Community Philanthropy with a Social Justice Approach: The Added Value

‘Social justice’ encapsulates the values of justice, fairness and peace within communities. Philanthropy for social justice examines structural arrangements that cause and maintain injustice and unfair treatment and focuses on changing those structures.

The Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP) Network is a global network of philanthropy practitioners working to increase the impact of grantmaking for social justice and peace and to shift the narrative in philanthropy to one that understands and embraces the importance of a social justice approach.

A social justice approach to philanthropy respects the role of those most affected by injustice as agents of their own change. While this may be close to the central tenet of Community philanthropy – local ownership of local solutions, not all Community Philanthropy addresses structural issues. However, there are interesting and inspiring examples that show us that where the two intersect and strategies that both deepen community engagement and employ a cohesive approach to address structural and contextual drivers of injustice, there is added value to the change that is brought about.

The Dalit Foundation is the philanthropic arm of a social movement for structural change in the Indian society. It supports grassroots initiatives that address beliefs and practices that perpetuate caste discrimination and unequal treatment of Dalits. Committed to the principles of sustainable and bottom-up change, the Dalit Foundation has recently partnered with the Global Fund for Community Foundations to further enhance community engagement in mobilizing resources for the Dalit Movement. The Prayatna Foundation, a former grantee of the Dalit Foundation and a small community based organization (CBO) covering 50 villages in Barabanki in India offers many lessons in rethinking community philanthropy with a social justice approach.

Prayatna Foundation, India

Prayatna Foundation’s over 5000 members belong largely to the Dalit and Muslim communities and almost all of them fall below the poverty line. Against a backdrop of poverty and traditional beliefs that foster differences between the two communities, the philanthropic content of Prayatna transcends monetary contributions and is based significantly on social capital. Trust, reliability, care/concern and a common ground of affinity resulting from centuries of structural injustices and exclusion are the most important elements in the shared responsibility of the CBO members for their development. The philanthropy of the community here plays an important role in transforming situations of potential conflict to one of collective responsibility.

As the PSJP Network moves forward building connections worldwide in order to deepen and broaden the impact of philanthropy for justice, peace, equality and fair treatment for all, I’m sure that we will encounter many such interconnected lessons for community philanthropy practitioners and social justice grant makers to increase the value, impact and sustainability of their work.

Chandrika Sahai, Coordinator PSJP

For more information on Social Justice Philanthropy and the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace Network, visit the PSJP Website and PSJP Blog.



PhotoSpeak: Photography: a new lens on youth civic engagement?

On 25th April, the GFCF hosted its second webinar focusing on community foundations and their work with young people. The webinar focused on the work of two organizations – one from South Africa and the other from the United States – which have used photography as a platform through which to amplify the voices of young people in the community.

The Community Development Foundation Western Cape, a young but dynamic community foundation based in Cape Town, is now in the third year of its PhotoSpeak programme, which takes a rights-based approach to youth development and engages young people through the medium of photography. Executive Director, Beulah Fredericks, described how the programme had evolved from the pilot phase – in which young people were simply invited to reflect their community through photos – to its current form where the emphasis is on “Governance through the eyes of youth”. Aspiring photographers are now encouraged to capture images of day to day events in their communities that somehow connect with South Africa’s bill of rights (whether by illustration of that right being claimed, or it be denied) and the overall objective is not only to observe, document and lead to greater awareness around political and economic rights but also to use the photographic images as a launching point from which to discuss solutions and actions, as well as individual responsibilities.

In the words of one of the PhotoSpeak participants:

“Through the photos taken others were able to acknowledge and appreciate triumphs, hardships, and other aspects our youth are facing. Success of the project was dependent upon the youth. Because of the vision of The Community Development Foundation PhotoSpeak and linking youth with communities, as well as presenting a positive outlet for teens to express themselves was possible.”

The inspiration for this programme came out of a study visit Beulah made to the United States in the early days of the community foundation which included a site visit to the Golden Gate Community Centre in Phonenix, a grantee of the Arizona Community Foundation. Sarah Gonzalez, current director of the community centre, also joined the webinar as a presenter. She talked about the GGCC’s “Photo Vision” programme and how the centre used it as a mechanism through which to determine what young people thought was important to address in their communities. Like CDFWC, for whom “PhotoSpeak” is part of a larger strategy to encourage young people’s participation in the community as well as a constituency-building effort for the foundation itself, “Photo Vision” is not just a stand-alone project but rather feeds into a larger more integrated development initiative spear-headed by the community centre.

Both presentations from the webinar will soon be available on the GFCF website (presentations from our previous webinar on YouthBank are already available).


New white paper on Empowering Communities in Resource Extraction Regions

With many of the world’s non-renewable resources increasingly being extracted in areas of the world inhabited by indigenous peoples, what are some of the strategies that ensure that the voices of communities are heard, that their vision of sustainable development is realised and that they are less vulnerable to the negative impacts of large-scale resource extraction? A new white paper from GFCF partner, Amazon Partnerships Foundation and the Ecuadorian think-tank Grupo Faro offers some insights from a grassroots grantmaking and empowerment model developed in Ecuador.

