Voice of the Bay

How a Little Compton Resident is Building a Better World

"I am very focused on the long-term potential for growth and transformative change – the possibilities are endless."

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When Christine (Tine) Ward looks out the windows of her Little Compton home surrounded by rolling fields, she is reminded of the English countryside. Born in The Gambia, West Africa, Tine (pronounced Teen) grew up in her mother’s homeland. After graduating from Loughborough University where she read English Literature, she worked in London before moving to the US in 1994 to co-found Chances for Children, a New York-based not-for-profit where she served as president and remained as a board member until 2004. In 2006 she established The Darfur Project, which in partnership with the banking community delivered over $17 million worth of humanitarian aid to the affected area. During a brainstorming session in 2007 at the Clinton Global Initiative, Tine had a vision of creating Rockflower, a not-for-profit venture philanthropy fund which focuses on investing in women and girls in developing countries. Calling Rhode Island home for the past four years with her four teenagers, Francesca, Lulu, Isabella and Rex, Tine savors spare time for her two luxuries of reading and running. www.rockflower.org, tine.ward@rockflower.org

In 2007 I was sitting around a table, nine men and me, in a working session at the Clinton Global Initiative called Filling the Financing Gap. The panel was discussing the need for more high risk, long-term investment funds and I literally had one of those life changing inspirational moments, the birth of the idea which I didn’t know at the time would be called Rockflower or that it would be for women and girls. One thing I did see was the potential for a $500 million fund. It seemed totally insane but I kept holding it tight in my mind.

Incorporated in March 2012, Rockflower, which means “strength in gentleness,” is a venture philanthropy fund. We run a very lean nimble organization and everything is done pro bono. The logo is a flower with five petals based on a real flower which grew in my garden in New York. Each petal represents one of the five keys of Rockflower: Peace and Security, Access to Food and Water, Maternal and Reproductive Health, Education and Financial Independence. The fund acts as a small cog which allows much bigger cogs to turn in bringing together money to fund women’s grassroots and civil society organizations based on one or more of the five keys.

Lots of people are doing incredible work but a lot of the money doesn’t get to where it is really needed. For me the question was, what does work? I know from years of experience when you give the money to women they will reinvest it back into the community and systems that work. The World Bank’s 2014 Gender Report confirms that women’s empowerment is not just a moral imperative, it is an economic one.

We are very excited to have just provided funding for a Maternal Health Center in Northern Pakistan, which will provide support throughout the harsh winter months. The goal for 2016 would be to complete funding on the 40 or so projects currently in my inbox costing under $3 million dollars. A kindergartner’s $5 is just as important as $5 million dollars from a hedge fund manager. People say that’s ridiculous, but these smaller projects require smaller amounts yet can make a major difference.

There is this notion that because you are sitting there with this capacity to write a massive check, you are the one in the privileged position. I have always wanted to turn that idea on its head.
Investment is a partnership and not just about money. There are more and more people who have extraordinary wealth doing extraordinary things, but there is more money around and people would love to know how they could use it to be more effective in changing the world. I don’t preach or lecture, but if this work resonates with you, great, here’s how you can help. I am very focused on the long-term potential for growth and transformative change – the possibilities are endless. There is absolutely no reason why we couldn’t be a $500 million fund eventually. I just have to find those people – but I will!