Joining the global conversation towards the UN’s World Humanitarian Summit: Positioning community philanthropy and the resilience agenda

Volunteers from Tewa, in Kathmandu, respond to April 2015 earthquakeHow can different actors – governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector – work together to address humanitarian effectiveness and serve the needs of people in conflict? These are some of the questions to be addressed at the first World Humanitarian Summit, an initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which will be held in Istanbul in May 2016.

As part of the learning and evidence building agenda of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, the GFCF has been engaged in an ongoing research and consultation process on the potential and importance of local level foundations’ role in disaster response. In July 2015, Avila Kilmurray presented a paper on this theme at a Humanitarian Innovation Conference at Oxford University, one of a number of preparatory events to lay the basis for the World Humanitarian Summit.

Recent years have seen the emergence of community philanthropy organizations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Global South. Many of these new kinds of institutions find areas that have experienced natural disasters/emergencies, the impact of violent political conflict, or indeed, the complexities where both circumstances overlap. There is, however, a growing body of evidence to suggest that locally based community philanthropy organizations have considerable potential to complement humanitarian efforts and interests through:

 

  • Supporting the voice and participation of affected peoples and communities;
  • Promoting programmes of disaster/emergency preparedness;
  • Managing funding programmes that can contribute to long term community reconstruction and resilience;
  • Managing funding programmes that can underpin efforts for peacebuilding and conflict transformation; and,
  • Contributing towards the building of relations through networking and policy convening on issues of importance in fragmented communities.

 

Download the GFCF’s paper

Browse all submissions to the Summit

Brazil, and the growth of community philanthropy

Community foundations and funds are increasing in number in Brazil, but are still just the tip of the philanthropic iceberg in this sprawling country of over 203 million people. They are working in a nation of contrasts, with the 2014 Forbes Annual Report listing 65 Brazilian billionaires, while 21.4% of the population live below the World Bank poverty line (2012) and 16% exist in conditions of abject poverty. It is also striking that only three in ten of the poorest 20% of the population are white, but they comprise seven in ten of the richest 20%. This context frames the development of both place-based and issue-focused local philanthropy, as does the legacy of experience and attitudes.

 

The Olympic city

Rio de Janeiro is playing host to the 2016 Olympic Games that will take place in the very area of the city prioritized by Instituto Rio (IR) for its work – the populous West Zone. As the first community foundation in Brazil, IR was established in 2000 and began its grantmaking in 2003. Since that time it has supported 222 projects in 80 community-based organizations. The grants are relatively modest ($2500 – $4000 USD) but they come with an impressive added-value programme of shared learning delivered through the imaginative Community University of the West Zone (Universidade Comunitária da Zona Oeste). The virtual university recognizes the expertise garnered by local activists and creates networks for peer exchange. IR Chief Executive, Graciela Hopstein is the first to acknowledge that local fund development is still a challenge, but given its location it would be a shame if the 2016 Olympics comes to Rio, and leaves again, without directly benefiting both IR and the communities that it is supporting.

Graciela Hopstein (L) and Avila Kilmurray (2nd L) in RioAcross the city, just a stone’s throw away from the linha vermelha, a main route into the city centre, Eliana Sousa Silva has a gleam in her eye as she talks about establishing a community foundation in Bairro Maré. Bairro Maré has a population of 140,000 in a favela that consists of a warren of streets stretching across sixteen distinct neighbourhoods. Eliana is a founder member of the Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré and has been active over eighteen years in supporting community action in an area that was not even mapped by the municipal authorities. In partnership with the Observatόrio de Favelas local activists in the Bairro took matters into their own hands, carrying out a local census, giving the streets names and the houses numbers, and convincing the authorities to “make visible a population that was invisible.” Other community initiatives focus on education, health, development through the arts and public safety. A community newspaper is delivered door to door, with a circulation of 40,000 copies, on a monthly basis. The challenge for Eliana and her colleagues is how to both keep the community momentum going and how to plan for the long term. The Redes feels that part of the answer may be found in setting up a community foundation that could enable local people to become decision-makers in their own right. “Usually people are waiting – spectators of their environment”, explains Eliana, a local community foundation could be a mechanism to help shift the power paradigm in the longer term. What Eliana now needs is information, ideas and support in taking the next step.

