Focusing on charity’s outcomes and educating girls will help to effect positive change in the world, University Trustee andformer New York Times editor Sheryl WuDunn GS ’88 andNew York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said at a panel discussion on Monday.
The panel washeld to discuss Kristof and WuDunn’s book, “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity,” which focuses on problems faced by women and girls around the world and what can be done to expand their opportunities.
Though some aspects of giving and charity are done well globally, there are also a number of things the charitable world does not do well, WuDunn said.
“We believe that the charitable world is in need of a revolution,” WuDunn said.
There is a need for an increasing focus on outcomes, she said, noting the new trend toward so-called effective altruism.
The story of a nonprofit executive, Dan Pallotta, whose foundation raised around $72 million for breast cancer and AIDS relief in 2002 but was taken over by the Avon Products Foundation after criticism surrounding the level of the executive’s compensation, was an example of having the right intentions but leading to an ineffective outcome, WuDunn said. Contributions the next year totaled only around $11 million.
The story of Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old girl who began a fund for clean drinking water internationally through charitywater.org, was also significant, WuDunn said. She originally set a goal of $300, but once she was involved in a severe car crash, her fund raised thousands of dollars. When Rachel died, WuDunn explained, fundraising for the cause increased exponentially, eventually totaling $1.2 million, which broke the website’s record for fundraising. The money was used to give more than 30,000 people access to clean drinking water, she said.
“In Rachel’s life there was an abundance of purpose and meaning,” WuDunn said. “I hope all of you will have an abundance of purpose and meaning as well.”
Giving back is seen through a much broader lens than in previous times in that now it incorporates volunteering or things that can be incorporated into daily life rather than solely monetary donations, Kristof said.
Many of the circumstances in today’s society, particularly in the United States, are far less cost-effective than they could be, he said. Thirty percent of American girls become pregnant by age 19, and though American and European teenagers are equally sexually active, American girls are three times more likely to become pregnant, he said.
Europeans also have more comprehensive sexual education, something that is cost-effective, he added.
“Every dollar invested in these programs for at risk teenage girls saves about five other dollars, yet we tend not to invest in that,” Kristof said.
Increased education and women’s empowerment do have a real impact, partially due to demographic circumstances, he said. A high number of youths in a population correlates very strongly to instability in that society and is also tied to the gender gap, he explained.
“How do you reduce the youth bulge in the population 50 years from now?" Kristof said. "You educate girls today."
Statistically, educating boys in today’s society will have a moderate impact on the number of children he will be expected to have, he said, but educating a girl will create a huge impact. This is an enormous advantage, because education is extremely effective, he explained.
Kristof gave the example of education as a contrast to deploying soldiers in a war, saying that education is far more cost-effective and productive than the latter situation.
“For the cost of deploying one US soldier abroad for one year, you can start ... 20 schools and fund them for 3 years,” Kristof said. “That’s the tradeoff I think we tend to miss.”
The view that problems need be solved domestically before looking at international issues is also flawed, he said, because even though there are real needs and injustices in the United States as well as abroad, they should not be pitted against each other. Society has the resources to address issues both at home and abroad, and so there should not be a conflict, he said.
“At the end of the day, our compassion, our empathy, shouldn’t depend on the color of somebody’s skin or the color of their passport,” Kristof said.
The panel took place at 4:30 p.m. at Dodds Auditorium in Robertson Hall.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled Nicholas Kristof's last name in the headline. The 'Prince' regrets the error.