The Summit: weaving a new, multi-coloured fabric for development

It’s hard to believe that six weeks have passed since almost 400 of us from over 60 countries gathered in Johannesburg – in the heat of the South African summer – for the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy.

At the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) we are still digesting what came out of the Summit and how we can build the momentum it created, but we are also eager to hear from you.

Community philanthropy chimes with SDGs

SDG 6: Indian women use micro-loans to support herbal medicine practiceThe Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have arrived after years of dialogue. Where the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were formulated in United Nations offices – one was even added as policymakers crossed the road – the long, global consultation process for developing the SDGs has raised expectations for community participation across the world.

The so-called SDG “Road to Dignity” now faces its real test – the potholes of universal implementation in an increasingly unsettled world. CIVICUS Secretary General, Danny Sriskandarajah, recognized the challenges ahead in his introduction to the 2015 State of Civil Society report. He said: “As the world debates the post-2015 agenda the SDGs are the next big test of the international system. The international community needs to show commitment to tackling inequality, and create space for civil society, as a co-owner of the goals, rather than a delivery mechanism for elite priorities.”

In short, effective implementation of the goals needs local hands to transform aspiration into reality. People-centred development matters if the goals are to have any purchase in the favelas of Latin America or the rural hamlets of Nepal. The Global Fund for Community Foundations has gathered case studies from all over the world to show how communities, pooling resources and talent, can implement the goals. The case studies also demonstrate lessons for foundations seeking to contribute meaningfully to the SDGs. These include:

  • Social change needs to incorporate local voice, particularly of affected populations, to inform policy.
  • Change is a slow process leading to an outcome rather than a short-term project delivering outputs.
  • Community philanthropy organizations can act as support and knowledge hubs to invest in and share learning from activities related to SDGs.

Read the full article, with examples of how the work of community philanthropy organizations around the world fit with five of the SDGs.

What can community philanthropy offer a Europe of refugees?

Parc Maximilien, Brussels, Sept. 2015, (Licensed Under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)At a meeting of community foundation representatives from across Europe, Jasna Jasarevic, from the Tuzla Community Foundation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reminded us that although her country was not a transit area for refugees, Bosnians were experienced in responding to emergencies. “We can identify all available buildings for shelter”, she assured us. The needs of those forced from their home as a result of conflict is still a vibrant memory in many parts of Europe. Indeed, for those of a historical bent of mind, Europe is not all that far removed from generating refugee “crises” itself in decades past. All the more reason that it should adopt a “can do” approach in responding to current needs.

The more immediate question for the community philanthropy field is whether there is a specific contribution that community foundations can make. As place-based foundations they are on the ground in many parts of Europe – including those countries that are dubbed “entry” or “transit” regions for refugees, and other countries that are pivotal points of “destination.” It is true that the financial resources available to these foundations are often limited, yet notwithstanding this, the added value that they bring includes their experience as grantmakers; their transparent procedures and accountability to both their local communities and their donors; their accessible and visible organizational infrastructure; and their “ear to the ground”, picking up local sensitivities and opportunities. Community foundations are generalist facilitators in circumstances where existing civil society organizations may be over-stretched and where there is a need to communicate with a multiplicity of stakeholders.

 

A rabbit in the headlights?

There is, of course, always the danger that the scale and rapidity of the current movement of refugees into Europe can cause caring organizations to throw up their hands in despair of being able to make a difference. Yet the reality is that a number of community foundations in Germany, Croatia and Hungary speak of thousands of new volunteers emerging to ask what they can do to help. This is a real opportunity for civic activism but needs to be responded to in a timely manner. In response to a survey conducted by the GFCF over October 2015 one respondent made the point: “We are too small to make a real difference in financial support for refugee-related initiatives, but we play quite an important role in sensibilization and communication (and add some nuance to the debate) around the subject on a local level, as well as playing a facilitating and motivating role to support local volunteers and/or local support initiatives.” Similarly, a community foundation in Croatia is working closely with the volunteer centre in their community, who in turn organize local volunteers and arrange daily transport to distribute humanitarian aid to the refugees there. The foundation Director makes the plea for more resources to support this work: “Funds for transportation of volunteers is necessary as they can no longer organize transport by their own vehicles or for large groups of volunteers.” A German community foundation describes itself as one of the many players responding to the needs of the refugees that are arriving in the city at the rate of 4000 – 5000 each day.

