Tiny Spark

Tiny Spark

www.tinyspark.org
We investigate philanthropy, nonprofits and international aid.


For Volunteer Humanitarians, “Solidarity Is Not a Crime”
Jul 1 • 30 min
Appalling conditions in the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in France drew people from across Europe to help. A volunteer shares her experience and explains how rising anti-immigrant policies are turning ordinary citizens into humanitarians.
Baby Bonds: A ‘Birthright To Capital’
Jun 12 • 24 min
We explore ways to decrease wealth inequality in the US with economist Darrick Hamilton who proposes giving every newborn thousands of dollars in a ‘baby bond’ account which they can access when they turn 18.
A Plan To Reverse “Economic Apartheid” In The U.S.
May 29 • 25 min
As inequality grows, we look at look at ideas for narrowing the economic gap between the races, from reparations to raising the minimum wage.
On A Mission To Make White People Uncomfortable
May 9 • 21 min
Using fiery Instagram posts, and uncomfortable tweets, the social media campaign No White Saviors challenges white people to examine race, power, and their own roles when attempting to ‘help’ in communities and countries not their own. Its co-founders…
Orphanage Voluntourism – Trafficking on Good Intentions
Apr 22 • 29 min
Is it possible for charity to worsen the lives of those they purport to help? We investigate how a global surge in one form of “voluntourism” exploits vulnerable children and contributes to child trafficking
The Ethics of Nonprofit Storytelling: Survivor Porn and Parading Trauma
Apr 5 • 29 min
We explore nonprofits’ propensity to create “survivor porn” and the ways in which the sector trades in “parading trauma”.
How Philanthropy “Captures” Social Movements
Mar 22 • 36 min
Megan Ming Francis explains how philanthropists—even well-intentioned ones—can “capture” the social movements they fund and, in doing so, steer grassroots organizations and activists away from their original missions.
Could ‘Radical Tough Love’ Improve The Internet? These Women Think So
Mar 8 • 24 min
On International Women’s Day, we speak to the founders of #VisibleWikiWomen about their efforts to decolonize the Internet, and to “make all of the wonderful women in the world visible” on one of the world’s most popular websites: Wikipedia.
A Place Where You Can Speak Your Mind to That Foundation
Feb 21 • 27 min
The co-directors of GrantAdvisor, a Yelp-like site that rates the nation’s charitable foundations, describe how fears of retribution in the field inspired them to launch the platform, and why honest dialogue between nonprofits and foundations can help…
Nonprofit AF: Fragility, Frustration And Funding
Feb 7 • 37 min
Whether vocally critiquing the sector on his blog Nonprofit AF, or working to develop leaders of color at his nonprofit in Seattle, Vu Le’s frustrations fuel his drive to make the industry do better.
A Cost Of Med School Debt: Poor Patients, No Doctors
Jan 25 • 20 min
Hoping to diversify the next generation of doctors and deal with a drastic decrease in the number of primary care physicians in the US, New York University is now offering free tuition to its medical school students. But will it work? And is free tuition…
In Epidemics, Outbreak Culture Is As Toxic As Disease
Jan 10 • 37 min
In their new book, Outbreak Culture: The Ebola Crisis and the Next Epidemic, Dr. Pardis Sabeti and journalist Lara Salahi argue that epidemics don’t just spread deadly diseases, they can also breed a toxic culture among those who are helping.
Inequalities In Crowdfunding: An ‘American Struggle’
Dec 7, 2018 • 31 min
This Giving Season, we look at the growing phenomenon of online crowdfunding for medical bills. Who is winning on these platforms, and who is falling short? And what does the rise of sites like GoFundMe say about our fraying social safety net?
Hey America, Let’s Talk About What Divides Us
Nov 15, 2018 • 35 min
In the face of growing political polarization, spaces for thoughtful dialogue across ideologies have all but disappeared. Spaceship Media seeks to fill this void by bringing people together to talk about contentious issues. In this conversation, an NRA…
Is Big Philanthropy Destroying Democracy?
Nov 8, 2018 • 31 min
Stanford professor Rob Reich’s new book Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better investigates how charity can undermine democratic values, and explores the ways federal policies help to facilitate greater inequality.
