WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 25-July 1, 2012)

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Church and School Cuts Anger Catholics in Philadelphia.” By Erik Eckholm. New York Times. June 24, 2012. For the unsettled Roman Catholics in this 1.5 million-member archdiocese, the closing is one more blow in sweeping and bitterly contested cutbacks. Across the city, thousands are already incensed because church leaders have closed 27 cherished schools. Even as it struggles with the revelations of sexual abuse and the failure of top officials to act, the Philadelphia Archdiocese, long considered an eminent stronghold of Catholic power and tradition, is being battered from several sides. Faced with an unheard-of $17 million deficit this year — worsened by millions of dollars in legal fees — Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who arrived in September, announced last week that he was closing the youth office, shutting down the nationally known monthly newspaper and laying off 45 archdiocese employees. He has put the archbishop’s 13,000-square-foot mansion up for sale. It was the threat of school closings, not the evidence that church officials failed to protect children, that brought hundreds of livid parents into the streets this year. Philadelphia’s elaborate network of parishes and parochial schools was developed more than a century ago, after the settlement of European ethnic groups that have long since dispersed. For too long, officials here avoided making unpopular decisions, said Rocco Palmo, an expert on the Catholic Church and writer of the blog Whispers in the Loggia. Parishioners were never told that the church was sinking in the red, Mr. Palmo added, and this year’s announced cuts, which will be far from the last, took many by surprise.
Related stories:
Arlington lawsuit says priest sexually assaulted woman during ‘exorcisms’.” Washington Post. June 27, 2012.
Priest assault trial resumes with abuse allegation.” Washington Post/Associated Press. June 28, 2012.

DEVELOPMENT

Rio+20: Transforming Political Platitudes into Economic Realities.” By Thalif Deen Republish. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). June 12, 2012. When world leaders endorse the final plan of action, titled “The Future We Want, at the Rio+20 summit in Brazil next week, a lingering question may remain unanswered: how best can the United Nations transform political platitudes into economic realities? As the 193-member Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) continues its final round of negotiations through Friday in Rio de Janeiro this week – and perhaps beyond, if the current deadlock continues – there are several proposals already on the table for institutional reform or the creation of new bodies. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has called for a show of “political courage” to seize the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity presented by Rio+20. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine These proposals include strengthening of the existing U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) by upgrading it to a full-fledged U.N. agency; establishing a Global Economic Coordination Council; creating a Global Sustainable Development Council and the granddaddy of all, the establishment of a mega World Environment Organisation (WEO).
Related story:
How Would You Measure Success at the Rio Summit?” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). June 27, 2012.

INDIA

Yale University offers programme for India’s Parliamentarians.” By Yogita Rao. Times of India. June 30, 2012. The fragile global economy, the evolving political and economic crises in the Middle East and Europe, and the 2012 US presidential elections, along with the challenges of leadership, were discussed in the Sixth India – Yale Parliamentary Leadership Program that began on June 20 and will conclude on June 30. The programme was launched in 2007 in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the India -US Forum of Parliamentarians. Till now, more than seventy members of India’s parliament have participated in the programme. The 2012 cohort of 11 members of India’s parliament came to the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut on June 20 to complete a six-day leadership program with Yale faculty that is now being be complemented by a four-day program of meetings, discussions, and interactions in Washington, DC with senior officials of the US government. The 2012 participants are drawn from seven different national and regional political parties in India. In the academic program, the delegation participated in discussions with Yale faculty on global economic governance, the US economy, corruption in government, counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan, political developments in the Arab world, the US Presidential elections, the economic and political crises in the Eurozone, Iran’s nuclear program, political and economic developments in China, and higher education in India, along with sessions on leadership, strategy, negotiation, and applied game theory.

MEDIA

IPS Announces WebTV.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). June 26th, 2012. After nearly 50 years as an international wire service, the Rome-based Inter Press Service (IPS) is branching out into WebTV, keeping pace with the latest advances in digital technology. Leveraging its current resources, the new WebTV will draw on more than 400 journalists in 140 countries, many of them with substantial expertise already in the visual media, according to IPS Director-General Mario Lubetkin. The IPS network of journalists, mostly from or based in the global South, will bring a new visual dimension to reporting on issues relating primarily to development, rights, energy, food, civil society, gender empowerment, the environment – and the growing emergence of the South on the multicultural world stage. The formal announcement, presided over by the President of the U.N. General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, took place on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro. The formal announcement, presided over by the President of the U.N. General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, took place on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro. “I am confident that the IPS WebTV that we are launching today would contribute in a meaningful way towards advancing our continuing efforts for global solidarity and cooperation to a higher and more mutually beneficial level,” Al-Nasser said. “As a media institution primarily focusing on development issues and providing a perspective of the South, (IPS) is making a major contribution towards presenting a balanced view with diversity of perspectives and highlighting the needs of the most vulnerable in the global agenda.”

