Authors@Google: Paul Brest

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 31.07.2009

>> I could tell you all sorts of things about Paul, but I'm not going to because I think
his message is just too important to Ident anymore. So without any further ado, I'd like
to welcome Paul Brest. Thank you. >> BREST: I wonder whether the talk should
be called, "Philanthropy, with or without anesthesia," based on that accompanying metaphor.
So, how Harvey is sorry that he couldn't be here with me, my co-author. But it also will
allow me to kind of say some things that he might disagree with. I'll talk a little bit--I'm
not going to talk about the book as such except to tell you that our notion was that this
is the book that would be found in the self-help section of bookstores. But it would be of
an airplane bookstore, airport bookstores, but it would be in the executive air terminal.
That hasn't yet been realized. Afterwards, we can, you know--I'm happy to tell you something
about the process of writing a book--a number of you--probably many of you have written
a code with other people. And writing a book with one other person has its own complexities,
not different ones from--when you're sharing a code. What I want to talk about is not the
book as such, but the only thing I really know about, which is, is strategic philanthropy,
and that's what the book is about. And strategic philanthropy is basically about reaching a
goal. And I'm going to use the metaphor of a destination--probably go further with it
than you think makes any sense. But I want to begin by saying strategic philanthropy
has nothing to say about what your goal should be. If you think about traveling, you know,
you might decide you want to go to Africa to work for the Peace Corps or go to Mount
Everest to climb it or go across town to see Aunt Sally or go to a bank to rob it. And
that's--those are pre-strategic decisions, right? It's only after you choose the goal
that you can figure out the best way to go there. And so too in philanthropy; there are
also its impossible goals. And what strategic philanthropy doesn't say which goal to choose,
it tells you--it's a framework, really, for how to get their best. You know, there's this
old saying from the Cunard (ph) lines which used to have--maybe they still have cruises.
They used to have great trench--oceanic service. And it was getting there that is half the
fun. Well, what's really important about strategic philanthropy is getting there. If it's not
fun on the way, then you're probably not going to continue doing it. But the real objective
is not the fun of the journey, it's getting there. So I want to talk about what I think
are the basic elements. We already--I'll come back a little bit, but it's having a clear
goal, having a strategy for achieving the goal. The strategy needs to be based on a
sound theory of change, which is the sort of non-profit term for the theory of how the
world works. You need feedback and you need to talk about risk. So I'm going to begin
by talking about some earlier philanthropists. Does anybody recognize these guys? Ferdinand
and Isabella, right? Ferdinand and Isabella are my philanthropists, and their goal was--I
would think you could describe it too. One of their goals was to have their grant to
get to India, but it was better trade routes to the Far East. More effective--I should
say, by the way, that--and motives are really not important in understanding strategic philanthropy.
But it's interesting to think about their motives. They were--they had some purely unself-interested
motives. They were interested in spreading Christianity to the world. But they were obviously
interested in their own, in their country's welfare, which was probably not distinguishable
at that time. So you could think of them as sort of early mission-related philanthropist
in the same way that Google's philanthropy is mission-oriented as well; doing good but
also connected with the company's mission. So people's goals can change over time. Indeed,
the very process of pursuing your goal may give you some different goals. But at any
given time, you need to know of where you're going, right? That's sort of a tenant of strategic
philanthropy. It maybe fun to toddle around in the--I wonder what is blocking the top
of the thing. Well, it doesn't matter, as long as we can see part of the pictures. You
know, that no one is going to pay it on profit organizations just to go sailing around the
bay, sailing around the bay just for the fun of it. You need to have some sort of destination.
Okay. So before, you know, no philanthropy happens on a blank slate, right? There's always
something that has gone before. And the first thing to do if you're a philanthropist starting
in an area is learn what the relevant knowledge is in the field. At this point, Ferdinand
and Isabella looked to the Hogwarts Press' classic book on, "Navigation In The 15th Century."
And they learned about navigation, whether ships--whatever they need to learn about.
Well, I'm talking about philanthropy that is grant-making philanthropy. And if you're
a grant maker, you need to look for a grantee. So maybe what Ferdinand and Isabella had in
mind was Horatio Nelson, a great--since I'm playing [indistinct] with history, you know,
a great leader of a great organization, the British Navy. For better or worse, they ended
up with Columbus as their grantee. So you have a goal, you have a general approach at
this point. You've done due diligence and you've found your grantee. And--but you need
to have a strategy for achieving your goal. And in this case, the strategy was sail west.