Community foundation activists are clearly concerned about the very human needs of people who are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters – and not just “refugees.” A number of the GFCF respondents expressed fears about the “lack of empathy” among their local population with regard to the images seen on television screens or the trudge of people through their fields and streets. Negative attitudes are ascribed to a lack of information about the crisis in Syria, but also to a fear of the unknown that can be politically exploited. Certainly there is a recognition of the need to respond to immediate refugee relief, but as organizations with an eye to the long-term it is not surprising that community foundations are thinking through the longer term implications of the current situation. There was equal agreement from GFCF survey responses that while community foundations need to be seen to be taking action through funding and support for refugees now, they also need to focus on the medium to longer term needs of building inclusive communities.

 

Taking the pulse of long-term implications

A community foundation representative in one of the main transit countries for refugees spoke of the “growing split of views, heightened emotions and polarization which prevents rational discussion” in her country.  She called for a “strengthening of the quality of public discourse, argumentation and critical thinking at all levels.” This proposition is supported by comments received from Romania, Hungary and Serbia. There is also a recognition that the task of maintaining community cohesion, and a sense of solidarity, in the destination countries is of particular importance in the medium to longer term. This is an area in which community foundations are uniquely placed to work with local NGOs and community-based groups to make a real difference. There are at least two levels of intervention – on the one hand the macro level discussion of European values; on the other, the lived realities and relationships in those neighbourhoods that refugee families are likely to settle. A UK community foundation, that has previous experience of funding local NGOs working directly with refugees and asylum seekers, makes the point that there is a need for a shared narrative which would allow a much wider dialogue with donors and others who might be wondering what they can do to help.

In addressing these critical long term issues there is also a need for support for those community foundations that are working in particularly difficult political circumstances. One such foundation described itself as feeling “between a rock and a hard place: an openly hostile government that is ready to attack anyone who seems to ‘like’ refugees and our own conscience that says we have to speak up.” Consequently there was overwhelming support for the suggestion that community foundations that are interested/concerned with the refugee issue would benefit from being linked into other European philanthropy platforms and that community foundations would benefit from networking and sharing information on current challenges and opportunities. As such, the GFCF will be hosting a convening on the topic at Philanthropy House in Brussels from 26 – 27 January 2015. 

Avila Kilmurray, GFCF Director – Policy & Strategy

Alliance magazine requests your input – Sustainable Development Goals survey

Sustainable Development Goals: How much do you know? What do you think the role of foundations should be? Where will they be most effective?

Alliance magazine’s special feature in December will investigate philanthropy’s role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A proposed set of targets to ensure that global development serves the poorest people without creating new environmental problems or exacerbating climate change, the SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) once they expire at the end of the year.

The goals reflect the experience of the MDGS, which aimed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, introduce universal primary education, reduce infant mortality, improve maternal health, and ensure environmental sustainability. The MDG process was designed to build partnerships for development among bilateral donors, government and private sector givers and businesses. Most countries have made progress toward the MDGs, but few achieved every one of them.

The SDGs are more comprehensive. The long list of goals starts with unmet millennium goals — beginning with “end poverty” and “end hunger.” The SDGs also include “well-being”, water and sanitation, “safe cities”, and reducing inequality. Goal 17, “mechanisms and partnerships toward achieving the goals”, is thought to resonate most among philanthropic institutions.

Unlike the MDGs, this is a universal agenda: all governments will be expected to adopt it and to report on its progress and achievements. The SDGs will drive policy-making and the bulk of official development assistance, as well as the work of development ministries and government departments around the world. Organizations and governments have been negotiating post-2015 plans and strategies for many years.