 

An integrated model of community support

Working in Maranhão, one of the poorest states in Brazil, the Baixada Institute was established in 2008 by community leaders in the area. Regina Cabral, an Ashoka Fellow (2010) was a founder member of the Instituto Formaҫāo which was a formative influence in the development of the Baixada Institute. The focus of both the Baixada Institute, as the local community foundation, and the Instituto Formaҫāo, as a development agency, is to work with local communities in the rural areas of Baixada Maranhense that are clustered in the north-east corner of Brazil. The area has a population of some 250,000 and has a history of labour migration and violent conflict over land rights. Regina speaks about the importance of investing in young people, raising their aspirations through education, sport, the arts and skills training. An important area of development has been in agri-ecology, where a combination of technical assistance, seeding grants and encouragement has resulted in pilot income generation horticultural projects, many carried out with black and quilombola (ex-slave) communities. Work over the years has resulted in the opening of fourteen Information Technology centres, with adjoining youth support centres, in rural towns and villages across the region. The idea of the community foundation (Fundaҫão Comunitária na Baixada Maranhense) came out of consultation with both young activists and community-based organizations. The community foundation continues to place a high priority on local consultation.

The Instituto Baixada operates from its own premises and was set up with initial financial support from the Kellogg Foundation. Among its goals is the support of community initiatives that empower local organizations and foster regional development. Fund development is also on the agenda and a donor network (Embaixadeiros Doadores) works to secure local donations. Regina explains that there is still a need for external support particularly given the developmental focus of the work which is seen by some as being at odds with traditional charitable giving. The work of the foundation is underpinned by a network of volunteers, which is found to be as beneficial as donations – although both are welcome.

With its concentration on Baixada Maranhense, Instituto Baixada draws on the networks and community insights built by Institute Formaҫāo, and other voluntary sector organizations, over the years. This allows strong lines of communication between the community foundation and local activists. It also ensures that there is transparency and a sense of mutual accountability in how Instituto Baixada delivers on its objectives. As to the next priority – the Institute Formaҫāo is working with communities in selected rural towns to open seven libraries, located in a range of venues. The Instituto Baixada plans to support this venture by allocating some $42,000 USD to purchase books. A seeding grant awarded to a group of young people involved in developing a community library last year already acted as a demonstration project.

 

Florianopolis – the southern Silicon Valley

ICom was established in 2005 as the second community foundation in Brazil. Working in Florianopolis, the second largest city in the southern state of Santa Catarina, this foundation emphasizes the importance of development support and capacity-building for local community and voluntary organizations. In order to counter public scepticism about the NGO sector it developed a transparency portal which holds detailed information on local organizations. ICom also facilitates training and professional development courses in order to promote institutional growth within organizations. Alongside its developmental objective of strengthening non-profit organizations,  ICom also prioritizes knowledge production and community mobilization that it achieves through its Vital Signs research (adapted from the Community Foundations of Canada model); working with donors and social innovation.

The work with donors is long-term and time consuming, not helped by the complexities of Brazilian tax and fiscal regulations, however, ICom Executive Director, Anderson Giovani da Silva is celebrating a major gift received recently from an individual donor who has been involved with ICom over a number of years. Anderson rules out direct fundraising activities and events as he does not want to be in competition with the local organizations that ICom is supporting. It is the area of social innovation where ICom has made a specific contribution, opening its offices as a Centre for Social Innovation and sharing them with social entrepreneurs. A new start-up 3 D design company currently operates from the space, with Anderson also being involved in raising funding for investment in a high quality movie – featuring four stories of young people using technology for social change purposes. A grant from the Inter-American Foundation is currently supporting the development of this centre. Anderson’s belief in the power of innovative design thinking to progress social change and bring a new dimension to the philanthropy of the future can be seen in ICom’s partnership with the Institute of Volunteering in taking a stake in Social Good Brazil.

