For the Hewlett Foundation (and its Peers) Philanthropy Has Many Faces

Despite their regular appearance in the news and underwriting announcements, foundations remain mysterious to most Americans. According to the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative, fewer than half of civically engaged Americans can name any foundation on their first try, and a mere 15 percent can cite examples of a foundation’s impact on their community. The task is complicated by the fact that America’s foundations play so many roles. In addition to making grants to nonprofit organizations, they conduct research; create new fields of inquiry; and underwrite the creation of institutions. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has played all of these roles in its forty-plus years of existence. This month, our newsletter revisits examples of past work to shine a light on some of the many activities of foundations.

Saving the Great Bear Rainforest

Nonprofits, Government, and Business
Join Forces to Conserve

When an unlikely alliance of government officials, conservationists, timber industry executives, and First Nation representatives stood together in Vancouver in December 2008 to announce they had a deal, it also was a testimony to what is possible when foundations work together.

The dignitaries had gathered on that late fall day to announce agreement on a framework to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, then the world’s largest unprotected tract of coastal temperate rainforest.

The agreement, a culmination of more than a decade of talks, placed 5 million acres under strict protection and another 16 million under sustainable management rules, for a total of 21 million acres. The sustainable management rules will allow the timber industry to have reliable use of the forests, and a new public/private financing mechanism will enable the indigenous people there to develop ecotourism and other ways to earn a living.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation was among more than a half dozen foundations that together committed nearly $58.5 million to create an endowment fund to support conservation management and sustainable economies with the First Nations, as the indigenous communities are known. About 30,000 people live in the region.

At the time, Rhea Suh, then a program officer for the Hewlett Foundation’s Environment Program, called the agreement “the environmental movement’s biggest victory in a decade” and an unprecedented example of cooperation among all parties, including government, private citizens, and the nonprofit world. Joining Hewlett and its grantees from the nonprofit world were the Tides Canada Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and The Nature Conservancy.

An additional $29.2 million from British Columbia’s provincial government as well as another C$29.2 million in Canadian federal funds will be used for investments in ecologically sustainable business ventures in First Nation territories. This includes the development of ecotourism and sustainable fisheries and forestry.

The Great Bear Rainforest, sometimes called Canada’s Amazon, is located along the north and central coast of British Columbia and comprises fully a quarter of the world’s remaining coastal temperate rainforest. It is home to thousands of species of plants, birds, and animals, including 295-foot Sitka spruce, grizzly bears, coastal wolves, a unique subspecies of goshawks, and 20 percent of the world’s wild salmon stocks.

Turning Back the Clock
in San Francisco Bay

Restoration of a Wetlands Ecosystem

The health of the environment was a concern of William Hewlett and his wife, Flora, long before they created the Foundation. So when the opportunity arose in 2003 to restore vast swaths of San Francisco Bay to its pristine state, it was natural that the Foundation would be only too happy to help.

The result is the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest tidal wetlands restoration on the West Coast and an unusual example of public and private cooperation. When its work is complete, the project will have restored 15,100 acres of industrial salt ponds at three locations to a rich mosaic of tidal wetlands and other habitats.

The Hewlett Foundation’s $12 million contribution to this work was part of a total $35 million contribution by four California foundations that joined to make the project possible. The other partners are the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. The restoration also is an example of the Foundation seizing an opportunity when it arises, even if it lies outside the strategies of grantmaking programs.

The San Francisco Bay has lost fully 85 percent of its historic wetlands to development, a loss that has caused a dramatic decline in marsh-dependent fish and wildlife, a drop in water quality, and a higher risk of flooding in surrounding lands.

The goals of the project, which will take decades to complete, are to restore and enhance a mix of wetland habitats, provide public access to wildlife and recreation, and improve flood management in the South Bay.

The project was launched in 2003 when, with the help of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the South Bay Salt Ponds were purchased from Cargill, Inc. Funds for the purchase were provided by federal and state resource agencies and the four private foundations. The 15,100-acre purchase was the largest single acquisition in a larger campaign to restore 40,000 acres of lost tidal wetlands to San Francisco Bay.

Shortly after the property was purchased, the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Coastal Conservancy launched a four-year public process to design a plan to restore it. Its first levees were breached in 2006, reconnecting some 800 acres of salt ponds to the Bay. Work on all three sites is expected to be completed in 2037.

Going Global with the
Fight against Climate Change

ClimateWorks Pursues Sound Economics
To Reduce Carbon Emissions

In 2008, the Hewlett Foundation made the largest single grant in its history a $500 million commitment to help create the ClimateWorks Foundation in order to tackle the problem of climate change.

