A recent article in Fast Company, a New Economy business journal, examines some of the recent projects and initiatives launched by the Markle Foundation under the leadership of its president, Zoe Baird, to more effectively utilize the Internet and interactive technologies to improve people's lives.
To guide its work, the New York City-based foundation has identified four areas of need: interactive media for children; technologies for better health; policies for a networked society; and public engagements through interactive technologies.
One such successful effort is the work of grant recipient Paul Meyer, who was planning to join a law firm upon graduation from Yale Law School but decided, after reading an article about African refugee camps, to put his skills to use helping refugees. With a grant from Markle, Meyer traveled to Guinea and helped the International Rescue Committee develop a database program to help refugee parents locate their missing children. Meyer also developed a database of Kosovar refugees and has worked with the Internet Projekti Kosova, a nonprofit organization that supplies Internet access to almost two dozen cafes and organizations in Kosovo.
On the business and technology side of the equation, the foundation recently helped Allen Hammond, senior scientist and chief information officer at the D.C.-based World Resources Institute , to put together a conference focused on the use of technology-based solutions to further sustainable development projects around the world. Called "Creating Digital Dividends", the conference attracted the likes of Bill Gates, Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, and Hewlett Packard's Carly Fiorina.
Alice Cahn, a managing director at the foundation, heads Markle's Interactive Media for Children program. Cahn, who previously worked at PBS as the director of children's programming, is currently working on a Web site that will aggregate the limited research available on the impact of media on children and enable groups to communicate with each other about the topic. Cahn is also planning a round of grants to support the development of new programs and interactive toys that stimulate children's imagination and sense of wonder.
"For the first time in my career," Cahn told Fast Company, "I'm able to give people money instead of asking for money. And I'm recognizing that we need to be thinking as an industry in an entirely new way. This is an opportunity to avoid repeating the mistakes we made in children's television."