This Alliance survey is aimed to provide its readers an opportunity to express their views and their knowledge about the SDGs. The results will form a part of Alliance’s coverage of these issues in its December 2015 issue and help both writers and readers plan their own SDGs approach.

Please take a few minutes to respond to the questions at this link. Your answers will be completely confidential. Alliance will report the aggregated findings in December.

Philanthropy as an emerging contributor to development cooperation: Community foundations are on the map and other updates

We recently reported on a conference, International Development Cooperation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities – Perspectives of the New Actors, held in Istanbul and organized by Tika, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, and UNDP. Here is a quick update on the latest developments and related conversations:

Watch with interest: Community foundations are on the map!

  • The 20 Key Messages paper from the Istanbul conference cite “a growing web of community foundations” as a suitable entry point for private philanthropy to realize its potential as a powerful force in “catalysing private action, civil society involvement and championing innovative solutions for development, especially at the local level…”
  • The paper also suggests that multinational organizations “should routinely involve philanthropists and community foundations as partners on the ground and in planning and implementation of the Post-2015 development agenda.” July 2014 planning meeting for the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative, © Patrice Dougé

Philanthropy as an Emerging Contributor to Development Cooperation – paper now published

Heather Grady’s background paper for the conference has been finalized and published. The paper (which can be downloaded here) lays out the following case:

  • The world is at a pivotal moment for global development cooperation. While many stakeholders are brought increasingly into international development processes, philanthropy stands apart, despite the scale, ambition and potential of philanthropy’s contributions to international development.
  • A range of issues and recommendations are raised in the report, commissioned by the United Nations Development Program. Philanthropy’s contributions to international development should be better measured, and there is a need for a stronger emphasis on better data overall in terms of both measuring progress, and enabling a better understanding of the range of potential grantees working on development themes.

Blog: Philanthropy, the post-2015 agenda and diffuse collaboration

In a separate blog for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Heather reflects some of the structural issues that emerge when foundations think about collaboration, with particular reference to the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy.

  • “Our assumption is if we [cooperate] at the national and global levels vis-à-vis the Post-2015 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, we will have a more positive impact on development outcomes. Moreover, the convergence of action around shared vision, mission, and objectives can leverage our individual and collective resources and benefits. But there is no immediate return on investment, and the growing emphasis by foundations on attribution (to the funder), rather than contribution, sometimes has the perverse effect of separating, rather than converging, development efforts.”
  • “If you want to try new approaches to collaboration on the Sustainable Development Goals and put diffuse reciprocity in action by putting some skin in the game, get in touch as our circle widens.”

Join the discussion! WINGS and UNDP to host a webinar on Philanthropy’s Role in International Development Cooperation

  • When? August 12th 2014
  • Who? Speakers include:

Heather Grady, Senior Fellow, Global Philanthropy, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Karolina Mzyk, Program Specialist and Foundations Coordinator, UNDP

Naila Farouky, Executive Director, Arab Foundations Forum

Helena Monteiro, Executive Director, WINGS

 

  •  How to register? Register here

 

 

The matter of international development cooperation

Over the course of the last year or so, there have been a series of conversations led by various philanthropic networks (including WINGS, the European Foundation Centre and netFWD), foundations (including the Ford Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation) and the United Nations (UNDP) about the role of philanthropy in global development after 2015, which marks the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I must confess that, although I had read reports of some of the meetings that have been held to advance this agenda and had also completed surveys on the subject as requested, I had not followed the process very closely. Neither the MDGs nor the “post-2015 agenda” feature very prominently in my everyday work with community foundations and community philanthropy organizations around the world.

So it was with some interest that I travelled to Istanbul a couple of weeks’ ago to participate in a conference, “International Development Cooperation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities – Perspectives of the New Actors”, organized by Tika, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, and UNDP. Although, the “new actors” in question were generally those countries that had recently transitioned from being beneficiaries to donors (such as China, Mexico, Russia etc.), there were also two sessions that looked specifically at the role of philanthropy and of the private sector.

