Paula Clapp


Seattle takes it personally – women and girls | 

Editor’s Note: I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in the journalistic pretense of objectivity today, which is why I am calling this post an analysis. It’s not really going to be very analytical, but that’s the word journalists use when they actually say what they think.

Yvonne Mutoni Musiime, Rwanda Girls Initiative
Yvonne Mutoni Musiime, Rwanda Girls Initiative


Here at Humanosphere, the world’s leading news resource for global health and the fight against poverty (okay, that’s not true), we frequently pretend to be objective.

Journalistic objectivity is, of course, more an ideal than a practice any individual can achieve in reality. But we do try to be fair and accurate and not engage in too much personal opinion. We strive to give people the whole picture, as we see it.

I don’t have the time and inclination for all that objectivity head-faking today.

I don’t have the time because of two powerful gatherings that took place in Seattle this week, one by Global Washington and the other by the Seattle International Foundation (or SIF, which I need to disclose is one of Humanosphere’s leading financial benefactors). Both of these yearly confabs truly exemplify what’s so special about the local humanitarian scene. And by happening on the same week every year (WTF?) they also annually consume what little free time I have for that week.

I also don’t have the inclination – to engage in the pretense of objectivivity, in case I lost you – because, well, we were all blubbering this morning over our breakfast. It’s hard to report objectively when you’ve got tears in your eyes.

So what was the blubber fest? It was SIF’s annual Women in the World breakfast.

Paula Clapp
Paula Clapp

“The voices of women are often ignored … or punished for speaking out,” said Paula Clapp, co-founder of SIF and one of the region’s leading philanthropists. Clapp has been devoted to empowering (and protecting) women for a long time, but she still choked up speaking this simple truth. So did many in the auditorium at the Four Seasons Hotel. But they were mostly women. I was a guy and damn if I was going to start crying. Continue reading

Thousand in Seattle support ‘controversial’ anti-poverty scheme | 

Nearly 1,000 gather for Global Partnerships annual luncheon

It didn’t used to be controversial.

But one way to say this is that nearly one thousand people turned out for a Seattle event Tuesday to celebrate and support an anti-poverty scheme that many experts in the aid and development community contend doesn’t work.

Microcredit loans.

Rick Beckett, CEO Global Partnerships

“We have something like $70 million in loans to 57 partners in 12 countries, serving about 2.2 million clients each of whom support on average a family of five people,” said Rick Beckett, president and CEO of Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based organization and one of the biggest practitioners of microfinance anywhere.

The organization, founded in 1994 by local philanthropists Bill and Paula Clapp and focused primarily on assisting the poor in Central America, held its annual fund-raising ‘Business of Hope’ luncheon yesterday. Nearly a thousand people were estimated to have attended. The organization raised $540,000 for microcredit last year and hoped to do better this year.

I asked Beckett how he has been able to dupe so many folks: Don’t all these people know that many experts in aid and development say microcredit loans don’t work to raise people out of poverty? That it’s a sham, and even an abuse?

“That’s sort of a leading question, isn’t it?” he laughed. 

The rise and fall of the public image of microfinance has been misleading at both ends of the spectrum, Beckett said. Continue reading

Seattle aid organization seeks to end the neglect of Central America | 

Flickr, szeke

A few decades ago, Seattle’s relationship with Central American nations like El Salvador, Nicaragua or Guatemala was perhaps most defined by this community serving as a haven for refugees in the nationwide sanctuary movement for people fleeing the violence of the civil wars.

On Tuesday, at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, I attended a meeting sponsored by the Seattle International Foundation (one of Humanosphere’s sponsors, I should note) called the Central America Donors Forum which illustrated how much things have changed — and how much still needs to change.

Like most such meetings, this one largely featured people standing up at the lectern talking about what they do. I would argue that you don’t really need a meeting for that. Just tell people to read your website mission statement.

But  further discussion at this all-day confab — which was aimed at creating new collaborations among attendees — did provide, for me anyway, a new insight:

Much of the aid and development community seems to ignore the needs of Latin America.

“There’s been real progress made in Central America, but we are now at a moment of significant urgency and crisis,” said Mauricio Vivero, executive director of the Seattle International Foundation (aka SIF). “For just one example, the rates of violence against women in Central America are higher than anywhere else in the world outside a war zone.”

Continue reading

A(nother) guy named Bill creating Seattle’s do-gooder community | 

Bill Clapp

Some of the most amazing people I know on this beat — covering Seattle’s role in global health and poverty reduction — are named Bill.

There’s Bill Gates, of course, his bold and insightful (and often funny) dad Bill Gates Sr., Bill Foege, the local doc who figured out how to beat smallpox, and then there’s Bill Clapp.

I can’t really quantify this, but I don’t think many would argue with me if I said that Bill Clapp has probably done more than any other single person (named Bill or not) over the years to try to promote the culture, the emerging community, of do-gooders in Seattle and throughout this region.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the 8,000-lb gorilla on the scene today, of course. The Gates Foundation and its primary mission of global health tend to dominate the do-gooder conversation and media coverage.

But Clapp and his wife Paula were active philanthropists fighting poverty years before Bill and Melinda Gates got into the act — and well before most of us were really paying that much attention.

Flickr, papalars

This is the second of three parts in a series looking at how Seattle’s burgeoning humanitarian “sector” is coalescing, coming together. As noted in the first post, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge right now, with hundreds of groups working on their own, often unaware of others with shared interests and missions.

Moving from this creative chaos to community has long been one of Clapp’s primary aims.

“I believe in synergy, the power of collaboration,” he said.

He and Paula have launched or helped launch several initiatives aimed at creating this kind of synergy — the Seattle International Foundation (subject of my first post), Global Washington and the Initiative for Global Development.

Arguably, all of them are different means to the same end — bringing people together to figure out how to make the world a better place. Continue reading