A Snapshot of the Global Community Philanthropy Field: new GFCF report brings together data from its grantmaking and from the Community Foundation Atlas to highlight how community foundations are building assets, capacities, trust

Together, assets, capacities and trust form the backbone of strong, effective community philanthropy organizations and it is these three features that distinguish them from other parts of civil society. So says a new report launched recently by the GFCF. The report draws on data to the Community Foundation Atlas (unveiled in Cleveland at the Council on Foundations Fall Community Foundation Conference in October) from 110 community foundations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as insights accrued from the GFCF’s own grantmaking to community philanthropy organizations in over 50 countries.

In three separate sections, the report shows how community foundations are building Assets, Capacities and Trust in their communities and what that looks like in a variety of different contexts, short case studies from Russia, China, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Kenya among others. This framework emerged out of a series of consultations conducted by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation, in conjunction with the GFCF, as part of the planning process for the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, as well as from indicators used by the GFCF in its grantmaking.

The report provides a first foray into the substantial data set accumulated through the Atlas project and the GFCF looks forward to engaging in additional studies – whether on specific geographic regions or on particular issues – drawing from the Atlas and other data sources.

Read the report

Celebrating 20 years of community foundations in the Visegrad Region

25 years ago last month the Berlin Wall fell, sparking a wave of civil society development across Central and Eastern Europe. Within this, there are the over 30 community foundations of the Visegrad Region (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) who celebrated “20 Years of Community Foundations in V4 Countries” with a conference in Bratislava in September 2014 organized by the national associations of community foundations, as well as with the launch of new material outlining their achievements.

Each of these organizations has different roots: sometimes it was EU money that opened new possibilities, in other instances it was thanks to international foundations that were supporting the building of civil society, while in other contexts it was as a result of national programmes building local organizations. The first, the Healthy City Community Foundation, was established in 1994 in Banska Bytrica, Slovakia and is thriving today. The Visegrad community foundations differ from each other with regards to national legal regulations, operating models, range of activities, resources and potential. But each had the benefit of being established by charismatic local leaders and activists that wanted to make a difference in their communities, and it is this motivation that still drives these organizations.

They prioritize learning and growing, and these community foundations cooperate and learn one from another through robust regional cooperation. A fundraising idea from the Southern Czech Republic is implemented in Northern Poland, practitioners from the Czech Republic present their projects to Slovak community foundations, volunteers from Poland visit volunteers in Slovakia, a new Hungarian organization uses the knowledge and expertise of Czech and Slovak community foundations, etc.

In their view, these organizations play a bridging function, offering a neutral space connecting communities and donors. While some critics may ascertain that civil society in Central and Eastern Europe is still relatively weak and immature, the Visegrad Foundations merely need point to some of the impressive statistics they have backing up their work: 40,000 grants and scholarships directed to local projects; USD $53 million raised in communities where trust is not a standard currency; USD $8.5 million contributed towards endowment building to ensure the long-term sustainability of these organizations, etc.

On the occasion of their 20th anniversary, Aneta Kapel of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland talked with the GFCF about this dynamic network of organizations.

GFCF:  What do you think have been the major accomplishments of community foundations in the Visegrad Region over the last twenty years?

Aneta Kapel: We think that the major accomplishment has been returning to the tradition of community philanthropy, which was disrupted during communism. Community philanthropy has once again become a significant issue, and we think this is also because of community foundations’ enormous contribution to the building up of civil society in the region: building social capital on the local level, meaning trust and the feeling of responsibility for the community, has been their most significant contribution. Community foundations’ work is so different from the rest of civil society because of the presence of donor advised funds, as well as the huge amounts of volunteers that are attracted to the work – this is also what makes us distinctive.

As part of our network, we have been encouraging individual community foundations to more clearly communicate their own accomplishments, and they have developed short films in this regard which can be viewed online.

GFCF: Could you tell us a bit more about how these organizations are engaging with communities and responding to identified needs?  

