Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thank Goodness for Market Forces

By Pilar Oberwetter

Reading of the recent mutiny of 21 prominent nonprofits from United Way of the National Capital Area was much appreciated by this Regenerate, despite frustration that this type of response to our local United Way’s general ineptness was long overdue.

The United Way model is antiquated and inefficient—and certainly not up for the task of funding the nonprofit sector in the 21st century. In addition, the local United Way’s scandal in 2002 further tarnished the already fading image of this organization as a mechanism for giving. The new alliance announced today—taking the name Community1st, and partnering with the innovative America’s Choice fundraising hub—is on track to reinvigorate the momentum for collective giving that has slowed to painful levels as a result of United Way’s incompetence.

For starters, Community1st has total buy-in from the organizations that it will be serving. After all, it was their idea. Ironic to think that a fundraising coalition that is both for the organizations and by the organizations is somehow a novel idea.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Word of the Day

Apparently, Regenerates aren't the only ones who have service on our minds. It turns out our friends at do too.

Today's word of the day:

eleemosynary \el-uh-MOS-uh-ner-ee\, adjective:
1. Of or for charity; charitable; as, "an eleemosynary institution."
2. Given in charity; having the nature of alms; as, "eleemosynary assistance."
3. Supported by or dependent on charity; as, "the eleemosynary poor."

Click on the link for three ways to use the word. I'm sure your friends will be impressed you've found another word to describe altruism.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New and (In)Effective Teachers

"But studies show that inexperienced teachers tend to be less effective, especially in their first two years. That is when they learn to tame an unruly bunch into a class, prepare six hours of daily lessons and grade 25 homework assignments without working through dinner."

This excerpt, from today's Washington Post news analysis on (in)effectiveness of new teachers made me ponder. Like many people who have lived and worked in inner cities, I often question the effectiveness of programs like Teach for America (TFA) that brings young inexperienced teachers into troubled districts.

The arguments for such programs are plenty: they bring vibrance and innovation to schools; students are able to relate to them because of their youth; they are a better alternative to burnt out (otherwise known as experienced) teachers.

There is no doubt that TFA and similar programs should be part of potential solutions to the public schools. However, if the Post piece is correct (and I think it is), I wonder how this phenomena bodes for improving the quality of education in poor districts.

Disclaimer: The Post story was about young teachers in general, with only one reference to TFA.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One Bad-Ass Granny

She's right up there with Susan Boyle on my big hits of the week.

Looking at those photos, I'm pretty convinced this 83 year-old can also breakdance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Obama Signs the Service Act

Let's hope this gets more fanfare from the press tomorrow than it's managed to muster so far.

Ah, Spring

By Pilar Oberwetter

“Excuse me, but can you spare a minute for [insert cause here].”

Rather than look at fashions or flowers, I have come to associate the onset of DC’s spring with the arrival of what I have termed the “corner warriors”—the young idealists who fight for their cause, clipboard in hand, standing on street corners, and calling out to one pedestrian at a time.

Initially, I engaged them. I heard their speeches. I debated their points, and by the end, I gave them a smile and my email (although rarely money—I, too, was working for my own nonprofit cause which simply did not permit financial support of the causes of others). However, with time, I have hastened my step, played with my phone and turned up the volume of my ipod, all in an effort to make it past these corner warriors without interaction. If possible, I want to reach my destination intact, without the distraction of child poverty or animal rights.

With the myriad of methods of reaching an audience and engaging the issues, I sometimes question if street-corner solicitation is an effective way to promote a nonprofit cause. It seems unnecessarily invasive and perhaps counter to the issue—as interrupting someone’s walk to work or lunch hour would alienate rather than attract. However, before I stand by this conclusion, I remember that once-upon-a-time, I actually did have a minute to spare. And I suppose that as long as at least one person does, then the corner warriors should keep up their fight.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Show Me the Money

At a time when many organizations and institutions are struggling, there is one donor doling out money on one condition: promise not to try to find out the giver's identity.