‘Rage’ or Resolve? Women Are Giving More In 2018
Nov 1, 2018 • 24 min
Following the 2016 election, there was a spike in charitable giving, especially among female donors. We hear how women are wielding their financial and political muscle ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
What Can We Do About The White Savior Complex?
Oct 25, 2018 • 28 min
A viral video of an American missionary abusing local hotel staff in Uganda exposed the ongoing racism and colonialism that continues to infuse global aid and development. Through voices with deep experience in the sector, we hear how the white savior…
How Nonprofits Made The LGBT Movement Straight
Oct 11, 2018 • 32 min
In his new book, ‘Gay, Inc: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics,’ Myrl Beam argues that as many of the largest queer nonprofits have accepted millions from wealthy donors and foundations, the LGBT movement has become less radical.
Museums Must Open Doors To Today’s Realities
Oct 4, 2018 • 23 min
When the Brooklyn Museum hired a white woman as a curator for African Art, the institution was criticized for being ‘tone-deaf’. The backlash focused attention on a long-standing problem: the profound lack of diversity in America’s finest cultural…
Crisis in Home Health Care Will Soon Affect You
Sep 27, 2018 • 32 min
From rural Wisconsin to the urban Bronx, there’s a crisis in home healthcare. It may be one of America’s fastest growing industries, but there just aren’t enough workers to meet this demand. In sharing the daily lives of care workers and their clients,…
Winners Give More As America Loses Out
Sep 20, 2018 • 29 min
Global elites have been credited for using their power and privilege to ‘change the world’ whether through apps that purport to tackle poverty or by making large donations to charity. In his new book, Winners Take All, former New York Times correspondent…
Update: ‘Women Won’ Justice After Terrain Hotel Attack
Sep 18, 2018 • 29 min
In an updated podcast, Sabrina, an Italian aid worker, reacts to an historic verdict that just came out of South Sudan: ten soldiers sentenced to jail for their part in an attack on the Terrain Hotel. During the siege, aid workers were sexually assaulted,…
John Valverde: The CEO Of Second Chances
May 17, 2018 • 24 min
As the leader of a second chance program for young people, YouthBuild USA’s John Valverde describes what it means to live out his own second chance.
Charity Auctions: What’s In It For Artists?
Apr 27, 2018 • 16 min
Many artists are asked to donate their work to charity auctions. The nonprofit raises money for a good cause, the buyer gets a beautiful piece of work, but what does the artist gain?
The ‘Hypocrisy’ Still Hurts After UN Staffer’s Assault
Apr 4, 2018 • 21 min
Nearly a decade after being violently assaulted while working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Sri Lanka, Shannon Mouillesseaux has tough words for her former employer.
Should We Give Our Cash To The Homeless?
Dec 22, 2017 • 21 min
Want to give to the homeless this holiday season? Three insights into the benefits and the harm of giving money directly to people on the street.
Natural Disasters, Aid Groups, And Donor Questions
Oct 26, 2017 • 12 min
Nonprofits, tech companies and even NFL players have raised millions to help after recent natural disasters. But giving may be the easy part. Having an impact is harder.
Why Charity Is ‘No Solution’ In Unequal Times
Sep 13, 2017 • 25 min
In an increasingly unequal world, where money and power are closely linked, sociology professor Linsey McGoey says philanthropy is part of the problem.
Successful Social Change Takes Patience and Audacity
Sep 1, 2017 • 24 min
We discuss fifteen successful social change campaigns that have had major impact, from South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaign to the legislative success of marriage equality in the US. We learn what made them successful and why lasting social change…
In Global Migrant Crisis, When Are Smugglers ‘Saviors’?
Jul 8, 2017 • 19 min
Human smuggling has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. We explore the complex relationships between migrants, refugees, and the myriad players involved in smuggling them across borders.
‘Don’t Discount Kindness’ When Fighting Hate
Jun 26, 2017 • 26 min
There are over 900 hate groups operating across the US right now. Ryan Lenz monitors them, and former skinhead Angela King works to deradicalize those who want to leave them. They discuss their work and why they do it.
