September 2016
Progress Newsletter
PVF and the Global Refugee Crisis
by: James Higa, Executive Director

This past week, the White House  announced commitments from numerous US companies to a call to action to engage in the global refugee crisis.  There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, and more than 21 million of these people have crossed international borders in search of safety.  PVF is gratified to have helped in our 'little engine that could' way.  For us, it began with a meeting with our U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, to consider how to better bring in Silicon Valley companies to join this effort.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, and PVF's Executive Director, James Higa, 
at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

In the PVF spirit of being a radical collaborator, we aided Airbnb's connection to the White House to develop a program that enables existing Airbnb hosts to accommodate refugee families when long term housing isn't immediately available, and to allow hosts and guests to raise funds for the UNHCR.  We also introduced a trailblazing YCombinator company building the world's first cross-border credit reporting agency to help provide a quick path to finance for immigrant families.  Nova Credit has pledged to develop data partnerships with countries that have a high refugee population here in the US.

And when one dot connects, other dots begin to connect.  We had three friends in our PVF network point out three organizations we should talk to.  Techfugees had come onto our radar for the inventive and admirable work they were doing in Europe to organize conferences, workshops, hackathons and meetups around the world in an effort to generate tech solutions that can help refugees. Techfugees wanted to expand its program to the US and PVF was delighted to receive the call to help.  In our inimitable quick turnaround way, we established their US designated fund to get their program on its way with a minimum of fuss and delay.

"There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, and more than 21 million of these people have crossed international borders in search of safety." 

We were also made aware of new ideas brewing at the International Rescue Committee (IRC)'s chapter in Oakland.  We decided to visit right away and Karen Ferguson, their Executive Director, spoke about an inspiring program in Jordan called Vision Not Victim. Through this program, young girls are given the skills and support they need to build a better future for themselves through the power of photography and visioning.  Karen dreams of bringing the program to serve refugees who are resettling in Oakland.  We responded with a 48 hour turn around grant to help make this possible.

This connection led to a visit to 1951 Coffee Company which was started by alums of the IRC.  At Regeneration Church in Oakland we discovered a cozy and welcoming coffee cafe. The name '1951' comes from the spirt of the 1951 Refugee Convention.  Their work is to provide job training and employment to refugees and asylees while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues.  They are getting ready to expand their good workto a new location in Berkeley.  This too was another connection and another grant.

Doug Hewitt, co-founder of 1951 Coffee Company

Individually, these actions may seem small, but collectively, as the dots connect and the circle of collaboration grows, the cumulative impact also increases.  It is through this type of getting out there activism, immediate response, and betting on people that PVF hopes to make a dent in our world.
Food Alone Won't Solve Hunger: A Visit with Food Shift

by: Bill Somerville, Founder

I recently ventured over to an old naval air base on the island of Alameda to learn more about  Food Shift. I met with Dana Frasz, Food Shift's Founder and Director, as well as with Doug Biggs, the Executive Director of the Alameda Point Collaborative. The  Alameda Kitchen is a program of Food Shift that recycles unused but perfectly good food, provides job training for people with barriers to employment, hosts community meals at APC, and aims to be self-sustaining by selling their soup and other nutritious food products.
In order for Food Shift to sustain and grow their kitchen they have to generate revenue. That is why they are launching  Soup-rise Pop-ups and looking to connect with large events, venues, and offices who want Food Shift to provide their delicious soups and sides.

About the Editors

James Higa
James Higa, Executive Director, brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts. 
Bill Somerville, Founder, has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as President. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker. 
About PVF

PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.