The ICom office, operating as a Centre for Social InnovationThis has now spun off as an independent entity but re-invests a donor advised fund with ICom. Both ICom and Social Good Brazil are partners in an annual call for design ideas for products that can address social issues in an imaginative way. Piloted in 2013, fifty social entrepreneurs were invited to participate and receive mentoring through a Social Design Lab; they also benefited from $250 USD seed funding that ICom managed. One example of work supported was an app for use in the case of domestic violence. Participants were initially drawn from Florianopolis, but the popularity of the programme has resulted in it being extended to São Paulo. This may not be community philanthropy as it is commonly understood, but it seems to be a model that is working in Florianopolis, a city that prides itself as a technology hub.

 

New community funds emerging

Two recent developments have seen the emergence of a community fund and a community foundation in the East Zone of São Paulo and southern Bahia respectively, two very different contexts. With a population of ten million, São Paulo is the world’s third largest city, but the Fundaҫão Tide Setubal – a family foundation – concentrated its energies in the São Miguel district of the East Zone. The foundation became particularly known for its programmes of work with young people and investment in family support. Adopting a new approach the foundation decided to establish the Fundo Zona Leste Sustentável as a five year pilot exercise which was inspired by a discussion about community foundations involving a number of local stakeholders. An Oversight Board for the initiative was set up and a Monitoring and Evaluation Board, drawing on expertise from a local university. The Fund itself is focusing on business start-ups and technical support, funding 31 projects to date. Amongst those benefiting is a garbage collectors’ cooperative. One of the three staff members employed by the Fund emphasizes that it is still a community fund rather than a foundation – the jury is still out as to whether it will develop into a community foundation.

Roberto Vilela, working with the recently established community foundation in southern Bahia, is celebrating the fact that a recent grant call attracted 65 applications. The Tabôa Fortalecimento Comunitário was set up in 2013 with initial funding being put in place by Instituto Arapyaū, the World Bank and a foundation established by documentary filmmaker, Joāo Moreira Salles. Tabôa operates in the Uruҫuca region of Bahia which faces challenges of degradation of natural resources, economic inequality and under attainment in education. Consequently the new community foundation is prioritizing the strengthening of grassroots development associations and supporting community tourism projects that benefit local people. As a good grantmaker, Roberto is already thinking about how to respond to those grant applicants that may not be successful in being funded under the current round. He wants the application process to be empowering and is keen to build capacity and learning for local organizations. Decision-making in the community foundation is already participative, with the board currently made up of five representatives from the donors and five people from the local community.

 

A comparative approach to community foundation development

Representatives from the four Brazilian community foundations, as well as from the Fondo Zona Leste Sustentável and Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré all attended a two-day conference on philanthropy for social justice organized in July by the Brazilian Network of Independent Funds for Social Justice. Joining with a number of other issue-focused funders the gathering recognized the need to create a narrative capable of motivating people to address issues of structural inequality and implicit racism. A follow-on seminar on the specific role of community philanthropy highlighted the important dimension of local engagement that community foundations can offer, although concerns were expressed at continuing difficulties in attracting a mix of donors to invest in this work.

Brazilian Network of Independent Funds for Social Justice, July 2015What became apparent over the course of the seminar is that Brazil offers a fascinating insight into how community foundations can emerge and be incubated through a variety of approaches. The origins of both Instituto Rio and ICom were influenced by the North American model of community foundations, fostered through international contacts and support. Tabôa Fortalecimento Comunitário has developed as an initiative of Instituto Arapyaū with a similar progression route to the Fundo Zona Leste Sustentável, should it decide to pursue this course further; whilst Instituto Baixada shares a sense of rooted local development that also characterizes the plans of Redes des Desenvolvimente da Maré. This latter phenomenon of community foundations, or funds, developing as mechanisms of sustainability for locality-based or regional community development is emerging in other country contexts as well. The comparative nature of the incubation and growth of community foundations in Brazil offers an important opportunity to track both opportunities and challenges presented by these different development paths and to welcome the diversity that is a response to local context.

 

By: Avila Kilmurray, GFCF Director of Policy & Strategy

Community foundations offer disaster recovery lessons: Is anyone listening?

