Climbing the ladder: GFCF referenced in New Statesman article

“If civil society is to play a role in combating poverty, we need a vibrant, independent voluntary and community sector”, argues Barry Knight, Executive Director of CENTRIS and adviser to the GFCF, in a recent article in the New Statesman. Climbing the Ladder is the lead article in a special supplement on Civil Society and Poverty.

“Much of the voluntary sector contributes little to civil society because it is highly professionalised, possessing few connections to local people other than through the delivery of services” says Knight. “Resources should instead go to organisa­tions such as London Citizens, which is composed of citizens themselves and en­ables them to build their own power. We can also learn from international organisations like the Global Fund for Commu­nity Foundations, which helps citizens’ groups to build their own asset base so they can be free from the persistent ‘pro­jects’ demanded by official aid agencies.”

Read the full article

Community philanthropy: A new model of development

13 December 2013, AsianNGO

It has always been a weakness for many small non-government organisations that donors tend to ‘own’ them and their programmes in the communities where they work. But a new model in development—community philanthropy—is emerging through forms of community foundations shaped by local context.

It could be the new driving force for local communities to more actively and effectively manage their programmes given their sharper sense of ownership, a stronger trust among each other based on common culture and thus, a more personal sense of accountability. “Community philanthropy organisations are organic, rooted in local culture and thus, do not necessarily adhere to the standards of someone else’s notion,” says Halima Mohamed of TrustAfrica.

Although booming only in the last two years, community philanthropy is not exactly a new concept. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, community foundations grew by a staggering 86 per cent, averaging with 70 new institutions born annually. But apart from the traditional values of NGO activities—organised structure, self-direction, an openness of its strategies of engagement and being a civil society institution—community philanthropy takes on enabling local groups to use their own assets and building an inclusive and equitable society guided by local context.

This makes for a reciprocity based on a principle of solidarity, providing for wider public benefits as opposed to that contained or limited to certain privileged groups in the community—whether internally in a community or externally. These benefits transcend traditional tangible results; they also yield trust, community leadership, social capital, sustainability and reduction of the attitude of dependency—factors typically regarded as important yet very hard to measure.

The rise of community philanthropy, mostly through local community foundations, have also been vital in democracy-building, such as the case of Egypt’s Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation; and in changing people’s mindsets, as in the success of the Dalia Association in Palestine demonstrates.

With civil society in Egypt deeply rooted in its history of conflicts and political turmoil, Waqfeyat al Maadi seeks to revive and modernise the concept of endowment to encourage sustainable non-governmental financing and development in the country. To kick-start and support development efforts, the organisation has been working since 2007, a bit before the Arab spring, to close the gap between the rich and the poor in Al-Maadi and improve the residents’ standard of living through social endowment.

Palestine’s Dalia, meanwhile, organised an art competition called ‘Momentum for Philanthropy’ that called for poetry, short stories, videos and photographs from youth entrants from Palestinians across the world. The competition showcased examples of Palestinian philanthropy to change the concept that [Palestinians] receive help but do not give any.

Despite these organisations being small, local people are both taking the lead in the works and are contributing their own resources. At its core, community philanthropy thus harnesses the passions and dedication of local communities to enable their members to help each other even at a personal level—which is very well a natural group dynamic in any society.

In India, the Prayatna Foundation has brought together over 5,000 residents across 50 villages, mobilising Dalit and Muslims to contribute their time, resources and knowledge to work together on addressing housing and unemployment issues, protecting their human rights and pushing for government accountability and social justice. With a history of religious divide between Hindus and Muslims, both groups have now forged connections together to develop the skills of local leaders in bringing real development in their community.

In Nepal, the Tewa Foundation has rallied over 3,000 local donors. Giving has become intimately connected with identity, being an important their culture. It has been a powerful means of bridging the varying interests and patching gaps of differing opinions; but still offering a sense of hope for sustainable interventions that transform their community away from dependency from external aid. The people’s use of their own money to carry out their programmes has thus affirmed the legitimacy of the organisations’ legitimacy.

The alternative model that Tewa presents is grounded in local realities. Despite a troubled history and a deeply conflicted contemporary cultural landscape, Tewa has done away with many of the established hierarchies of gender divide, social classes and the caste system, ethnic divisions and even geography. This shows an empowered civil society with an all-inclusive structure that can be transparent and accountable; as well as trusting and respectful. And global foundations are certainly not one to ignore this new emerging value system.

“Community philanthropy leads to better results for development works. If people feel like they’re co-investors in their own development, bring their own assets to the table and are enabled to govern the works, then they care more of the outcomes and are more accountable in ways that build social capital. The power dynamics are more equal in a partnership setting, not the traditional donor-beneficiary relationship,” says Jenny Hodgson of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

The Aga Khan Foundation, together with the Mott Foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Global Fund for Community Foundations, has rallied partners across the globe—donors and NGO recipients alike—to pursue community philanthropy in their respective scopes of work. They all agree that having local people involved as donors is a game-changer in efforts to build civil society and enhances prospects for sustainability of (external) funding even when the programme has been completed.

“We have worked on civil society for a long time. When people do things for themselves, those programmes have been the most sustainable. Leadership, financial resources and voluntary support are all sustained,” says Aga Khan Foundation CEO Mirza Jahani.

If community-level collaboration has the power to transform societies from within, using local resources and talent, then it’s about time that corporate philanthropy becomes a mainstream development strategy not only for local NGOs and civil society groups. Rather, it is an engagement policy that multi-lateral donor agencies can integrate into their collaborations with NGOs and CSOs, particularly in developing countries. And that programmes should develop the capacities of local organisations’ community philanthropy, making them more effective partners with foundations and development agencies.

