GlobalGiving’s Gurrier: “The power of data in allocating philantropic capital”
In his introduction speech at the Wealth and Society 2018 at the United Kingdom, Alix Guerrier spoke about the history of GlobalGiving, what their vision is, and how they intend to use data in order to create the maximum impact in their philanthropic efforts.
Here is the transcript:
I would say donationss. So, thank you, Alix Guerrier.
Alix Guerrier: Thank you. Hi everybody. I am Alix Guerrier. Representing GlobalGiving here, and I’ll just lay out some of the things that I’m gonna talk about.
I’ll start with reintroduction of myself, and an apology that all get to in a moment. I’ll say a bit about GlobalGiving and what we do, and then I’ll quickly take us through some of the technological changes and how GlobalGiving has evolved; past, present, and future with respect to how tech innovations support the work of …
So, the first part, which is the apology, is an apology that comes from the fact that today marks my one-week anniversary at GlobalGiving. I started as CEO last Thursday, and so what that means is in these few minutes I’ll say everything that I know about GlobalGiving, and then I’ll be exhausted. So, my … may be a bit limited, but what I’ll hope to do is I’ll try to share the perspective that I’ve had to learn and share with you what is so exciting about joining GlobalGiving to me.
And also, you’ll forgive me if I draw back on my experience before GlobalGiving, which is as the co-founder of a social enterprise in the education technology space. So, some of my examples may deal with education.
So, I’ll start with our mission. GlobalGiving is the first and largest…platform for nonprofits, created in 2002, before that term crowdfunding existed, and our mission actually will pick up nicely I think on the stream of conversations that we just had in the panel. We seek to transform philanthropy to accelerate community-led change. So this very topic that we were just talking about I’ll underscore that phrase community-led, and that mission is a response to what is actually a relatively shocking fact. And that is that you look at the flows of international aid. Again, this is exactly what the panel prior to this one was talking about.
Less than 2 percent, the decimal points are correct. They’re 2 percent, not 20, actually reaches global community-led organisations. So, that’s less than 2 percent on average. The picture on the back here is a picture taken in Haiti, which has some personal connection to me, my father is from Haiti, so half of my family is Haitian, and I think many of us in 2010 when the earthquake hit were both at once heartened by the enormous outpouring of support and care in dollars to the tune of 10 billion plus dollars that came in response to that tragedy, and that optimism is paired with a sense of disappointment at the disproportion in the impact that it had, and the constraints on those impact relates to this fact, you know, there’s only so much impact that you can have with donation dollars if so many of them come back with – or end up in the pockets of the contractors from the very source countries.
And so, I think we can do a lot better than that. So, that’s what we seek to do. We seek to fund and channel dollars to organisations like Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project. So, Jackson … is an example of a social entrepreneur, a local leader, in Uganda. He was inspired to serve the needs of orphans whose parents died as a result of AIDS and started this amazing organisation. Just as one example of what context awareness can mean in terms of impact.
Because he’s from the community, he knew that there was this untapped resource of elderly, but quite active, women, he calls them grandmas, in the village, and worked with those grandmas to be a source of labor and care for the orphans.
This is a type of knowledge that you don’t necessarily have as an outsider. And so, there’s the first-order effect where the orphans receive care and education, and then second and third-order effects as well where maybe you’re providing employment or engagement or capacity building in your community. And so, there’s sort of this multiplying of the impact that we can have.
And so, that’s what we do. We look for nonprofit organisations around the world. We vet them to make sure that they’re properly registered and a good entity so that donors can trust the dollars going to them, and we bridge to individual donors and companies who are looking to engage their employees in giving.
So, that’s who we are. I’ll tell the story of technology innovations in sort of three quick ways, past, present, and future. First is access, the next is impact, and then the last is connection.
The genesis of GlobalGiving, and again this is not my story it’s in 2002, was true founders, senior officials at the World Bank who were enthusiastic to see a change from the top-down approach of directed funds at the World Bank. And they had a little experiment where they invited, and this was in 2002, so it was actually physically inviting to Washington DC to … leaders of projects around the world to come and apply and pitch to receive funds.
And so, one hand that experiment was quite successful, because some really amazing projects grew out of it, and they realized that there were a lot of folks who came to that room who didn’t seek funds and the impact ideas and, I mean orders of magnitudes more that never heard about that invitation.
And so, they wanted a way to expand upon that experiment. And back in 2002, this was new. You’ll remember I think a lot that the idea of just going online and doing a like this, that was still at the frontier. And so, we can sit now from our perspective some 16 years later, and take this idea as a given, but it doesn’t really take away from that innovative power. And there’s another thing I’ll say about that even as we take innovations like this as a given. I think there’s a caution about assuming ubiquity in access even still today.
So, for example, we all enjoy and rely on our smart phones, and yet still in this year less than 50 percent of the adult populations in emerging countries have accesses to that. In fact, this is this is one of the challenges that remains … So, that’s the past very, very quick tour.
