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.

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.

Acknowledge the power imbalances and act!

 

This piece, written by Jenny Hodgson, GFCF Executive Director, originally appeared on the European Foundation Centre website.

 

As the United Nations prepares to release a new set of Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the current architecture of the international development sector. The good news is that, according to United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, the MDGs have reduced extreme poverty by half although the benefits have not always been evenly spread geographically and there has been less success on key goals relating to women and children.

However, in the pursuit of poverty alleviation and other global development objectives over the last few decades, the donor community has at the same time contributed to the creation of a global development “industry”. This has turned many NGOs (global and local) into highly skilled proposal writers, budget-jugglers and masters of development jargon, who compete with each other to serve the needs and requirements of external funders.

The impact of international funding has also distorted our sense of time (a five-year development project can be considered long-term) and created lines of “accountability” (a slippery, multi-directional word much bandied about in development discourse) which drive upwards and outwards, and result in hefty reports landing on desks in London, Brussels or Washington, far away from the very people that the development sector is meant to be serving.

 

Community philanthropy: Offering an alternative model of development

It was this frustration that, 17 years ago, led to the creation of the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF), Kenya’s first public foundation. KCDF was established by local civil society leaders who were exasperated by what they saw as years of international development programmes in Kenya undermining rather than fostering local agency, in which people were relegated to the role of “beneficiaries” with “needs”, rather than as citizens with assets who could play an active role in their own development. They also saw how Kenya’s rich systems of mutual giving, as well as its growing middle and wealthy classes, were never part of the local development equation and wanted to create a local institution that could both build up the capacities of local organisations and at the same time, harness local assets and resources in new and strategic ways. It is the same frustration that is today fuelling the creation of the Haiti Community Foundation, a project inspired by the perception that despite the millions of dollars in aid being channelled into the country (particularly following the January 2010 earthquake), most of it was going to international organisations, with little investment in building Haitian institutions that could serve people over the long-term.

These are just two examples of a new breed of locally-driven and locally-shaped community philanthropies and indigenous foundations that are emerging around the world. Although this “family” of institutions – which includes community foundations, national foundations, issue-based funds and other grassroots grantmakers – may differ in terms of context and origins, they are all seeking to model new types of philanthropic behaviour and practice by harnessing local resources and traditions of giving, blending them with new institutional forms. They do this in a number of ways:

  • By using small grants to support initiatives and build the capacities of grassroots groups, which tend to slip under the radar of most international donors. Small grants are also highly effective when it comes to building up a local donor base in places where public trust in institutions is low: they can be easily and transparently tracked rather than disappearing into institutional costs (nothing symbolises the “mystery” of development and puts local donors off more than the four-wheel drive car!), and they are also proof of the fact that development doesn’t always require big money but instead sustained and targeted support that can catalyse local action.
  • By building up a local support base. This is not just a funding strategy (although it certainly changes the power dynamics with external donors when an organisation can bring its own locally-sourced resources to the table) but also derives from the belief that development outcomes are more lasting when people invest their own resources.
  • By playing this double role as both a hub for local asset development and a developmental grantmaker, these organisations are able to act as a bridge between different sections of a community, linking resources and needs, as well as goodwill and good ideas. This unique, horizontal “linking” role is one that most other NGOs are rarely positioned – or encouraged – to play, so entrenched are they in issue-based silos (another distorting effect of mainstream development, whereby everyone is a specialist and generalist organisations are seen as “lacking in focus”).
  • Finally, these organizations are often rich in social capital. When a community philanthropy organisation in Romania or Nepal has a support base of thousands of local donors, no matter how small the individual gifts, that surely says something about how embedded they are in their community, and how much the organisation is seen as part of that community rather than a construct introduced from above. Although the budgets of these institutions might be small, this aspect of local trust and buy-in is often something that gets overlooked, with international aid directing large amounts of money to competent NGOs on the basis of administrative / proposal-writing / English language capacities.

 

A changing landscape for aid: What role for donors and civil society?

The emergence of these new types of community philanthropy institutions is happening at a time when issues around ownership, flows and governance of resources are being seen as more critical than ever. As the established architecture for international aid is changing, so is the landscape in which it has traditionally operated. For traditional international donors, whose influence is already starting to diminish with the arrival of new forms of South-South cooperation (which often requires much less in terms of compliance), I would suggest that it is time to do some real soul-searching about the kind of legacy or footprint that they want to leave behind in developing contexts where they have already been active for decades. Some food for thought:

  • Think long-term and think holistically (even if just a little!). Of course, numbers matter particularly given the growing preoccupation with metrics in development, but there is also something short-sighted about only concentrating on the tangible, the countable, and the “bang for your buck.” Often, development projects seem to me like someone deciding to decorate just one room in a house, self-contained and beautiful, with all mod cons, but forgetting to check whether the plumbing works, the foundations are intact etc. How about investing in partner organisations so that they can plan for their future as a longer-term social good and so that when you leave, you leave them in good shape.
  • Local people-centred institutions matter. International development needs local NGOs but when they are shaped too much by external funding they might not be the kinds of NGOs that local people really want. Local civil society organisations can play an important role in negotiating with other institutional players (state, corporate etc.) but their ability to do also depends on some degree of legitimacy / local buy-in.
  • Acknowledge the power imbalances and act! I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard of a staff member in a community foundation who has moved on to an international NGO, where they will no doubt earn a bigger salary and greater prestige. There is something wrong with an aid system where international organisations end up poaching the best local talent and where local organisations are perceived as less “valuable” than international ones.

As the international aid community and its civil society partners reflect on the MDGs and look forward to the next round of development goals, it seems a good time to engage in some critical introspection, as well as some creative thinking. Civicus recently convened a conversation of activists aimed at exploring the extent to which civil society is “fit for purpose” in the context of current global challenges and the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, which got going last year, brings together a range of public and private donors interested in better understanding how more horizontal forms of asset development can foster more sustainable development and what role international donors can play. These kinds of conversations are both timely and essential if international development is going to engage constructively around real issues of power and ownership.

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