The collective and inclusive picture of community philanthropy—as a new model for development and civil society engagement—sends a powerful message for the ‘within group’ and ‘between group’ dynamics in a society. Such a process holds high potentials to resolve, if not avert conflicts—armed or political; builds harmony and frames an equitable point of reference for real development to take place: one that empowers each member of every level of the community. (With reports from the Aga Khan Foundation and the Mott Foundation; image from the Mott Foundation.)

This article was first published on 13 December 2013 in AsianNGO

Final reflections from the EDGE Funders Conference from our three bloggers

Our three bloggers from Vietnam, South Africa and Palestine reflect on the EDGE conference, on engaging with corporations and on how community philanthropy offers an alternative path for sustainable development

Nora Lester Murad, writer and volunteer with Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, Dana Doan, Adviser to the LIN Center for Community Development in Vietnam and Fulufhelo Netswera, Tswera Community Foundation attended the EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference in Berkeley, CA, where they participated in a session on community philanthropy. They will contributed a series of blogs over the course of the conference (find the others here). 

Dana Doan, LIN Center for Community Development: “A Just Transition Is Only Possible With(out) Companies?”

The second day of the conference plagued me with a constant, badgering question. How can we achieve a just transition if we do (not) involve companies in our efforts? 

The opening plenary for the day started with a calmly delivered speech on all that has gone wrong in our world by the articulate and seemingly disheartened Dr. Walden Bello.  His speech ended with a quote accompanied by a drawing of a man’s face being sucked by an enormous squid, which was intended to represent Goldman Sachs, or perhaps capitalism more generally, sucking the life out of humankind. Despite the recommendations he offered to overcome the gloomy situation that has befallen us all, there was little to be hopeful about when Dr. Bello returned to his seat.

Only one of the three plenary speakers that morning left room for engagement with companies in seeking social and economic justice for workers. Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice said, “…we will have to confront corporate power in new and creative ways while wrestling our economy back…”  She advised us to think about the power we have and how to leverage that power. Both Dr. Bello and Ms. Gupta advised that, while the power imbalance remains we must learn how to think ahead of the companies, strategically, “instead of reacting to what could happen, we need to plan around what we know will happen!”

In the afternoon, I participated in the second of three collective discussions where participants, in small groups, are asked to debrief on their experiences during the conference.   At my table, there were eight of us – interestingly, we were all female.  This collective discussion was one aspect of the conference that I particularly appreciated and I took the opportunity to raise questions, including the one that really bothered me on that second day: “Can a just transition ever happen if we do not include companies in the conversations that are taking place during this conference?” 

A couple of members of our group admitted to questioning whether it was better, or not, to go into the belly of the beast to make change.  Several others said that they like this conference specifically because it allows them to talk these issues through with like-minded individuals.  My initial reaction is that we should be talking about how to talk with companies. Following Dr. Bello and Ms. Gupta’s advice, we can use these opportunities to prepare our strategy so that we can be prepared and ready when we do find opportunities to engage with companies. 

After our collective discussion, I attended a breakout session that spoke directly to my question – The Role of the Private Sector in Financing for Social and Ecological Transformation.  The workshop addressed two of my burning questions: Is it possible to work with the private sector to ensure social and economic justice? Does engagement with companies necessarily limit our ability to achieve alternatives to the current system?  I was glad to finally hear form organizations whose strategies included opportunities to work with companies.

Through the breakout session, it became clear that most of the experiences these organizations shared demonstrated reactive and defensive tactics rather than planned strategies. Several nonprofits talked about how they worked with companies who approached them with a desire to work together. The decision to engage was based on the company’s track record and whether both sides’ expectations for the project were acceptable.  Another nonprofit talked about company projects that were causing so much damage to their community that the nonprofit was forced to engage with them. This organization had such a horrifying experience that they can no longer envision the possibility of working in partnership with companies.

On the third, and final day of the conference, I joined Fulufhelo Godfrey Netswela from South Africa and Nora Murad from Palestine in presenting innovations in community philanthropy.  Much of my presentation underscored the role of companies in contributing to local capacity building and empowerment and LIN’s role in facilitating such partnerships to ensure that the community, as a whole benefits.

In Ho Chi Minh City, since Doi Moi and WTO accession, companies have accumulated tremendous resources, which many prove willing to share. LIN Center for Community Development introduces programs that facilitate partnerships with such companies and local nonprofits for shared benefit to our community.  In our mind, if corporate HR Managers, IT Advisors, CPAs and PR Experts coach their counterparts at local nonprofit organizations, it not only helps to build the capacity of nonprofits to achieve their goals but it also helps to build understanding about the choices and challenges companies and nonprofits are asked to make. Such understanding is what I believe can lead to better problem solving.

LIN’s model does not make much sense in Palestine, where companies and their staff are currently less resourced in comparison with the nonprofit community.  In Palestine, it is the international NGOs, the multilateral and the bilateral aid agencies that hold the resources that are needed to build local capacity. But, is there any potential for facilitating true partnerships with international nonprofit organizations to empower local nonprofits and the people of Palestine?  Thus, could or should the wrongdoers in Palestine be engaged to help make things right?