When the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy focused on the role of community foundations in disaster and emergency relief in July 2014, they had in mind the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans. Albert Ruesga, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, asserted that “Katrina’s landfall in August 2005 was a wake-up call for the city leadership. Clearly whatever the foundation had done to serve New Orleans and the region before Katrina needed to be re-imagined.”

Less than a year on, the Kathmandhu-based Tewa women’s fund is helping local women to rebuild their shattered lives in rural villages across Nepal. Tewa, working in partnership with the peace-building organization Nagarik Aawaz, formed an Earthquake Relief Fund Committee in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Recovery will require “long-term rehabilitation work, where trust and respect is imperative in order to work as partners”, observes Rita Thapa, Tewa’s founder. No one is better situated to make this long-term commitment than community foundations, but they are often left out of international relief efforts.

Rita Thapa (L) in the days following the first Nepal earthquake, April 2015

Positioning community philanthropy to play its part

Rita’s comments reflect findings of the San Diego Foundation, which pointed out that disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. The foundation invested five years of work following a series of destructive wildfires in 2007. It supported community recovery teams to provide local people with a hub to coordinate their work and created an insurance advocacy scheme to help fire-affected residents claim entitlements. After devastating tornadoes in Joplin Missouri in 2011, Louise Knauer, of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, identified the role of the community foundation “as a community anchor – the ‘boots on the ground’ that will be here for needs that linger long afterwards, often when other funding and attention has waned.”

 

A focus on preparedness
An emphasis on the long-term commitment of community-based philanthropy to address issues of reconstruction is currently being matched with a focus on preparedness. The Greater New Orleans Foundation now has a continuity of operations plan in place, and the foundation funds Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADS), providing up-to-date contact lists for VOADS and their staff.  The importance of preparedness has increasingly been recognized by the UK Community Foundations network, where a number of local community foundations have worked to alleviate hardship during both natural and rural disasters over recent years.

Of course, in Asia, which accounted for 90 per cent of people affected by global natural disasters in 2013, preparedness is particularly crucial. Yet in that region, community philanthropy organizations have limited access to resources.

 

A conversation with people who cannot hear?
Given that community philanthropy organizations show a commitment to the well-being and resilience of their communities, the apparent lack of awareness of their contributions among development and humanitarian relief agencies and bilateral aid organizations is disappointing.

When the Balkans experienced extensive flooding in May 2014, the community foundations Mozaik, Tuzla and Trag didn’t wait to be coordinated by international organizations.  Mozaik’s Executive Director, Vesna Bajsanski-Agic, said that when you get over your disbelief in, and shock about, a disaster, you just have to react. In Bosnia, Mozaik mobilized people it trusted, established points of local contact, and distributed help quickly and effectively, with 30 per cent of the funding being raised locally. Few external agencies even thought to get in touch with the local foundations.

Participating in a recent GFCF discussion, Suranjana Gupta, coordinator of the Global Campaign for Community Resilience of the Huairou Commission, emphasized the importance of flexible resources and local knowledge in building community resilience to disasters. The priorities of local organizations are often quite different from the priorities of national-level programmes, she said.  Rita Thapa agrees.  She describes people in Nepal as survivors, not victims. Tewa is providing direct support in communities, but, as Rita explains: “We have already requested families we give cash relief to, to make a tiny contribution so that these monies can go to places that are even more in need, or come back to these communities in the form of a revolving fund. So far the response has been 100 per cent.”

If this isn’t turning the paradigm of aid and relief on its head, then what is?

Local people are not just survivors, but they are empowered to be donors. When speaking about disaster relief and preparedness at a GFCF seminar in London in May, long-term relief expert Bobby Lambert suggested that we could effectively address community resilience when development agencies think in terms of risk, and humanitarian agencies think in terms of power. Perhaps the story of what is happening at village level in Nepal will encourage both sets of agencies to listen to local people as well.

 

By: Avila Kilmurray, GFCF Director of Policy & Strategy

This piece originally appeared on the Alliance Magazine website.

