New report makes the Case for Community Philanthropy!

Community philanthropy can be a powerful force for strengthening civil society and building on local initiative, according to a new brief released jointly by the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Global Fund for Community Foundations, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The publication, entitled The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, 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.

The case statement crystallizes an understanding gathered in recent years. Last year AKF USA and the Mott Foundation released a report, based on a series of collaborative consultations in North America, Africa and Asia, that explored how community philanthropy has worked around the world to help build local capacity. Amid increasing public interest, those foundations, along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have supported development of a Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy.

The new publication synthesizes trends (one form of community philanthropy organization – community foundations – grew by a remarkable 86 percent from 2000 to 2010), the rationale, and views from experts. It addresses the role that donors can play in a community-driven practice. “It’s a challenge for outside funders investing a lot of money to expect programs to be sustained,” notes Shannon Lawder of the C.S. Mott Foundation. “From our experience, the work does continue when you’ve supported community philanthropy. It works.”

 

Call for applications for joint action research pilot to map community philanthropy institutions’ work on the environment!

The GFCF is looking to engage a global cohort of community foundations and community philanthropy organizations in a joint mapping exercise to explore their work in issues related to their local environment

This call for submissions is only open to organizations that define themselves as community foundations, community philanthropy institutions, grassroots grantmakers and other types of local fundraising / grantmaking institutions. NGOs which implement programmes directly are not eligible to participate. (Find out more about selection criteria and FAQs)

Guidelines for this initiative can be downloaded here.

Deadline for submissions is May 20th 2013.

 

Rubtsovsk community foundation: building philanthropy and civic engagement in one of Russia’s “dying cities”

Philanthropy in Russia today is no longer just about big private Moscow-based foundations or humanitarian aid organizations. Editor of Philanthropy (an online portal on all matters philanthropic run by Charities Aid Foundation Russia), Matthew Masal’tsev, went to Siberia, to find for himself out how local philanthropy is changing lives at the community level. He began his journey in Rubtsovsk, in the Altai region of Russia.

In many ways, Rubtsovsk can be regarded as the birthplace of a new kind of local philanthropy which is as much about civic participation as it about money. Eight years ago, the local community foundation (known in Russian as City Charitable Fund, “Development”) produced its first “charity show”, an adaptation of the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The performers included prominent businessmen as well as local officials and deputies, and proceeds from ticket sales went towards a community grantmaking programme. The show was an instant hit: it has been performed every year since and has raised over 1.2 million rubles, or around US $36,000. (It has also inspired similar types of charitable / theatrical productions in other parts of Russia).

Building on this success, the community foundation went on to hold other community-oriented charitable events, including a talent show and, most recently, a music contest called, “Together Through Song” where the musically talented – and the less musically talented – all have an opportunity to perform.

Talent competition organized by the community foundation

Igor Levin, director of a local metals factory, is a newly inspired bass guitarist, having picked a guitar for the first time only a few months ago to join one of the bands playing in the competition. This isn’t Igor’s first foray into the activities of the community foundation – he’s starred as the heroic lover in five of the charitable productions, competed in the talent show, and been a key member of the team in a charitable football tournament.

Rubtsovsk is in the Altai region, near the border with Kazakhstan and a 300 kilometres from the nearest airport in Barnaul. Although the city (pop. 150,000) was founded 120 years ago, it began to grow significantly during the Second World War when two large factories were relocated there away from the front lines. These two factories – one producing tractors the other agricultural machinery – formed the pillars of the city’s economy during the Soviet era, bringing jobs and infrastructure. In fact, during Soviet times, Rubtsovsk was one of the largest employers in the manufacturing industry across the Union.

However, in the early 1990s with the demise of the Soviet Union, industrial production ground to a halt and Rubtsovsk went through a very difficult period as state salaries and pensions went unpaid.  Although things improved after 2000, Rubtsovsk is still categorised as one of Russia’s “dying cities”. (Even in the last year the city has seen more job losses with the abolition of customs controls between Russia and Kazakhstan).

As times got more and more difficult, local businesses found themselves frequently approached with requests for assistance. Businessmen like Alexander Varatanov and his partners felt strongly that it was their responsibility to do what they could to help. “But then I became concerned that we were starting to see the emergence of a ‘professional beggar’ mentality. It’s impossible to help everyone. And it’s hard to make decisions when people turn up at your office,” says Vartanov. “At the same time, you need to have systems in place to ensure that money is spent properly and for the intended purpose. A few of decided that we needed some kind of structure which could help address some of these problems.”