Up to this point, trips from Europe to the Indies had taken Eastern water routes. They
had very often taken parallels overland routes and here the idea was sail west. A strategy
is only as good as the theory that underlies it, right? So in this case, the theory which
you're all familiar with is--that the earth is round. And by the late 15th century, most
educated Europeans thought that the earth was round. There were some serious mis-estimations
in just how large it was. But without a theory, as you'll see, I mean, it make sense to engineers
for sure, your strategy is not going to work. Well, let's--we'll return to Columbus. But
let's talk about philanthropy. So at this--in some ways, I'm just giving you, you know,
a short list of thousands of possible philanthropic goals. These are goals that people are actually
pursuing, and so, reducing meth abuse in Montana, preventing malaria in Africa. I put in the
two sides of say, proposition A, promoting and opposing gay marriage to emphasize that
point that I've said earlier, which is you can be strategic in achieving any goals and
you can be strategic in--on opposite sides of an issue. So there were philanthropies--individual
philanthropies and--at least in some foundations on both sides of proposition eight. Being
strategic doesn't mean you're on the right side; it means you're using your resources
as best as possible to achieve your goals whatever they happen to be. I'm going to use
the last of these examples. Achieving education for better outcomes for disadvantaged children
in Philadelphia, which is a goal that, you know, no one would be on the opposite side
even if that is not your passion. And I use the example for some reasons that I will explain.
So here's a general goal. Once again, you need to do due diligence. You want to find
a good leader of a good institution and, you know, then the philanthropist might have looked
for a charter school, organization school. They might have decided to look for a different
place in Philadelphia. But in this case, look for, you know, found the school superintendent
of Philadelphia, a good leader of a good school. I think before--I think I've gotten a little
bit ahead of myself because what I like you to do is take a minute. And I've given you
a hand-out sheet and, you know, if you have a pen or pencil and willing to use a low tech
device like that, just jot down; and if you don't, just keep it in your mind. What is
the goal--whether you have done philanthropy, you know, from your checkbook or have a donor
advised fund or just do interest in philanthropy, choose a goal that you're really excited about,
something that motivates you as a goal for your own philanthropy. Let me take just a
second to let you think about that. All right. So, I won't to ask you to do the due diligence
part, but we'll come back to some other parts of the form. So, just as Columbus and his
philanthropist had to learn from the field, there's a lot of learning--there's a lot of
information out there anyway about what might improve the outcomes for disadvantaged kids
in Philadelphia. Some places have tried dressing the kids in school uniforms, Teach for America,
you know, has bright, committed kids from university starting to teach, KIPP academies
have long school days and long school years, and so on, and so forth. What's really important
is that you have some reason to believe that the activity you're engaging--having school
uniforms, whatever it is, leads to better outcomes. You need to fill in, and this is
sort of a basic tenant of strategic philanthropy or any sort of strategy. You need to fill
in the blank, and you can't rely on a miracle. If you haven't filled in the blank between
your activity and the outcome you have, and sometimes it's the number of steps you need
to fill in, then you expect the miracle to happen. And, you know, social change is so
hard that the likelihood of a miracle is really, really small. So take a moment. You set out
a goal, take a moment and jot down for yourself. I'm not--nobody is going to call on you to
answer this. What is your general strategy and what is the theory that underlies it?
The equivalent of sale west being the strategy and the earth is round being the theory. Now,
what's going to get you to your philanthropic goal? Well--so there was an overall strategy
that Columbus had and Ferdinand and Isabella, his philanthropists. But an overall strategy
like sail west needs to be implemented, right? It's pretty vague. So what you need next is
a plan. So--oh, I'm sorry. Once again, I'm ahead of myself. So the particular strategy
we're going to use in this example, by the way, is adaptive learning. And let me tell
you what adaptive learning is in the Philadelphia example and then we'll come back to Columbus.
Adaptive learning is the idea that the teachers make plans for each student individually.