The little development engine that could

This piece originally appeared on the Devex website

By: Diana Ohlbaum, Independent Consultant and former Deputy Director of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives 

It’s not big. It’s not shiny. But there is a promising train of sustainable funding for local priorities, and it has been largely missing from discussions of country ownership and financing for development. What is this overlooked and underappreciated engine of growth? Community philanthropy.

Community philanthropy refers to foundations and other social enterprises that are funded and controlled by members of the communities they serve. They raise significant amounts of money locally from individuals and businesses, spend money locally through small grants for worthy projects, and are held accountable by local communities. You can’t get any more “locally owned” than that.

As an example, a women’s fund in Nepal, known as Tewa, has mobilized contributions from 3,000 Nepalese donors to invest in local grass-roots institutions. Its model of emphasizing small philanthropic gifts has taught women how to be responsible donors as well as grantees, and given them the tools to overcome dependency and powerlessness.

Likewise, Kenya’s Makutano Community Development Association undertook a long-term commitment to building community capacity, resulting in the construction of a road, nine dams, 17 wells, 162 pit latrines and a secondary school, as well as putting 10,000 acres of land to productive use.

While international donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, routinely look for local organizations that can distribute and administer “umbrella grants,” community philanthropy is something different. These foundations are not the fiscal and programmatic agents of foreign funders, nor are they simply service providers. They are grantors in their own right…

To read the full article, please visit the Devex website. 

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”!

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Slovak!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, is now available in Slovak. The report makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of  development aid practitioners. The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level  by looking at local assets (financial and otherwise) and by building capacity and trust for addressing  community needs and priorities.

What can community philanthropy do? Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy highlights shared themes around the world

Check out the storify from Jennifer Lentfer, Oxfam / How Matters, who live tweeted the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy’s public lunch event at the World Bank on 9th July 2014.  

When communities pull together to solve problems, it rarely makes headlines (especially in developing countries) but this month such an example did draw media attention, along with an international event spotlighting the practice known as community philanthropy.

Earlier in July a story of a Kenyan community’s success managing a water crisis with local assets was featured on America Abroad (“Kenyan communities succeed in managing scarce water, where aid projects once foundered”). The program heard on National Public Radio (NPR) captures how local ownership created a long-term solution; that in turn bloomed into other improvements, with road access and education. As David Clatsworthy of the International Rescue Committee notes, “It’s obviously much better when the community starts out with that sense of ownership…So it would be great if this was a model that spread virally.”

That type of exponential spread is what the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, established last year, is working to achieve. On July 9th 2014 the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA) joined with its partners in the Global Alliance, including the C.S. Mott Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, at a lunchtime talk that showcased a wide range of community philanthropy experiences from around the world.

Lunch participants at the World Bank, 9th July 2014Held at the World Bank’s Washington, DC offices, the panel discussion, “Community philanthropy’s role in sustaining development: Development’s role in supporting community philanthropy,” featured experiences from Northern Ireland, Haiti, and across the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The stories described examples of community-led initiatives that were strengthened by select international support, in some cases going back more than 30 years.

“How can community-driven development play a role in enhancing the development outcomes of big international donor aid?” asked Jenny Hodgson, Executive Director of the GFCF, which serves as the secretariat for the Global Alliance. In response, three main themes emerged from the panel.

First, there’s a need for local voices and there must be space for local actors to play a role in development planning and decisions. Dr. Mirza Jahani, CEO of AKF USA, noted how AKDN’s first rural support programs are rooted in this community-driven approach, empowering communities to make decisions about their own development in remote areas of Pakistan and India. When you build on local assets and local traditions of self-help, he added, “you have a much stronger chance for sustainability.” The practice of community philanthropy is not new around the world, and “has been there throughout history.”

Second, there’s a role for international donors as long as they allow local voices to decide what is needed. Avila Kilmurray, former Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI) and now GFCF Director of Policy & Strategy, described how in 1994 CFNI received funding from the European Union to support the peace process in Northern Ireland, especially in areas most affected by the conflict, which were also the poorest. Over half of the European Union grant went through CFNI in sub-grants of under $10,000 each. Small grants were essential, Kilmurray said, in order to include small and marginalized groups in the process. “Big grants…would have destroyed the volunteer base of many community-based organizations.”