Clearly there is deep frustration and mistrust for the companies and institutions that are perceived to be the perpetrators of what is wrong in our communities or in our world.  What is not clear is how we can solve the enormous challenges of today if we decide to generalize or stereotype companies and institutions and if we intentionally choose not to include them in important conversations about social and ecological transformation.  As Ms. Maria Poblet, from Causa Justa: Just Cause stated during the opening plenary on Day 1, “We need to build unity across differences.” And we will need creativity and imagination to design strategies that build connectivity in order to achieve a just transition.  

Fulu Netwswera, Tswera Community Foundation, South Africa: Lessons for international donors from the community philanthropy field

First of May 2014 was the last day of the EDGE Funders Alliance conference here in Berkeley, CA. There are two observations I make of serious co-incidence about this day and about this conference and they are; one – May Day Rallies will be staged in major cities of the world reminding governments and big capital about the unfairness of the labour system and the sad plight of workers, and two – the theme that ran throughout this conference was that capital and corporates have exploited this planet and humanity to unprecedented and intolerable levels.

Today there is no plenary but only a number of parallel sessions that run till the conference concludes after lunch time. I report specifically from the parallel session in which I participated titled; “Innovations in community philanthropy from Palestine, Southern Africa, and Vietnam: How international donors can help and how they can hurt”. The session presenters were Nora Lester Murad on Palestine, myself on Southern Africa and Dana Doan on Vietnam.

The brilliance of the session was in the facilitation style and skills of Nora who requested all participants through a practical exercise to identify a need and to later give whatever they could in the session room. It immediately became very clear that everyone has a need and everyone has something to offer in life. This, as she explained later, was unfortunately how life is projected at the level of interface between the first and the third world, between international and indigenous/local communities. What is often projected is that local communities have nothing to offer and international/western community has everything to offer. This ideological inclination paralyses the third world and turns it into a passive recipient of grants and donations. Unfortunately still the donated funds are mostly also repatriated back into the very same first world communities that donate through hiring of “expertise”, equipment thereby serving the donor than the recipient yielding minimal tangible outcome.

The three papers that were presented in this session highlighted the following important elements:

 

  • The third world needs less and less “charity” because history suggests that charity and donations (IMF, World Bank, etc.) have over the past failed drastically in alleviating the challenges of the third world;
  • It is important that a new and balanced approach be found and utilised in the interfacing between first and third world. Such an approach should appreciate that indigenous people are the only people who can improve their own conditions, appreciate the knowledge, skills and competence that these communities possess which are central to their livelihood;
  • There is growing distrust of the state and of the third sector, specifically big international NGOs in the third world. The state is distrusted mainly because it is perceived to be corrupt and colluding with big capital against local communities. Third sector players are distrusted because although most of these organisations have worked long in third world communities, local communities generally still do not understand their role nor can they point at their achievements;
  • While there is no state in Palestine, in South Africa and Vietnam the state is unfortunately responsible for pathologies of dependence that goes with welfarism. In the absence of a state in Palestine; big international NGOs have appropriated this role to themselves with negative disempowering consequences; 
  • International community should cease to think that there are homogeneous set of values and principles throughout the world regarding sub-elements of development and recognise that what is important is that which communities clamour to achieve collectively in their quest for self-reliance and self-determination;
  • Elements of commonality between Southern Africa and Palestine are the dispossession of the indigenous people of important livelihood instruments like land and access to clean water, among other things, on which development hinges;

 

The presenters reflected on some examples of “local philanthropy” from the various third world countries, examples which they encourage international funders to consider:

 

  • Strengthening accountability of the third sector in the third world to and in communities in which the third sector operates. These feedback reports to local communities entrenches further moral support and restore confidence in the third sector; 
  • For purposes of instilling pride in local communities, it is important that communities raise their own funds no matter how small. “A shilling a day” Kenyan project was presented as an example that restores community pride and enables communities to demand accountability;
  • Examples of projects that have hallmarks of “economic sustenance” were provided to illustrate the importance of long term community driven and initiated interventions. The Ugandan charcoal project from Masindi Community Foundation was given as a useful and practical example of economic initiative with positive long term results and the LIN (Listen, Inspire, Nature) model for community participation initiative (CPI) for building financial sustainability for the NPOs was discussed.

 

Participants were requested to write on flipcharts important lessons that they take away from the session. These sessions would be typed and shared among the delegates who participated in this session to strengthen the ideology of continuous sharing which is the foundation of philanthropy.

The conference was a very big success. Many papers and practical examples of local and international philanthropy that matters were presented from all over the world. Feedback from interactions with participants suggests that the conference was a mixture of theoretical, philosophical, ideological and practical knowledge sharing. It was indeed one of the most beneficial philanthropic conferences I have attended. 

Nora Lester Murad, Dalia Association, Palestine – Valuable experiences no accident

I’ve been to tens of global meetings and I always find them energizing – both those that inspire and rejuvenate, and those that make be so angry I can’t help but act. I think I have enough experience to say without reservation that EdgeFunders’ Global Social Justice Philanthropy Conference was different than all the rest. For three intense days, funders critiqued the capitalist system from which their institutions emerged, and explored the incredibly inspiring work being done to address global inequality. Since I live and work in Palestine where hopelessness reigns, the mindfulness and intentionality of this group really struck me.

Now, at the airport on my way to return home to Palestine, I am organizing the many contacts I made into piles. I have a list of 19 people who joined a “dine-around” on the topic of Palestine. Few of them fund in Palestine, and a few more of them are exploring expanding their giving to Palestine. Most were just interested in hearing what it’s like to try to do social justice work in a place plagued by long-term oppression and crippling aid dependence.  I won’t be surprised if some of them visit.