Tatiana Bukanovich, director of the foundation (on right)

The idea of introducing such a mechanism took root and the foundation was established in 2000, under the charismatic leadership of Tatiana Bukanovich and with support from local business leaders. Over the last twelve years the foundation has organized charity performances, grants programmes, social projects, public campaigns and, more recently, it has been the driving force behind the alliance of Altai community foundations. It has also created a stronger links within the local business sector and the conversation these days is much more about the development of civil society and of active citizens than about charity.

For one of the donors to the foundation, the aspiring bass guitarist and head of a local factory, Igor Levin, the relationship with the community foundation has been an interesting journey. Levin believes in “doing” and had always been rather sceptical about the idea of “charity” as something that perpetuates passivity and inertia. So it was only in 2003, when he decided to run for political office and was advised that he needed to improve his image in the community, that he approached Tatiana and her colleagues at the community foundation – and promptly received an instant and thorough education about the role and importance of philanthropy.

For Levin, the community foundation goes beyond mere charity to community development and innovation. He describes receiving requests from two kindergartens: one was for a television and video recorder and the other was to purchase materials to decorate a room that they had turned into a children’s theatre. “Of course, I supported the second: after all, how many children will pass through that children’s theatre. You never know, some of them might turn out to be great artists in the future!” (He adds with a sly smile, “And by the way, one of the community foundation projects has actually brought me business”. His company was commissioned to construct 10 play structures with the funds raised through the charity show).

Marat Yelagin, a former radio journalist turned furniture entrepreneur and a board member of the community foundation, harbours a rather sceptical view of the local community whom he sees as often disengaged and distrustful. Despite this he has established his own designated fund within the community foundation and is exploring the idea of creating a system of legal aid for citizens to support them in asserting their rights in their dealings with government. Whether people would appreciate such an effort, he muses, is another thing altogether.  So why engage in philanthropy at all? “In my own way, I’m just trying to make sure that everything I’m involved in is at least transparent and effective.”

And it is around that last sentiment, it seems, that the Rubtsovsk Community Foundation continues to strike a chord: that in a broader environment of inertia, corruption and distrust it is still possible for individuals to come together to engage in philanthropic giving in ways that are both transparent and effective.

 Translated and adapted from an article originally published on the “филантроп” website published by CAF Russia

 

Learning to drive each other’s cars…..

Can community philanthropy coexist with the big external aid entities? Are community foundations part of a larger movement of emerging hybrid organizations in a new social economy? These are some big questions for the community philanthropy field which have been raised in the past few weeks.

The Value of Community Philanthropy argues that increasing local ownership and accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of development aid practitioners. The report sets out the results of a consultation (conducted by the Mott Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation USA, in association with the Global Fund for Community Foundations),  to explore ways to stimulate and develop community philanthropy as a way of strengthening civil society and enhancing aid effectiveness.  Its formal launch at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C. earlier in the month was attended by donors and development practitioners, and generated a positive buzz on the social media airwaves.

The report was written by Barry Knight, Executive Director of CENTRIS and adviser to the GFCF. Barry is also co-author of another new report, The New Generation of Community Foundations, just released by the GFCF and the Coady International Institute, which explores the emerging community foundation phenomenon in the context of other forms of “social solidarity” institutions and movements, and also as a response to disillusionment with conventional channels of international aid.

The collaboration between the GFCF and Coady emerged out of chance encounter at a workshop in South Africa in 2009. During a brief conversation during a coffee break, Gord Cunningham (then acting director at Coady) and I discovered that, although we were coming from slightly different angles we shared a common interest in community-driven development and, in particular, the role of local assets.

For the GFCF the past six years of grantmaking to almost 150 organizations in 40-plus countries has allowed us both to support and observe local community philanthropy institutions emerging and developing in very different parts of the world. We have seen that community philanthropy and its institutions vary according to context. And sometimes this has lead us to wonder whether the term “community foundation” is itself always helpful or whether it can sometimes end up constraining our thinking. There is no doubt that precise terminology can bring clarity to an emerging field and affirm its collective identity, but there is also a danger that if we are only looking for similarities – or a lowest common denominator – we end up losing the contextual and nuanced forms that these institutions can often take. So increasingly, in our grantmaking we have become less preoccupied with form alone and more interested in how such institutions evolve and fit within the broader landscape of people-led development and other forms of social innovation.

