Scott’s support emphasizes women’s empowerment in India, Africa and elsewhere. Photo: Ashish_wassup6730/shutterstock
Scott’s support emphasizes women’s empowerment in India, Africa and elsewhere. Photo: Ashish_wassup6730/shutterstock

In her last tranche of giving, MacKenzie Scott underscored an intent to lift the voices of community-based teams that are working to break down the walls of inequity. While those walls certainly exist in wealthy countries like the United States, the pandemic has underscored the arbitrary nature of the lines that divide nations and the universal effects of inequity around the globe.

How, then, does her giving reflect that?

Scott’s global giving has been inconsistent, at first relatively light and then falling to essentially nothing in her December grants, which focused on COVID relief in the United States. But it really took hold in this latest round. While exact numbers are anyone’s guess, the investments shine a light on the teams of nearly 40 organizations and the special struggles of women and girls in the Global South.

First moves

Back in July 2020, when MacKenzie Scott made her first moves, $130 million—or about 7.6% of the initial $1.7 billion she invested—fell under the heading of “global development.” Funding largely landed in Africa, and centered on helping marginalized Africans achieve independence and self-sufficiency.

Two gifts empowered women and girls through education: one to Educate Girls in rural India and another to CAMFED in Africa. Like many recipients, CAMFED called the gift “transformational,” and said the support would tip the scales for gender equality on the continent, allowing it to educate 5 million more girls.

Grants to break the poverty trap included support for BRAC’s time-bound self-sufficiency initiatives, and for the One Acre Fund, a farmer-first initiative that connects smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi with financing and training. Scott also invested in personal empowerment through GiveDirectly’s Africa Response, which puts quick cash in the hands of those living in extreme poverty in Kenya, Rwanda, Liberia and Malawi.

On the healthcare front, Scott supported The End Fund, which works to temper neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that impact more than 1.7 billion of the world’s most impoverished people. A billion of those impacted are children; 40% are concentrated in Africa.

She also supported systems change through Co-Impact, a nonprofit model that helps leaders in the Global South scale major governmental and market systems to promote equality and inclusion.

Other global investments intersected with issues like climate change. For example, Energy Foundation China focuses on clean energy, and European Climate Foundation centers European Union efforts toward meeting Paris Agreement objectives.

A return to global giving in 2021

In December, as the pandemic raged across North America, Scott funded 384 “ways to help.” This time, there were no broad categories signaling intent. Nor was there much in the way of international giving. Rather, Scott’s Medium post explained that $4.1 billion was staying stateside, with gifts to organizations “across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.”

Still, she acknowledged the good fortune of those who’d simply been born in the right place, writing, “It would be easy for all the people who drew the long demographic straws in this crisis to hole up at home feeling a mix of gratitude and guilt, and wait for it to be over.”

Halfway through the new year, in June 2021, Scott accompanied her third round of gifts with the intention to help the “over 700 million people” globally that still live in extreme poverty. To realize the benefits of on-the-ground insights and diverse engagement, Scott prioritized organizations with “local teams, leaders of color, and a specific focus on empowering women and girls.”

Organizations working in Africa and India garnered the highest number of investments, with a throughline of promoting social agency and personal independence.

Supporting Africa

In fewer than 15 years, nearly half the world’s population will be African, and the continent will have both the largest and youngest workforce on the planet. Scott’s investments will help them skate to the puck, while addressing more immediate health and education needs.

The first Africa-based partner listed alphabetically is the NGO Adeso, a humanitarian and development organization that advocates for systems change and runs regional programming for economic development, education and social and environmental protection. It also runs a Seeds of Progress program that helps smallholder farmers in East Africa improve their yields, with the goal of producing enough surplus to secure an income.

Scott also doubled down on support for GiveDirectly’s Africa response, which gives recipients quick cash and the social agency to prioritize their own needs.

