SUPPORTING WORK THAT TARGETS VITAL HUMAN NEEDS
While economic development in countries such as China and India has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the past few decades, extreme poverty remains a persistent challenge in many parts of the globe. Extreme poverty—defined as the condition of subsisting on $1.90 or less per day—afflicts nearly 10 percent of the world’s population. Most people in this group reside in Sub-Saharan Africa or in parts of Asia. As of 2015, for example, about one in three people in Sub-Saharan Africa were living in extreme poverty. In addition, more than three-quarters of the world’s extreme poor live and work in rural areas. When it comes to helping these populations, the most widely adopted approaches to reducing poverty often fall short of achieving significant impact. At King Philanthropies, we see great value in finding and funding proven but under-leveraged methods for improving the lives and the prospects of the world’s poorest people.
In 2016, the King Philanthropies team undertook a rigorous strategic planning process in which we analyzed a host of possible interventions for reducing extreme poverty. We conducted an extensive fact-based analysis that evaluated each intervention according to important criteria such as the extent of unmet needs, the potential for impact, cost-effectiveness, tractability, and neglect by other donors. This process led us to create King Essentials.
Reducing malnutrition and improving rural livelihoods
Finding and funding proven interventions
Through King Essentials, we award funding to proven interventions that address fundamental human needs—interventions that strike at the roots of extreme poverty by giving people access to the essential elements of life. From early childhood nutrition to land rights, from basic education to skills and assets that help build livelihoods, these essential elements are the building blocks of efforts that have been shown to achieve significant results. King Essentials aims to support such efforts in ways that will bring about systemic, long-term change.
The strategy behind King Essentials reflects a commitment to supporting exceptional leaders and high-performance organizations. Our understanding of what sets such leaders and organizations apart from others draws on the analysis presented in the book Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, by Kim Starkey Jonker (president and CEO of King Philanthropies) and William F. Meehan III (independent board member and special advisor to King Philanthropies). In the book, Jonker and Meehan demonstrate the crucial importance of practicing what they call “strategic leadership”—a model that encompasses seven essential elements that effective nonprofits are able to pursue at a high level. By directing resources to organizations that adhere to these “essentials of strategic leadership,” we maximize the probability that our investment will yield enduring impact.
With the King Essentials initiative, we follow a carefully developed model for selecting award recipients and for structuring our support for them. We begin with a rigorous due diligence process that focuses on investigating philanthropic investment opportunities within a single country. By coordinating a set of awards to several organizations for work in a single country, we are able to target multiple segments of that country’s economic value chain. We can thus increase the likelihood that efforts by awardees will be complementary rather than competitive, and we can open up opportunities for meaningful collaboration among awardees. Equally important, we provide substantial largely unrestricted support that typically extends over multiple years. In this way, we enable awardees to generate results that are durable and scalable.
King Essentials places particular emphasis on interventions that reduce malnutrition and food insecurity—particularly among women and young children in rural areas—or that improve conditions for those who depend on rural livelihoods.
Malnutrition is pervasive in areas of the world with high rates of extreme poverty. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alone, more than 500 million people suffer from undernourishment. Worldwide, moreover, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of five. Yet malnutrition is not just an effect of poverty; it is also a significant and often unrecognized cause of poverty. By stunting physical and mental growth, malnutrition can trap people in a cycle of illness, low productivity, and diminished economic prospects. As a result, they may fail to reach their full potential, and that pattern can persist for generations.
Reducing malnutrition brings a wide range of benefits—including improvements in school attainment, health, and income—that enable people both to escape poverty and to break the cycle that keeps them and their children from escaping that plight. In particular, interventions that reach children within the first 1,000 days of life can prevent or mitigate the long-term effects of chronic malnutrition. Efforts to improve the nutritional status of mothers and children during this critical developmental period can therefore achieve significant impact.
Despite the extent and the severity of nutrition-related problems, efforts to counter malnutrition remain a relatively neglected area of focus within the global funding community. Today, such efforts receive less than 1 percent of global foreign aid.
Addressing challenges related to agriculture and rural livelihoods is another important lever for reducing extreme poverty. More than three-quarters of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas, and nearly two-thirds of them earn a living from agriculture. For people in this category, opportunities to increase incomes often involve shifting from subsistence farming to a model that allows farmers to sell surplus and processed crops. To make that shift, farmers need certain essential resources—secure rights to the land that they farm, for example, or tools that will help them boost agricultural productivity. Improving rural livelihoods can have an powerful effect not just on farmers but on entire communities: Research shows that growth in the agriculture sector is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the extreme poor than growth in other sectors.
Today, through King Essentials, we are identifying and supporting high-performance organizations with a track record of implementing proven interventions that either improve the nutritional status of targeted populations or enhance the economic and quality-of-life prospects of targeted rural communities.