On its part, the Coady Institute’s interest in citizen-led development has its origins in the work of Jody Kretzmann and John McKnight on Asset-based Community Development (ABCD). Gord Cunningham and his colleague, Alison Mathie, became interested in seeing how a development approach which shifts from a focus on needs, deficits and problems to assets, strengths and contributions, could be built on and applied in different settings. Through their international work, they had seen how the introduction of an “ABCD” approach often had a rapid uptake at community level, and how groups began to organize informally around new activities by identifying assets and opportunity. At the same time, they had also observed that these informal activities eventually reached a ceiling and couldn’t continue without formalizing in some way: this led them to starting looking at innovative types of formal organizations that used assets as leverage and asked for investment, not charity.

At a subsequent meeting between the GFCF and Coady, where we were joined by Johanna Hendricks from the West Coast Community Foundation in South Africa and Janet Mawiyoo from the Kenya Community Development Foundation, we decided that the best way of testing the value of a joined-up approach was to conduct a joint study of a successful example of community development, which involved both a community foundation and an asset-based approach. Our joint report The Story Behind the Well, tells the story of how a rural community in Makutano, Kenya, has transformed itself over a period of 14 years and looks at the role played by the local development association and the Kenya Community Development Foundation in bringing about that change.

Building on the evidence presented in The Story Behind the Well, and with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), we invited a group of “innovative thinkers” to come together to discuss new approaches to community and organizational development last July at Coady, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The group, which included participants from South Africa, Brazil, Canada and the United States, working variously in community organizing, membership-based organizing, rural development philanthropy and the social economy, was asked to consider:  ‘whether recent developments in community development (e.g. community philanthropy, social enterprise, member based organizing) offer an opportunity to think differently about support for people led organizing for social justice?’

Our “think-tank” for the GFCF / Coady Institute research initiative

One key point which emerged out of our two days’ together was the need for groups and individuals to reach out across disciplines and “silos” and challenge the accepted “rules” of development in order to learn from each other. As the world becomes more interconnected, the opportunities for even the smallest, most “grass-roots” organisations to engage in these sorts of debates are becoming much more common, challenging more established theories and organisations, to the benefit of all.

In reflecting on this need for behaviour and mindset change one participant observied: “We need to learn more and drive each other’s cars, and move from stick shift to manual, and then try out a convoy.”

Jenny Hodgson

New report from the GFCF and Coady Institute: The New Generation of Community Foundations

Community foundations have enjoyed considerable growth in recent years, not only in their number but also in their character. This emergence of a ‘new generation’ of community foundations is occurring within a larger context of other emerging forms of ‘social solidarity’ movements and institutions, including rural development philanthropy, member‑based organizing and other hybrid forms of citizen‑led actions.

 “The New Generation of Community Foundations” has been produced by the GFCF and the Coady International Institute and explores the emerging community foundation phenomenon in the context of disillusionment with conventional channels of international aid.

Dalia Association: A New Generation Community Foundation?

The report draws on the literature relating to community philanthropy, mutual responsibility and the broader social economy, as well as empirical data on the growth of the field, and it provides an analysis of five case examples of community foundations in the Global South as evidence for a re‑conceptualization of their role and potential contribution as catalysts for citizen‑led and socially inclusive development.

Read the report

 

Good news – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! The eco-system for supporting new community foundations is there

 

Two years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, conversations have begun in earnest about the creation of a Haitian-led, Haitian-owned institution – a community foundation – which can mobilize a range of different resources – public and private, local and international, institutional and individual, cash and in-kind  – and which can provide the type of financial capital and technical support to Haitian NGOs, community based groups and other grassroots initiatives which are both sorely lacking in Haiti. In January I facilitated a two-day workshop in Port au Prince to develop the idea of establishing a community foundation. When I asked the participants to reflect on what was and wasn’t working in Haiti today, what emerged was a strong sense of frustration and disillusion as to how little had still been achieved, particularly given the vast outpouring of philanthropic donations and international aid in the aftermath of the earthquake. The weakness – or, in some areas and sectors, complete absence – of government as a mechanism for delivering development to the Haitian people was identified as one key factor. But the international aid effort also came in for criticism: the lack of coordination, the sense that Haitians were being excluded from decision-making, that their voices were not being heard and that Haitian NGOs and groups were being overlooked and certainly not being invested in. In the words of one of the participants, “A country cannot run on projects – Haiti is a country of projects.”