I have a list of 13 participants from our workshop on “Local Innovations in Community Philanthropy: Lessons from Palestine, South Africa and Vietnam.” These folks shared their “take away” learning on flipcharts at the end of the workshop, which I will type up and send out. They hung around after the workshop, hugging and smiling, enthusiastic to figure out ways to value local resources through their work.

I have 24 business cards (though there could be some duplicates), most with notes written on them reminding me to send an article or to request more information about some fascinating innovation that I’m sure we can incorporate into our work. It will take days to follow up with them all, time very well spent.

But at the very top of the pile of folks I treasure meeting through EdgeFunders are two people I actually “met” before I came. Dana Doan and Fulu Netswera were speakers on the panel I organized. I was introduced to Dana by our mutual donor, Jenny Hodgson of the Global Fund for Community Foundations. Jenny believed that Dana’s LIN Center in Vietnam had done impressive work that could help Dalia Association’s efforts to expand local private sector philanthropy. She was right. Later, when the opportunity to present a panel came up, it made sense to build on the relationship we’d started with Dana. Fulu was introduced to me by Bhekinkosi Moyo, who was introduced to me by Neville Gabriel, who I met at a Synergos Institute meeting in Namibia several years ago.  Dana, Fulu and I had deep conversations about local philanthropy in preparation for our session. We co-created a format that let us focus on innovations in local philanthropy while recognizing the different contexts in which we work, and that helped us compare and contrast our experiences, leaving space for participants to share too.

It must be noted: Our really useful experience at EdgeFunders was not an accident. Once again, convening and networking funded by northern donors led to opportunities for meaningful collaboration among community philanthropy folks in the global south. I must also thank the Global Fund for Women for the travel grant that enabled Saeeda Mousa, Executive Director of Dalia Association and me to take part in the EdgeFunders conference, and for enabling the planting of seeds that, with our tending, will surely blossom into good things for our communities.

Latest from the EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference: updates from our on-the-spot bloggers here!

Nora Lester Murad, writer and volunteer with Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, Dana Doan, Adviser to the LIN Center for Community Development in Vietnam and Fulufhelo Netswera, Tswera Community Foundation are at the EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference in Berkeley, CA, where they will be speaking in a session on community philanthropy. They will contributing a series of blogs over the course of the conference. The most recent blog is at the top.

Nora Lester Murad, Dana Doan and Fulu Netswera, our intrepid bloggers at the EdgeFunders Conference

Wednesday 30th April 2014: Fulu on philanthropy in the context of complex global issues

 Today was another day filled with moving philanthropic experiences shared by foundations here at the EDGE Funders Alliance conference in Berkeley, CA.

The day started with at least three interesting performances. The three poems are inspired by the importance of benevolence and the work of philanthropic organisations all over the world. I realise very much how much it helps to visualise and dramatize important matters than just talk through some often “cold” PowerPoint slides and these plays reinforces an important learning angle:

The first poem presents intricacies and interconnectedness of life all over the plant to which the “well-off” is often oblivious. How important it is to realise that the your refrigerator is stocked with food that is produced of cheap labour exploited by big multinational corporates and that it is polluted by pesticides to which your body would soon falls sick;

  • The second poem was a dialogue between a human and earth. Earth reminds man that they are slowly sliding away from natural existence retreating into their concrete jungles, destroying forests and the little left fresh water sources continually dissing this relationship and fulfilling this void with new found gadgets and toys. Earth reminds man that she will survive with or without this relationship but will mankind survive?; and
  • The third poem paints a scene of two protests taking place at Washington DC. The first protest is Free Palestine movement and the second is Gay Rights parade. The march paints interesting contrast in life priorities and interests. The voices are competing as the two marches move parallel each other towards the capitol shouting free Palestine!….Gay rights now! Towards the end a singular voice emerges in this shouting match; “…Palestine Gay Rights!” These noises all over the world distract us of what in order of priority many may agree needs attention first and by all.

The plenary was equally moving titled, “Strategies for the historic shifts we need”. The panellists comprised Walden Bello who is Philippine author, academic and member of congress; Million Belay director of MELCA Mahiber who is a food sovereign activist from Ethiopia; Sarita Gupta who is executive director of Jobs with Justice and Holly Bartling of the Human Rights and Economic Justice Programme. Important takeaways from this plenary can be summarised as:

  • People do not perpetually tolerate huge and obvious disparities in wealth. The French revolution repeats itself all the time all over the world and we seem not to learn. Will it not repeat itself this time on a global scale? The big question is whose solutions will the general public chose? Will corporate, the rich and middle class retain the privileges that they have when the next class revolution happens? In a highly globalised world that is fast moving towards unprecedented disparities we need to continuously consider that production should firstly benefit local than export markets and capital. Economic policy should thus be subjected to democratic processes and swing away from further corporatisation;
  • Africa and the world are faced with increasing mouths to feed annually amidst disparity in consumption patterns and contrasting increase in climatic change, soil degradation and erosion and poor yield. It seems that everyone has solutions for Africa but no one has genuine interest for its development than just exploitation of Africa and the developing world. The green revolution should therefore recognise the rights of African farmers (mostly women) and their farming methods. Through interventions by international governments and corporations African agriculture has slowly been changed into agribusiness thereby eroding the important cultural elements of farming, water and soil treatment which are long indigenous African traditions. Million gave practical examples of how his programmes are making a difference in the restoration of fish stocks and turning unproductive land into fertile land using traditional methodologies in Ethiopia; and
  • One of the biggest challenge that faces humanity is attaining a livelihood through one’s labour. Trends internationally are that jobs are becoming contingent, part time, contracted thereby minimising the historic value associated with valuable and useful work. In the new forms of labour relations employees no longer negotiate conditions and lack stability and benefits of normal jobs. A variety of Jobs for Justice specifically in the retail sector has led to numerous litigations with giant retailors and their supply chain and logistical feeding industries that are continuously eroding and violating labour rights. Jobs for Justice won a big battle against Wall Mart forcing the industry to ensure that no abuses and exploitation from all its suppliers all over the world is tolerated and workers interests are protected.