In 2007, when scientists released their report Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight against Global Warming, the philanthropic world had its first credible battle plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. The report, commissioned by Hewlett and five other foundations, identified the reductions in carbon gas emissions that could be realized from various changes in energy planning and policy worldwide and projected the actions needed to reduce the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius. The scientists calculated that this is the maximum increase that would likely avoid severe environmental impacts from global warming.

With an approach in hand that could make a difference, the Hewlett, Packard, and McKnight foundations launched the ClimateWorks Foundation, a nonprofit based in San Francisco with the aim of realizing the goals of the Design to Win report. The three foundations committed a total of more than $1.1 billion in coming years to support ClimateWorks’ efforts to hold the rise in global temperatures down to acceptable levels.

ClimateWorks, in turn, makes grants to regional foundations around the world that are working to encourage policies and practices that will, by the year 2030, reduce carbon emissions to the target levels set in the Design to Win report. ClimateWorks also funds networks of experts that work with the regional foundations to promote the best practices in fields like vehicle emission standards, building codes, and energy efficiency.

In China, for example, ClimateWorks makes grants to the China Sustainable Energy Program, which helps Chinese cement factories adopt production methods to reduce the carbon dioxide they generate.

“We have the best data in the world on how to prevent climate change,” Hal Harvey, chief executive officer of ClimateWorks, told the New York Times last year. “Everything is ranked by magnitude, location, and sector. It’s a systematic approach to problem solving.”

Giving to Stanford University and
The University of California, Berkeley

Strengthening Leading Institutions
of Higher Education

Along with making grants to nonprofit organizations to solve pressing social problems, the Hewlett Foundation supports great universities, which Foundation Board Chairman Walter Hewlett has described as the think tanks of American culture.

It was belief in the importance of these institutions that led the Hewlett Foundation Board to make substantial endowment gifts to two of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading institutions of higher education.

In 2001, shortly after Foundation founder William Hewlett’s death, the Foundation gave $400 million to his alma mater, Stanford University, to be used for humanities, sciences, and undergraduate education. At the time, the gift was the largest on record to a university. It was at Stanford that the senior Hewlett met classmate David Packard, with whom he went on to found Hewlett-Packard Company, one of the first major technology companies of Silicon Valley.

In 2007, the Foundation gave $113 million to the University of California, Berkeley, to create 100 new endowed professorships to help ensure that California’s preeminent public university remained competitive with the nation’s best private universities, the Hewlett Board said at the time. That gift was the largest in that university’s history. As with the Stanford gift, the gift to UC Berkeley also included a matching component to encourage significant giving to the university from other donors.

“I personally felt that the size of the Stanford gift was a very important element,” says Chairman Hewlett, who has been on the board of the Foundation since his parents created it. “It raised the bar for other donors. Now, if you want to say you’ve given a major gift to a university, it needs to be well into eight figures. And that’s begun to happen.”

“Universities really deserve this support,” he says. “These institutions are not just the bedrock of higher education for the world. They are the sites of some of the most important research and thinking being done anywhere.”

Getting to Yes

Supporting the Study and
Practice of Conflict Resolution

Making the most of philanthropic dollars is an everyday job in foundation grantmaking. With the world’s problems so large and foundation resources so small by comparison, the search for maximum impact is constant. Sometimes this means investing broadly in tools to solve a social problem, rather than working on the problem itself. A good example is the Hewlett Foundation’s twenty-year, $160 million commitment to conflict resolution.

In 1984, when the Foundation embarked on this grantmaking, conflict resolution was still a relatively young field. During the next two decades, through almost 900 grants to more than 320 organizations, support from Hewlett and several other large foundations helped build eighteen university-based centers to nurture the theoretical underpinnings of the field, key practitioner organizations, and an infrastructure of professional associations to connect them.

Simply put, conflict resolution is the practice of using negotiation, mediation, and diplomacy to enable two or more sides in a dispute to come to agreement. It typically involves fostering communications among disputants, solving problems, and understanding the underlying needs of those involved to reach a solution satisfactory to all parties and eventual reconciliation.

Starting in 1992, the Foundation’s grantmaking in conflict resolution began to focus on consensus-based approaches to public policy, as well as on expanding the work to international settings in order to prevent new conflicts and resolve long-standing ones.