Two years since the earthquake and it seems that for many the time feels about right to start thinking about new models and approaches for Haiti: the gear change from the immediate humanitarian relief effort to long-term development is well established and the limitations of the current development effort seem all too apparent.

The timing for a conversation about new and alternative approaches and models to development in Haiti is good from another perspective. Ten years ago, or even five, there were far fewer examples and experiences of setting up a community foundation in a developing context like Haiti to look to for inspiration and to draw upon for direction. Today, the journey of setting up a local foundation in Haiti – or anywhere else – need no longer be a lonely one. All over the world, there are individual institutions as well as national and regional networks of community foundations, women’s funds and other types of local grantmakers which are increasingly well networked, able to articulate a collective voice in dialogue with international donors and governments and which offer a treasure trove of practical and grounded experience derived from no better place than the front-lines of foundation-building. They may not be as well sign-posted as other elements of today’s global civil society but the basic infrastructure, relationships, networks and knowledge are there and together they form the basis of an important eco-system in which new and emerging institutions and initiatives can emerge and thrive.

The value of such a global network and the experiences that it can bring was evident at the Haiti meeting. In attendance was the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KDCF), which is now fourteen years old, as well as the Fundación Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte (five years old) and the Corporativa de Fundaciones (thirteen years old) from Mexico, and the recently established Baoba Fund for Racial Equity in Brazil. In terms of experiences specific to Haiti there was also the Lambi Fund of Haiti, a grassroots grantmaker (14 years old) and the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation (established in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2010).  And with each of these institutions comes a rich assortment of different experiences to share, stories to tell, advice to give (and a combined track record amounting an impressive fifty years!).

Josette Perard and Marie Marthe St Cyr of the Lambi Fund of Haiti

The experiences from Kenya, in particular, resonated with the group. There were many parallels between the environment in Kenya in the late 1990s and the situation in Haiti today and it was these contextual factors that served to shape the development approach, culture, governance and management style of KCDF. Janet Mawiyoo, CEO of KCDF, characterized those factors as:

–        Many international actors in Kenya and yet not much to show for their efforts

–        High levels of corruption and inefficiency in government and in public institutions

–        A sense that development agendas were being set from outside Kenya

–        A low level of input and participation from communities

–        Increasingly, a dependency mindset, with people looking for help from outside and not recognizing what they have

–        The existence of strong giving traditions in Kenya, particularly around family units, which were not appreciated as something that could be built on.

In framing the new institution of KCDF, therefore, its founders had sought to emphasise some key principles which continue to underpin its work today. They are:

–        Sustainability – taking a long term view of the community

–        Listening to community issues / voices – and being responsive to them

–        Promoting local giving – as a move away from depending on foreign support and changing mindset

–        Importance of local accountability

–        Capacity development of local organizations

Janet Mawiyoo, CEO of KCDF

As work on the Haiti community foundation initiative begins to gain pace, and to negotiate its space in what is an extremely crowded NGO landscape in the country, there will be challenges and distractions – of money and politics, no doubt, and of managing expectations, particularly in the short term.   The support of sister institutions, who have travelled that lonely path before them and who have sought to change mindsets and offer an alternative approach to development, will come to play an enormously important role.

Jenny Hodgson

Second community foundation workshop in Haiti: practitioners from Kenya, Mexico and Brazil share their experiences

Conversations about the creation of a community foundation in Haiti have been ongoing over the last year or so as part of a process initiated by Espwa and the Puerto Rico Community Foundation and supported by the GFCF, the Kellogg Foundation and the Inter-American Foundation. An initial workshop to discuss the idea was held in Haiti last year which brought together an initial group of community and business leaders, diaspora and funders. On January 31st and February 1st 2012 a second workshop was held in Port au Prince to take the idea further. In attendance were an expanded group of Haitian representatives as well as foundation practitioners and board members from Mexico, Kenya and Brazil. Over the course of the workshop, which was facilitated by Jenny Hodgson of the GFCF, participants identified some of the key obstacles that were inhibiting the realisation of Haitian-led development agenda as well as some of the local assets – such as existing grassroots groups, the commitments of individuals, support from the diaspora etc. – which could be built on in the framing of a new institution.