 

There were also interesting lessons from one of the day’s parallel session titled “From Transaction to Transformation: why structural racialization analysis is essential for challenging global corporate power”. The discussions led by John Powell, Taj James and Saru Jayaraman flagged the following points:

 

  • The role of government overtime has shifted to protect corporates who are wrongfully perceived to be economic producers than protecting the interests of the general public and workers;
  • Explored how big corporates always get their favourite policies approved by legislature despite public protests because they are able to “buy” and sponsor power acquisition; and
  • Provided evidence proved that continuous expansion of corporate rights shrinks civil and human rights;

 

The political other represent those with no political voice and therefore no legislative representation. As the public gains more rights corporate slowly erode these rights. Example: when the public won the right to vote; the corporate South in America ensured the introduction of new legislative measure like voter ID and no vote rights for convicted felons.

The goal post keeps shifting to ensure the public is on the back foot and corporate interests are secured. There is recognition of the growth in anxiety among the racial other (blacks, Latinos and Muslim). We should realise that we can only deal with the environment and racial prejudices from public policy front and not from the economic (income inequality) front first. We can’t address inequality through tinkering with the economy like the minimum wages. The struggle should be for equitable in ownership across race. Although philanthropy realises the challenges of inequality and marginalisation its response unfortunately is often that we have bigger global challenges to confront like ecology thereby ignoring the root causes of the same major challenges.

Lookout for my next and final report from the EDGE Funders Alliance conference at the Bay in San Francisco FNetswera@gmail.com 

Wednesday 30th April 2014: Fulu asks whose side we choose to be on

Yesterday was an important day for philanthropy worldwide as the second EDGE (Engaged Donors for Global Equity) Funders Alliance conference got underway here in Berkeley, CA.

The facilitator opened the conference with a chorus, “Whose side are you on?”, that forced me reflect on the possibilities of the duality or multiplicity of side that mankind has to consider for and as their personal, social and economic choices for association. Or are there obvious choices really I wonder? How obvious is it to an everyday man the clarity of these choices or are these choices at all? Are the choices as clear either for corporates or is it survival of the fittest in this economic Wild West?

1. To be one with nature or to destroy our habitat as we know it?

2. To continue the capitalist/corporate greed at an all profit or nothing orientation and majority profit for a few?

To complement the chorus; a short video clip (ecology project) by Gopal Dayaneni that educates all about the meaning and importance of the principles of Eco (home) ology (nature/biodiversity) was screened suggesting that man “is/should be” one with nature. However man has taken a greedy path of extractive role by amassing finite earthly resources at a pace unsustainable. 

It seemed by the introduction of the inaugural plenary that philanthropy has chosen its side in this “struggle” by the introduction of the conference plenary titled “components of just transition”. The discussants (Sarah Hobson, Susan George, Kumi Naidoo and Maria Poblet) provided a compelling argument for the urgency of the required “transition” which should be “just” to all humans and ecology. 

Without repeating the entire plenary; among others, were important talk points and deductions:

 

  • There is a flaw in thinking the economy can sustain an infinite growth and mankind has to change that attitude;   
  • Man should consider possibilities of an economy with minimal externalities (pollution, labour exploitation, huge gaps between rich and poor, etc.);
  • Unfettered capitalism leads to inequality. Mankind (neoliberal economists [banks, gas companies, etc.]) have eroded the gains of post-world war (decolonization, women’s rights, universal health care, etc.) and the struggle should be to consolidate some of these gains.

The challenge we all face is global and systematic and small man is largely not able to influence major policies that matter. Kumi Naidoo closed by reminding everyone on the save earth campaign that mankind has already run out of time and that the planet needs no saving because it has the power to replenish with or without mankind.

The big question looms still; whose side are the philanthropic “intermediaries”? Do we realize the existence of the philanthropic movement is an outcome of the same extractionist capitalist system and we are complacent in perpetuation of the capitalist trickle down ideology? Naidoo reminded all that in all of history where mankind won; the struggles were characterized by ultimate sacrifice. It seems that mankind has already started an uprising against corporate and political greed worldwide if one chooses to look at it closely.

Gandhi: “…first they will ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”

The subsequent exchanges in parallel sessions were as cross sectional as they were informative. Lookout for my subsequent reports from San Francisco FNetswera@gmail.com 

Tuesday 29th April 2014: Dana on the vexed question of whom it is that intermediaries serve? Donors or communities?  

The conference started with an adapted version of the union organizing song “What Side Are You On?”  Little did I realize at the time how much that little ditty would affect me throughout the first day of dialogues.

My first breakout session of the day focused on “The importance of intermediaries in advancing social justice”. I choose that workshop because I assumed they would talk about organizations like the one I represent.  Then, somewhere in the middle of the presentations and questions from panelists, I became confused by the way we were talking about intermediaries.

