Monday, January 26, 2015

TEDx: 'Kat' Rosqueta on innovative philanthropy for as little as $5

Katherine “Kat” Rosqueta will speak at TedxPhiladelphia.
Katherine “Kat” Rosqueta will speak at TedxPhiladelphia.

TEDxPhiladelphia runs today at Temple University. A series of 20 speakers will address a sold-out crowd beginning at 9 a.m. at Temple’s Performing Art Center. Don’t have tickets? Join our viewing party at Philly.com’s headquarters in Center City. Register here or watch the livestream here.  .The conference theme is “The New Workshop of the World.” Here is one in a series of Q&As with scheduled speakers.

Katherina “Kat” Rosqueta wonders why Philadelphia’s role as an innovator in philanthropy is so little recognized given that the first hospital, first firehouse and first library were conceived and built here.

Add to that the fact that the city is home to several of the biggest philanthropic organizations in the nation: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation.

Rosqueta, founding executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy, wants to bring that innovation to the high impact philanthropy movement. The Philadelphia native Wharton grad, says philanthropy may seem to be dominated by billionaire benefactors and institutional players, but there’s a vital role to play for the less privileged.

Philly.com spoke with Rosqueta earlier this week about her upcoming Ted Talk at TEDxPhiladelphia and the role philanthropy might play in revitalizing Philadelphia as the “New Workshop of the World.” She also previously served as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. The interview has been edited for length.

Philly.com: Let’s start at the beginning. What is High impact philanthropy?

Rosqueta: High impact philanthropy asks and answers the question: How can I spend this money to do the most good?

Each of us has a philanthropic portfolio. Sometimes we give out of a sense of gratitude like when we donate to our alma mater, or to the hospital that took such great care of a sick relative. Sometimes we give out of a sense of obligation we feel as members of a particular community, or simply to support the efforts of a good friend.

High impact philanthropy is concerned with the part of your philanthropic portfolio where you are focused on social impact - making a meaningful improvement in the life of somebody else. Like improving education, or saving a child at-risk of malaria, or making sure disaster survivors can rebuild their lives. You don't need to be a millionaire to have high impact. If you just focus on how much someone gives, that's what I call high *input* philanthropy. High *impact* philanthropy is about how well, not how much you give.

How can regular Philadelphians participate in high impact philanthropy?

That’s one of the things I’m going to talk about. There are all sorts of ways people can help and make a meaningful difference. You don’t have to be a billionaire. You can start with as little as $5. I’ll share those ideas through my TED Talk. We have a tremendous amount of knowledge, and I mean ‘we’ collectively, that we can use now to target money in order to have the greatest effect, knowledge we didn’t have a few decades ago. So we can all practice high impact philanthropy.

What role do nonprofits and philanthropic organizations play in revitalizing the city?

The nonprofits in Philadelphia have always been key to the dynamism and the strength of our region. From the very beginning, we’ve had the first firehouse, the first public library and the first hospital. These are institutions that are the anchors of a strong civil society. Some of my fellow speakers will talk about the work their organizations do and the product of that work is what makes the city more and more vibrant.

How did you become involved with TEDxPhiladelphia?

About a year ago a student of mine asked if I had ever considered doing a TED Talk. Later, one of my colleagues -- and then a whole set of colleagues -- nominated me. I was incredibly honored, especially after being chosen and learning how many people (over 500) had been nominated.

What’s been the best part of the TED experience?

It’s a fantastic group. Each of us are committed to the work we do and really excited about the ideas we’re going to talk about. But there was something special about getting to know each other and feeling the collective excitement and commitment to the city.

Did you know any of the participants before being picked to speak?

I don’t think I’d met any of them before, which I think just goes to show the power of TED. The whole concept is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It’s through TED that I’ve been able to get to know them and understand their work.

Do you have a favorite TED Talk?

My all-time favorite is by a guy named Hans Rosling, a public health specialist and science statistician. I didn’t think of someone talking about statistics as someone I’d like to hear. But his excitement and passion (in “The Best Stats You’ve Never Seen”) comes through so well.

The best TED Talks take something we maybe know a little about and then turn around our assumptions. Gosling does that. It can be very easy to read the news about public health and what’s going on in Africa to get really depressed. What Gosling did was peel the layer of the onion down one extra level. It’s a convincing look that shows us what you’re seeing and hearing in the news is never really the full picture.

Another one, Dan Pallotta’s “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong” successfully debunked several myths about the non-profit and philanthropic sector.

And one more,”Your body language shapes who you are” by Ann Cuddy which is truly, an idea that everyone can use who’s about to present a TED talk!


Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com. Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

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