According to the Associated Press , since March 1, an anonymous donor has donated $45 million to 9 universities.

"The gifts ranged from $8 million at Purdue to $1.5 million donated to the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The University of Iowa received $7 million; the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Maryland University College got $6 million each; the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was given $5.5 million; and Penn State-Harrisburg received $3 million."

Apparently the donor(s) also stipulate that, "Most of the money must be used for student scholarships, and the remainder can be spent on various costs such as research, equipment, strategic goals and operating support."

Anonymous gets my gold star of the week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unequal Unemployment

Newsweek provides commentary on the intersection of unemployment, race, and gender.

Nonprofits in the Downturn

Anyone else kind of obsessed with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation?

These folks always seem to be one step ahead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Response to "New Adventures"

By Pilar Oberwetter

Lohr’s article seems to be only the most recent of many articles that are sending the message that this recession is changing the direction of career choices made by ‘top talent’ coming out of undergraduate and graduate programs. And quite frankly, as someone who entered the nonprofit sector over a decade ago, I am somewhat bewildered.

To use an analogy (inappropriate in scale and topic, but somewhat appropriate in nomenclature), as the Native Americans must have felt with the arrival of Europeans, so I feel with the arrival of MBAs and other Wall Street refugees (another inappropriate choice of words, I know). The nonprofit and public sector already had talent—and the new arrivals are just joining our ranks.

Say My Name

I wonder how many of our readers caught Betty Brown's story last week. She is the Texas lawmaker who said Asian Americans should consider changing their names to improve voter identification.

During a hearing Ms. Brown asked a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans: "Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?"

After numerous protest in and out of Texas, the Chicago Tribune reports she has apologized for her comments.

Cure Your Recession Ills

Check out Susan Boyle from the UK - you might start to feel more hopeful.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The New Adventures of the Old Public Sector

The New York Times reports that young people are flocking to the public sector.
"What will the new map of talent look like? It's early, but based on graduate school applications this spring, enrollment in undergraduate courses, preliminary job-placement results at schools, and the anecdotal accounts of students and professors, a new pattern of occupational choice seems to be emerging. Public service, government, the sciences and even teaching look to be winners, while fewer shiny, young minds are embarking on careers and business consulting."
While I appreciate many of the insights in this article, particularly David Ellwood's (dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government) coining of the term "benevolent perfect storm," to most young people (high school to graduate level, I would say), this is not exactly new news.

The economic crisis may be exacerbating this trend, but it is only part of the equation. Young people began quietly shifting to careers in public service long before all the lawyers started getting laid off. Perhaps it's time we enhanced our 1960s definition of civic activism and took better note of the myriad of ways young people today are choosing to affect change.

Anyone else out there with me?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Added Benefits of Exercise

I believe in exercise. I believe that one’s physical health is directly correlated with one’s mental health. I also believe that a community and a society’s health can be also linked to the good health of its residents and members, respectively.

And that is why I worry when studies that link weight loss to air temperature literally grab headlines. I fear that these claims distract from the more basic and less attention-grabbing reality of healthy lifestyles-- exercising and balanced diets. No thermostat or the soon-to-be-developed pill can or should replace lifestyle choices. These choices, I propose, directly impact one’s own quality of life and the condition of the community around them.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama Job, Anyone?

A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a story, with a subtitle, "Young People Who Want to Work for Obama Wait for a Call."

"Flocking to the District's creative-class encampments of Mount Pleasant, the U Street corridor and Dupont and Logan circles, people in their 20s and 30s -- those, that is, with a liberal bent -- are prowling progressive Wiki pages and joining Google groups in the hunt for an Obama job. Those already employed elsewhere are secretly uploading their résumés to, while others are quitting their jobs to concentrate on the search."

