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Chairman's Corner

Chairman’s Corner: February 2002

February 14, 2002

Take-Home Lessons from the WEF

by Mario Morino, Co-founder of VPP

I sit down to write this piece having just returned from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, held this year in New York City rather than Davos, Switzerland. During and between sessions, I had an opportunity to touch base with more than two dozen thought leaders in the philanthropic and nonprofit space. Although VPP remains embryonic, I believe its work has continued to earn respect for its thoughtful approach.

I was pleased to see that this year there was a greater emphasis on issues of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, and more corporate leaders seemed willing to acknowledge that businesses, not just governments, have a responsibility to address the downsides of globalization. Unfortunately, I found two points lacking in the formal sessions. The discussions on philanthropy seemed more focused on increasing philanthropy and less on exploring ways to improve its effectiveness. Similarly, there appeared to be little recognition of the need to do more to help nonprofits build their capacity to allow them to strengthen and grow to scale. These are both areas that VPP can influence over time by making successful investments.

A positive note was the launching of the Global Exchange for Social Investment (GEXSI), by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Bain & Company, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, Bill Drayton’s Ashoka, and Maria Otero’s Acción International. It is far too early to know whether GEXSI will have a big impact, but its goal of helping investors find good, socially responsible investment opportunities around the world is certainly admirable and worth following.

There were two important take-away points for me that are relevant to our work with VPP. First, what we are trying to do with VPP is important, both in terms of what we can do to help organizations serving children here in our region as well as the message our work could send to others in philanthropy and public policy if we are successful in our investments. Second, I was reminded how important it is for us to nurture and support the philanthropic efforts of VPP’s influential and committed group of investor families. One message that was repeated over and over last week was the importance of connecting high-net-worth individuals, creating donor circles that are locally focused, and creating communities of like-minded givers. VPP is in a very good position to do this, so this year we will do more to keep investors aware of each other’s diverse philanthropic activities and to introduce them to the remarkable people and organizations we are partnering with.