RUSSIA

Russians Join Israel to Start Jewish Prize of $1 Million.” By David M. Herszenhorn. New York Times. June 26, 2012. A charity founded by Russian Jewish billionaires is establishing a $1 million annual award for excellence in virtually any field, to honor those people who attribute their success to Jewish values. The prize will be administered in partnership with the Israeli government, highlighting the strong ties between Israel and Russia. The award, called the Genesis Prize, will be financed by an endowment of about $50 million set up by three of Russia’s so-called oligarchs: Mikhail M. Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan, among others. Its creation was announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was wrapping up a 24-hour visit, though Mr. Putin did not attend the announcement event. The award is among a widening number of accolades that come with a seven-figure purse, including the Nobel Prizes; the Templeton Prize, for contributions to religion and spiritual life; and the Shaw Prizes, for astronomy, medicine and mathematics. But the new prize also sends an inevitable political message, which its originators say is unintended. Emphasizing Russia’s good rapport with Israel and Cyprus, which also has a large Russian-speaking diaspora, has become increasingly important to the Kremlin, given its eroding influence elsewhere in the Middle East. That sway is likely to diminish even further should the government of President Bashar al-Assad fall in Syria.

SPAIN

Spanish culture industry becomes bank collapse casualty; Arts badly hit by demise of traditional savings banks which have been the main sponsors of culture in Spain.” By Stephen Burgen. Guardian. June 29, 2012. Amid all the talk of bailouts and sovereign debt, less attention has been paid to another victim of the financial crisis – the arts. The Spanish culture industry has been hit by a double whammy: the public spending cuts that began in 2010 and the collapse of the savings banks that have been a main source of funding. These banks, known as cajas, grew out of montes de piedad – which were basically pawn shops – in the 19th century as an encouragement to the poor to save. They became something akin to friendly societies and were technically not for profit, and so had no shareholders. As they grew, they channelled their surplus into foundations that spent it on la obra social – anything from old people’s homes and drug rehabilitation centres to opera houses and art galleries. To put this in perspective, the obra social budget of the Catalan Fundacío la Caixa for the current year is €500m (£403m). “The savings banks have been the main sponsors of culture, even more than government,” says David Camps, head of communications at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, who also co-founded the Spanish fundraising association. Spain has many layers of national, regional and city government, each of which until recently had a generous budget for cultural activities. On top of that, virtually every cultural event – from exhibitions to rock festivals to village fiestas – would carry the logo of the local caja that was sponsoring it. Nearly all the cajas have succumbed to debt or corruption claims and, furthermore, have become banks. “Now that they have changed from being savings banks to banks all this funding is going to disappear,” says Camps. “Now they are not mutual societies and they have no obligation to fund the obra social.” Ironically, the funding shortfall comes at a time when there are more and more Spaniards who are unemployed and have more free time for venues such as galleries and concerts. Large cultural institutions will have to rely more on sponsorship, while smaller ones will have to develop new ideas such as crowdsourcing. Camps is involved in a campaign to persuade the government to improve tax incentives for corporate cultural sponsors, which at present can only write off 35% against donations. “We don’t have the culture of philanthropy that you have in the UK and the US,” he says. “We did up until early into the 20th century but not now. The upper class here hang on to their money, they don’t donate to social projects or the arts.”