I saw this link on a friend's GChat status. It occurs to me that as young liberals, my fellow regenerates and I know many people who fit this bill. Here is to hoping for their success ...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Malawian Judge's Point

Perhaps Pilar is right, Mercy (referred to below) might have some questions when she gets older about being denied celebrity status in the US, and the world. On the other hand, she may be grateful that the judge in her case upheld the law of the land. Malawian law requires adopting parents to have established residency in the country for 18 months before their request is granted. The judge argued that the time requirement helps deter child trafficking in the long run.

Mercy may also grow up to be an adult who firmly believes that the problems facing her country, and the continent as a whole, must be addressed comprehensively rather than by taking one child (or two) out of a dire situation.

Regardless of which side Mercy takes, I am sure she will be grateful for the wonderful (and generous) work Madonna has been doing in Malawi.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Madonna's Point

Of all of the arguments raised in opposition to the Malawian judge’s decision to reject pop star Madonna’s application to adopt 3-year old Mercy James from the African nation, I want to focus on one in particular. Opportunity. In denying Madonna her request to adopt Mercy, bring her home (or to her potential homes plural), and raise her alongside Rocco, Lourdes, and David, the judge deprived Mercy of celebrity-level experiences and resources. If I were Mercy, I might have a few questions in a few years.

I welcome a counterpoint or two.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vermont: Yes to Gay Marriage!

The gold star of the day (maybe the week) goes to Vermont. The Wall Street Journal reports that Vermont has joined the list of states to legalize gay marriage. While the measure has passed the Vermont house and senate, the Republican governor is promising a veto. Regenerates are hoping there will be enough votes to override the veto. Until then, we celebrate "small" victories...

"Gay-marriage supporters in Vermont say they are completing a process that began in 2000 when the state became the first in the country to allow full civil unions for same-sex couples. Since then, four other states, including California and New Jersey, did the same, meaning that at the state level a same-sex couple is treated like a married couple in almost all regards but name. Four other states give gay couples some of the rights enjoyed by married couples, according to Family Equality Council, a gay-rights group.

After Massachusetts, Connecticut and Quebec allowed gay marriage, the mood brightened for advocates in Vermont. "People here have seen what it looks like and realized it doesn't harm anybody," said Shap Smith, the Democratic speaker of Vermont's House of Representatives."

A gold star should also go to the young man in the video above. Such an eloquent argument for a human right!

Gun Wielding on Campus

Lawmakers in Texas, and some students are supporting legislation that would allow students to carry (concealed) weapons on campus.

According to a article:

"Cameron Schober, a 22-year-old Texas State student, said he wants the right to protect himself if caught in a situation like the one that unfolded on Virginia Tech's campus on April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho, a student, killed 32 people before committing suicide in the deadliest shooting rampage by a single gunman in U.S. history.

'School's not a safe place anymore,' Schober said. 'How horrible would that be to have to sit under a desk and wait for the cops to come.'"

One can understand Schober's point as well as the legislators introducing the bill. However, I'm going to go on record and say my fellow Regenerates and I disagree! Carrying a weapon does not protect students; in fact, it may even endanger more people. Instead of one person's gun threatening the public's safety, multiple guns in the same building creates potential for widespread violence.

There is no doubt that we need to keep students safe. The challenge is finding healthy ways to do so, not one that relies on students' having a gun reflex and further endangering their peers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Readers on Pope Benedict XVI, Condoms, and the Church

Responding to recent dialogue about the Pope, condoms, and criticisms of the Catholic church, one reader writes:

"I have to interrupt this Catholic-bashing session. Although, you may passionately disagree about the Pope's stance on this issue, and many do, to say that you take comfort in the Catholic Church's irrelevance is unsettling. Understandably, many people take issue with Church teachings. However, let's not forget that the Catholic Church plays a vital social service role in the world including a mission of service to the poor and a consistent battle against the death penalty."

But there are (at least) two sides to every story. Another reader writes:

"I am much more furious at “the wise old man,” ... I don’t think he is at all wise. I am sorry. I think he is endangering people’s lives and that is a crime in my scheme of things.