Sarah Hendricks, Tanguy Armand, Luiz Alberto Gonçaves, Pierre Noel

They heard from foundation practitioners and board members about the experiences of establishing community foundations in Kenya (Janet Mawiyoo from the Kenya Community Development Foundation) and Mexico (Karen Yarza from Fundación Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte and Ixánar Uriza from Corporativa de Fundaciones and Luiz Alberto Gonçaves, a founding board member of the Baoba Fund for Racial Equity in Brazil. And they began to map out a vision for a Haitian community foundation and a plan to move the process forward. For further information, contact Marie-Rose Romain Murphy at Espwa (romainmurphy<at>gmail.com).

Participants at the workshop in Port au Prince

 

 

Laying down the challenge for community foundations everywhere

“In five or 10 years, I fear that many of the institutions in this room won’t be here.” These were the words of Emmett Carson, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, speaking at the Council on Foundations Fall Community Foundation Conference in San Francisco in September 2011.

In the global landscape of community foundations, Silicon Valley Community Foundation is among the biggest: over the past five years it has awarded over $1 billion, raised over $1 billion and increased its assets by over $500 million. Of the top 25 US foundations that support international causes, Silicon Valley is at number 13 (the only community foundation on the list).

The sheer size and scale of Silicon Valley Community Foundation propels it in an altogether different world (or even planet) from those community foundations and grassroots grantmakers in other parts of the world that the GFCF works with. Whether they are in Russia, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Ecuador or Egypt, most of these community foundations are still financially very small. Although there are a handful of community foundations outside North America and Western Europe that have built up endowment funds of several million dollars and whose annual budgets are in the million-dollar range, most operate on budgets that are much smaller. A report (“More than the Poor Cousin”), produced by the GFCF in 2010 showed that, across a sample of 50 community foundations worldwide, over half had an annual budget of $65,000 or less.

The often huge disparities between the size community foundations in the West (and particularly, the United States) and in other low and middle-income contexts can sometimes make for limited opportunities for real exchange and may even lead one to wonder whether the experiences are too different to merit even sharing the same name (but that’s a debate for another day). The experience of attending an international community foundation conference (whether in the United States, Canada or the U.K.) can be quite overwhelming: gratifying, yes, to see that community foundations, still largely so invisible and little known in so many developing contexts, can convene in such numbers and with such confidence, with legal recognition, tax concessions etc. all in place, but often the conference conversations are so far removed from the everyday experience of running a community foundation in India or Kenya as to make them irrelevant.

So what was Emmett Carson talking about when he made this ominous warning about the dangers that lie ahead for US community foundations? And might they apply to community foundations outside the United States too? Well, he made a number of points, and all of them have resonance for the range of community foundations and likeminded organizations that GFCF works with globally. Broadly speaking, his main points were:

1.      Community foundations need to be about more than managing and accumulating financial assets. As the philanthropic market place continues to diversify and grow, new players are likely to emerge that can manage these responsibilities more cheaply and/or effectively;
2.      Community foundations need to play to their strengths as conveners that can bridge across different parts of the community and with government, rather than just as managers of money.
3.      There should be different models for community foundations.
4.      Community foundations are increasingly ill-equipped to respond to the urgent issues of our time: “The structure of how we think about the work is increasingly at odds with how people live their lives and how they think about problems.”

On the first point: it is already the case that community foundations are about more than money in most developing and emerging contexts. Financial numbers are important, and easy to quantify – money received, grants made, the value of endowment funds etc. But, particularly when these numbers are small, it is important not to overlook or underestimate the importance of less tangible strengths that form the backbone of many of the community foundations the GFCF works with. These strengths include the knowledge, trust, relationships and judgment built up by groups that are deeply embedded in their communities. The story of the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation in Cairo, a young organization which still getting itself established, which was propelled into a leadership role acting as interface between local authorities and the community when the Arab Spring swept through Egypt earlier this year, is a good example of this. This brings me to point two: while a community foundation might not always offer the best “deal” on managing philanthropic donations, its multiple networks – which might mean foundation staff having coffee in the morning with the local member of parliament, lunch with a local business and tea in the afternoon with a community group –  can more than make up for that. This gives community foundations a unique and distinct advantage in comparison with other more business-efficiency/ transaction-driven philanthropic service providers and one which they should be much more vocal about.

