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Saturday, December 03, 2005


If Scene--and the fact that the Globe actually covered its release--has shaken your belief in Harvard students' dedication to using our privilege to improve the world, not just entertain it (intentionally or otherwise), take heart: the brand-new H-give website, a global philanthropy project designed by my latest platonic crush, sophomore Jeremy Singer-Vine, both testifies to students' drive to do good and--even more importantly--expands opportunities for the rest of us to do good, too. Committing oneself to a cause is great. But devising easy yet meaningful ways for other people to join the cause is one of the features of leadership we should most highly esteem.

Planning on posting about this today anyway, I emailed Jeremy to ask if he would mind sharing a few thoughts about the project with Cambridge Common readers. And he kindly agreed. So here, straight from the source, is the vision behind H-give. Thanks, Jeremy, for sharing some wisdom, as Golis would say. (more in expanded post)
During the last two summers (before freshman year and sophomore
year), I interned at a non-profit called Youth Philanthropy Worldwide
(www.ypworldwide.org) in my hometown of Berkeley, CA. They educate
students about global issues and global philanthropy as well as help
students organize long-term fundraisers for organizations much like
the ones featured on the h-give website. My freshman year here, I
realized that there were no organizations on campus that focused
solely on global philanthropy. So I made it my summer goal to develop
such a project.

The first attempt, "The Harvard Collective for Global Giving," which
I launched at the beginning of the year, had some problems. The name
was too wordy (often nobody knew what I was saying), the project
unclear, and the ways to participate a little too time-consuming. H-
give is the result of applying what I learned from the relative
failure of HCGG.

is, in short, a guide for global philanthropy for Harvard
students. It is a 'menu' of sorts. I have organized 20-30 non-profit
organizations that are working on issues of global importance into 8
areas of interest, so that each person can find something to give to
that they really care about. Along with the non-profit organizations,
I have listed student groups that work on these issues so that people
can also become more involved on campus.

I am convinced that Harvard students do care about the rest of the
world, and, moreover, that we want to do something about it. While
papers, problem sets, and midterms might have us stuck in Cambridge
for the greater part of the year, we-- by donating to non-profit
organizations abroad and by joining campus advocacy groups -- can
still make a huge difference in the world.

It is extremely important that students get involved with, or at
least acquaint themselves with, global philanthropy. America is a
very generous nation, but less than 2% of our philanthropy leaves our
borders, to areas that need it most. Additionally, US Dollars make
much larger impact abroad than they do domestically, both because
supplies are cheaper abroad and because what might seen like a small
improvement here (such as an extra water filter) is a huge
improvement for many communities in developing countries. As Harvard
students, we are the CEOs, legislators, board members, trustees, etc.
that will be in control of large sums of money that could
potentially-- if we become educated about the needs of developing
nations -- improve and save millions of lives abroad.
Jeremy asked me to let everyone know that he's looking to get more people on-board with developing the site, so if you're interested, or have any questions, email him at jsvine@fas.harvard.com.


At 3:20 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:22 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

Philanthropy is OK for the time being, but only if it doesn't breed complacency and inaction. I don't want people feeling like they've REALLY done something if they send in dollar amounts of an insignificant quantity to help African kids to make the donor sleep better at night in their labor or environmentally exploitative job. Structural change is still needed. Non-profits fill in gaps for a population that their government does not. Those governments must be changed. Dramatically in most cases.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger katie loncke said...

Great point, Chip. It's like when schools or other organizations admit some minorities, women, and/or minority women, and then point to them as a defense against accusations of racism/sexism, as well as evidence that the school is committed to promoting diversity (print a few photos of students of color in your brochures, and you're golden). But tokenism and diversity, even extensive tokenism and diversity, mean little unless the institution and its members commit to changing the social inequities that make diversity difficult to achieve in the first place. Like you said, accomplishing initial, small steps is certainly better than no steps at all, but there is a danger of obscuring the real root of the problem when people start feeling righteous and satisfied.

So maybe an idea for Jeremy and his team would be to start up a sister site, called H-act or something, featuring some of the best nonprofits and volunteer organizations students can and have worked for (Harvard-affiliated, like FUP, or otherwise). You could get input from various groups on campus dedicated to social action to find out which, in practice, are some of the best groups to work for. Not only would this be a helpful resource, but it might help to contextualize H-give as a great kind of giving, but not the only or best way to contribute.

I also have to say that I'm really impressed with the fact that Jeremy re-worked a failed prototype of this project. A lot of times it's easy to get really attached to an idea just the way it is, so when it doesn't work out and there's no structural support for continuing it, simply quitting and chalking it up to a lack of interest is very tempting. So cheers to flexibility and constant transformation.

What are other people's impressions of H-give? Any favorite organizations that Jeremy didn't include?

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous caroline said...

I'd love to add the Stephen Lewis Foundation. It's a great organization that doesn't get enough coverage (though the founder was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential of 2005). Check it out:


At 2:14 PM, Blogger Jeremy Singer-Vine said...

Jersey Slugger and Katie,

Thanks for your comments!

In response to Slugger, while I see what you are getting at, I would argue that philanthropy, especially of the sorts I have tried to highlight on h-give, is not a fetter to other forms of activism. H-give is not about making bourgeois Harvard students feel better about themselves. This is a misconception about philanthropy that is a very harmful one.

Philanthropy (if aimed at the right organizations), rather than being a hindrance to activism, is a necessary complement to activism. First, while we can talk all we want about how the governments need to be restructured (which the desperately do) or about how people and environments in developing countries are being horribly exploited (which they are), it is difficult to expect much progress to be made when almost half of girls in developing countries cannot attend school, HIV/AIDS is depleting the workforce and orphaning children, etc. Non-profits not only fill in the gaps that governments miss, but they pave the way for improved governments, providing education, health care, financial and general support for a generation that will need all of these things in order to be community and world leaders.

As the global social change philanthropy motto goes, we want "Change, not Charity"

In my experience, philanthropy acted as a "gateway" experience for me into the world of activism. Since I starte learning about and participating in global philanthropy, I have become involved with Harvard AIDS Coalition and with Harvard International Development Organization (HIDO). Hopefully, it it will play a similar role for others.

In response to Katie, I think "H-Act" is a great idea. There is a definite need (which HSF attempted to fulfill) to inform campus about the constant social action going on around campus. While my attention in the meantime is focused on H-Give, I would be very excited about working on something like that in the near future. Anybody interested in brainstorming / helping out? Email me (jsvine@fas.harvard.edu)!!

In response to Caroline, the Stephen Lewis Foundation sounds great... I wil do some background research on it later today, it will be up on the website in about 10-15 minutes. Thanks!


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