Condoms are a huge part of the effort to contain HIV and education among youth on how to use them must be included in any strategy. For the last eight years, the U.S. has been putting abstinence first. Now we have a chance to redress the balance and emphasize all methods, starting with condoms, in an intelligent and sensitive way. Then along come the Pope."

Friday, April 3, 2009

All Hail the Midwest

Iowa's Supreme Court ruled this morning to legalize gay marriage.

A victory for gay right's advocates, to be sure. As for tomorrow, let's be prepared for a faster and more effective mobilization in order to stave off another Prop 8 fiasco.

The Diversity Bill

The Economist describes the new "threat" to American philanthropy: mandating diversity on the boards and staff of charitable foundations.

We've already seen such a "diversity initiative" die after serious lobbying efforts in California.  But --
"Now Congress is getting in on the act. On March 10th Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he wanted to explore transparency and accountability in foundations, arguing that 'sunshine is the best disinfectant.'

This sort of partisan interest could allow lawmakers to 'insert themselves into foundation governance and grant-making,' worries Sue Santa of the Philanthropy Roundtable. Philanthropists fear America may go down the British route, where charities must show clear public benefit to qualify for tax deductions; and that will open the door to politics."

This is a topic ripe for ReGenerate discussion. What are your initial thoughts? 

It's Home After All

By Kehinde Togun

I wrote this post on the plane ride on Tuesday. It remains in present tense ...

I’m sitting on the plane on the way back to Washington, DC. After a five hour layover at Amsterdam Airport, I was fully convinced that I would sleep the entire nine hour flight to DC. To my chagrin, this is not the case.

I am sitting in an aisle seat in the middle of the plane with a mother and her two children. I know the family is of African descent but I am unable to place their origin [this is a guessing game I (and I suspect many others) often play]. I’m sitting directly next to the oldest daughter, probably about 12 years old. She seems to have grown up in the States and is probably a precocious young girl. On occasion, she gives her little sister attitude, other times, she’s incredibly helpful and caring to the 4 year-old.

Upon taking my seat at the beginning of the flight, I noticed the 12 year-old had a henna tattoo on her left hand. Ever the inquisitive person, I wonder where the family had just visited – the likely source of the henna tattoo. After several hours sitting together, during which I give her my earphones so she could watch Ugly Betty, I ask her where the tattoo was from. She responds, “We went on vacation in Africa and I got it there.”

Of course, my interlocutor hat is now in full display. “What part of Africa?” I ask. “Sudan” is the response. I smirk and I say, interesting – my favorite word of late. “What part of Sudan?” Khartoum [the capital], she says to me. “Are you Sudanese?” Yea, she responds.

I smile again. This is where our conversation ends and my thought process begins.

On the heels of the International Criminal Court’s indictment of the Sudanese President, Omar al Bashir, amidst the (valid) claims of genocide, and amidst the expulsion of international NGOs at the expense of citizens, Sudan is still home to many. As a student of African politics and development and as individual who works close to the Horn of Africa region, it is often second nature to place Sudan in a box of “places that need to be fixed ASAP.” Although I realize a fix is no where in sight.

Nonetheless, my conversation with my 12-year old neighbor was a reminder that what many in the world see as a place of crisis is indeed where some people go on vacation – to see family, understand their heritage, and get to know their home.

It reminds me of a conversation I’ve had many times regarding inner cities in the United States. Places where we often label as the most dangerous places to live – “the projects” and other drug infested neighborhoods – where we as adults would choose not to walk, are often home to children who have no choice. How else would they get around their neighborhood?

As I end my journey from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania back to Washington DC (via Amsterdam), I am once again conscious of assumptions and labels I and others place on regions. I am challenged to see regions as places with people, rather than as places with situations. I am grateful for the matter-of factness of my 12-year old neighbor.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Two Losers and a Prayer

By Kehinde Togun

The jerk at the Dulles Airport Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)

Upon arriving at Dulles Airport, I learned that there was a new protocol for permanent residents of the United States. On my last trip in December, as Green Card holders on the path to citizenship, we were treated like other US citizens.

