Gena Rotstein's blog

Quarterly Notes from the Tech Team: Spring 2015

It has been busy here at Dexterity Ventures Inc. (DVI) over the second quarter of 2015. Here is a quick snapshot of what the Tech Team has been working on:

Version 2.0: In May we released Version 2.0 of our GIVE_api, which provides access to the data that DVI has gathered on 1.6+ million charities across North America. The XML/JSON web service gives developers the ability to quickly add philanthropy into a web or mobile based application. Developers were also able to use the GIVE_api at The Change Tank, a social good idea and pitch event that took place May 22-24, 2015.

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Charities and the Internet of Things

I attended a workshop hosted by Debian IT the other day and one of the topics was on the Internet of Things, and how this industry is shaping the way that small businesses operate, specifically with regards to consumer behaviour.  This got me thinking as to how wearables and smart technology will be influencing the way that we engage with the charities that we support AND how charities will adopt some of the technologies into their daily operations.

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I am Not a Feminist but...

Two days ago I was sitting down with some of the leadership of the Canadian Women’s Foundation with a client discussing what it means to be a feminist today.  I don’t consider myself one, but I definitely wouldn’t be heading up a company if it wasn’t for the work that the women did before me.


Here is what one of the ladies from CWF sent me after our discussion.  She took this photo at one of the recipient charities that CWF supports:

Tonight Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO is speaking in Calgary at the Memorial Park Library.  Here is a successful woman entrepreneur, angel investor and author who is challenging women to think differently about what the word feminism means.

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In Memorium - Founder of the Milestones Project, Richard Steckel

I recently learned that a friend and mentor passed away.  Dr. Richard Steckel challenged me to think bigger and not limit what I could accomplish simply because the current market trends and community pressures said that it was impossible.

Richard was a visionary. From his work at the Children's Museum in Denver, CO to the creation of the Milestones Project, he will forever be remembered as a thought leader in the social enterprise world.  

If you were in Calgary five years ago, you might have had the opportunity to experience his photo exhibit in Gallery 213 or in the years that followed, posted in the arrivals level of the Calgary International Airport.  His photography has stood the test of time and depicts the true spirit of humanity from around the world.

Donations in Richard's memory are being directed to his organization, the Milestones Project, via  Place2Give for Canadian donors.

Give-A-Mile Impact Update

Give a MileFor the past six months or so Place2Give has been supporting Give A Mile by connecting donors to flights so that families can be reunited in a time of crisis.  In an our ongoing commitment to report on what happens as a result of the generosity of our clients here is an update from GAM Founder, Kevin Crowe.

Our impact to date =  

112 Flights given to people for visits of support.
22 International in nature 
4,352,280 miles used

That is 112 people distressed and worried.  People unable to get to their loved ones, people who went from moments of despair and anxiety to moments of love and support.  You have done all of it out of the goodness and compassion of your hearts.  How many sleepless nights have you removed?  How many last fond memories have you given that will allow healing and people to move forward?   How many times has a loved one who was alone and afraid been comforted by the love that may have not been there but for the work and effort you have put in to make a flight happen. 

How to put it in to words ….. a hand reaching out to hold that of a loved one whose time is running out….  In the words of a flight recipient...

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Community Foundations & Philanthropy Advisors

The philanthropy advising space is getting crowded.  Community Foundations are experiencing first hand the shift in the market as more institutions establish Donor Advised Funds (DAF), and more private family and multi-family offices engage philanthropy advisors to work on the social capital questions with their clients.

What role do independent philanthropy advisors play in the community foundation context?  We support community foundations in the areas of research and leveraging relationships with other donors to drive greater impact.

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The Answer to Complex Problems... Simplicity

We have tasked the charitable sector with the mandate to solve complex problems.  Social problems like poverty; health problems like childhood obesity; future problems such as educating the next generation.  As funders we then fall into the trap of requiring large reporting mechanisms and "proof."  These processes draw down on resources and are sometimes in conflict with what our perception of the value of spending funds on the overhead required to meet these reporting requirements.

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Family Dynasties and Social Change - In Response to the Economist April 18, 2015

In the April 18th, 2015 edition of The Economist the opening editorial about leadership ended with the statement, “Family power, like any other sort, needs watching over.  If it cannot be contested, it should not be welcome.”

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What Impact Will You Make in Your Lifetime?

“In order to make good decisions, you need to understand the geography of our time.” Commander Chris Hadfield

Understanding the geography of our time is as much about being able to see the world as if through a window at the International Space Station, as it is about knowing who and what is operating in our immediate field of vision. 

I recently attended the Community Foundations of Canada conference in Calgary.  There were so many take-aways from this experience, but the one thing that resonated the most was the presentation by Commander Chris Hadfield when he asked, “What is the one thing that will have the longest lasting impact?”  He went on to share what he felt was his greatest impact… Here’s a man who has lived in space, commanded a space station, took over 45,000 pictures of our planet and the universe that surrounds it and do you know what he said was his GREATEST LIFE’S IMPACT?  Singing and playing guitar from the International Space Station as part of Music Monday – the Coalition for Music Education.    

Why is this so important? For two reasons:

1.       Because it is through art that we express ourselves across language barriers.

2.      The ability to have an event that spans across the universe shows people that having Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) is what drives the imagination and creates opportunity

So what is your legacy?  What is the most impactful thing you have done?

Nepal Earthquake and Charities to Support

Just as when the flood waters rose in Southern Alberta in 2013, we have pulled together a group of individuals who have experience working with organizations in Nepal to help direct funds to organizations operating on the ground addressing the earthquake disaster.  You can donate to this fund through P2G Nepal Relief Fund.

These organizations have a proven track record during a time of crisis and when going about their day-to-day operations.  I have identified the organizations and how the funds will be used over what period of time so that you know what to expect as a result of your donation.

As always, there is the Red Cross, however experience has shown that the funds raised by this organization tend to get pushed into the machine of the Red Cross so, while it is a steady organization, if you are wanting to see impact and have an emotional connection to how your funds were spent, there are other choices.

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