The conversation continued . . .

Thanks to those of you who have responded to our invitation to engage in discussion! And also, to those of you who have shared and written about the report in your own circles, such as this one published by GFCF partner in Mexico, Alternativas y Capacidades A.C. A Spanish version of the report will be available very soon and we will post it on this site and on the GFCF homepage. Portuguese and Russian translations of the report will also follow – and we are exploring the possibility of a version in Thai (there is a growing and active cluster of community foundations in Thailand but there are few resources available in Thai and English is not always so widely spoken).

Some interesting points have been raised in the responses so far on this blog. To summarize a few:

Further unpack the notion of trust One conclusion of the report is that many community foundations see one of their roles as that of building trust at the community level. In thinking about their responses, were community foundation respondents referring to organizational trust or community trust? Bheki Moyo reflects “This (community trust) it seems to me would be the greatest contribution that community foundations can make. It is only when communities have trust for themselves that they can begin to trust organisations and institutions. After all community foundations are supposed to be made up of community members.” Here in South Africa, with the end of the World Cup imminent, there are already concerns about a resurgence of xenophobic violence against non-South Africans (I recently wrote about this on the Mott Foundation’s World Cup blog): and yet only last week, it seemed the whole of Africa was united as one behind Ghana….

Writing from Vietnam, Dana Doan of the LIN Center puts it very succinctly: “building trust is a key requirement for success in terms of both community engagement programs and local fundraising. Here in Vietnam, gaining such trust depends on transparency, effective use of funds and, most importantly, the demonstration of impact.”

What are other thoughts from the field? What is your organization’s take on the question of building trust?

Exploring the role of government. In writing our report, Barry Knight and I did not go into a great deal of depth on community foundations’ interaction and engagement with government. Certainly, our data suggests that experiences differ from one community foundation to another. There does, however, seem to be a common concern regarding the importance of a community foundation’s ability to preserve some degree of independence – both in terms of governance (so in Russia, where it is common practice for government representatives to sit on the board of community foundations, they constitute no more than 1/3 of the board) and resources (in the UK, many community foundations have implemented government-funded programmes as described here by the East London Community Foundation: what have been the implications of this in terms of preserving their independence, I wonder?). In his comment, Vadim Georgienko is not convinced that states are always developmental in their orientation and methods:  “At the same time, let’s never forget totally different methods (taxes versus donations) to reach development: state has a legal monopoly for violence, coercion. Community foundations can work only with a good will.”

From a practitioner’s or even policymaker’s perspective, what would you be interested in finding out more on as far as examples and experiences of community foundations’ relationships with the state are concerned?

Engaging donor institutions Chris Mkhize from uThungulu Community Foundation in South Africa points to the current apparent disconnect between the community foundation / community philanthropy and international and national development agencies and urges greater collaboration across different development silos.

This is a key interest of the GFCF and one that we are very interested in pursuing. What are some of the steps that others are taking to raise the profile of community philanthropy institutions in international development circles? How can we, collectively, strengthen the case?

Next steps

Dana asked in her post about next steps: well, these will include making the report available in other languages and working with this current cohort of grantee partners – and others who are interested – to deepen our understanding of the different roles that community foundations with a particular view to the question of measurement and impact.