Not anymore. There is now a required fingerprinting and laser eye picture thing.

After chitchatting with the agent, he kindly informed me that my fingerprints “did not to take” and I was asked to go in the back room with our friends at the CBP’s Admissibility Review Area. I was there with other permanent residents as well as visitors (with visas to the United States). They were not as nice as the first agent I chatted with. Actually, they were not nice at all.

I don’t object to security protocols. In fact I appreciate them and think in these trying times they are necessary. What I do object to is the rudeness of many of the Customs agents. One in particular was sardonic and spoke bitterly and without respect to anyone in the waiting area – his disregard for people in that room was evident, his tone of voice betrayed a lack of humanity.

If I felt privileged to spend the last two weeks abroad working on a project funded by US tax payers, the folks at CBP very easily reminded me (and my fellow immigrants) that I am still not part of the club.

The KLM attendant at Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam

While waiting to check my bags in at the airport in Dar, there was a woman ahead of me with clearly too much baggage. There is no doubt she exceeded the weight limit by a lot. To my surprise, they let her carry everything. After going through the process and waiting to enter the gate, she was behind me when the gentleman who checked her in at the KLM booth came by. They shook hands and I saw she had put some US currency in his palm during their exchange. His hand came down and entered his pocket. They exchanged a few Swahili words and he went away.

Corruption is bad, right? Economists say it is a symptom as well as a consequence of poverty. I see this point and I am sensitive to people doing what they have to do. However, I don’t believe it’s any less dangerous. For rule of law to prevail, entry point officials: police officers, customs agents, airport attendants, etc, must be counted on to be fair.

No doubt addressing corruption starts at the top levels of government. However, we all have a part to play, no?


This week the world’s 20 most powerful leaders are meeting in England at the G20 summit. It will be interesting to watch the diplomatic fights and power plays. However, for their sake and ours, I pray they come up with some concrete plans to address this horrendous economic climate.

The Regenerates have some ideas but we don't quite run the world just yet.

And the Winners Are ...

By Kehinde Togun

My fellow Regenerates and I haven’t picked winners and losers in a while. To make up for lost time, I propose three winners, two losers, and a prayer.
In my two plus weeks in Tanzania, I am grateful for Al Jazeera’s expansive and interesting coverage. While there is an obvious bias in coverage, the station provides a much fuller pallet of news and events. CNN, BBC, and other western media outlets pale in comparison.

The Lancet
Last week, the Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals, in the world criticized Pope Benedict XVI, calling his statements about condoms reckless, and demanding he retract the statement or correct the public record. According to the Lancet: “Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids worldwide.”

Let the church say AMEN!
Following a meeting held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Africa’s sustainability in the world financial crisis, the former United Nations Secretary General issued an alert to world leaders on the danger facing many African nations. His words came ahead of this week’s G20 Summit. According to the Mzee: “Africa now needs urgent support to maintain economic activity and protect the vulnerable from the crisis. But while trillions of dollars are being found, at short notice, for stimulus plans and bail outs in the richer countries, the least developed countries find themselves lacking access to credit and faced with lending policies and practices that minimise their chances of receiving loans.”
In a partial criticism of the G20 and other similar gatherings, he continues: “Until all parts of the world are included in critical deliberations, including on trade and climate change, these institutions lack the reach and legitimacy they need to provide truly global answers to today's challenges and the inclusiveness to make the most of tomorrow's opportunities."

Can I get another Amen!

Stay tuned for two losers and a prayer …

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Help the Artistically Challenged

ReGeneration Readers --

Do YOU draw?
Can YOU find irony in most situations?
Are you a connoisseur of local, national, or global news?
If any of the above resonates with you, please consider submitting an original cartoon with a theme similar to our posts. We know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and sadly, the Regenerates lack a visual artistic streak but possess the knowledge that this is a critical medium for conveying their larger message.