Donna Shalala, former HHS Secretary for Bill Clinton and President of the University of Miami is now the President of the Clinton Foundation. She sat down to speak with Devex.com about the Foundation.
Describing the past 18 months as “intense” and “challenging,” Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala was eager to reassure that the foundation is “alive and well and thriving” in a call with a small group of reporters on Friday. “Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated,” she said.
“What the president has outlined in his letter is obviously a re-energized Clinton Foundation and we think better focused and better positioned for the brave new world we’re going into. And that means this year we’ll build on what we know works and we’re going to try to scale up our existing programs and spin off a couple of the programs that have grown to maturity,” she said.
Shalala casts the foundation as an incubator, developing programs to a point of maturity where they have the staff, skills and funding to become their own entities. One example is The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, which is now large and mature enough, as well as financed sufficiently, to succeed on its own, Shalala said. The foundation has spun off programs before, most notably the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which works to tackle HIV/AIDS and provide anti-retroviral treatment.
While its main convening platform, the Clinton Global Initiative, has been dismantled, the foundation will continue to convene leaders from various sectors around specific issues. Last week, for example, the foundation hosted a meeting about water infrastructure issues, and it sees a need for more attention on the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Still, this doesn’t mean the foundation is shifting to become more domestic, Shalala said. The foundation will continue its work on climate issues with small island nations and support smallholder farmers through the Clinton Development Initiative. The foundation may look for future international opportunities as well, she said, though announcements on future programs are unlikely to come soon.
“It’s going to take a very careful look to make sure we can find a niche no one else is filling,” Shalala said. The foundation also wants to be nimble to respond, for example, to the next Ebola crisis and convene leaders to deliver solutions.
The Foundation is clearly in trouble as reports indicate that donations are down 90%. In an effort to save the Foundation, Shalala and Clinton are attempting to rebrand and find useful issues that they can advocate for.
The reality… the Clinton Foundation was a slush fund for foreign governments and lobbyists to pay for influence in what they believed was the upcoming United States Presidential Administration. No amount of rebranding or retooling will ever bring the Clinton Foundation back to where it was 12 months ago in terms of fundraising. There are other well established and honest foundations out there doing great work. Better to give them your money than a bunch of crooks.