They see how the student is doing. They give the student feedback based on how he's doing;
they then change the lesson plan as necessary. So it's a continuous loop in--and the theory
is that that will lead to better educational outcomes. And I use it--the reason I like
it because I think it's a metaphor for philanthropy as you'll see by the time we're done with
this, that philanthropy also is adaptive and feedback plays a really important rule. All
right. So back to what a plan is, though. So, it wasn't just enough to say, you know,
like sail west, they need Columbus needed and a philanthropist needed a business plan,
you know, how they need to buy and provision the ships and recruit a crew, but then you
also need to chart the course. You need to chart the course as well. And so, too, you
know, a school example, you know, adaptive learning is a kind of broad idea. But you
need to implement it. So you need to train the teachers in assessment, the teachers need
to specify achievement goals for each student, they need to translate those into assessments
for each student and its sort of a recursive process which ultimately leads to improved
outcomes. So my question for you is what's your plan? That would probably take longer
to really specify, but, you know, you had a general strategy. What do you actually need
to do to make it work? For example, if the goal--if you're interested in reducing teen
pregnancy, then you probably have a teen pregnancy clinic and the strategy would be to recruit
the kids you thought you wanted to work with, to recruit counselors and so on and so forth.
So what would be a strategy for achieving your goals? Well, I'm not going to call on
anybody to be great during the discussion if you can allude to some of your own examples.
Okay. Something that's really helpful in philanthropy is to have targets, right? So the target for
them, Isabella and their grantee, Columbus was India. In this case, the philanthropist
and the school superintendent have agreed that in 2008, only 60% of fifth graders were
doing math at grade level and the goal is by 2012, to have 80%. You might say, "Gosh,
you know, I mean, why not aim for a 100%" because the target--you've done fundraising
campaign. So the target needs to be ambitious, but realistic. There's sort of two reasons
to have targets. One is you hold--everybody knows what they're aiming for, you hold yourselves
accountable to try to achieve it. There's another reason that's sort of structural.
There's nothing like a target to clarify what your goal is, right? As between going to the
less improved outcomes for disadvantage kids and saying, "This is actually what we want
to accomplish." You know, you know if you're there, you know, you know if you've gotten
to India. So you might jot down the target for, you know, a--it could be ideally numerical,
but it might be a qualitative target that you and somebody else could agree--that you
would achieve it or not, how you would know whether you would actually achieve your goal.
So, I now come to kind of one of the weakest parts of philanthropy. Surprisingly, we called--though
I think there's work in remedying it, and that is getting feedback. Oh dear, I don't
think Columbus is--so, that's okay. So what Columbus had, you know, Columbus basically
relied on a compass and dead reckoning. And we were talking before about flying. If you
have ever flown a plane or had gone on a boat, you can start off with a great compass heading.
You can even know what the winds are, but if you don't have some other form of feedback,
you're going to be off course very soon. After awhile came the sextants and a--actually,
the result of a great philanthropic contest, the ships goniometer, which is a way of keeping
track of longitude and latitude. And now, my guess is that those of you who drive to
work probably have a GPS system in your car. I mean, feedback is absolutely essential.
Dead reckoning doesn't work with flying and sailing, and it sure doesn't work in social
change. So how do you track in this Philadelphia school example whether we're on the course?
Well, we said initially, you know, in order to make this work; teachers need to be trained
in assessment. Well, you see whether the teacher show up for training. You may give them little
spot quizzes. They need to specify achievement for the--targets for the kids. You may rely
on self-reporting. You may kind of randomly sit in and see how they're doing. But they're
also some ways of assessing whether they're on course. The issue at this point is not
whether they achieve the ultimate goal, but are they--are they on course toward achieving
it? And a question for you, not surprisingly, is how would you track progress for your goal?
Not whether you would have gotten there. Not whether you had saved whatever part of the
world you're trying to save in your own philanthropy, but how would you know if you're on the way?
To go back to my example, if it's a teen pregnancy prevention clinic and part of it is counseling
kids, then if the kids--you need to know whether the kid show up, whether the counselor show
up and whether there are counseling sessions, and you might want to know what actually goes
on in the counseling sessions. So, Columbus' tracking was as good as it could be at that
time. The basic theory of change, the basic idea that the earth was round was right. But
the map was sort of incomplete as you know. And Columbus' voyage turns out to be an example
of failed philanthropy, right? The crew may have been really happy in where they ended
up. But the philanthropists were disappointed in the result. There's a lot of failed philanthropy.