Point three: again, globally the community foundation community is already quite advanced in terms of embracing flexibility and diversity. In our GFCF convenings and conversations we are increasingly comfortable working and thinking as a “tribe”, with shared values and operational principles, while acknowledging the differences in the ways we operate. So terms like “hybrids”, “grass-roots grantmakers”, “community foundation-like” and community philanthropy institutions all work in our meetings. Similarly, if a community foundation isn’t making grants there is usually a good reason for it (like low trust or low capacities in a community or a reluctance to be seen as the “donor” too early on and thus distort the delicate process of cultivating local relationships). The same goes if a foundation decides to plant in trees as an endowment (because they offer a good financial return and can be seen growing by the community, so reducing fears about money being “put away forever” and never to be seen again).

Point 4:  Confronted with issues like climate change, poverty, mass immigration perhaps community foundations can sometimes appear parochial or conservative in their agendas. But again, globally there is a huge range of interesting organizations working from the bottom up of our societies, which include social enterprises, community philanthropies, social movements, protest groups, women’s funds, and hybrid forms that defy easy categorization. These organizations – which include community foundations among their number – are finding new and exciting ways to tackle these big issues and, with the help of the internet, social networking, peer-learning and convenings, are increasingly able to spread their ideas through the sector. The opportunities for shaking off our complacency and “business as usual” mindsets, as Carson warns, and for linking up creative and bold thinking around the world’s big issues are greater than ever before.

Jenny Hodgson

“The Story behind the Well”: a new report from the GFCF and Coady International Institute

What are the key ingredients that are required to make “good development” happen and how can they be fostered? The story behind the well: a case study of successful community development in Makutano, Kenya is a new publication from the GFCF and the Coady International Institute. It tells the story of Makutano, a community in rural Kenya, which over the course of the last fourteen years has transformed itself from a poor, inaccessible and arid “outback” into a thriving hotbed of people-led development.

So what were the drivers for this success? Well, as the report describes, there were several. One was the bold vision of a handful of individuals who believed that for development efforts to be effective they needed to be conceived, owned and direct by the very people they were meant to benefit.  Another was the role played by the a fledgling voluntary association, the Makutano Community Development Association, which saw itself as part of a collective and community-wide effort to improve local livelihoods and standards of living. And a third key influence was the enduring support and of a key partner and funder, the Kenya Community Development Foundation, Kenya’s first public grantmaking foundation, which was established in 1997 with a determination to approach development differently.

The report, co-authored by Halima Mahomed and Brianne Peters, draws on field research and interviews with key individuals who were part this process.

We invite you to read the report, share it with colleagues and to share any comments or feedback with us. To read the full report click here.

Exploring the idea of a community foundation for Haiti

“How can we get long term reconstruction and development that is Haitian-led and owned?” This was the topic of a two-day meeting held on Haiti’s Arcahaie Coast in late July 2011 which brought together a diverse cross-section of Haitians from civil society organizations, business institutions, members of the Haitian Diaspora and representatives of international foundations. The meeting, which was convened by the GFCF, Espwa, the Puerto Rico Community Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was a first step in a conversation around the idea of establishing a community foundation-type institution in Haiti.

The “makers” group discuss next steps for the Haiti Community Foundation initiative

The earthquake which hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, killing over 200,000 people and leaving more than 1.3 million more homeless, crippled the country’s already very weak systems and infrastructure. It also prompted a huge outpouring of donations and development aid as well as a massive influx of international NGOs into the country. Increasingly, concerns have been voiced about the ways in which some international development efforts have marginalized local communities and de-emphasized indigenous leadership.

In addition to reflecting on some of the structural flaws in the ways that development funding was being delivered, the group discussed the potential role that a Haitian-owned, Haitian-led philanthropic institution might play in supporting the country’s long-term reconstruction and development, particularly in the areas of strengthening the capacities and voices of home-grown groups and community associations and of developing philanthropic assets which can be both transparently and effectively applied.

This process is still at an early stage and there is much to be done in terms of determining its feasibility, consulting widely with a broad range of Haitians from all walks of life and ensuring that what emerges is deeply rooted in Haiti’s context and culture. An informal working group has been organized which will take responsibility for the next steps in the process.

For more information, contact Espwa (romainmurphy[at]gmail.com)