(This is a guest post from Brian Walsh, head of global social engagement for LiquidNet, who is covering the Council on Foundations Conference for Tactical Philanthropy)
By Brian Walsh
I’m excited to join in the Tactical Philanthropy conversation and share my thoughts on this conference – and the evolving philanthropic field – from a corporate perspective. Many thanks to Sean for sharing his platform to bring together so many diverse and interesting voices.
I head up the “Global Social Engagement” (what other companies might call corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility) for Liquidnet, a global electronic marketplace for institutional investors. Fortunately, Liquidnet is successful in the three key ways that a company can be: we offer a helpful product for our clients, rewarding work for our employees, and a great value for our investors. We could just stop there.
Instead, our vision is to change the way that a company conceives of its role in society, beyond just providing a useful product, opportunities for employment, and value for investors. We also believe that companies can make a significant social impact. That is why we devote one percent of our revenue – a significant level of support that is nearly unprecedented for a company of our size – towards our Global Social Engagement. We recognize that as individuals and as a company, with the opportunity to give back comes the responsibility to share our success and make a positive impact in the broader society.
There are so many challenges in the world that it can seem overwhelming to know where to begin to help. We knew in establishing our Global Social Engagement that we unfortunately could not be everywhere and support every worthy cause. In fact, if we spread ourselves too thin, then we would risk being less effective. We’re interested in real good, not just feel good. So instead of having a diluted and disperse grant-making program, we decided to focus on one major societal challenge and devote a wide range of resources towards addressing it. We believe in the potential of one: that one person can make a difference, one idea can lead to change, and taking a targeted approach on one issue can have a major impact.
The major focus of our Global Social Engagement is a partnership with the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV), a residential community for orphans in Rwanda, a response to the 1994 genocide there. As members of the global community we feel it is important to support a global cause, especially one that is a response to the failure of the global community to act 14 years ago. An ambitious project, the ASYV will not only “restore the rhythm of life” for orphans in Rwanda, but also serve as a model for holistically meeting the needs of traumatized youth across the developing world.
In future posts, I’ll write more about the depth of our unique partnership with the ASYV, as well as some of the other components to our social engagement. I also look forward to not only sharing my reactions to what I hear and learn at the conference, but also to great conversations on some of the larger issues affecting the philanthropic world.