 

Our session, on “Global, regional and local philanthropy as an emerging contributor to development cooperation”, was moderated by Ed Cain from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which has been actively engaged in encouraging greater collaboration between foundations and the UN. Heather Grady (ex-Rockefeller Foundation, who is currently working as a consultant on the Hilton / UN process), presented highlights of her thought-provoking, extremely thorough and very concise paper, “Philanthropy as an Emerging Contributor to Development Cooperation”, which argues that philanthropy should not be seen as a “gap-filler” for Official Development Assistance but rather that:

  • It brings a complementary and beneficial set of new actors, approaches, and types of funding;
  • The value of a philanthropic portfolio is that it enables one institution, even with modest resources, to simultaneously, and over time, test and support disparate organizations and interventions. This is an essential contribution to the immense undertaking of development; and, finally,
  • Given the growing importance and enthusiasm around South-South cooperation and linkages, the burgeoning philanthropy originating in the Global South, which has not been well-documented, is particularly important to explore and analyze.

Five of us – all of whom, in different ways, represented emerging philanthropic sectors in the Global South – were invited to comment on Heather’s paper, as well to reflect upon:

  • The extent to which we, in our work, routinely took into account international goal-setting and multilateral development frameworks and processes (such as the MDGs);
  • What our experiences had been of efforts to build bridges across sectors (a need identified in the background paper); and,
  • What concrete steps could be taken by governments and UN agencies to deepen meaningful engagement with the philanthropy sector.

In discussing these questions, there was general agreement that there was little reference to the MDGs etc. in panellists’ everyday work. Gayatri Divecha, from DASRA, which works with Indian philanthropists and social entrepreneurs, and Naila Farouky (Arab Foundations Forum) agreed that, although their partners and constituents may indeed be working on issues of gender equality, universal primary education etc. (MDGs 2 & 3), the language and framing was very different in that it was much more rooted in the local context than in universal frameworks.

As for efforts to build bridges across sectors, Rana Kotan, noted that the Sabanci Foundation, had partnered with the UNDP on particular programmes and Helena Monteiro of WINGS talked about the Global Philanthropy Data Charter as a concrete example of philanthropy seeking to be more open and proactive in both capturing data and sharing it in ways that might foster great collaboration and co-learning.

For the GFCF, which itself was the product of a partnership between private philanthropy and the World Bank, the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP) is itself a recent and important example of “bridge-building” across different parts of the philanthropic and development sectors. The GACP brings together a cross-section of different kinds of institutional donors (which currently include the Aga Khan Foundation U.S., the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, C.S. Mott Foundation and USAID), each of which has an interest in how fostering community philanthropy as a specific development strategy can enhance development processes and outcomes. Each partner is investing both resources and staff time towards the pursuit of a joint learning and development agenda over five years, which will be facilitated by the GFCF. If we talk about building bridges between philanthropy and development it is this kind of intentional investment over time that is required, rather than the occasional one-off event where foundation or UN representatives (for examples) cross over into each other’s “foreign turf” to speak at a conference or seminar.

Three final thoughts on the conference:

The matter of language: I am a native English speaker and have been working in philanthropy and development for 20 years and yet, at times, it was a challenge to keep up with all the acronyms and terms bandied about. I felt as though I needed a timeline and / or “cheat-sheet” that captured the basics of different UN agreements summarised into city names – “Paris”, “Busan”… plus all the conferences in between (“before Istanbul”, “since Mexico”). The experience really served to remind me of how easy it is for all of us – despite our best intentions – to fall into the trap of using language, not to build bridges and engage others, but rather to exclude them, leave them out.

The matter of gender: Speaking of leaving people out, the conference was notable for the astonishing lack of women in plenary sessions. Fortunately, the head of UNDP, Helen Clark, is a woman (so she at least moderated the opening plenary), but it was a little dispiriting to see plenary after plenary made up of almost all men. (Interestingly and perhaps rather surprisingly, it was the side session on development and philanthropy that reversed this trend, with no fewer than six women!)

