The Mighty Five: March.


A cross-sector curation of the month’s best social impact listens & reads

Toxic air pollution – which affects a staggering 98% of children under age five in the developing world – blankets the cold capital city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. IMAGE CREDIT: Reuters / B. Rentsendorj

Toxic air pollution – which affects a staggering 98% of children under age five in the developing world – blankets the cold capital city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. IMAGE CREDIT: Reuters / B. Rentsendorj


We read and listen to a lot around here. Articles, journals, case studies, podcasts – anything that provides nuggets of insight to fuel our mission and work. And we distill them down to our very top five in a regular monthly roundup. We hope you gain as much from reading it as we do from curating it.


Disparity in the air we breathe.

AP | 4min

Environmental issues are human rights issues, especially when evidence shows the poor and vulnerable are most affected by pollution and climate change. As we enter another month of 150+ on the AQI scale here in Kampala, we were gripped by newly published research showing air pollution is the cause of 8.8M early deaths worldwide. This is double previous estimates and has surpassed tobacco deaths. In the U.S., blacks and Hispanics breathe more pollution than they make. Children under five are extra vulnerable, with a staggering 98% of them in the developing world exposed to unsafe levels of air contamination.


We’ve got a long way to go, baby.

Devex | 13min

International Women’s Day 2019 was hard to miss, thanks to brand marketers worldwide claiming it as a platform and Instagram celebs using it as an excuse to post photos of their #girlsquad. Amid the noise, some important conversations surfaced pointing out gender disparity in our own (social justice) backyard. Like the fact that women make up more than 70% of the global health workforce yet hold only 25% of its leadership positions. Or how women-founded firms receive less than 2% of venture capital. We know data sets are sexist. And at the current pace of change, it will take another century to close the gender gap. Our day of celebration is appreciated, and maybe we’ve come a long way. But actual equality would feel a lot better.


Take the plank out of your own eye.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy | 8min

This op ed piqued our interest by highlighting the ‘unintentional promotion’ of racism within the nonprofit community. So we started looking around, curious to dissect the gender representation and racial diversity of foundation leadership – knowing funders have the unique ability at the top of the food chain to set the trend for the sector at large. We found this study from a few years back, then created a further breakdown ourselves using the top five private U.S. foundations listed by the Foundation Center as a sample set (excluding the tight-lipped Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation). Our findings were surprising. Not a single woman of color on the leadership team of two of the top five. And 51% of the 74 individuals are white men – a 65% percent overrepresentation based on the U.S. population. As Michelle Obama put it, those working for nonprofits often have their virtue discreetly underwritten by privilege. But for foundations – with ample access to resources that can ensure proper representation – ‘unintentional promotion’ is hardly accurate.


Crisis in your morning cup.

TIME | 8min

This statement might feel like a theoretical example of The Butterfly Effect: your morning coffee is contributing to the increase of migrants leaving their homes in Central America. But it’s the truth. There’s a direct link between the price paid for that latte and hundreds of thousands of people in coffee growing communities being unable to make a living growing one of the world’s most popular beverages. Even while the global coffee market is worth over $100 billion, the price of coffee beans dropped to under $1 per pound on the commodities market. Meaning farmers earn less than a cent per cup. Groups like the Specialty Coffee Association have launched initiatives to address this crisis, and growers around the world are warning about a “social catastrophe.”


What K-Swiss can teach the social sector.

Entrepreneur | 10min

Picture this: you’re a new CEO tasked with making a 50-year-old shoe brand relevant again. You have to battle behemoths like Nike and Adidas and do your best to carve out space in an infinitely crowded sneaker market. Or not. Instead, you pivot, using a positioning strategy that pulls you away from your competitive set and puts you in a (more) open field. You become the shoe for entrepreneurs and craft an entire content and engagement strategy around the modern hustle, with Gary Vaynerchuk as a spokesperson. It’s a lesson even for the social sector, particularly organizations competing for limited funding or nonprofits trying to make a compelling case to donors. In another example of savvy (albeit questionable) positioning, chocolate milk has become the new recovery drink for athletes. If they can do this, we’re confident there’s a positioning strategy waiting to be uncovered for almost any social sector brand.

Sign up to receive The Mighty Five in your inbox each month.