A third theme running through the discussion was a need to listen for the range of local voices present.Marie-Rose Romain Murphy of the HCFI Kilmurray explained how crucial that was to CFNI’s effectiveness, which had board members on both sides of the sectarian divide during “the Troubles” starting in the 1970s. Marie-Rose Romain Murphy, who leads the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative (HCFI), also expressed the urgency that Haitians had to build a wide-reaching community foundation to regain control of their development, which HCFI is working on.

Additional success stories noted by Hodgson included the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF), established in the 1990s with the Aga Khan Foundation and Ford Foundation support. KCDF was noted in the NPR story as a model of a national body with a spectrum of partners. (Click here for a post about KCDF’s origins and lessons.)

When looking at community philanthropy as an approach to development, the question often remains: How can international actors best support developing countries to mobilize local assets and build the culture of self-directed development, without squashing local initiatives? Rather than any one answer, the event pointed to many local responses built on empowering communities to come together, determine shared priorities, and mobilize resources, instead of being driven by external donor priorities.

Natalie Ross is Program Officer for Civil Society at the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. This blog was originally posted by the AGA Khan Foundation U.S.A. on their “Stories from the Field” blog.

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Hungarian!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, is now available in Hungarian. The report makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of  development aid practitioners. The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level  by looking at local assets (financial and otherwise) and by building capacity and trust for addressing  community needs and priorities.

Translations of the report are now available in 14 different languages!

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Czech!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, is now available in Czech. The report makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of  development aid practitioners. The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level  by looking at local assets (financial and otherwise) and by building capacity and trust for addressing  community needs and priorities.

Translations of the report are now available in 13 different languages!

Community philanthropy and development: Deepening the discussion

Issue 1: Community philanthropy and mutual accountability

One of the things that Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy offers is a rather unique platform for a diverse set of donors and development practitioners to come together to expand their understanding and share learnings about complex issues in development and, in particular, how community philanthropy might perform a particular and valuable role that results in more effective development outcomes.

A few weeks’ ago a conversation began between some members of the Alliance about how community philanthropy might foster greater mutual accountability. We thought it would be good to invite others to contribute to this discussion so we tidied up what was originally an email exchange, sharpened our thinking and have published the conversation so far. Please join the discussion!

The question:

I would like be able to be able to distinguish more clearly community philanthropy from other forms of civil society support. Specifically, there is a reference in “A Different Kind of Wealth” (a GFCF publication on African community foundations) to one of the defining features of community philanthropy being “mutual accountability” between the philanthropic organization and its community. I’m wondering if you could say a bit about how you see that form of mutual accountability as distinct from efforts by outside donors to support CSOs (assuming that the donors aim to support the CSOs relationship with its community/constituency).

I also wonder if you can speak to the way that having grantmaking power affects this pre-existing mutual accountability relationship.

I suppose part of my aim is to be able, in discussions with colleagues who say “we already support mutual accountability when we work with CSOs,” to have more clarity on how the community philanthropy meaning of that term might be distinct from the typical donor efforts to support the same.

The response:

Thanks for your question about the extent to which community philanthropy can foster mutual accountability between a local philanthropic organization and its community. It is indeed a big and important question and one that, where community foundations / community philanthropy organizations are still quite young or emerging, represents both a hypothesis and a potential source of tension. The answers aren’t yet cut and dried and, within the global field at least, we have to rely somewhat on anecdotes and one-off experiences of partners we have been working with over the last few years (although the outcome indicators that the GFCF has developed in the last four to five years are aimed at facilitating the collection of evidence across a diverse set of individual organizations and geographic regions so that we can begin to talk about trends, common characteristics, etc.).

Firstly, it is probably worth emphasizing that that the report, “A Different Kind of Wealth”, focuses specifically on community philanthropy organizations that are all grantmakers to some extent or another and that we didn’t include other types of NGOs / CSOs that were seeking to leverage local philanthropic assets. So this response will focus on experiences from that narrower cohort of specifically grantmaking organizations (as against broader forms of community philanthropy).