I mean, a lot of philanthropy is like this in the sense that it's high risk. The likelihood
of achieving your outcome is not so great. Of course, unless you're clear about what
your goals are, and that's why targets help, you don't even know whether you achieve your
outcome as well. So how did our project in Philadelphia work? Well, then if you look
at a whole lot of different studies not in any one city, adaptive learning has--can make
a huge boost especially for disadvantaged kids, seven-tenths of the grade level. Did
it actually work in Philadelphia? You know, I don't know. For one thing, the reason I
use Philadelphia as an example was, it's the only place where I could see something that
said Philadelphia, the name of the school district. I couldn't find the slide that had
other school there. So it's hypothetical. But there are a lot of reasons that adaptive
learning might work in general and might not work in a particular case. It might be that
the population is a different one or if it's just not implemented very well. Why, because
I mean, you know, implementing any social change strategy and educational strategy,
for example, is difficult. So I mentioned the failed philanthropy of Ferdinand and Isabella,
and let's talk a little bit about risk in philanthropy. The risk for Columbus and his
grantee were--all the risk of navigating in, you know, navigating the ocean in those days.
And the rest of the crew might mutiny because they ran out of provisions or they were afraid
of falling off the face of the earth. And the risk of falling off the face of the earth,
that was a possibility. For most philanthropy, the risk is not endangering life and limb,
although sometimes it is. It's that that you have put money into something. You put a lot
of money into something and it just doesn't turn out to work. And you might think for
a moment about what the risks are in your own plans, where could things go wrong in
a way in your own strategic plan that the money would turn out to be wasted. Where are
the possibilities for failure the greatest? How do you know if a risk is worth taking?
Because I'm going to suggest--when I think about the work of the Hewlett Foundation where
I work, I would say that a huge amount of the philanthropy we do has a lower than fifty-fifty
chance of succeeding. So how do you think about risk? Well, some of you are probably
familiar with kind of a simplified version of expected return. Expected return is the
benefit of everything works out, discounted by the possibility that it won't work out
over the cost. And what I want to suggest is this is a healthy way, a good way of thinking
about risk even if you can't quantify. And I think philanthropy could do a lot more of
work in quantifying, both what the benefit is and what the probability of achieving the
benefit is than we do for the most part. But even if--even where you can't quantify, the
first point of it is we think this way in everyday life, right? We certainly think about
business investments, right? And so, you--I mean, this is a hard time to talk about what
a safe--what a safe investment for your personal IRA is. But, you know, you can put it onto
your mattress or put it in a government bond, and it's very little risk and low return or
you can put them something riskier. We think about it when we get car insurance, when we
go out of [indistinct] and somebody tries to sell us an extended warranty for the product.
Probably not a good idea, but--so we think about it--I think it's a good way to think
about philanthropy for these reasons. First of all, if you don't recognize the risk, you're
not going to know how to mitigate them. All right? If you don't know where the dragons
are if you're crossing the ocean, you're not going to know how to avoid them. And philanthropy
is full of dragons. And it justifies--this is the expected return approach, it justifies
high risk, high return ventures. The Hewlett Foundation has made the single largest commitment
in its history, $100 million a year for five years to support work, to reduce climate change.
In fact, Hal Harvey, my co-author, we spun off an organization that he's running called
ClimateWorks. The likelihood that all of the philanthropy together is going to change government
policies that will ultimately change CO2 emissions, I would put it far less than 50 percent but,
boy, is the impact important if the theory of change is right. And we have good reason
to think that it is that CO2 emissions do cause global warming. And global warming is
likely to do damage. If there is--the word "failure" is a dirty word in the non-profit
sector in general and in philanthropy. And talking about risks is a way of talking about
failure in a rational way. I mean, there's no venture capitalist who doesn't expect quite
a few of his or her investments to fail. And philanthropy is not all that different. And
it can help understand your own risk tolerance as an individual or foundation. Some people
are willing to take huge risks. Others want things to be safer. So let me stop there.
Actually, one--I want to show you one last slide. Then I want to leave time for Q&A.
So I was thinking when I thought that hell wasn't going to be here, this is the one picture
in the--but we have a few cartoons. In this one picture that we designed and this is hell's--among
hell's many contributions, but somehow, I think hell is the proudest stuff in the book.
