Philanthropists Seek Greater Social Impact


– dubbed as the Davos of social entrepreneurship – kicks off March 25 in Oxford, England. Some 800 entrepreneurs, activists, journalists, investors and consultants from over 60 countries will mix, mingle and chat about the latest innovations for developing world growth and social impact.

Among the

is Matthew Bishop, New York bureau chief for the Economist and co-author of the recently released "

: How the Rich Can Save the World." Bishop believes superwealthy 21st century philanthropists like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, billionaire investor George Soros and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have become a great source of risk capital for social innovation. The shortcoming, so far, has been in measuring impact.

"Gates was quite up front with us about this," Bishop acknowledged. "The data is still in its early days."

Maybe not for much longer, as a handful of measurement tools will soon hit the market.

Acumen Fund is in the midst of launching

, a portfolio data management system for donors and philanthropic investors. Developed with Google engineers, Pulse "standardizes social and financial metrics, allowing donors to compare the impact of different projects they support – say, the $1 million for mosquito nets versus the $1 million for a clean-water project." The second phase, which will gather information across institutions, will be released in July.

The Rockefeller Foundation invests heavily in the developing world, including working towards a

. Rockefeller calls this philanthropic work "

," and has developed a concrete agenda for catalyzing industry evolution, which involves building coalitions, scalable investments and building the necessary infrastructure. The initiative includes establishing a set of reporting and measurement standards along with a system that will rank investment success. A fantastic, Rockefeller-funded report from the

expands on these ideas.

As the global economic downturn reaches the developing world, philanthropic dollars will be in ever greater need in the coming months and years. Hopefully, these data measurement devices will ensure their considerable impact.

About the author

  • David Lepeska

    David has served as U.N. correspondent for the newswire UPI and reported for several major newspapers, including the New York Daily News and Newsday. He was chief correspondent for the Kashmir Observer in Srinagar, India, and regularly contributes to the Economist, among other publications. Since 2007, David has reported for Devex News from Washington, New York, as well as South Asia.