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Tiny Spark

We investigate philanthropy, nonprofits and for-profit social good initiatives. In-depth interviews and shoe leather reporting from across the globe. Send us your tips. www.tinyspark.org
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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 15, 2016

Silicon Valley is celebrated as a bastion of innovation. But it now suffers from one of the greatest income gaps in the country. Nonprofits are struggling to meet the demands caused by rising inequality. We explore the disconnect between the immense wealth in the valley, and why so many residents and nonprofits remain cash-strapped and in need.

Nov 26, 2016

A new kind of cruise gives travelers the chance to experience the culture of the Dominican Republic while volunteering in activities like planting trees, building water filters and teaching English. We speak to travel agent Julie Schear, who says she gained a lot from the cruise but journalist Jacob Kushner discovers the volunteers were not helping locals as much as they had hoped.

Nov 1, 2016

Midnight Basketball was a popular program to get young men from high crime areas off the streets and into gyms. But did the program live up to its promise?  Author and sociologist Douglas Hartmann describes the underside of Midnight Basketball and what it says about race, criminal justice, and how it became a form of policing and containment for young African American men.

Oct 10, 2016

This month the charity GiveDirectly will start giving thousands of Kenyans about a month’s salary, every month, for a decade or more --- with no strings attached. GiveDirectly co-founder Paul Niehaus discusses the sustainability of this project, why he chooses to give cash to poor people abroad rather than in the US, and the role of humility in aid work.

Sep 27, 2016

One year after the Flint water crisis, we look at how philanthropy responded, how it can better serve its communities, and what it needs to know about Flint in the decades ahead. Isaiah Oliver of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint joins us.

Sep 9, 2016

In the early 2000s, prominent philanthropists saw a big problem in America: a broken school system. They set out to fix it by funding in a charter school movement on a massive  scale. Megan Tompkins-Stange has looked at the initiative and has uncovered myriad concerns and problems. She discusses this and her new book Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform and the Politics of Influence.

Aug 29, 2016

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is proposing free tuition at in-state public colleges and universities. But many of these schools already serve a number of wealthy students, and many low-income students of color attend small, private institutions that won't benefit from Clinton's plan. We explore the important role of private colleges in educating the nation's poor with Trinity Washington University president Patricia McGuire and former Vassar College president Catharine Hill.

Aug 16, 2016

Global health volunteering is a growing, multibillion dollar industry. But is it effective? “It seems like an awful lot of resources to invest in something for which there’s practically no evidence of its impact,” says Lehigh Professor Judith Lasker. She discusses her new book Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering.

Aug 5, 2016

An African-American leader of one of the nation’s largest foundations speaks about racial tensions, philanthropy’s diversity problem, and why these times require philanthropists to be courageous. We talk with W.K. Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron.

Jul 15, 2016

Is philanthropy doing enough to address racism and inequity in the U.S.? We speak to Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant. He’s among the few philanthropic leaders who has spoken up about the shooting deaths of two black men by white police and the sniper attacks of five Dallas police officers. He says it’s a problem that philanthropy shies away from these contentious issues. “Our silence is damning,” he tells us.

Jul 7, 2016

Criticism of wealthy donors who give to their alma maters instead of the poor; concerns about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s effort to get billionaires to donate more than half their wealth to charity. We speak to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s Aaron Dorfman.

Jun 21, 2016

NPR investigative correspondent Laura Sullivan discusses why aid organizations are not completely transparent about how they spend donor dollars. “I think that the numbers aren’t pretty, and I think they know that Americans would be frustrated by them,” she tells us. 

Jun 7, 2016

Alex Barnard spent eight years researching food waste, which included regular dives into dumpsters and foraging in trash bags of major retail chains across New York City. He chronicles his experience in the new book Freegans: Diving into the Wealth of Food Waste in America.

We talk to Barnard about why we throw out so much edible food, why food pantries are a poor solution for hungry families, and why nonprofits that distribute leftovers may actually be perpetuating food waste.

May 23, 2016

The first ever World Humanitarian Summit is underway, but one of the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations will not be there. Doctors Without Borders decided to pull out.  The organization acknowledged that the gathering has “never been more needed,” but also noted that shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue daily. They say the summit has become a “fig leaf of good intentions." We speak to Sandrine Tiller from Doctors Without Borders UK.

May 17, 2016

Rahama Wright was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali when she saw firsthand the challenges women faced, trying to take care of themselves and their children. So in her early twenties, she founded a company to empower women in West Africa who picked shea fruit for a living. A decade on, Shea Yeleen now employs hundreds of women in Ghana, and its products are sold in more than 100 Whole Foods stores. Wright speaks with Tiny Spark about her personal journey and why she believes giving Africans business opportunities is often a more effective way to help than traditional forms of aid.

Apr 21, 2016

Charline Burton and her baby hid in a bathroom for two hours as terrorists struck a beach resort in Ivory Coast. We speak to the Belgian national about her near-death experience, how she managed to keep her baby quiet, and why she plans to remain in West Africa, continuing her work against conflict and violent extremism.

Apr 5, 2016

We speak to Pablo Eisenberg, a long-time observer and outspoken critic of American philanthropy. “The same people get the benefits, the same people serve on boards, and the foundations have the same priorities they had a hundred years ago,” he says. In fact, Eisenberg makes the case that philanthropy is fueling, rather than alleviating, income inequality.

Mar 24, 2016

In the wake of this week’s terrorist bombings in Brussels and heated anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. presidential race, we read with interest Beenish Ahmed’s NPR essay, Learning — And Unlearning — To Be An 'Ambassador' For Islam. We invited Ahmed to speak more about her experience as a Muslim in America, trying to appear nonthreatening to an increasingly anxious American public.

Mar 15, 2016

When it comes to promises made by social movements, human rights scholar Rebecca Hamilton has heard it all. “Share this Facebook link and you can save the life of a child in Uganda. Wear this bracelet and you can bring peace to Darfur,” she recalls. “The problem is most of the time, it’s simply not true that doing a low-cost action can be very high value to somebody somewhere else.”

Mar 1, 2016

MacArthur “genius” award winner Corinne Dufka was a photojournalist for Reuters, covering armed conflicts in 17 nations. But inside a hotel room in Rwanda, she had an “epiphany” that compelled her to leave photojournalism at the height of her career. Dufka discusses what drives her to champion the rights of the marginalized, whether inside a psych ward in San Francisco, at a rain-soaked refugee crossing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or in a Bosnian battlefield, where Dufka herself was severely injured by a landmine. Dufka is now a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Feb 15, 2016
Foreign aid reached its highest point in 2014 but less has been going to the poorest nations. Development economist Owen Barder gives reasons for this trend and explains why he won’t sit on panels that exclude women.
Feb 2, 2016
It turns out that one of America's fiercest aid critics is just a soft-spoken guy from Ohio. "A lot of people start characterizing your work who really haven’t read you very closely, or even at all. And they paint you as more extreme than you really are. And I think that has happened to me," Bill Easterly tells us. (Photo Credit: Jerry Bauer)
Jan 28, 2016
Promo: Economist Bill Easterly talks about the challenges of doing good in repressive regimes.
Jan 12, 2016
Until recently, Ken Berger led the world’s largest charity evaluator. He found that money wasn't necessarily flowing to the best charities. “I don’t see a correlation between where the dollars are going and impact. The brand that is most well known wins." (Photo Credit: Brian Sims, Flickr)
Jan 5, 2016
Former CEO of nation's largest charity evaluator says few nonprofits know if they're having impact.
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