And it's a way of thinking about your own philanthropy, which is--imagine a scale--you
can have a more complicated scale but imagine three vectors. One is the problem that you're
dealing with. You can talk about philanthropy in terms of opportunities or problems. I think
problem orientation is probably a good way. Is the problem you're dealing with one that
affects the quality of life or does it affect life itself? So quality of life, you might
decide, you know, to build a football field or supports arts organizations in your community.
And the other extreme is the extinction of life or much of it through nuclear proliferation,
nuclear explosion, climate change, what have you. That's one axis. Another one is the problem
you're dealing with the danger, reversible or not. That is the vertical axis. So, you
know, air pollution is actually quite easily reversal. You stop the pollution one day and
it ends the next. Water pollution is usually reversible and they take decades to do it.
Loss of bio-diversity is irreversible unless Google comes up with some great new convention.
And then, what's the scale of it? And scale can mean lots of different things. Once can
be--is it local and kind of tangible? You know, the high school football field, it's
local. Or, you know, at the other extreme--you know, is it--is the scale of one that is distant
and going to affect huge numbers of people who are anonymous to you. Well, you could
think of this as the small cube, being issues that are local, reversible quality of life.
And then you can imagine some issues, and I think climate change, nuclear--the dangers
of nuclear explosion are in and all of the scales there in the big cube, right? They
threaten life itself. They're distant, anonymous, and irreversible. It's maybe a way of thinking--and
of course, you don't--you can have mid points of any of these and you can be at one end
of the spectrum on one of these vectors, and another, and another. I think a lot of people
at the beginning of their own philanthropy, tend--I think my own personal philanthropy
is being very much in the small cube, right? You want things that are local, tangible,
your college, your high school, your town, your symphony orchestra. And then some people
branch out. How has a very clear normative view about this? Barely disguised in the book,
which is being out in the outer cube dealing with the big problems is what should be done.
And I think--I think for established foundations. That maybe right. But my own view is that
we, you know, that the different people need to find their different comfort level. You
can deal with the same essential problem on different levels. So why don't I stop there
and--it says, "The end," that's a good place to stop. And let's open it up for conversations.
What did I say that you found utterly wrong or annoying and in need of correction, and
what are your own thoughts on some of these issues. And if you want to allude to your--you
don't need to, but if you had some thoughts as you jotted down your own thoughts, your
own philanthropic strategy, that's fine. >> So, I'm not sure if I can articulate this
point clearly but much of what you said seems to apply in the context of large foundation
such as the Hewlett Foundation where there's a large sum of money that needs to be invested
so that you could make significant social change with this. But for those of us who
have more modest means, shall we say, the philanthropy we do is unlikely to have a significant
impact like this. And so, in our own giving, for example, we've often given through intermediaries,
whether they'd be foundations or disaster relief organizations, or what have you. So
intermediaries that have presumably much more significant means and you're adding a little
to it. How does this idea of strategic philanthropy help for individual contributors with modest
means? It's not--as clear to me. >> BREST: Well, I-I think that's--the book
says--this book is written for anybody who gives away between $100,000 thousand and $100
million a year. And I think your question is right. How--you can't do the kind of due
diligence that Ferdinand and Isabella do when you're giving away the amount of money that
most of us in this room, myself included, do for our personal account. What aspects
of strategy work? Well, one is being clear about your goals, you know, for example, you
know, what do you expect before you look for the organizations, if you're doing disaster
relief or trying to reduce malaria in Africa. So, what are you trying to accomplish? And
then, even though you can't do deep due diligence because you don't have time for it? There
are ways of finding out whether the organizations that you're supporting are achieving those
goals. I think that personal philanthropy and most of the non-profit sector are stuck
in an unfortunate cycle where the organizations provide very little information about what
they're actually accomplishing. I mean you can get glossy brochures and you may get the
same glossy brochure five times a year in the mail. But does it say, "What are the organization's
goals? What are its strategies for accomplishing them? And how well is it doing? Is it--are
they on course? Are they achieving some of their targets?" So the organizations don't
provide that and individual philanthropists, most of us, don't ask for it. And I wonder
why we don't ask for it. And I think sometimes we don't ask for it because we think that
it's not available, and of course, they maybe not be available because we don't ask for
it. I think the key to this, and I think even right now--my guess is if do you think about
your own philanthropy, all of us in this room, we could be more demanding of information
for the organizations and then decide. You know, this organization really looks like
it's doing a good job. At least they have a theory of change. At least they have a strategy,
whereas some of us don't. I think the key to this ultimately lies in Web-based devices.
