Marc Gunther is a veteran journalist, speaker, and writer whose focus is business and sustainability. Marc is editor at large of Guardian Sustainable Business US and a contributor at FORTUNE magazine. He’s also a husband and father, a lover of the outdoors and a marathon runner.

Committed to evidence

Foundations not only looking to solve problems, but to improve the way we solve problems

Many foundations try to solve specific problems. They seek to end homelessness, help veterans, protect oceans, or improve K-12 education. All worthy goals.

But what if the programs aimed at solving those problems don’t work? Or cost too much? Or create unforeseen consequences? How can they be improved?

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Reforming institutions through development

Spark MicroGrants is working with communities to provide cash (and possibly democracy)

This article originally appeared on Nonprofit Chronicles

Chickens. Cows. Cookstoves. Toilets. Solar panels. Job training. Clean water.

Western NGOs dole out lots of stuff to help poor people in the global south become less poor. Do such programs work? It’s hard to know, but when researchers for a series of World Bank studies called Moving Out of Poverty asked 3,991 households in 15 countries how they escaped poverty, just three of those households credited “NGO assistance.” Hmm.

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By Marc Gunther
The oldest (and most effective) anti-poverty program

This article originally appeared on Nonprofit Chronicles


People have migrated for millennia, mostly to escape poverty. Between 1880 and 1930, more than 27 million immigrants entered the US, most from Europe. Some six million blacks left the rural south for cities in the north and midwest between 1910 and 1970, in what’s known as The Great Migration. More recently, Hurricane Katrina prompted one of the biggest resettlements in American history.

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Indoor cooking

Efforts to make a cleaner cookstove have long failed to live up to their promise, but that might be changing.

Originally published on Ensia

For about 3 billion of the world’s poorest people, the simple act of cooking dinner is fraught with risk. They burn wood, charcoal, dung or crop waste, often on open fires, fouling the air they breathe. It’s no small matter: Household air pollution from cooking fires is thought to be the world’s leading environmental cause of death and disability. And cooking over open fires also contributes to climate change and to deforestation when poor people chop down trees for fuel.

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Putting families in charge

A different approach towards breaking the cycle of economic dependency for low-income families.

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Mauricio Lim Miller spent about two decades leading an anti-poverty organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he did it well, so well that President Clinton invited him to the 1999 State of the Union address. But Miller was disillusioned. “I became very cynical about my work,” he told me.

He had come to believe that social service programs in the US focus too much on the weaknesses of poor people, treating them as victims who need fixing, while failing to capitalize on their strengths. He thought about his mother, a Mexican immigrant, who had a third-grade education but pushed him to get a college degree, which he did at UC Berkeley. “She was very smart. She was very resourceful,” he said. “But no one saw that. People put her in a box. She hated that.”

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Changing corporate behaviour

NRDC’S Linda Greer: Cheers and jeers for business

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Some nonprofits, and people working inside nonprofits, pursue the same strategy, year after year, without stopping to ask whether they are having an impact. Not Linda Greeran influential senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who for the past 25 years has worked to get companies to clean up their act.

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Meaty business

By Marc Gunther
Why won't foundations go after meat?

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Coal plants, fracking, pipelines, gas-guzzling SUVs, plastic bags, coffee pods—all are targets of environmentalists. Why not meat?

Eating less meat — chicken, pork and especially beef — may well be the most important thing an individual can do to reduce climate change.

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