At Research to Action, a short followup from Ruth Levine, director of our Global Development and Population Program, on the presentation she made at the recent Think Tank Exchange conference in Istanbul:
There are many ways to think about ethical practices in think tanks, but whether the thoughts turn into actions depends on whether the organization has the leadership, appropriate staffing and systems, and financial resources to adhere to the highest standards of transparency and accountability to a range of stakeholders.
My short presentation at the Think Tank Exchange 2015 covered some of the ways in which funding affects the ability of an organization to adhere to ethical practices. It was not intended to offer a comprehensive view of either ethics or funding, but rather to start a conversation about the relationship between the two – and perhaps stimulate thinking within think tanks about changes they might want to make in their relationships with funders.
Many school administrators, teachers and parents want the education provided to children to be high quality, rigorous and connected to the world outside the classroom. Teachers are trying to provide these elements in various ways, but a group of schools calling itself the “Deeper Learning Network” has codified some of what its members believe are essential qualities of deep learning (check out how students lead parent teacher conferences in this model). Some of the goals include learning designated content, critical thinking, communication skills, collaborating effectively and connecting learning to real-world experiences.
Bob Lenz of Envision Schools (a grantee of our Education Program), in an op ed in the San Jose Mercury News, on the "false choice" between skills and college readiness for high school students:
Learning to code is cool, but I fear we will be in an either-or situation: learn code or learn academics. Schools like the ones in the High Tech High Network prove that students can apply and demonstrate their understanding of academic topics through project-based learning. Young people in these schools are creating applications and interactive websites that utilize significant academic content, require coding skills and have real-world applicability.
These kids will have more options: 4-year college or a technical career will be their decision, not one made for them because they were channeled into a single-focus program.
Interesting piece at TechCrunch by Ben FitzGerald of the Center for a New American Security (a grantee of our Cyber Initiative), on the importance of collaboration across sectors and disciplines for real cybersecurity:
Government outreach efforts often talk about collaboration and working together but usually in a vague, aspirational, kumbaya kind of way. However, for cybersecurity the need for collaboration is pragmatic and pressing.
The ubiquity and power of information technology means that the biggest security risks exist at the intersection of disciplines and communities. Collaboration is the only way to mitigate these risks.
An intersectional perspective allows us to better understand why certain cyber attacks occur and are so damaging.
Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Cyber Initiative Program Officer Eli Sugarman makes the case that hackers—the white hat wearing kind—are critical to U.S. cybersecurity:
During his State of the Union address last month, President Obamasingled out hackers as one of America’s principal cyber enemies and called for stiffer criminal penalties against them. Fans of this tough rhetoric should beware: a war on hackers could actually chill legitimate security efforts.
From the National Security Agency to Google, US government agencies and businesses are turning to hackers to develop, test, and secure their critical systems and products. Hackers succeed by thinking outside of the box. They break the rules and oftentimes cheat. While many types of hacks – remotely disabling a car’s engine or cracking heavily encrypted data using only a microphone – sound criminal, they aren't. Rather, they are routinely conducted by leading academic or independent security researchers.
In fact, hacking plays a critical role in securing everything from ATM machines to smartphones. Defenders develop better security measures only after a new attack is invented. Both government and industry recruit skilled white hat (good) hackers to test their systems and defend against black hat (malicious) hackers.
What are the core values of the U.S. Constitution?
“We, the people,” the poetic expression of the idea of democratic self-government, is surely at the head of the list.
Most of us would probably add the values guarded by the addendum to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights: free speech, freedom of religion, due process and equal treatment under the law. Then there are values central to governing: checks and balances, the separation of powers and federalism.
Larry Kramer, a constitutional law scholar, former dean of Stanford Law School and now the president of the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, believes a less appreciated idea should be first among equals. In a speech at the University of Pennsylvania Law School this week, Kramer makes the case for compromise as a core constitutional value.
A sweeping movement is under way among nonprofits to more regularly collect information and consider the perspectives of the people they serve.
New tools and services, like apps that run text-message surveys, are springing up to aid feedback efforts, and new grant money is trickling in.
What’s more, in 2016 Charity Navigator, a watchdog organization, will start to include in its ratings system an assessment of whether and how well nonprofits collect and publish feedback from the people they serve.
"Momentum is building," says Fay Twersky, director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group, noting mounting evidence, much of it still anecdotal, that listening to clients and making changes in response improves results.
"The more experiences that are shared about the benefits of feedback, the more credible it becomes," she says. "It’s changing from what seems like just a nice thing to do into a best practice."
Hewlett and eight other foundations are part of a new $18-million effort [Fund for Shared Insight] to promote such sharing.
Dennis Whittle, co-founder of the online fundraising platform GlobalGiving, which gives its members incentives to gather opinion data from their clients, agrees that all the talk and action focusing on getting feedback is gathering steam in an unprecedented way.
"A lot of this started to take root a decade ago," he notes, "but two huge historic movements—around openness and transparency and around the availability of data, big and small—have come together now to create a real force behind feedback."
Last month, the Solar Foundation, a grantee of our Environment Program, released their National Solar Jobs Census for 2014, showing huge growth in employment related to solar energy—up 86% over the last five years. Minh Le, director of the Solar Energies Technology Office at the Department of Energy, marked the release with a blog post.
A few highlights:
As of November 2014, the solar industry employs 173,807 workers, representing a growth rate of nearly 22% over the previous year.
And the good news doesn’t stop there. Here are just a few key findings from this year’s census:
-Solar employment has grown by 86% in the past five years alone.
-One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. over the past 12 months was created by the solar industry.
-The solar industry is adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy.
California's venerable state parks—from sunny Los Angeles beaches to towering redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains—are under "serious stress" and suffering from declining budgets, shorter hours, higher fees, a $1.3 billion maintenance backlog and outdated technology.
That's the conclusion of a new report scheduled for release Friday by a blue-ribbon state commission made up of business leaders, government officials and park experts.
The California Parks Forward Commission says the parks system can be fixed but that a dedicated source of new funding must be found.
Nice piece by Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News on the inroads being made by open educational resources:
"We're just at the initial stages of a revolution in education," said Matt Chamberlain, principal of Venture School, an independent study school in the San Ramon Unified School District. Selecting and managing online material is challenging, "but to put resources in kids' hands is very exciting."
Added Venture biology teacher Maureen Allison, "There's so much potential, so much rich stuff out there."
The effort to collect, edit and spread that material has been quietly incubated by philanthropies like the Menlo Park-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, other nonprofits and now a consortia of state governments. It has made headway in school districts like Riverside Unified, where 40 percent of the curriculum comes from open educational resources, and in private and budget-conscious charter schools.