The panelists shared that, to them, intermediaries are:

  • Issue experts and thought leaders;
  • Networkers and collaborators;
  • Making grassroots organizing possible;
  • Helping big donors disburse grants to small organizations;
  • Offering political cover to Foundation staff looking that want to overcome Trustee tendencies towards traditional philanthropy;
  • Important mechanisms for getting resources to the base;
  • Providing technical assistance to grassroots organizations;
  • Giving funders the stories they need;
  • Making it possible for their organizations to seek systemic change;
  • More effective messengers for change; and/or
  • The most loyal and strategic funder partners.

While some of these ideas fit my organization, others did not sit well.

Then Nora Murad, from the Dalia Association in Palestine, which I consider to be a peer organization, asked a question, making it clear that she does not see her organization as an intermediary either. Nora and I had an opportunity to talk for a bit about this after the workshop and, through that conversation, I realized my confusion lay in the fact that the discussion focused on being intermediaries for the funders.

For me and my colleagues at the LIN Center for Community Development, in Vietnam, our intermediary role was constructed to benefit our community. The work that we do and the organizations we support are and always have been determined based on our mission – to improve social outcomes by organizing different stakeholders that desire change.  As such, I really like and better relate to the term and description for Backbone Organizations, as coined by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and FSG, in a 2012 report.  While we track the outcomes of our small grants, more important to us is how we can build common ground, how we can help to form new partnerships and how we can ensure good communication’s and a transparent process that people can understand and trust.

That’s all just to say that I do know what side we are on.

We are on the side of humanity.

Tuesday 29th April 2014: Nora again, on moving the conversation up a gear and a welcome break from log frames

By mid-morning on Day One, I was already basking in gratitude. Hearing these folks talk about transformation of the global economy, dismantling of power structures that perpetuate inequality, renewing relationships between human beings and the planet—wow! Coming from Palestine where donors talk about inputs and outputs and indicators and where “good practice” is often defined by submission of timely reports, my hope is refreshed. I had no idea that people were still talking about social justice. That people’s movements were still a living aspiration. Then, when the lights dimmed for the showing of the eight-minute film, “The Meaning of Home” I found myself holding my breath. I didn’t want to miss a word or risk spoiling the moment by the banal act of breathing. With powerful visuals, impassioned explanations, the film explained the components of ecological justice in a way that made me want to cheer. And the day got even better when at every opportunity these funders asked themselves, “What is our role in global transformation?” I am inspired!

 Tuesday 29th April 2014: Nora, on being neither a “funder” nor a “non-funder”

A pre-conference meeting preceded the opening welcome panel, and already the contradictions and challenges of defining “community philanthropy” have come to the fore. The organizers of EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference in Berkeley, CA called for a caucus of “non-funder” conference attendees. Slowly, as the word spread, the small room filled up with an exciting mix of climate justice activists, food sovereignty advocates, indigenous leaders, and others.

It made sense to me that folks who aren’t donors might have unique needs to fully benefit from a meeting primarily composed of grantmakers, but I am not sure whether or not Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, is a “funder” or not. One could say that Dalia is a funder. Dalia is a community foundation. Dalia gives grants. On the other hand, Dalia is not a donor. We aren’t “giving” “our” “money” to others. We are “mobilizing” “collective” “resources” for “communities” to use because it is their “right.”

As the conversation goes on, I’m realizing that the concept of “philanthropy” that is being used is perhaps unclear, or perhaps I don’t agree with it, or perhaps it is in transition. Are the ones who give money “philanthropists” and the ones who give time, expertise, sweat, ideas, passion merely “receivers?” I take the risk to raise this question and it is warmly received, embraced actually. One guy says that all the resources that funders have were actually stolen from others, and that even funders who recognize that the need for massive social transformation may not acknowledge that philanthropy too must change. We’re all in process. What a very exciting conversation…

Why plumbing matters: introducing the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

We very excited to be unveiling some new changes to our website this month, along with a new-look e-bulletin. These include a new section on the recently-established Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP) and in the future, stories and blogs that link directly to the GACP will be easily identifiable through its own distinct logo.

Refreshing one’s communications tools is always good to do from time to time. However, the GACP represents much more than an opportunity for a re-branding exercise, providing as it does an exciting opportunity to put community philanthropy on the map of international development. The GACP has big ambitions: it “aims to advance the practice of community philanthropy and influence international development actors to better understand, support, and promote the role of community philanthropy in the sustainability and vibrancy of civil society and in achieving more lasting development outcomes.” And what is particularly significant about it is that its initial funder members are drawn from across the development and philanthropy spectrum, including private foundations (Mott Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund), a bilateral donor (USAID) and a private foundation / INGO hybrid (Aga Khan Foundation), each of which has agreed to commit time and resources to thinking and learning about community philanthropy, to sharing experiences of what works and what doesn’t, to testing concepts across institutional frameworks and to informing and engaging others in the donor space. As a fifth partner and the Secretariat, the GFCF has been charged with coordinating the efforts of the GACP. We will be drawing on our experiences of using our grantmaking to develop an evidence base for the global community philanthropy field, drawn from a diversity of circumstances, institutions and contexts. Over the last seven years, the GFCF has been working to promote and support institutions of community philanthropy around the world. Our work has been driven by a conviction that local development efforts are more effective when communities are able to articulate and address their needs and also when they have a stake – as co-investors bringing assets to the table – in their own development.

