John Hecklinger: Empowering organizations to help young people realize their potential around the world


Ladder works is a publishing platform for various picture books and online programs whose mission is to empower more than one million children to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features our interplanetary journalist Spiffy’s interviews with inspiring social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders advancing the UN SDGs.

Owl here! I’m back with the scoop on Planet Earth’s Change Leaders. As the only interplanetary reporter stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with John Hecklinger, President and CEO of Global Children’s Fund. Let’s see what he does to make a positive impact in the world.

Nice : Thanks for joining me today, John! Tell me, what challenge are you taking up through the Global Children’s Fund?

John: Thanks for inviting me, Spiffy! The Global Fund for Children (GFC) exists to support organizations working to help young people around the world. We fundraise, find amazing organizations, give them funds to use as they see fit, and help them connect with peers and experts to help them become more effective. These organizations are often youth-led and all are deeply rooted in the communities they serve. They directly help young people and also work to change the systems that prevent young people from reaching their potential.

Nice : Tremendous! What motivates you to do it?

John: I’m driven by bright young people around the world who have incredible ideas for creating 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 move their ideas forward is why I do what I do.

Nice : How would you describe the impact of your work?

John: As funders of organizations, we do not work directly with young people, except when young people run these organizations. Our impact is generally at the organizational level. When we work with an organization, we help them assess their own capacity and where they want to focus their efforts to become more effective. We track organizational changes over time and receive feedback from these organizations to ensure they find our relationship useful to them.

Nice : Tell me about a recent GFC initiative. What impact does it have?

John: We recently launched what we call the Spark Fund. It’s a grant program that we facilitate, but it’s the young people who design the program, set the priorities and make the decisions. We have toured this participatory grant-making program in four regions of the world, and confirmed by organizing a parallel tour with GFC staff that young people make very different decisions than we do. I am proud that we were able to recruit 40 young leaders representing 13 countries who have so far awarded $546,000 to 56 youth-led and youth-focused groups. We look forward to launching a global round of the Spark Fund focused on climate justice.

Nice : Is there anything else you would like to tell our audience?

John: The Global Children’s Fund has always operated differently from traditional resource flows. Most of the time funders of all types have an idea and are looking for grantees to carry out a plan. We do the exact opposite. We look for organizations that have a clear vision and we provide the resources to drive that vision forward. We just help a little along the way.

Nice : Thank you for speaking with me today, John, it was an honor!

John Hecklinger is the President and CEO of Global Children’s Fund. He drives social change by helping effective community organizations around the world connect to the resources they need to empower children and young people to reach their full potential. He is an expert in social innovation and local investment and is a strong advocate for trust-based philanthropy. John also has in-depth knowledge of how the not-for-profit sector works. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 1, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy artwork by Shreyas Navarre. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help children in kindergarten to grade 3 advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy’s Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and Their Caregivers here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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