways, about its sense of being in community with.

I think there are many different ways in which you define leadership. As a feminist, and as a feminine feminist, I truly believe that we don't do a very good job in the United States of believing that you can lead by serving. I think the United States needs to think deeply about being in service of the rest of the world. How does it serve the rest of the world? How does it serve its own people? That was what I was alluding to in my article, wishing for the sake of the women and girls, who we feel deeply connected to here in our work at the Global Fund for Women, that there would be some of that greater consciousness displayed and evident. I talked mainly about the Democratic candidates, but certainly I would hope for the same for anyone who is running on the Republican side as well.

BB: You do a lot of interviews. What do you wish people would ask you?


What is the thing you think, "I wish they would just ask me about . . . I want to talk about this."


KR: It's interesting, I always find that I learn something from the ways in which different people ask questions. It always makes me think about things in different ways. I think certainly one thing that, as the leader of an organization that has to raise every penny I give away, I do sometimes wish people would ask me about, "How can I contribute to the Global Fund for Women? What could I do to raise more money for you? How could the Global Fund for Women be in a more secure financial position?" Somehow that's never the question I get asked.


How about this? "I've just come into a fortune, and I'd love to be able to make sure the Global Fund for Women never had to worry again about how to raise money. Could I make a contribution?"


Those might be some of the questions I'd love to get asked.

BB: So, how can people who are listening support the Global Fund for Women? How can they help to support you, and help you be more financially stable, and all those things?

KR: Well, I think people like yourself who work in the media, and who are journalists and who blog, can do a great job of telling the story of why investing in women is such a remarkable way of making change in the world. Whether your passion is the environment, or whether your passion is building peaceful and sustainable communities, or whether your passion is girls' education, or whether your passion is health, there's probably no better way to get to your outcome than to make significant investments in women's well being, and women's empowerment and women's human rights. I think that's one thing people could be doing, spreading the word, those of you who that do that for a living.

For others, I think it is thinking about making contributions. I hear very often from people that they feel like, "Well, what difference will my small contribution make?" I like to remind people of the fact that for $50 you can put a young girl through school in Afghanistan for a year. That's less than the cost of one latte a day per month for the next 12 months. It's something worth thinking about.

So, when you say, "I'm not John D. Rockefeller, I'm not the Gates Foundation. I really don't have money to give to the Global Fund for Women, " I'd like you to think about the young girl who sent us her Bat Mitzvah check for $25 and said, "I didn't know there were parts of the world where girls like me couldn't go to school, and this is my gift to the Global Fund for Women."

Writing us a check, making a donation, think about whether you can get your corporation to make a gift or sponsor the Global Fund for Women, buying a table at our 20th anniversary event coming up in New York in June, there are so many ways to make a difference.

Lastly I think by doing what Eleanor Roosevelt called, "The work of human rights that start in small places close to home." I am always a big believer in that. Walking your talk around human rights. This year, 2008, is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mary Robinson, who was a former President of Ireland, and a former Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN is working with a group called, The Elders, that includes Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and Ela Bhat from India on really raising awareness about this historic anniversary--60 years of a charter that truly is a reflection of our shared human values.

What do you know about the charter for human rights? When did you talk about it recently? How do you manifest that at home? Do you ask your son to clean up as often as you ask your daughter? Does your daughter get to go on golfing trips, or other non-traditional things, or go to a baseball game with her dad? And does your son get to do stuff that maybe is considered traditionally gendered as female? I think taking those steps at home are also things we can be doing to make a difference.

So on a multiple set of fronts, there is much you can do to support the Global Fund for Women and we hope that you will raise both awareness and resources to make a difference in women's lives.

Britt Bravo: This work that you do, the goals are so long term, it is not like it is all going to be solved next year, and you have been doing this work for a long time. How do you sustain yourself, how do you keep yourself going, how do you keep yourself inspired?

KR: Actually that is the easiest part of this job. Every day you come into the Global Fund for Women and there is one more new story about some amazing women's groups that have done some amazing new thing, or have taken on some big challenge.

Last year, we had this fantastic experience of not only Michelle Bachelet winning the Presidential election in Chile, thanks to women's groups organizing and supporting her, but Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf winning the election for President in Liberia, again, also because women were hugely involved in mobilizing around her.

We had at the end of the year, the incredible success of Mexican women's rights groups that have been working for, it must be close to 12 years now, on the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico. They got a win. Finally, Mexico City passed legislation that made it possible for abortion to be legal in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, groundbreaking for a Catholic country like Mexico. It hasn't happened in Latin America's history.

It is not that we aren't seeing the wins. The year before that, women in Morocco won an amazing change in the law. Until then, women had been considered minors under the law. You had to have a husband, or a father, or a brother accompany you for almost any significant act, from opening a bank account to getting your own passport. That has completely changed and Moroccan women are taking that information and doing massive street theater programs and education programs to take it out into communities.

I think every day we see evidence of how this work is actually bearing fruit, how it is making a difference in the lives of individual women and girls. Whether it is somebody writing to us and saying, "I was able to say no to a forced or an arranged marriage," or "I just completed my last year of secondary school and I was able to do that because a women's group gave me a scholarship to go," or "My mother didn't make me go through cutting, through a female genital procedure where my genitals where cut, because she learned from a women's organization she was involved with that it was harmful for my health."

There are thousand of different ways in which I think I get sustained and get replenished, and I am full of a sense of hope and possibility. So I don't think that's really the issue. I think the much more draining challenge is really the challenge of being on the side of trying to run and manage an organization within a sector in the United States.

I recently heard Akaya Windwood of the Rockwood Leadership Program say, "I'm not going to call these nonprofit organizations anymore. We should call them social benefit organizations." I am very inspired by that. I really think the role that social benefit organizations play, both here in the United States, but also across the world, is truly pioneering work and deserves to have both much more respect, and far more resources invested. And that's the area in which, if anything, I feel a sense of sometimes being drained, but I am deeply fortunate to work in a field where I get replenished all the time.

BB: Is there anything else that you want to share with listeners that you haven't gotten to talk about, that you want them to know either about the work that the Global Fund for Women does, or about women's issues, or anything else that you would like to share?

KR: I think that I'd encourage all our listeners to think about not using the term "women's issues" anymore. I don't believe there is any such thing. I don't believe that 51% of the world's population, which is what we are, doesn't care about all the critical issues that affect us. I believe that women have the right to express an opinion on all issues, and I will strongly challenge us to speak out and speak up against the ghetto-ization of the few issues that somehow we are supposed to care about, and then the more serious ones, like the military and the economy and the war will somehow be left to those other people.

These are issues that should affect and concern all of us who care about free, open and democratic societies. Without the voices of 51% of the world's population, our chances of making this world a better place for all of us are about zero. So that is something I'd love to be able to share. No more "women's issues." All issues are issues we care about, women's right to speak on all issues, you've got me there.