A number of Scott grantees build human capacity and capital. The Africa Leadership Group specializes in talent development, with a focus on creating the continent’s future leaders. And Afrika Tikkun, an aid organization founded by the chief rabbi of South Africa, supports young people through a “cradle to career” model.

Scott also supported Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots movement founded by soccer star Kennedy Odede. Odede grew up in one of the biggest urban slums in Africa and founded an organization designed to “turn poverty to promise” by pulling three levers: healthcare, livelihoods and access to clean water.

The BOMA Project, named after livestock enclosures used in East Africa, received a gift of $10 million. It helps women there start new livestock businesses and support their families.

In the crucial area of public health, Scott’s moves on the continent prioritize both women and community-based solutions. For instance, Muso, which is spearheading a community-led healthcare model, has a team composed of 80% women. And mothers2mothers (m2m), employs mothers to act as agents of good health in their homes and communities.

Additional health grants include support for Amref Health Africa, which has a 60-year history of improving health outcomes, and The Lwala Community Alliance, which was founded by Kenyans and matches community innovations with research to catalyze improved care.

Support for the Sanku Project For Healthy Children will stem malnutrition—the leading cause of death for children under five. To do that, the Sanku Project applies a business and technology lens to solving problems like small and large-scale food fortification.

Scott has lots of company working in Africa, including the ELMA Group of Philanthropies, which currently focuses its giving there. The Mastercard Foundation, which recently committed $1.3 billion to respond to Africa’s pandemic, has been funding in Africa for more than a decade, and currently works in 29 countries across the continent. The Rockefeller Foundation has been active on the continent since 1966, and directs nearly a third of its resources there. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made its first grant in Ethiopia more than two decades ago, and has since put the continent at the center of both its $1.7 billion global pandemic defense, and its work supporting women and girls.

Supporting India

Similar health concerns are widespread in India, which recently struggled against a second wave of COVID-19 and is now bracing for a potential third. MacKenzie Scott joins other funders working in-country to meet acute needs and provide for sustained improved care.

Scott’s healthcare grantees in India include Piramal Swasthya, which created a healthcare ecosystem that brings innovations to scale. The organization supports the U.N.’s bid for universal health coverage in India—part of a national rural health mission to help the nation’s most vulnerable.

Another grantee, the Antara Foundation, is currently in the midst of the COVID fight in the state of Madhya Pradesh, home to over 72 million people. In better times, Antara delivers both supply and demand-side healthcare services, and builds collaborative relationships with the government and other partners.

ACT Grants is also putting everything it has into fighting the pandemic at present, but usually acts as an agent of social change by supporting women, the environment and education.

Scott also supported Mumbai-based SNEHA (the Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action), which is trying to break the generational cycle of poor health for women and girls using three primary tactics: evidence-based interventions, scaled partnerships and long-term sustainability.

In addition to her health grantees in India, Scott is addressing the complexities of systemic poverty in the country through organizations like Ubuntu Pathways.

Grantees supporting economic independence include the popular donation platform GiveIndia as well as GOONJ, which empowers marginalized Indians to “evolve their own solutions,” placing a high value on the potential of both local resources and the “traditional wisdom of people.”

PRADAN encourages well-educated professionals to help transform the lives of the poor in their communities. Work is grounded in the ideas of compassion and empathy; PRADAN takes its name from the “spirit of giving back to society.” Since 1987, it has successfully run a rural livelihood mission, linked markets, developed food security programming and addressed social mobilization.

About 75% of the world’s billion poorest people live in rural areas. Digital Green programming helps smallholder farmers in rural parts of India and Ethiopia by harnessing technology and grassroots partnerships. Women comprise 90% of the farmers it supports in India. The organization reported receiving an unrestricted gift of $15 million from Scott, giving it the “opportunity to amplify the voices of small-scale farmers around the world.”

Two Scott grants in India focus on finance. One is to KIVA, a microlending platform operating in India as well as other parts of the world. The second, to Mann Deshi Foundation, focuses on women’s empowerment in rural India by linking female entrepreneurs to traditional banking services and skills opportunities.