The ‘Perils’ Of Checking Your Privilege
Jun 9, 2017 • 20 min
As aware citizens, it might feel good to check our privilege and that of others, but writer Phoebe Maltz Bovy says that privilege awareness has its problems.
Why Big Philanthropy Needs Scrutiny Not Gratitude
May 25, 2017 • 21 min
Instead of feeling gratitude towards billionaire philanthropists, Stanford professor Rob Reich says we should scrutinize the power they wield.
After ‘Evil’ Experiment, Psychologist Inspires Heroes
May 9, 2017 • 15 min
Forty years after making his name with a famous psychological experiment about what makes good people do bad things, Philip Zimbardo has decided to flip the script. He tells us about his project that teaches people how to act heroically and describes…
The Rise of Philanthropy’s ‘Shadow Giving System’
Apr 18, 2017 • 28 min
We explore the growing influence that private donors are exerting in national and local politics and why the power the wealthy are wielding today is likely to intensify in the years ahead. An interview with David Callahan, author of The Givers:…
Forget Straight A’s, Connections Count At Top Colleges
Mar 28, 2017 • 27 min
At the nation’s top universities and colleges, children of privilege are taking spots away from straight A students without the same connections, and the problem is only getting worse.
An Idealist’s Guide to Avoiding Burnout
Mar 17, 2017 • 20 min
Whether you’re a professional aid worker or just an engaged citizen, doing good for others requires that you to take time to be good to yourself, too. We speak to a veteran aid worker along with the author of a new book, The Idealist’s Survival Kit.
Tech Resistance: Giving Voice To The ‘Silent Majority’
Mar 1, 2017 • 18 min
Some were surprised to see Silicon Valley tech workers protest Trump’s new immigration policies, but one civic tech leader tells us they are fighting for the fundamental values of openness and connection that made the internet itself great.
The Problems With Your Valentine’s Day Tip
Feb 12, 2017 • 18 min
When you’re eating out, tipping might seem like a good thing. But, on this Valentine’s Day, we explore the many problems that America’s tipping culture creates for restaurant workers.
Worked Up About Trump? Make Time For Art & Music
Feb 3, 2017 • 27 min
Maaza Mengiste came to the US as a child, after her family fled Ethiopia’s civil war. Even so, the New York based writer explains why she feels strongly about not calling herself a refugee, why activists need to take breaks from Twitter, and…
The Case Against Empathy
Jan 18, 2017 • 24 min
Do you think a little more empathy would help in our increasingly divided and unequal world? Not so, says Yale professor Paul Bloom. In his book ‘Against Empathy,’ he argues that empathy is short-sighted, prejudiced and often makes the world a…
Born to the One Percent, Dedicated to the 99
Jan 4, 2017 • 21 min
Chuck Collins inherited a half million dollar trust fund from his parents but decided to give it all away, allowing him to “unflinchingly look at the growing income and wealth inequalities that have opened up over the last 30 years.” This…
The Giving Code: Silicon Valley’s ‘Prosperity Paradox’
Dec 15, 2016 • 19 min
Silicon Valley is celebrated as a bastion of innovation. But it now suffers from one of the greatest income gaps in the country. Nonprofits are struggling to meet the demands caused by rising inequality. We explore the disconnect between the immense…
Sun, Sea And…Laying Cement? A New Type Of Cruise Tries To Do Good
Nov 26, 2016 • 20 min
A new kind of cruise gives travelers the chance to experience the culture of the Dominican Republic while volunteering in activities like planting trees, building water filters and teaching English. We speak to travel agent Julie Schear, who says she…
Midnight Basketball: A Popular Distraction to Real Problems
Nov 1, 2016 • 16 min
Midnight Basketball was a popular program to get young men from high crime areas off the streets and into gyms. But did the program live up to its promise? Author and sociologist Douglas Hartmann describes the underside of Midnight Basketball…
Forget “Teach A Man To Fish…” Just Give Him Cash
Oct 10, 2016 • 20 min
This month the charity GiveDirectly will start giving thousands of Kenyans about a month’s salary, every month, for a decade or more —- with no strings attached. GiveDirectly co-founder Paul Niehaus discusses the sustainability of this project, why…
One Year On, Water Crisis Stays Personal for Flint Foundation Leader
Sep 27, 2016 • 14 min
One year after the Flint water crisis, we look at how philanthropy responded, how it can better serve its communities, and what it needs to know about Flint in the decades ahead. Isaiah Oliver of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint joins us.
