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VIDEO: Verna Eggleston Explains the Story behind our Women’s Economic Development Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa

As part of our work to provide vocational training to women in Sub-Saharan Africa to help them earn income and improve their lives, Bloomberg Philanthropies trains female farmers in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to harvest and export high quality coffee from crop to cup and shows them how to benefit directly from coffee sales. Verna Eggleston of Bloomberg Philanthropies tells the inspiring story of how and why we’re investing in women’s economic development in Africa and partners explain how coffee fits into the picture.

Why We Need to Raise Tobacco Taxes

By Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director, Prevention of non-communicable diseases, World Health Organization

For a long time, the tobacco industry has fiercely opposed levies on tobacco products and launched intense campaigns against efforts to raise tobacco taxes, making the fight to curb tobacco use challenging. The reality is that raising taxes on tobacco products is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use, generate revenue for health programs and most importantly, save lives. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) is putting tobacco taxes back on the agenda for World No Tobacco Day 2014.

5 Ways The Met is Using Technology

By Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Most people don’t associate museums with technology beyond audio guides – which were cutting-edge visitor experiences at one time – but that’s quickly changing. The Digital Engagement Initiative at Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting cultural institutions like the Met Museum to use all kinds of digital, mobile and social media to connect with our audiences and enhance their experiences.

At the Met, I have the privilege of working with a wonderful team of technologists and art experts on ways we can increase access to our collection for everyone including those who visit our galleries in New York to online art enthusiasts around the world. It’s a revolutionary moment for us as we explore new ways to engage our audience through technology – even the audio guide has evolved into a multimedia device – and with the advent of smartphones, we are ramping up our efforts to transform how visitors learn about and interact with art through a mobile experience.

Here are five examples – among many others – of technology in action at the Met:

Q&A with Esther Mukundane of Sustainable Harvest Rwanda: Creating opportunity for female coffee farmers in Rwanda

Sustainable Harvest is the pioneer of the Relationship Coffee Model, a system of sourcing that stresses quality, transparency, and sustainability throughout the supply chain. Through a three-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Sustainable Harvest recently launched a nonprofit entity, the Relationship Coffee Institute, which will create economic opportunities for women in the Rwandan coffee trade.

As part of the launch of the Relationship Coffee Institute, Sustainable Harvest held a regional version of its Let’s Talk Coffee event. Bringing together 80 female coffee farmers from rural areas, Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda offered trainings both on the entire coffee value chain and on mushroom and honey production. The event also brought together roasters, retailers, NGOs, and senior government officials to discuss challenges and strengthen opportunities for smallholder farmers to make connections in the value chain.

In this Q&A, Bloomberg Philanthropies asked Esther Mukundane, country director of Sustainable Harvest Rwanda, about her experience at Let’s Talk Coffee, what surprised her the most about the event, and how everyone can support the initiative:

Mike Bloomberg’s Annual Letter on Philanthropy

This year begins a new stage for Bloomberg Philanthropies – and for me personally. Over the past twenty years, I have grown increasingly active in philanthropy – and increasingly convinced of its power to save lives and change the world for the better. When I left City Hall on December 31, 2013, after having had the honor of serving New Yorkers for 12 years, I began having more time to spend on national and global issues. The same is true for Patti Harris, who served as my First Deputy Mayor and is also CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Now, both of us are excited by the opportunity to substantially expand the work of Bloomberg Philanthropies and our involvement in it.

Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated staff and our diverse and driven partners, Bloomberg Philanthropies has already established itself as a force for policy innovation and global collaboration. In fact, this month we were named the world’s second most innovative organization, behind only Google, by Fast Company. That honor is a reflection of groundbreaking work that is happening in each of our different program areas.

New U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco’s Harmful Effects Shows that Progress Is Possible, but More Work Remains

By Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health Team

Fifty years ago the U.S. Surgeon General released a landmark report that linked smoking to cancer and fundamentally changed public attitudes around tobacco. Since then, considerable progress has been made in the United States – smoking rates have been cut in half since the 1964 report was released. Strong policies have banned smoking from many public spaces and prohibit tobacco advertising in many media outlets. And taxes on cigarettes have been increased federally by many states and localities.

To commemorate the report’s anniversary, the U.S. Surgeon General released an updated report on the tobacco epidemic. The new study notes declines in U.S. smoking prevalence, and that’s good news, but the report also indicates that much more work is still needed to end the deadly tobacco epidemic.

A Record Setting Year for Clean Energy and Decline of U.S. Reliance on Coal

Reducing America’s reliance on energy from coal and moving towards cleaner, alternative energy sources is central to the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ environmental work. By partnering with the Sierra Club to launch the Beyond Coal campaign, our support is helping to move the U.S. off of coal by 2020. Today, the Sierra Club today announced the following major news:

2013 was a momentous year for clean energy, as solar and wind generation hit record highs, prices plummeted, and wind and solar took on increased market share from coal. Installation of renewable energy capacity outpaced coal, oil, and nuclear growth combined. The coal industry saw numerous setbacks, and nationwide thirty percent of existing coal plants in the United States are now announced to retire — 158 plants, representing over 20% of the nation’s coal power. Not a single coal plant has broken ground over the past three years.

Sustainable Transportation Benefits Both Public Health and the Environment

By the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health Team

Sustainable urban transportation is one of the primary focus areas for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Road Safety Program. Getting people out of private vehicles and into public transportation is important for reducing the injuries, deaths and diseases associated with traffic crashes, carbon emissions, and physical inactivity. To promote safer urban transport, Bloomberg Philanthropies partners with EMBARQ, a top sustainable urban transportation organization and a program of the World Resources Institute. EMBARQ advises both government officials and the private sector on transportation and urban development. Bloomberg Philanthropies supports their work in Brazil, India, Mexico, and Turkey, helping to ensure that sustainable transport initiatives, such as citywide bike lanes and Bus Rapid Transit systems, are as safe as possible.

Colorado Proposal Would Lead the Nation with New Clean Air Rules

By Mark Brownstein, Associate Vice President & Chief Counsel of Environmental Defense Fund’s US Climate and Energy Program

Colorado is in the midst of an oil and gas boom brought about by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Proponents of this new development cite economic and environmental benefits, and there’s certainly something to the argument that new natural gas is helping to drive dirty old coal out of Colorado’s energy mix – and the nation’s.

But whatever the benefits may be, there is another side to the story. There is no escaping the fact that oil and gas development is a heavy industrial activity that poses significant risks to public health and the environment. While much can be done by both government and producers to minimize these risks, there are too many communities where intensive oil and gas drilling is taking place where citizens feel like nothing is being done and no one cares. This is precisely why the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), with support from funders such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, is fighting for stricter rules and tougher enforcement.

Mike Bloomberg’s Groundbreaking Use of Public-Private Partnerships

During the Bloomberg Administration, New York City expanded the scope and purpose of private sector collaborations, and improved their effectiveness and management structure, according to a report released today by Freedman Consulting, LLC and Bloomberg Philanthropies at the inaugural Robin Hood Investors Conference in New York City. A dozen non-profit organizations working directly with New York City agencies have raised more than $1.4 billion in philanthropic contributions collectively since 2002.