UK

How can charities measure changing attitudes? Organisations aiming to change attitudes need some way of gathering evidence of what they are achieving.” By Loic Menzies. Guardian. June 22, 2012. Measuring social impact is one of the top priorities for third sector organisations and a tough funding environment is pushing them to ever greater lengths to gather data. Some organisations, however, want to achieve social change by altering people’s attitudes. How can these organisations measure such nebulous outcomes and link them to activities as intangible as going for coffee with key stakeholders? One response is to study changes in attitudes across society as a whole. Since that is where impact should make itself felt, there is a lot to be said for such an approach. As Adam Nichols points out however, such substantial social research can have prohibitive costs for small organisations and few can expect to have a substantial or broad enough impact to show up in large social studies. Small organisations’ roles are more likely to involve contributing to a debate and incrementally building momentum for change. Moreover, as with all impact measurement, changes in attitude need to be attributable to the organisations’ intervention. In social accounting this is called “accounting for dead-weight loss” (what would have happened anyway). Given that assessing impact involves so many difficulties it is not surprising many organisations feel unable to rise to the challenge. Yet without undertaking impact assessment, organisations aiming to change attitudes may not have any evidence that they are achieving anything. Key steps in measuring attitudinal change: • Specifically define the elements of the attitude you are seeking to foster; • Decide how to identify change (longitudinal studies, existing large-scale social studies or identification by stakeholders themselves); • Decide how to provide for attribution (primary or secondary research that tracks attitudes in society as a whole, information about other providers’ work, attribution by stakeholders themselves); • Gather information about both outputs and outcomes and link them.

Your charity online: what do your supporters want? Unleash your charity’s digital potential by looking beyond the website to your users’ needs.” By Katie Smith. Guardian. June 27, 2012. Online giving accounts for just 3.7% of charity donations, according to the 2011 nfpSynergy report Passion, Persistence and Partnership. So it’s not surprising that the blogosphere is awash with opinion and advice on what charities should be doing to transform online fundraising. Everything from better use of mobile and social media, to a call to make online giving more fun, there is no end of helpful diagnoses on the whys and wherefores.

Charities are providing drugs and alcohol services in place of the NHS; Experts accuse the coalition of putting ‘vital’ NHS programmes at risk by transferring drugs provision to charities.” By Mary O’Hara. Guardian. June 26, 2012. Just two months after the coalition’s drugs policies came under fire from campaigners who accused the government of putting lives at risk by promoting total abstinence to deal with addiction, a fresh row has erupted over the transfer of longstanding drugs and alcohol services from the NHS to the voluntary sector. Substance misuse experts and trade unions are accusing the government of failing to stem a “rapid” and damaging loss of established NHS treatment programmes as charities increasingly win contracts for services put out to tender by local authorities. The problem is so serious, according to Clare Gerada, head of the Royal College of General Practitioners, that “vital” NHS provision could be “extinct” within a few years. “I think we are taking services backward,” Gerada says. “It’s a full-on uni-directional shift from the NHS to the voluntary sector, and the pace is accelerating.” The furore around which organisations are best placed to provide addiction treatment and recovery services was thrust into the spotlight earlier this month following protests from unions when two NHS drugs services in the north of England lost out to charities in a recent tendering process. Public services union Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) criticised the decisions to withdraw contracts from existing treatment programmes, claiming the contracts were awarded to charities to cut costs, and arguing that local NHS staff and service users would be adversely affected by the disruption. A total of six centres across Manchester, including a needle exchange that has been treating users for decades on the largest housing estate in England, are being closed as part of the overhaul.

What next, George? Charities understand that giving is a social phenomenon, but public policy needs to reflect this further.” By Kimberley Scharf. Guardian. June 26, 2012. All of the brouhaha about the proposed cap on tax relief for charitable contributions is over, government’s hands are washed of the proposal and they would like us to forget they ever mentioned it. But what now? The sector and government are rumbling about reforming current tax reliefs offered to charity. But is that really all there is to it? Is there something else that we should discuss with respect to charities and public policies? Maybe we should think in new directions to keep up with the fast changes that we see in the way information flows in a world that is more connected than ever?

Live Q&A: Encourging charitable giving, Wednesday 11 July.” By David Mills. Guardian. June 29, 2012. Join our expert panel to discuss how to encourage charitable giving. Photograph: Alamy Britain is a generous nation, giving more than £11 billion a year to charity. But in recent years, charitable giving has flatlined; a recent survey found that more than a third of people in the UK are giving less to charity than they did before the recession. Encouraging more charitable giving is a key aim of government, charities and those who provide and manage opportunities to donate. In this live Q&A, sponsored by JustTextGiving by Vodafone in association with the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, we’ll discuss how we can work together to increase giving. Drawing on the experience and knowledge of our expert panel, we’ll discuss: • How charities can use new technology to encourage donations; • How fundraising tools should evolve to make giving easier and more compelling; • How charities can help bridge the gap between what audiences expect from them and the services they deliver; • What can charities learn from one another and how they can share best practice. You can leave your views and questions in the comments section below, or come back to join the discussion live from 12pm to 2pm on Wednesday 11 July.

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