The GACP has been established at a time when the global context for development aid is changing rapidly as a recent article on the Guardian Development Professionals website describes. The search for new models and structures has meant many INGOs restructuring to cut costs because of a dramatic reduction in development aid which has traditionally been a key source of funding for many of them. Some internationally active NGOs are relocating their offices to the Global South, for a variety of philosophical and tactical reasons. As the shifting landscape for development aid changes, pointing to a future with less international funding for development, as civil society organizations in the Global South grow stronger and more established and as new assets emerge in traditionally aid-dependent contexts (whether in terms of new classes of mega-rich and middle classes, or of mineral wealth), there is certainly a need for some radical new thinking about what the future architecture for civil society funding might look like.

At the heart of the notion of community philanthropy is the idea that assets exist in every community and that if these can be harnessed and organized, they can be applied to local development processes in ways that are both more cost-effective and more sustainable in terms of social capital (assuming that people invest their own assets when high levels of trust exist).

And yet, community philanthropy barely features in the mainstream development discourse. In a recent article, An Alternative to Development Aid on the Open Democracy website, Nora Lester Murad, a leading advocate for community philanthropy as a development strategy and a founder of the Dalia Association, Palestine, writes. “While critiques of international aid are becoming mainstream, there is still little awareness about community foundations as a viable alternative, even in the discourse about funding for human rights. In responding to local challenges and opportunities, community foundations and other community philanthropic organizations offer communities a dignified and creative way to organize their resources towards collective self-reliance for generations to come.” She goes on to describe her own experience of working with a group of local leaders to establish Dalia, Palestine’s first community foundation.

“If only Palestinians had their own money,” I thought, “…the wasteful, irrelevant and unsustainable activities posited as ‘post conflict development’ would stop.” But my group of co-founders quickly disabused me of my naïve and simplistic approach. Self-determination is not about having a big endowment. It’s about responsibly and intentionally utilizing the resources we have, mobilizing other resources by modelling credible, inspiring practice, and working transparently, democratically and accountably to pursue our own priorities over the long haul.”

Over the past seven years, Dalia has introduced an innovative local grants process, “community-controlled grantmaking”, which involves local community members in decision-making around the allocation of small grants. They have also developed another strand of work around building local philanthropy among local companies. And throughout they have sought to use their experiences of grassroots grantmaking and philanthropy development processes as an alternative to many of the assumptions of international development aid and a model from which to learn.

In thinking about what sustainable development might look like, who wouldn’t find the idea of a local institution that facilitates local people making decisions about their own development, backed by local philanthropic resources, compelling? And yet so far few funding institutions have – for a variety of reasons – had the interest, the resources or the flexibility to invest in creating the conditions which might allow such organizations to thrive.

At the recent WINGSForum, The Power of Networks: Building Connected Global Philanthropyin Istanbul, the Mott Foundation received an award for its constant and unwavering support for and investment in the development of civil society (and specifically philanthropic) infrastructure around the world. Mott has also invested heavily in the development of community foundations and community philanthropy around the world. In accepting the award on behalf of the foundation, Shannon Lawder, Director of Civil Society described how philanthropic infrastructure might be compared to the plumbing in a house: it’s not the most attractive or creative part of construction and design, you can’t actually see the pipes but you know they are there, they play an essential and yet invisible role and you would be in trouble without them.

Jenny Hodgson

Alliance magazine editorial: Bringing grantmaking in from the cold

Increasingly, the practice of grantmaking as a tool for bringing about social change has fallen out of favour, replaced by newer, snappier-sounding forms of philanthropy. In laying out their wares, venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, philanthrocapitalism and, most recently, ‘catalytic philanthropy’ have all made claims for greater effectiveness. 

Barry Knight & Jenny Hodgson

This change has been largely driven by outsiders, for example by business people entering the sector or by consultants. However, there has also been introspection within established grantmaking platforms and networks about the significance and purpose of grantmaking. For example, a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference of the African Grantmakers Network worried that grantmaking – or giving away money – understated what African philanthropies were really about. Globally, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for GrantmakerSupport) has been reflecting on whether its emphasis on grantmaking as a development tool is still relevant.

Is ‘traditional’ philanthropy, with its emphasis on grantmaking, being left out in the cold?

Complex solutions for complex problems
The complexities of bringing about social change require complex solutions and multiple strategies – of that there is no doubt. This special feature does not make claims that grantmaking is the strategy, the truth. Rather, it seeks to reinstate grantmaking as a highly strategic development tool – an art, even – which can play a central role in the pursuit of social change, not least because in the end good grantmaking means letting go, devolving power and putting resources in the hands of people and institutions to make their own decisions and shape their own futures.

It is clear, however, that in recent years the tide has been turning against grantmaking as more and more foundations adopt the top-down strategies of strategic and catalytic philanthropy and philanthrocapitalism. As an illustration of this, a 2013 report on catalytic philanthropy by Danish foundation Realdania draws heavily on a three-part hierarchy devised by FSG. In the table, the common metaphor of fishing is used, with traditional philanthropy and grantmaking equivalent to giving a hungry man a fish, strategic philanthropy equivalent to teaching a man to fish, and catalytic philanthropy equivalent to reforming the whole fishing industry and improving the lives of poor people as a result.

The unsurprising conclusion from the FSG table is that traditional philanthropy and grantmaking won’t achieve social change. In effect, ‘grantmaking’ has been equated with scattergun charity with no interest in long-term results.

Tables of this kind oversimplify the real world. Sharp divisions tend to produce false dichotomies. We do not wish to simply defend traditional grantmaking or to trash other models of philanthropy. Instead, what we want to do is to examine what grantmaking has to offer in the context of a range of other strategies.