In very practical terms, a community foundation can demonstrate mutual accountability by modelling transparency. In regard to transparency, that might include an Annual Report that outlines how grantmaking has been carried out and which groups have received what grants to do what. Because grantmaking is often the community foundation’s primary tool for fund development, it is essential that local donors see exactly how money flows to and through the community foundation if they are to be convinced to give again. It should also include annual Donor Statements that allow each donor (whether local or international) to see exactly where their money has gone. It should contain a Summary Income and Expenditure statement for the community philanthropy organisation.

By comparison, typical outside donor funding for a CSO may include requirements for an annual audit, but generally does not require that the organization publish information in a way that makes it accessible to local stakeholders. Outside donors tend to emphasize accountability (tracking, through third-party audits, how funds were spent) rather than transparency (information sharing about how funds were spent).

In terms of governance and local participation in decision-making (beyond the board itself), there have been some very interesting efforts by some community foundations to engage with power dynamics directly and root themselves more firmly and “horizontally” in their communities. Strategies include publically advertising for board members (Community Foundation for Northern Ireland), organizing community-decision making processes around the allocation of grants and then having grantees report back to those same community forums (Central American Women’s Fund and Dalia Association, Palestine), working with communities to create their own community funds within the foundation which give them a stake both as co-investors in the foundation but also decision-makers in regard to their allocation for local development purposes (Kenya Community Development Foundation) and engaging young people both in fundraising and grantmaking activities through projects such as YouthBank (where they raise the funds, decide how to allocate them and then monitor and review them, with the support of a community foundation or other hosting institution). We also have examples of foundations (e.g. Tewa in Nepal and West Coast Community Foundation in South Africa) where organizations that have received grants are encouraged to make a donation back to the foundation as a strategy for fostering a sense of co-investment / mutuality between the foundation and its partners. Of course, the potential for elite capture and for token participation always exists with any organization. But a community philanthropy institution that is making decisions about how to spend locally-raised resources often tends to have a stronger incentive toward horizontal engagement, and it is often built into governance structures or programmatic management.

Central American Women’s Fund

 By contrast, in terms of local participation in decision-making, where large outside donors support CSOs, even including re-granting facilities, their emphasis tends to be on the organization’s reach and potential array of activities to support, rather than the quality of engagement between the CSO and its constituents. Outside donors often have incentives to define a minimum standard of engagement for the CSO and push it not to go beyond that standard – so it is effectively a minimum and maximum – in order to maximize “value for money” from the donor perspective.

In the realm of governance, outside donors often have very robust governance standards. Their standards, while often high, reference compliance with international best practice or local legal requirements and tend to place emphasis on avoiding conflicts of interest among staff or board, with much less attention to formal roles for an organization’s community in its governance.

What is key here is that the simple “bricks and mortar” of the institutional framework of a community philanthropy organization are not in themselves sufficient to ensure mutual accountability, power-sharing with the community and only a clear articulation of some key values and principles by board and staff can help ward against the push and pull of forces that exist within any multi-stakeholder institutional arrangement.

And finally perhaps it is worth touching on the role of grantmaking and re-granting in all of this. A recent issue of Alliance magazine included a special focus on grantmaking. It explored whether grantmaking as a tool for achieving social change had been over-stated and whether other philanthropic and development tools might be more effective. Overall, contributors from emerging markets and developing contexts were adamant that grantmaking was an essential tool in fostering local development – and that it was so much more than a series of transactions and transfers of money (as is often the case when it comes to “re-granting” on behalf of international donors. Filiz Bikmen observed that in Turkey grantmaking is so much more than the transfer of funds; it is all about increasing the capacities of civil society, fostering connections between different groups – an investment in democratization. And Akwasi Aidoo, from TrustAfrica, also noted that in Africa, for so long dependent on donor aid and only just now beginning to experience the reality of a developed and indigenous African philanthropy sector, “grantmaking becomes an essential tool in fostering new and more horizontal and transparent forms of mutual accountability between donors and recipients; it constitutes part of a paradigm shift towards a form of development that is driven and resourced by Africans.”

What do you think? The GACP offers a valuable platform to establish a dialogue across different development approaches and agendas and what it needs is a range of different voices and perspectives. So, please, join the discussion!