Amazon Partnerships Foundation

The report, Oil and Water: Empowering Communities Living in Resource Extraction Regions (available in Spanish and English) focuses on the unique Community Self-Development Methodology developed by APF over the last few years in Napo Province, Ecuador, where extractive industries have a significant presence. The methodology – which is based on the principle of collaboration between equal partners – helps empower communities dealing with oil, mining, and timber extraction in their territory by focusing on concerns and needs as well as assets and ideas. Read the report

“How development work can be effective and respectful”: blog highlights the work of the Community Foundation for South Sinai

Development projects for Third World regions. Around the world we are becoming more critical and disappointed with regards to the effectiveness and sincerity of them. But out of criticism arise great, new initiatives that are well thought-out and strive to obtain deeper knowledge of those people truly in need of help. South Sinai Bedouin have one of those: the Community Foundation for South Sinai.”

So begins a recent entry in the Voices of South Sinai blog about CFSS, a partner of the GFCF working with Bedouin in Egypt’s South Sinai region. It continues:

“Sorry to say, but we all know it: big, western development organizations may have the most beautiful intentions, but somehow many of them have big problems making those reality.

Huge amounts of money are put aside for those in need. But what often happens next? Corruption and ignorance make project money disappear in already filled pockets, for example. Or: some projects that are set up are simply a waste of money, as they do not address to the core problems in the deprived society. And then there are projects that are fantastic, but never will finish or run due to, again, local corruption or distorted power balances.”

Read the full blog post

Development projects for Third World regions. Around the world we are becoming more critical and disappointed with regards to the effectiveness and sincerity of them. But out of criticism arise great, new initiatives that are well thought-out and strive to obtain deeper knowledge of those people truly in need of help. South Sinai Bedouin have one of those: the Community Foundation for South Sinai.

Interview with Indira Jena, Founder and Executive Director of Nirnaya Women’s Fund

Nirnaya, a current grantee partner of the GFCF, works with marginalized women of different caste, class and religion, helping them to form self-help groups for their social and economic empowerment, enhances their skill base, promotes entrepreneurship and other livelihoods. It is also in the forefront of educating women and girls thereby creating awareness about their legal and other rights and helps them claim a rightful place in society.

Tribal women and Nirnaya partners in Dumka, Jharkhand, India

The interview, conducted by Gail Sylvia Pullen, is part of a series by the Women’s Funding Network which is aimed at celebrating the diversity of the women’s funding movement. Listen to the interview


Interview with Indira Jena, Founder and Executive Director of Nirnaya Women’s Fund

Community Foundations – Building Civil Society and Democratic Practice from the Ground Up

Earlier this year, I spent three inspiring weeks visiting community foundations and community development organizations in Kenya and South Africa.  For several years I’ve been learning about the work of many of these organizations, most of whom receive financial and training support from the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Jeff Yosts visits KCDF partners in Kenya

As a community developer, I believe deeply in the power of community-led, asset-based development.  I’m privileged to work with the Nebraska Community Foundation, a statewide community development organization using philanthropy as a tool to build our hometowns from the bottom-up, focusing on mobilizing local assets to shape a more prosperous future.  During the past fifteen years I’ve had the opportunity to visit and work with many community foundations throughout the United States and internationally.  It’s not unusual to discover that community foundations, especially U.S.-based community foundations, are focused on donor development and assets under management to the detriment of community building and sustainability, and therefore aren’t achieving the community change they espouse.

I witnessed something quite different during my time in Africa.

Following are two stories of the extraordinary work I had the opportunity to experience:

South Africa is a fascinating experiment in building a representative and constitutional democracy.  Apartheid was officially abolished in the 1990s and with this change came a new government, constitution and bill of rights pledging equal rights for every South African citizen.  Of course, a constitutional guarantee does not assure that rights will be protected immediately, if ever.  Therefore, building democratic practice among citizens, with an emphasis on youth and young adults, is a focus area of the Community Development Foundation–Western Cape (CDFWC) based in Cape Town. The leaders of CDFWC have used a program called PhotoSpeak, whereby they provide digital cameras to young people and ask them to document what they see and experience – the good, the bad, the opportunities, the heartbreaks.  Next, they are helping these young people to craft stories, building their confidence and advocacy skills to communicate issues to peers, parents, local leaders and government officials.  CDFWC also provides the young people with financial resources to make grants, through a program called Youth Banks, and create leverage to fix problems and pursue opportunities.

One of the images from CDF WC’s PhotoSpeak project

In the past two years the PhotoSpeak project has taken an interesting turn.  CDFWC leadership discovered that disenfranchised young people were having trouble relating to four specific provisions in the Bill of Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to life; (2) Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion; (3) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and association; and (4) No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.  They have evolved their PhotoSpeak project to encourage young people to focus on documenting how citizens exercise these rights on daily basis.  They’re building democratic practice and accountability one citizen at a time.

In Kenya, I spent time with the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF).  KCDF works nationwide and is involved in nearly every type of community development activity you can imagine, ranging from clean water to small business and cooperative enterprise development and from agricultural productivity to interracial and intertribal relations.  Most importantly, KCDF leadership uses their trusting relationships and their political and financial capital to build community capacity at the local level – they’re helping local leaders who are focused on doing the right things to do the right things.

This guest blog is by Jeff Yost, President and CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation, United States