Power, Patronage and Problems: When Private Wealth Transforms Public Schools
Sep 9, 2016 • 15 min
In the early 2000s, prominent philanthropists saw a big problem in America: a broken school system. They set out to fix it by funding in a charter school movement on a massive scale. Megan Tompkins-Stange has looked at the initiative and has…
If Public Universities Offer Free Tuition, Who Will Be Left Behind?
Aug 29, 2016 • 15 min
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is proposing free tuition at in-state public colleges and universities. But many of these schools already serve a number of wealthy students, and many low-income students of color attend small, private…
Global Health Volunteering: Billions of Dollars, Few Rules
Aug 16, 2016 • 17 min
Global health volunteering is a growing, multibillion dollar industry. But is it effective? “It seems like an awful lot of resources to invest in something for which there’s practically no evidence of its impact,” says Lehigh Professor Judith…
To Advance Racial Justice, Philanthropists Will Need to be Courageous
Aug 5, 2016 • 20 min
An African-American leader of one of the nation’s largest foundations speaks about racial tensions, philanthropy’s diversity problem, and why these times require philanthropists to be courageous. We talk with W.K. Kellogg Foundation CEO La June…
Heinz Endowments Chief: Philanthropy Faces Critical Test on Racial Equity
Jul 15, 2016 • 14 min
Is philanthropy doing enough to address racism and inequity in the U.S.? We speak to Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant. He’s among the few philanthropic leaders who has spoken up about the shooting deaths of two black men by white police and…
Who Really Benefits When Billionaires Give Away their Wealth?
Jul 7, 2016 • 10 min
Criticism of wealthy donors who give to their alma maters instead of the poor; concerns about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s effort to get billionaires to donate more than half their wealth to charity. We speak to the National Committee for…
NPR Reporter Exposes Charity’s Failings
Jun 21, 2016 • 16 min
NPR investigative correspondent Laura Sullivan discusses why aid organizations are not completely transparent about how they spend donor dollars. “I think that the numbers aren’t pretty, and I think they know that Americans would be frustrated by…
What’s in the Dumpster? Exploring Food Waste and Hunger in America
Jun 7, 2016 • 14 min
Alex Barnard spent eight years researching food waste, which included regular dives into dumpsters and foraging in trash bags of major retail chains across New York City. He chronicles his experience in the new book Freegans: Diving into the Wealth of…
Doctors Without Borders Explains Decision to Pull Out of World Humanitarian Summit
May 23, 2016 • 12 min
The first ever World Humanitarian Summit is underway, but one of the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations will not be there. Doctors Without Borders decided to pull out. The organization acknowledged that the gathering has…
Why I Want to Take Over the World with Shea Butter
May 17, 2016 • 14 min
Rahama Wright was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali when she saw firsthand the challenges women faced, trying to take care of themselves and their children. So in her early twenties, she founded a company to empower women in West Africa who…
Mom Survives Terrorist Attack With Baby, Vows to Keep Fighting Violent Extremism
Apr 21, 2016 • 16 min
Charline Burton and her baby hid in a bathroom for two hours as terrorists struck a beach resort in Ivory Coast. We speak to the Belgian national about her near-death experience, how she managed to keep her baby quiet, and why she plans to remain in…
Is Philanthropy Fueling Wealth Inequality?
Apr 5, 2016 • 18 min
We speak to Pablo Eisenberg, a long-time observer and outspoken critic of American philanthropy. “The same people get the benefits, the same people serve on boards, and the foundations have the same priorities they had a hundred years…
Doing Good as Muslim American and Being Shut Down
Mar 24, 2016 • 16 min
In the wake of this week’s terrorist bombings in Brussels and heated anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. presidential race, we read with interest Beenish Ahmed’s NPR essay, Learning — And Unlearning — To Be An ‘Ambassador’ For…
In Solving Global Crises, How Useful Are Hashtags and Likes?