In 2004, the Foundation made its final grants in the field, having significantly advanced the techniques for solving social problems in a variety of contexts. Click here to read The Hewlett Foundation’s Conflict Resolution Program: Twenty Years of Field-Building, a report that chronicles the Foundation’s experiences and lessons learned.

The Foundation’s website also has three downloadable guides that it released for those interested in various applications of conflict resolution techniques. These guides focus on environmental issues, community development, and collaborative governance.

Education for All

Hewlett Grantmaking Launches
Open Educational Resources

Sometimes a good idea lacks nothing but someone willing to act.

Such was the case with Open Educational Resources. The movement to make high-quality educational materials available for free to everyone via the Internet unofficially began in 2000, when MIT made the bold decision to make all of its undergraduate course material freely available online. University officials approached the Hewlett Foundation to help fund the work, and a movement was born.

Sensing the opportunity that the MIT action represented, the Foundation has to date invested more than $120 million in grants to dozens of organizations around the world, launching a global movement to expand access to educational materials. Key to this work was Foundation support for Creative Commons, a nonprofit corporation that helps people and institutions modulate copyright protections so others can use and revise educational materials for free.

Since those early grants, the Hewlett Foundation has funded a broad range of Open Educational Resources, from HippoCampus, which provides high-quality, multimedia educational content for high school and college students, to OER Africa, which provides practical information about agriculture and health, as well as educational content, to Wikipedia, one of the most widely used websites in the world.

Beyond the direct impact of making educational materials broadly available to those who previously had limited access to them, the Hewlett Foundation’s grantmaking in Open Educational Resources demonstrates how a foundation may, on occasion, work to develop an entirely new field.

Today, after a decade of championing Open Educational Resources, the Foundation is evolving its strategy. Now that the movement has blossomed far beyond the organizations that Hewlett funds, the Foundation is shifting to a supporting role by making grants to encourage the development of a self-sustaining infrastructure. It’s also making grants to bolster efforts for individual Open Educational Resources projects to become self sustaining, as well as advancing the understanding of how Open Educational Resources can improve teaching and learning with a goal of more success in learning for more people at a lower cost.

Home-Grown Policy Solutions

Hewlett and Partners Support
Think Tanks in the Developing World

Foundation grantmaking can be an effective way to transform weak or underfunded social institutions into robust ones. A case in point is research centers in the developing world.

Such centers can be a critical source of information that governments need to enact sound policy, but many remain weak and underfunded in the developing world. The causes are many. Visiting researchers trained in the developed world may be reluctant to return home to a lack of financial support or strong local institutions needed to build their careers. The international aid community inadvertently compounds this situation by commissioning projects that support researchers but do nothing to build institutions.

To respond to these problems, the Hewlett Foundation approved a ten-year, $100 million initiative to strengthen independent research centers in the developing world. The goal is to support high-quality research that developing countries can use to formulate national policies. The initiative currently supports these centers in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

To carry out the initiative, the Foundation is working in partnership with the International Development Research Centre, a quasi-public Canadian agency with forty years of experience supporting research on development, which will manage the work, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the development agencies of the Netherlands and Great Britain. All are making financial commitments to augment Hewlett’s. The initiative is currently supporting think tanks in East and West Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

In launching this project, the partners are inviting other international donors to join with them to create a pooled fund that would expand support to local think tanks throughout the developing world.

Innovating in Reproductive Health

Hewlett Grantmaking
Broadens Access to Services

Yet another way that foundations can effect change in a field is by providing leadership as well as funding for successful advocacy. The Hewlett Foundation’s Population Program has tried to do both whenever possible.

Family planning and reproductive health have been areas of the Foundation’s concern since its founding more than forty years ago. During that time, grantmaking in those areas has grown from serving the San Francisco Bay Area to supporting nonprofits around the world.

As the Population Program’s grantmaking grew, so did its intention that the impact of its work be greater than the sum of its individual grants. It supported programs working in neglected geographic areas and providing education and services that women and men need for good reproductive health. It also increased general support grants that allow organizations delivering reproductive health services to explore innovative approaches and quickly respond to opportunities or emergencies.

For example, Program support helped create the first African organization devoted to collaboration among developing countries to improve family planning and reproductive health. The organization, Partners in Population and Development, whose Africa Regional Office is in Kampala, Uganda, helps developing countries work together to design family planning and reproductive health policies and programs.

In the same vein, Hewlett grants support the education of more experts in population science at African universities. These highly trained individuals are already contributing to the creation of better population research and policies. The Foundation is the only U.S. philanthropic organization providing support in this area.


November/December 2010 Newsletter