New approaches to philanthropy

Akhtar BadshahBy Douglas Esser, photos by Marc Studer

For philanthropists hoping to change the world, giving a grant is great, but many are also looking at new approaches toward addressing poverty, climate change or human rights abuses, says Akhtar Badshah, a lecturer with the University of Washington Bothell's School of Business and former head of corporate philanthropy for Microsoft.

Badshah, above, a consultant with the Catalytic Innovators Group, is exploring all avenues to address pressing social issues, from setting up traditional foundations to giving cash directly to people to creating innovative social entrepreneurships.

Mary Kay GugertyBadshah invited others to explore this spectrum at the first Accelerating Social Transformation institute, hosted in early September by UW Bothell. The three-day program was co-sponsored by the UW Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, which was represented by Professor Mary Kay Gugerty, left, a specialist in nonprofit management.

Outside of classroom sessions, participants also spent time at places such as Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc., the Gates Foundation, Microsoft’s Envisioning Center and Global Good, a lab started by Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates to address problems through the power of invention.

About 30 people from around the world participated in the program and earned professional development certificates. The training was designed for midcareer professionals working in philanthropy, nonprofits, corporations and international development or educational organizations.

Eva Balan-VnukThe participant who traveled the farthest for the program was Eva Balan-Vnuk, left, a state director of Microsoft in Adelaide, Australia, and national skills program lead.

“The work that we have around economic empowerment in Australia is certainly around social transformation. We’re taking it with the lens of how can people be self-sufficient and develop skills so that they can be employable and have jobs,” Balan-Vnuk said.

The institute also offered insights in funding for social investments.

“Our world is shifting,” Badshah said. “Money is being made. People are getting rich, and many of them are willing to use their wealth to invest in this space.”

Badshah expects the institute to become a regular event that helps establish UW Bothell as a destination to learn about social transformation.