Mar 15, 2016 • 19 min
When it comes to promises made by social movements, human rights scholar Rebecca Hamilton has heard it all. “Share this Facebook link and you can save the life of a child in Uganda. Wear this bracelet and you can bring peace to Darfur,”…
From War Photographer to War Crimes Investigator
Mar 1, 2016 • 21 min
MacArthur “genius” award winner Corinne Dufka was a photojournalist for Reuters, covering armed conflicts in 17 nations. But inside a hotel room in Rwanda, she had an “epiphany” that compelled her to leave photojournalism at…
There’s More Aid than Ever, So Why are Poorest Nations Getting Less?
Feb 15, 2016 • 12 min
Foreign aid reached its highest point in 2014 but…
Ardent Aid Critic Says He’s Misunderstood
Feb 2, 2016 • 12 min
It turns out that one of America’s fiercest aid c…
Promo: Doing Good in Repressive Regimes
Jan 28, 2016 • 1 min
Promo: Economist Bill Easterly talks about the ch…
Occupy Charity: Big Money in Few Hands
Jan 12, 2016 • 10 min
Until recently, Ken Berger led the world’s larges…
Promo: Charities Must Measure What Matters Most
Jan 5, 2016 • 1 min
Former CEO of nation’s largest charity evaluator …
Why are Billions of Charitable Dollars Sitting in the Bank?
Dec 21, 2015 • 11 min
U.S. laws allow billions of dollars in charitable…
Promo: Why are Billions of Donor Dollars Sitting in the Bank?
Dec 16, 2015 • 1 min
Next time on Tiny Spark: The case for releasing b…
Part Three: Is This Charity Any Good?
Dec 7, 2015 • 11 min
In the final segment of Tiny Spark’s Guide to Goo…
Tools for Good Giving
Dec 1, 2015 • 14 min
How do you vet solicitors calling on behalf of bi…
Is it Better to Give Locally or Globally?
Nov 23, 2015 • 13 min
We explore effective altruism, which urges donors…
The Great Surge in Developing Nations No One is Talking About
Nov 12, 2015 • 10 min
Think people in developing nations are worse off …
Good Deeds in Cold Blood: Extreme Altruists
Oct 16, 2015 • 17 min
Would you consider giving most of your money to c…
Quick Update for our listeners
Oct 7, 2015 • 1 min
Quick update to let you know what we’re up to.
When a School Markets Students as Charity Cases
Sep 16, 2015 • 17 min
Anthropologist Amy Brown gives a behind-the-scene…
Promo: Public School Teachers Get Cozy with Donors
Sep 2, 2015 • 1 min
Author and anthropologist Amy Brown goes inside a…
No Tech Solutions for Poverty, says former Microsoft Researcher
Aug 13, 2015 • 8 min
A Yale and Harvard-trained computer scientist wor…
Curing Violence Like an Infectious Disease
Jul 30, 2015 • 12 min
American communities are still reeling and healin…
Building a Self-Reliant Africa from the Bottom-Up
Jul 9, 2015 • 12 min
Ugandan-born writer and entrepreneur TMS Ruge cha…
Your Letters: ‘Cultural Imperialism,’ Aid Work Advice
Jul 7, 2015 • 2 min
We hear your advice on a moral dilemma involving …
How Much is a Celebrity Worth? Nonprofits Pay For Star Power
Jun 29, 2015 • 19 min
Politico reporter Ken Vogel discovered that the C…
Your Letters: An Ethical Dilemma and Business vs Philanthropy
Jun 16, 2015 • 3 min
A listener poses a moral dilemma regarding aid wo…
Does $400M Gift to Harvard Support a Worthy Cause?