AK: Grant and scholarship programmes are the most common activities of Visegrad community foundations. Under the V4 Program, we have financed plenty of projects, identifying local needs using many different tools. The programme has also allowed us to share best practice with regards to balancing donor interests with the needs of the community. The needs across the region seem to vary greatly: from education scholarships for students and other children’s’ projects, to adapting public spaces and artistic projects, to more sophisticated work around advocacy, legal advising and supporting the development of NGOs.

What we find very interesting, and a common characteristic of those in our network, is that fact that these organizations seem to put more emphasis on issues that are not typically part of wider social debates, but which may still be extremely important to the local community. One such example is work being done around local traditions and history. The other characteristic that ties these organizations together is their engagement with youth, particularly through youth grant programs.

GFCF: How important has regional contact and peer learning been in the development and success of the community foundations in the Visegrad Region?  

AK: Since establishing our programme in 2007 we have organized several study trips among community foundations in the region, and we strongly believe that the issue of peer learning is getting more and more important every year. Through links we have already made, these developing organizations have been able to share best practice, and exchange experiences frankly. Concretely, there have also been several instance in which organizations have made successful joint bids for funds from external sources (for example joint events for volunteers from the Nitra Community Foundation in Slovakia and the Generations Foundation in Poland, or the joint Grundtvig project developed by the Snow Mountain Community Foundation in Poland and the Southmoravian Community Foundation in the Czech Republic). Some network participants have also developed cross-border cooperation or exchange in specific areas, such as a legacy/bequests giving campaign started in the Czech Republic which was later adapted by the Slovaks. This year of 20th anniversary celebrations has also initiated closer collaboration and discussion.

GFCF: Could you tell us more about the conference that was organized to commemorate this anniversary? Is there anything specific or interesting emerging from the event regarding a role for these organizations over the next twenty years?

AK: From the participant point of view, it was really important to experience the feeling of unity and “togetherness” of the Visegrad community foundations and I left feeling very confident about future cooperation between these organizations. We are currently trying to measure the influence made by the community foundations in our region via a joint project co-financed by the International Visegrad Fund called “Change comes from the bottom up: Community foundations’ role in 25 years of building civil society.” The aim of the project is also to plan a way forward for community foundations in the years to come, based on past learnings.

Working for civil society sustainability in Kenya

The Aga Khan Foundation, US, working in partnership with USAID, has announced an exciting new $6 million, four year programme, to support the long-term sustainability of key civil society organizations in Kenya. Named the Yetu Initiative – “yetu” meaning “ours” in Kiswahili – the aim of the programme is to encourage local ownership of civil society activities. This will involve a platform of support for community philanthropy which is best illustrated by the work of the Kenya Community Development Foundation.

Drawing on their joint partnership within the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, both the Aga Khan Foundation and USAID believe in the power of community philanthropy to mobilize assets, build organizational capacity and contribute to the mutual trust-building that is social capital in action. An emphasis will be placed on helping to connect key civil society organizations with the private sector throughout Kenya in order to reduce dependence on external funding sources. The Alliance is well placed to augment the impact of the initiative by sharing ideas and learning drawn from other parts of the world, alongside charting the lessons that this new initiative will highlight. Peer exchanges between community philanthropy practitioners have already proved their worth on numerous occasions given the common aspiration of local activists to make development outcomes “ours” – “yetu”!

Meet the West Zone Community University

Graciela Hopstein introduces the West Zone Community University with the enthusiasm of an activist that believes in the power of shared reflection. Created by the Instituto Rio, the first community foundation in Brazil, this may be one of the few examples where a local community foundation has established a university. This, however, is a university with a difference. The emphasis is not on physical infrastructure or elite education. The aim, instead, is to offer open and democratic public space for the production and sharing of knowledge. In the style of renowned Brazilian educator, Paulo Friere, community activists co-produce and exchange knowledge, while benefiting from the workshops, seminars, conferences, training sessions and ongoing discussions that take place under the umbrella of the community university. There is also a focus on creating partnerships with a variety of public, private and civil society entities. What provides a twist to this initiative is the fact that the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro is marked by enormous social inequalities. The priority area for the community university is the growing favelas which shelter some of the poorest communities in Rio.