The matter of philanthropy: Finally, I was interested to be reminded of how other parts of the development sector have some degree of latent distrust of philanthropy, both as non-transparent and non-accountable, but also as a symptom of the failure of government wealth distribution mechanisms and of growing income inequalities all over the world, which have created a new class of ultra-rich. Although I would argue strongly that community philanthropy offers a unique platform for modelling good governance and accountability and of acting as a “democratizing force” for philanthropy in general, it was good to be reminded that, again, words – unless they are carefully used and meant – can create barriers and elicit suspicion.

 

Jenny Hodgson

Executive Director, GFCF

Aga Khan highlights need for strengthened global civil society in Ottawa speech

“Increasingly, I believe, the voices of civil society are voices for change – where change has been overdue. They have been voices of hope for people living in fear,” These are the words of His Highness the Aga Khan in a speech to the Canadian Parliament on February 27th 2014, in which he expressed clearly, and in personal terms, many of the values that underpin the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.

He spoke about the pace of change in the world alongside the opportunities and challenges that this brings.  Addressing the Joint Session of Canadian Parliament the Aga Khan made reference to the constitutional reforms adopted by 37 countries over the past decade, with a further 12 countries still engaged in this work in progress.  This has thrown down a gauntlet to good governance and has highlighted the primacy of the task of transforming countries of conflict into countries of opportunity.

The Aga Khan also addressed the divisions and tensions within and between faith beliefs in the world today. Speaking about the contribution of Muslim culture and historical achievement, he emphasised the diversity that exists within the ummah – the entirety of Muslim communities around the world.  Arguing that faith should deepen concern for the world’s environment and for the well-being of humanity, the Aga Khan described the work of the Aga Khan Development Network which is informed by the age old Islamic ethic of the elimination of poverty; access to education and social peace in a pluralist environment.   A focus of hope in translating this ethic into action was identified as the voices of civil society, particularly through the work of non-profit organizations that are working both within, and between, countries around the world.

The Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. is a member of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

New on the GFCF website

1. Community philanthropy and power

No matter where they are located, the multi-stakeholder nature of community philanthropy organizations means that they will always have to deal with the tension that arises from juggling donor interests and pursuing social justice imperatives. Indeed, part of their task is to work out ways to successfully build bridges between the twoRead more

From the latest edition of Alliance magazine, Community philanthropy and power.

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2. Tracking the growth of organized philanthropy: is it the missing piece in community development?

From the 2013 CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report

This article provides an overview of the current state of global community philanthropy, with particular reference to the global South. It describes the factors that are driving a growth in community philanthropy, and the key features of this distinct section of civil society and its role in driving community development agendas that are locally formulated. This small but growing field, which emphasises local asset development and multi-stakeholder good governance, may have particular relevance in the context of increased limitations experienced by and reduced resources for CSOs in many parts of the world. Read more

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3. Profile of Uluntu Community Foundation

“What will make us different? The first five years of the Uluntu Community Foundation” is now available for download as a PDF file.

Advancing the practice of community philanthropy worldwide: GFCF is appointed Secretariat to new multi-stakeholder collaborative

The GFCF has been appointed Secretariat of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, a new multi-donor, multi-stakeholder initiative supported by founding partners, the Aga Khan Foundation USA, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and USAID, which aims to make the case that growing local ownership and accountability leads to stronger communities and that this should be a key focus of development practitioners.

The Alliance offers an exciting opportunity to advance the field and the understanding of community philanthropy globally and the ways in which it can mobilize trust, assets and capacities and, by doing so, strengthen local development outcomes. For the GFCF, the work of the Alliance promises to build on a programme of work that has been developed over the course of the past seven years, aimed at strengthening individual institutions of community philanthropy, supporting the development of community philanthropy networks and raising the profile of community philanthropy among a broader cross-section of stakeholders.

In March 2013, a strategic review of the GFCF was conducted by two external consultants. It examined the work and achievements of the institution to date and concluded that the GFCF “is playing an exemplary role in identifying, nurturing and supporting the field of community philanthropy based on a solid programme of small grants to organisations around the world”. 

Read the strategic review and options appraisal

More details about the Alliance will become available over the coming months.