There are few interesting experiments where organizations. In order--the Greater Kansas
Community Foundation has a Website for all of its donors. And the organization who wants
to be listed on the Website has to at least have the elements of what we've talked about.
They have to say, "What their goals are? How they would know--what their targets are? How
they would know if they were achieving it? And how did they do last year?" And you only
get listed if you have that. Well, Kansas City donors are becoming better informed,
and I think more demanding. So what used to be everybody being stuck, you can think of
as rising possibilities. So I think back for the individual philanthropist, is what you
can do even without giving away $100,000 a year.
>> So, in fact, to brainstorm just a bit on this last point. There are all of these charity
rating organizations. I'm blanking on the names of all of them. But that basically say
how efficient they are in X, Y, and Z. Would it be a useful exercise to figure out if you
could convince one of these, or one or more of these organizations to add additional criteria
so that in order to be--in order to be rated, you know, you get your four-star rating but
you also have to have your theory of change listed in one of these organizations. I'm
trying to figure out if there's anything individuals or an organization could do to prod these
charity rating organizations to do that. >> BREST: Well, that's something which we--we
actually have a small--as you know, we have a small program in philanthropy of the foundation.
And this is the probably the central thing we're working on. There is a rating organization
which, at the moment I think, does more harm than good called Charity Navigator. And it
just presents the financials, so it--you know, how much--what are your administrative cost?
What are your fund raising cost and--just looks so where you can get off the internal
revenue code returned, or the internal revenue return. Well, looking only in financials should
be looking and only at cost mainly, we'll be looking at one half of the balance sheet
as a business. In every single, you know, what are you doing this--make any difference.
You can be in an organization with very low cost and be doing zero in terms of whatever
your philanthropic outcomes are, or an organization with fairly high cost and just having a terrific
impact. The new head of Charity Navigator has said that he wants to move to more outcome-oriented
measures. And I think that's been a bit of peer pressure, it's been people like me and
others saying that they're harmful. We'll see where it goes. It's much easier to just
look at the metrics of the IRS return than it is to look at outcomes. And the non-profit
sector to me, you think its strategy--strategic philanthropy, you could put strategic anything.
I mean, strategy is strategy whether it's business, philanthropy, public policy. But
a lot of the sector doesn't think or doesn't know the concepts--not the vocabulary--and
the basic concepts of goal strategy feedback in the like. And it's odd, isn't it? Because
the same person who's running a non-profit organization, who can't tell you what their
goals are and how they're going to achieve it. If they're doing a home improvement project,
you know, they're building a new sun porch. It can basically do a strategy in this way.
So it's a matter, I think, of educating the organizations. And I think that the Web-based
services like this are going to make all the difference. Yes.
>> Hi. I have a question about risk. If you are strategizing about how to go about your
project and you discovered that the risk is extremely high, how do you--how do you work
through that in a sense of being able to solicit funds or making--or persuading people to come
to your cause if you know specifically that there is a high risk? And I know you're saying,
"Well, the payoff has to be extremely high." But how do you advance that argument? What--you
know--what has been your experience on addressing risk?