Jun 11, 2015 • 17 min
Billionaire John Paulson recently gave $400 milli…
Effort to Chart Global Deaths Draws Backlash
Jun 3, 2015 • 24 min
How do you figure out exactly what people suffer …
Tracking the Aid Money: Mission Impossible
May 22, 2015 • 20 min
Billions of aid dollars were devoted to reconstru…
A Global Detour Before College
May 13, 2015 • 18 min
Graduation season is here, but not all high schoo…
Promo: A Global Detour Before College
May 6, 2015 • 1 min
Abby Falik says high school graduates should imme…
Not If, When: Planning for the Next Nepal
Apr 30, 2015 • 16 min
Nepal continues to mourn the thousands who died a…
Promo: Preventing Disasters
Apr 29, 2015 • 1 min
Seismologist Brian Tucker says we need to do more…
Promo: Philanthropy & The Business Mindset
Apr 22, 2015 • 1 min
The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Phil Buch…
Why Philanthropy Should Push Back Against the Business Mindset
Apr 22, 2015 • 15 min
“Folks sometimes forget that philanthropy is addr…
Spring Cleaning? Before You Donate It…
Apr 1, 2015 • 14 min
A small percentage of the second-hand clothes we …
Journalist Questions Her Paycheck After Aid Scandal
Mar 10, 2015 • 17 min
Emily Troutman photographs and writes about peopl…
Charities: Flattering Results, Poor Data
Feb 23, 2015 • 13 min
Nonprofit advisor Caroline Fiennes has a lot to s…
HIV Disclosure: Privacy, Pressure and Public Health
Feb 5, 2015 • 18 min
Adia Benton spent two years looking at HIV suppor…
Teaching the Next Generation of Global Innovators
Jan 20, 2015 • 15 min
Carrboro High School in Carrboro North Carolina i…
Ebola: One Doctor in a Firefight
Jan 6, 2015 • 8 min
“It’s confounding for doctors, for me, when you s…
The Bright Continent: Rethinking Modern Africa
Dec 3, 2014 • 16 min
Dayo Olopade discusses her new book The Bright Co…
Promo: The Bright Continent
Nov 20, 2014 • 1 min
Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade discuss…
Essmart: Helping The Poor and Charging a Fee
Nov 6, 2014 • 9 min
Diana Jue and Jackie Stenson wanted to figure out…
Lessons from an Expat Aid Worker
Aug 22, 2014 • 32 min
A veteran humanitarian aid worker offers candid i…
Promo: Lessons from an Aid Worker
Aug 6, 2014 • 1 min
Promo: Lessons from an Aid Worker by Tiny Spark
Slingshot Documentary - An Inventor Doing Good
Jul 18, 2014 • 9 min
I recently watched a new documentary about invent…
The Case for Evidence-Based Aid
May 28, 2014 • 13 min
We speak to Dean Karlan, Yale economist and co-au…
What Works? The Case for Evidence Based Aid
May 23, 2014 • 1 min
What Works? The Case for Evidence Based Aid by Ti…
The Soccket: A Follow-Up Investigation
Apr 8, 2014 • 9 min
The Soccket: A Follow-Up Investigation by Tiny Sp…
Should Impoverished Volunteers Be Paid?
Jan 27, 2014 • 9 min
This story was originally broadcast on PRI’s The …
Tracking One Man’s Quest to End Extreme Poverty
Sep 18, 2013 • 28 min
Vanity Fair contributing editor, Nina Munk, decid…
Promo - One Man’s “Quest to End Poverty”
Sep 17, 2013 • 1 min
Here’s what’s up next on Tiny Spark.
Bed Nets & Malaria: Following Up on A Promising Idea
Aug 15, 2013 • 14 min
Here’s the first installment in a new series I’m …
Promo: TOMS Shoes
Jan 25, 2013 • 0 min
Promo of Tiny Spark’s story on TOMS Shoes and whe…
In Praise of Lost Causes
Oct 29, 2012 • 14 min
In this holiday edition of Tiny Spark, we explore…
International Adoption - A Complicated Quest to Do Good
Oct 29, 2012 • 19 min
Jennifer Hemsley and her husband wanted to adopt …
Medical Volunteers In Crisis Zones - Doing Good or Doing Harm?
Oct 10, 2012 • 22 min
In our latest episode, Tiny Spark takes a look at…
TOMS Shoes - Is it Good Aid?
Aug 19, 2012 • 19 min
TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie, says there are mill…
Promo: Medical Volunteers
Aug 14, 2012 • 1 min
When an earthquake struck Haiti, medical voluntee…