Here are two stories or two ways that we are seeking innovative right now towards using technology for good, and they both relate to AI. So, I’ll get a buzzword.
So, I mentioned this process of vetting organisations to make sure that they’re actually doing the work. So, we've done a lot of it over our existence. It’s been over 300 million. Actually that’ll climb to 400 million soon, because the pace is accelerating … direct – about 60 million over in donation dollars this year to thousands of organisations from hundreds of thousands of donors in 170 countries, and most of that vetting, making sure that those projects are doing the work that they do, has been done by hand and also by foot sending folks out to the field to visit the projects to make sure that they are doing good work.
But we’re at a point now where we could start to turn to software to start to automate parts of this in new ways that we couldn’t do so before. And our data science team at GlobalGiving likes to use this phrase, they are working to make all of our jobs at GlobalGiving harder, and they are seeking to do that by using technology to increasingly automate those parts that can be automated allowing the team to move on to harder and harder problems with their time. It’s a really critical form of leverage.
One of the ways that we’ll do in the second part is towards this measurement question. Again, question about how to measure social impact. There are a lot of different approaches. One common approach that measures social impact is through sort of programmed approach of increasingly parameterising the space. So, I had to find lots and lots of different metrics that he can measure. I’m quantifying and reporting on those, and that’s a very good approach with downsides. I mean the downsides in that sort of parameterising approach is that you’re sensitive to the accuracy of the metrics in the first place; the instrumentation. It’s not robust to changes in understanding about what really matters.
And so, it can be a bit brittle. I mean, I'm in favour of this approach, but there is a brittleness to just identifying lots and lots of different methods. And so, what if it said we were able to again use the techniques that are now available to us called machine learning to step back from that sort of highly programmed approach and for a giving, we received lots and lots of unstructured or semi-structured data in the form of quarterly reports that we have seen from each of our thousands of projects and the applications and registration for all these organisations.
That’s a lot of information. And we also have ways of assigning value to the work that’s being done. And so, a lot of the things that we’re working on is building that sort of an impact mentioned programmed in that software so that we can take in this unstructured data, qualitative data, narrative and start to assist us in predicting what the outcomes are and … a way to give us some insight of the impact that our programs are having.
And the dream is to use that information about impact to more efficiently direct the flows philanthropic capital so that the flows are going to the best solutions and I just included this slide here, because we talk a lot about efficiency and I think a lot about efficiency, there’s a danger in the sort of the stability of that word efficiency. We’re not talking about efficiency for efficiency’s sake here. In this space, better flows mean more improvements to more human lives, where at the end of the day, this has that truly human element.
So, that’s. That’s what we’re working on now. Now, let’s talk about two things that we’re not working on but that I'm somewhat excited about. Again, two buzzwords that I’m sure will come up that have already come up and will come up again; one is blotching. I mean, we work in 170 countries. That’s a lot of different currencies. One of the sources of challenge for us just in the mechanics of our operation is in disbursements, especially to those organisations that don’t have access to US dollar denominated accounts. It’s a major challenge. We were just … a report from some of our about that yesterday.
And so, again, we’re not working on this now, but I certainly come in to this role with some enthusiasm about the idea of partnering – I'm learning more about this and partnering with some folks with some folks to make a difference there for us.
And then AR. So, I brought with me some gift cards. Just a few. I’ll put them in the back. I’ll encourage you to go get a gift card. You can use it on GlobalGiving to give. If you don’t get a gift card, you’re not restrained. Just go on GlobalGiving, you can still give to organisations that you find compelling. And what I would love in addition at some point in the future, in addition to the reports that you’ll get and interest in the projects and progress reports, that one day you’ll be able to actually go and visit your.
So, if you worked to Nyaka this room, maybe you could go and see and experience that classroom that you funded. In a cynical view of using AR for that purpose, you know, maybe that’s or just a way to increase donations, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s about building human connection.
And so, I’ll end my last minute with a story from 30 years ago of a tech innovation that was used exactly for this purpose. As the Voyager probe was sailing out of the solar system, and some of you may know that Carl Sagan fought hard to have the engineers turn the camera around so the first future planetary selfie, and on its way out past the outer edges, take a snapshot of the earth, which is that seven pixels right there.
And you’ll forgive me for reading some of these words, but the point of doing this was to use this technology to show a picture of everybody who’s ever lived, everybody who will ever live, have torches in that seven pixels and to him, and here I’ll just read, “It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, to preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
I'm from the US where we colour our map in red and blue to denote different places where you think I'm one way or another, and it’s something that we’re struggling with. It’s a natural trend to have geographic divides actually separate us. And so, if we can have an opportunity to use technology to instead bring us together, I’m very enthusiastic about that.
So, that’s my introduction. I’ll put my email address here quickly. If you have any thoughts please feel free to reach out to me.
Keywords: High-net Work Individuals, Social Responsibility
People: Alix Guerrier