Community philanthropy in the spotlight in 2015 State of Civil Society report

2014 saw serious threats to civic freedoms in at least 96 countries around the world. This shrinkage of civil society space, notes the CIVICUS 2015 State of Civil Society report “is no longer something that can be dismissed as a coincidence, or the province of a small group of aberrant states.” As international funding flows for civil society come under increased scrutiny and restrictions, the importance of mobilizing domestic resources and building local constituencies to amplify citizen voice, protect and advocate for social and economic rights becomes more important than ever. At the same time, where international development funding is still playing a significant role, there remains much to be done to flatten power dynamics and to facilitate the kinds of development approaches that are locally owned and locally driven.

In the context of both of these trends, the role of community philanthropy as a strategy for mobilizing both local resources and local voice and as a way of changing the power balance between institutional funders and local civil society organizations, becomes more important than ever. This year’s report includes essays by the GFCF and two of its long-term partners. They are:

 

How can grantmaking begin to repair damage to the social fabric in Palestine, the result of decades of occupation and aid dependence? This essay describes Dalia’s unique approach to funding: “Starting from the premise that Palestinians have the right to control their own resources, Dalia Association stopped focusing on how communities use grants and focused instead on the processes they use to make decisions.” Lessons learned and challenges ahead are also outlined.

 

In her contribution, Ambika Satkunanathan makes the case that in the context of diminishing resources for civil society, the role of indigenous grantmakers is becoming increasingly relevant. This is particularly true in cases where work on human rights and social justice is being supported – the type of sensitive funding that corporate foundations seem to be increasingly distancing themselves from.

 

Avila Kilmurray and Barry Knight’s essay challenges the pattern of support for larger, more formalized civil society organizations, as opposed to community-based organizations. They make the case for revising current aid architecture in a way that would be more beneficial to all involved: “Bringing together aid agencies with community foundations would mean that both would gain. While aid agencies can bring resources and technical expertise to the table, local donors grasp the layers of complexity that only local people can understand.”

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