Instituto Rio is currently providing grant support, alongside the opportunities offered through the West Zone Community University, to a range of community-based projects. Luiz Vaz, long term cultural activist with the House of Love street project, outlined the positive role that drama can play in working with young people who might otherwise be attracted to gang culture. Not only have a number of these youngsters graduated into the professional theatre, but Luis believes in the power of creative self-reflection in the tradition of the famed Theatre of Resistance.  The medium may be giant puppets, but the message is of the streets. The power of culture to embed community identity was also emphasized by Adilson Almeida, who recently received an award in recognition of the work of his organisation, ACUCA.  Extensive voluntary effort is invested in protecting the dance, song and historical environment of what was once a slave community. Located in an area of natural beauty, Adilson is being supported by Instituto Rio to train young men and women as ecoguides in the local environmental project. Youth are also the focus in a cultural centre operated by an ex-gang member turned community activist, who now preaches the art of living in peace in what was a very violent area. Learning to be; to know; to do and to live became his mantra that he now shares with others.

For community activists from the West Zone there is general agreement that people feel safe working with the Instituto Rio – no mean achievement in an area where trust is a preciously guarded commodity. There is recognition that what Instituto Rio provides is much more than the small amounts of grant money available. As Selma explains the support from the West Zone Community University ‘Makes us see things we didn’t see before’. This is the mark of true sustainable development; although there are also grants for re-cycling projects and cooperative craft ventures.  As for the Instituto Rio itself, it wants to create a West Zone Community Fund endowment.  It believes that there is a real opportunity not just because of the forthcoming Olympic Games, but also because this zone of the ‘City of God’ (the film Cidade de Deus was based in these communities) has the will and tenacity to make its own future. Notwithstanding this sense of independence, partners are always welcome. After all, if Instituto Rio can create a university, why not a West Zone Community Fund?Graciela (left) and Avila Kilmurray (second from left) at the University

Call for papers: Inequality, inclusion and social innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean

The International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) is issuing a call for papers in advance of its 10th Annual ISTR Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, to be held in San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico from 5th – 7th August 2015. The preceding nine ISTR Regional Conferences addressed issues including: participation and representation; growth and consolidation of civil society; sector cooperation; and civil society self-identity and its responsibility for the development process. This 10th edition will continue to put challenges of imbalance at the forefront by focusing on inequality, inclusion and social innovation, and papers addressing the following themes are currently being solicited:

– Relationship among social inequality, citizen participation, inclusion efforts and sustainability promotion.

– Social innovation for sustainable development with social inclusion.

– Social enterprises, sustainability and new business forms.

– Civil society / third sector institutionalization, training and fortification.

– Democracy, the struggle against corruption, promoting accountability and civil society.

– A changing democracy: linkages between the state, civil society and business for social inclusion and sustainability.

Founded in 1992, the ISTR is an association of researchers and academic centres with associates located around throughout the world. ISTR promotes research and education on civil society and the non-profit sector internationally. The Latin America and the Caribbean Network of ISTR was established in 1996.

The deadline for papers is 28th February 2015. Read more details on the call in English and Spanish.

Last chance to nominate for Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize!

GFCF is proud to be a part of the third annual Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize, which was established in memory of Olga Alexeeva, founder of the Philanthropy Bridge Foundation (PBF), by former PBF trustees in honour of her memory and beliefs.

As in past years, the prize of £5,000 will be awarded to an individual who has demonstrated remarkable leadership, creativity and results in developing philanthropy for progressive social change in an emerging market country or countries. The prize will be for the individual winner to use at their discretion.

A shortlist of up to six finalists will be developed by the three founders of the prize:

– Maria Chertok, CAF Russia and former PBF Trustee

– Caroline Hartnell, Alliance and former PBF Chair

– Jenny Hodgson, GFCF and former PBF adviser

The final winner of the £5,000 prize will be selected by a panel of judges and will be invited to deliver a keynote speech at a global philanthropy conference in 2015. In addition, all shortlisted candidates will be invited to the conference as special guests, and profiled in a special supplement of the June 2015 issue of Alliance magazine.

Now all we need is good nominations! The closing date for applications is February 28th 2015. For more information on the Prize and to download the application form, please click here. All questions should be directed to olgaalexeevaprize@alliancemagazine.org.