An entrepreneur collective, The/Nudge Foundation, organizes in-country change-makers to tackle India’s most intractable problems and lift the lives of 364 million who live in poverty.

Scott also gave several grants to protect India’s women and children and aid in their development.

Jans Sahas, which translates to “people’s courage,” has been working for two decades in more than 14,000 Indian villages, and urban areas across nine states, to prevent sexual violence against women and children, ensure safe migration and protect workers.

Magic Bus takes Indian children on a ride from “childhood to livelihood,” acquiring quality life skills education along the way. Listed among the top fiv NPOs in India, the organization has impacted the lives of 1 million children in the two decades it’s been in operation.

Another grantee, Dream a Dream, also focuses on life skills and career connections for youth. To date, it has reached 1 million children through strategic governmental partnerships in places like Delhi and Telangana.

Global literacy and girls’ education got a boost via Room to Read, which has helped more than 23 million children learn to read and write, particularly in areas of Africa and India. The organization says that 750 million people throughout the world are illiterate. Two-thirds of those are women and girls.

Supporting women

Besides her grantmaking to help women in India and Africa, Scott also zeroed in on supportive programs elsewhere.

For example, she funded the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, or AWID, a global feminist membership movement that promotes gender justice and “women’s human rights” worldwide. All told, its work has spanned 19 countries.

In Syria, Scott funded Junsor, an international NGO that invests in the country’s youth through educational and entrepreneurial programs. Junsor’s website characterized Scott’s gift as the single largest in its history.

In Mexico, Fondo Semillas received a check from Scott. An NPO focused on improving Mexican women’s lives, the organization has a 28-year track record of helping nearly 780,000 women make their own decisions, find work, and access justice and healthcare. Tonia Turner, Fondo Semillas’ executive director, said the whole grant process was “magically mysterious” and included a two-hour phone interview and a thorough review of financials.

Another grantee promoting girls’ independence was Girls First Fund, a community-based organization that works to end child marriage. Programs support the 1 in 3 girls who are married before age 18 in the developing world. Applications are accepted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, the Dominican Republic, Nepal, Niger and Uganda.

Scott also zeroed in on policy with support for Rise Up, which enables women and girls to transform their lives and communities through movement-building. Since 2009, its network of more than 600 leaders has successfully advocated for 120 new and improved laws and policies impacting 135 million people in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the United States.

Supporting the disenfranchised

Scott also moved to support disenfranchised groups of people throughout the globe in different ways.

Her first move to support refugees was through Maryland-based HAIS, which works to protect refugees around the world and help them find new lives—including those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Support for LGBTQ+ rights emerged in another grant to OutRight Action International, which has advanced the rights and dignity of its global community for 30 years. From its New York headquarters, the team works in the four regions where it feels it can make the biggest difference: the Global South, Asia and the Pacific Islands; Latin America and the Caribbean; North Africa and the Middle East; and sub-Saharan Africa.

Scott also backed justice and legal empowerment for marginalized people through the global grassroots legal empowerment network Namati, which works directly in six countries, including South America, India and Africa. Note that OSF is currently matching every two dollars Namati receives with an additional dollar, potentially ballooning its impact.

Finally, Scott made two grants to level the global playing field through technology. A grant to TechSoup Global will help the organization develop a catalogue of tech support opportunities for the nonprofit sector. And support for the tech platform Ushahidi will help communities use data to help themselves. For example, Ushahidi helped raise the voices of Kenyans during the nation’s recent election process.

All told, Scott has boosted the work of more than 40 teams who are on the front lines of  breaking down systemic inequity around the world. Assuming an average investment of $10 million, that’s roughly $400 million. For context, that’s about half of what global giving leader Wellcome Trust invests in a year, and roughly half of what the Gates Foundation has committed in newly allocated funding to fight COVID.

As Scott’s giving evolves, look for her to become a bigger presence in this space, lifting the voices of organizations promoting personal independence and social agency for disempowered people around the world.

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