John Hecklinger: Empowering Organizations to Help Young People Realize Their Potential around the World
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the changemaking leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with John Hecklinger, the president and CEO of Global Fund for Children. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me today, John! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Global Fund for Children?
John: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Global Fund for Children (GFC) exists to support organizations working to help young people around the world. We raise funds, find amazing organizations, give them funding to use how they see fit, and help connect them with peers and experts to help them become more effective. These organizations are in many cases led by young people, and all of them are deeply rooted in the communities they serve. They help young people directly, and they also work to change the systems that prevent young people from realizing their potential.
Spiffy: Wonderful! What motivates you to do it?
John: I'm motivated by the brilliant young people around the world who have amazing ideas to create change in their communities but don’t have the resources they need to see if those ideas will work. Making connections that help young people and organizations advance their ideas is why I do what I do.
Spiffy: How would you describe the impact of your work?
John: As a funder of organizations, we don't work directly with young people, except when young people lead those organizations. Our impact is generally at the organizational level. When we work with an organization, we help them evaluate their own capacity and where they want to focus their efforts to become more effective. We track organizational changes over time, and we get feedback from those organizations to ensure that they feel our relationship is helpful to them.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent initiative by GFC. What impact does that make?
John: We recently launched what we call The Spark Fund. It's a grantmaking program that we facilitate, but young people design the program, set the priorities, and make decisions. We've done rounds of this participatory grantmaking program in four regions of the world, and we've confirmed by running a parallel round with GFC staff that young people make very different decisions than we do. I'm proud that we've been able to recruit 40 youth leaders representing 13 countries who have awarded $546,000 to 56 youth-led and youth-focused groups so far. We're looking forward to launching a global Spark Fund round focused on climate justice.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
John: Global Fund for Children has always operated in a way that's different from traditional ways resources flow. Most of the time, funders of all types have an idea and look for grantees to carry out a plan. We do just the opposite. We look for organizations that have a clear vision, and we provide the resources to advance that vision. We just help a little along the way.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, John—it’s been an honor!
John Hecklinger is the president and CEO of Global Fund for Children. He drives social change by helping effective community-led organizations around the world connect with the resources they need to empower children and youth to reach their full potential. He is an expert in social innovation and grassroots investment and is a passionate advocate for trust-based philanthropy. John also has extensive knowledge about how the nonprofit sector operates. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 1, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.