US Private Giving Field Trip 2014: Day Four

Jenny Wheatley from The Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation talks about being encouraged to dream big and be bold as the Harlem Children’s Zone and The Clinton Foundation demonstrate what high expectations will deliver with the right leadership - and a handy rolodex …

Arriving at community initiative Harlem Children’s Zone we were struck by the contrast of the peaceful neighbourhood and pleasant surroundings with what we understood of Harlem and the Bronx. We were in a special place for children with a truly committed leadership team. CEO, Anne Williams-Isom, is about to turn 50, looks 40, has three children in college, lives in Harlem and is about to run her first marathon in New York City –  you get the picture. 

Anne encouraged us to hear from all members of the team about how they apply a ‘whatever it takes mentality’ and ‘high expectations' approach to their system of free programs and three public charter schools that aim to have all children attend college. The program operates in the 100 blocks of central Harlem with an annual budget of $114 million and a cost of $5,000 per child.

View the achievements of Harlem Children's Zone

We were encouraged to use data, set high standards, discover the blue sky, dream big and be bold while we assist our communities to rebuild their fabric.  

Our next stop was the Clinton Foundation (CF), which has between 400 and 500 team members who implement its mission of creating impact by facilitating cross-sector connections and partnerships. We met five of the team. They all seem busy, which is testimony to President and Hillary Clinton’s rolodex.

Sara from 21/64, the local tour curator, said the President walks into rooms and people just empty their pockets. Just as well - the Foundation aims to raise $100 million per annum to undertake its work. I reflected on the challenges this must bring to the table as CF avoids conflicts with their values from the wide range of donors it attracts.

We met CEO, Eric Baverman, who showed genuine interest in what he would learn from our group, taking notes of questions and comments we had, Mark Gunton who knows all there is to know about logistics and Robert Harrison who heads to Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

Mark shared how investing in peanut farmers in Haiti over the last three years has created a scalable social entrepreneurship model, incorporating training and fertiliser, that has pushed the price of peanuts down by 30% while lifting the margins of the farmers.

During our trip we heard the word ‘convening’ regularly, CGI is perhaps the greatest example of this. Robert explained that those invited to this global summit must commit to an action and that over the life of CGI 3,100 commitments had been made, with a spend of $100 million, impacting 430m people in 81 countries. Some rolodex, some team.

After committing to continue sharing our learnings, collaborating and convening once we are back at our desks, the group dispersed with most heading for the Nation’s capital Washington DC to the Exponent Philanthropy National Conference.

The field trip has not only equipped Australian family philanthropy by providing global perspectives for our work, it has also clarified the scope and skills of our peers, encouraging us to work together to bring greater impact.


Written by Jenny Wheatley from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation​.

Nov. 01, 2014

 Tags: us private giving field trip 2014

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