>> BREST: All right. So, in some ways, it could be that the non-profit sector has benefited
from the fact that nobody ever talks explicitly about what the risk is. And that, you know,
if you put your money into something and the organization says, "You know, there's only
one-in-a-hundred chance you will succeed. That may de-motivate people." Let me come
back to that respond. But then talk about the problem of de-motivation. But if you think
of--if you actually think about the charity that any of us do. But if you're giving to
a high school football team or to the San Francisco symphony, which the Hewlett Foundation
does, the latter, not the former, the risks are very low, right? And, you know, non-profit
arts organizations are in a lot of peril right now. But the San Francisco Symphony is going
to be here next year and your contribution to it is going to help. But think about work,
whether it's trying to reduce malaria in Africa or, you know, improve the environment in some
part of California. We put money into something which is, it doesn't seem all that risky,
which is improving air quality in the central valley, Fresno, and other areas where diesel
and other pollutions just makes it--makes people very sick. The work--because the work
is policy change and any work that involves policy change is high-risk. There's no assurance
that we're going to succeed or other foundations working in this are going to succeed. And
you can succeed and then there can be a setback, right? So that the economic problems of the
valley have resulted in what looked like we're on a trajectory to success suddenly being
cut because it costs money to reduce diesel pollution. I guess I think that this is maybe
more optimistic than realistic that if organizations are really candid about the risk, but also
what the potential returns are, that, that will create a conversation at a more--at a
higher and more realistic level. You know, every time somebody puts money into cancer
research or research on any disease, the likelihood that a particular research team is going to
come up with something is very low. You hope that enough people will put enough money into
different approaches. I just want to say one thing about--you know, I teach in my--I continue--I
used to be at Stanford. I continue to teach one course on judgment and decision making
in a public policy program. And the judgment decision making literature which as how people
actually--It's not the normative literature of how--you know, what a good model for decision
making is like and the expected returns, how do people actually make decisions, has sort
of some depressing thoughts for a strategic approach to philanthropy, which is when people
start being very cognitive rather than emotional about philanthropy, they give less. If you
want to--there's a depressing experiment where if you want people to give for hunger in Africa
and you show them a picture of one starving child, they'll give this much. If you show
this child and then give statistics about starving children, they will give less. So
it looks like it may actually involve different parts of your brain, and when the cognitive
rather than the emotional parts of the brain light up, you become less philanthropic. I
don't think that's an issue for philanthropy for foundations, especially where you're giving
away other people's money. But I--it's a little bit worrisome in terms of asking organizations
to be really articulate about their goals and their achievements. Go ahead.
>> Hi. Thanks for the talk. It's been very useful. I have an example--and there are few
examples like this of philanthropic projects where many of the steps seem to be kind of
not applicable. And so, I'm going to give the example of proposition eight, right? So
the goal is clear. The strategy is reasonably clear. There's an organization called "No
One Profit," and you would donate to them and they had a set of things they were planning
to do. There was actually no way to track progress. We have no unascertained date whether
you'd succeeded or you'd fail. And the risks are unknown, right? You don't know what the
chance of success is. How would the Hewlett Foundation think of a problem like that?
>> BREST: So, policy--a huge amount of the work we do involves policy change. And I think
you're right that with policy change, whether it's Prop 8 or Waxman-Markey which, a lot
of our grantees have been working on, you know, pass the house, the climate cap legislation,
risky in the Senate. Unlike the symphony or unlike feeding starving children, right? If
you're getting to a food bank, assuming the place is even halfway while running, you can
find out every additional dollar provides more food. And it's linear, or more or less
linear. With policy change--and you can think of prop--know on Prop 8 is being--I mean,
it is, it was attempt to influence policy not by a legislature but by the whole electorate.
It's not linear. So you can, you know, sometimes it's all or nothing. And you're going on this
level and you either win or lose. I think that grantee organizations can be more or
less smart about that. And that, again, this goes back to the question of how much individual
due diligence you can do. We ended up supporting the ACOU on this issue. And other foundations
we know supported other organizations based on their track record. That is how smarter
they are about advocacy. And they just--you know, so with respect to advocacy, you want
to ask if you have the time, you know, who are you, you know, what is your strategy,
who are you trying to reach, what voters are you trying to reach, how are you doing it?
And this year you had an interesting strategy for trying to get on college campuses, young
voters. And--but I think--let me--so, the answer is, it's really hard to quantify. And,
you know, Prop 8, sort of whichever side you were on, you may have thought it was so important
that no matter what the risks are, it was worth doing it. And in fact, you had enough
public opinion polls to know that the risk were seem to be roughly 50-50, right, because
I mean the electorate was pretty divided ahead of time. I mean, I think about the work we
do in climate--we're supporting in climate change where it has to pass the house. There's
also--I mean the bill has already been watered down in ways that some environmental advocates
think they'd rather not see it pass. I think that's wrong. You know, the ex-ante, the probability
of passing the house seemed, you know, lower than 58 percent. The probably of passing the
Senate seemed--and now seems pretty low. And of course, for those of you, probably everybody
in this room who knows how to do probabilities, you have to multiply it, right? So if there's,
you know, a 40 percent chance of passing the House and a 40 percent chance of passing the
Senate, then the overall chance is pretty low. So you have to decide it is really important.
But policy change requires a significant appetite for risk.
>> Okay. I think we're just about out of time now, so I want us to thank Paul one more time
for coming out and--well, Mr. Brest, thank you.
>> BREST: Thank you.