Grantmaking as a strategic tool
We see grantmaking as a philosophy, a creative and strategic tool, a mechanism for building voice, agency and trust that in turn deliver social change. The articles in this special feature describe grantmaking for social change in all its diversity – big grants, small grants, long-term and short-term. Despite their differences and nuances, what they all have in common is the basic fact that at some point money moves from one organization to another – a grant is made.

At its most literal, grantmaking means ‘the practice of giving money’, ‘non-repayable funds disbursed by one party to a recipient’, or ‘the discretionary awarding of funds’.

However, the simple catch-all category of ‘grantmaking’ is perhaps reductionist and unhelpful. There are many different types of grants. For example, we need to distinguish between reactive grants where applicants bid into open programmes;responsive grants where funder and funded develop a programme together based on the ideas of the grant recipient; proactive grants where the funder takes the lead and finds the grantee to implement its ideas; and contracts – beyond the scope of this special feature – where the funder tenders for organizations to fulfil specified work.

Moreover, we have to take account of context. One type of intervention is not going to work across the entire world. In developing and emerging markets, where the field of organized philanthropy is often new, levels of public trust are low (particularly towards non-profits), and civil society is weak, grantmaking can play an essential role in building trust and demonstrating transparency and good governance. There is a similar need for a highly local and culturally sensitive type of grantmaking in marginalized and excluded communities in the Global North.

A changing context for philanthropy
Why are models like philanthrocapitalism and strategic or catalytic philanthropy gaining the upper hand? The answer lies partly in the rapidly changing context of the past quarter of a century. We live in a world where constant technological innovation has become the norm, so that what is new is always better than what has gone before. The world of spin and instant media means that people put enormous effort into communications to get their message across to global audiences. At the same time, there have been dramatic changes in the balance of economic power. We have seen the rise of multinational corporations, a reduced role for the state in many places, and increased use of private/public partnerships, along with raised expectations of philanthropy. The philanthropic context is changing too, with the emergence of a new class of mega-rich individuals who establish enormous foundations shaped by the type of business model that made them wealthy in the first place.

However, intractable problems remain. We face a world where inequality is rising nearly everywhere, environmental degradation and climate change threaten our planet, and whole areas of the globe are locked in seemingly endless violent conflict. Despite our best efforts and considerable investments of money, both through official development assistance and philanthropy, deep-seated problems seem entrenched.

Does philanthropy need to raise its game?
This calls for new models and a sense that philanthropy needs to raise its game. Such a perspective has resulted in a variety of initiatives from the philanthropic sector designed to deepen the effectiveness of philanthropy. In 2000, the four-year International Network on Strategic Philanthropy was set up through the Bertelsmann Foundation. Since then, we have seen the rise of ‘philanthrocapitalism’, designed to use business methods to achieve social ends. This has been followed by other approaches, each with slightly different names, but with similar ‘strategic’ approaches, including ‘venture philanthropy’, philanthrocapitalism, ‘collective impact’ and ‘catalytic philanthropy’.

What all of these approaches share – and their similarities outweigh their differences – is the top-down, planned use of resources from a variety of actors being brought to bear on a serious problem with the goal of bringing about large-scale social change that can be measured. Paul Brest, recently retired from the Hewlett Foundation, defines strategic philanthropy as:

‘… the setting of clear goals, developing sound evidence-based strategies for achieving them, measuring progress along the way to achieving them, and determining whether you were actually successful in reaching the goals.’ [1]

The leitmotif here is to use business methods to control the change and to measure the outcome. The role of non-profit organizations or wider civil society is downplayed and treated at best as one of the means of delivering change, but not as a source of the ideas behind the change. At the root of this is the belief that philanthropy knows best.

Pablo Eisenberg has called this ‘a dangerous shift of the balance of power in the non-profit world’,[2] noting that 60 per cent of US foundations will not receive unsolicited proposals. This will enable donors to ‘call all the shots and exclude non-profits with great new ideas’.

It is not just outsiders to philanthropy like Pablo Eisenberg that are making this point. Peter Buffett, son of Warren Buffett, has noted that ‘philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field’, but the main effect of this is ‘to enable the rich to sleep better at night’. He suggests that the answer lies in listening to those who have the answers and might create the conditions for the changes we need. The role of philanthropy should be to produce the risk capital for those ideas.[3]

Voices from the field
Other voices – from the grassroots – echo these concerns. The articles in this special feature display opinions from a range of grantees and foundation and community foundation leaders who stress the importance of grantmaking and disavow the well-resourced messages of ‘strategic’ and ‘catalytic’ philanthropy.

The lesson of history would appear to support them. Much of the really important social change in the past century has been driven not by philanthropy but by grassroots organizing at the local level. Think of civil rights or feminism. In the webinar discussion, Kathleen Cravero, president of the Oak Foundation, believes that social change comes from ‘strong, community-based civil society organizations’. In the same discussion, Rana Kotan, from the Sabanci Foundation, points out that advocacy to change public policy to address child marriage in Turkey resulted from a grant application from a local women’s group.

Moreover, failure to engage with the grassroots may cause failure. A 2013 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy argues that elite-driven, top-down approaches adopted by funders in the battle against climate change in the US, for example, have not achieved their goals because of a failure to involve grassroots communities directly affected by environmental harms which had the energy and resolve to take up the issues.[4]

Contributors to this special feature also emphasize the importance of grants as a flexible and powerful tool that can play a pivotal role in bringing about social change by allowing funders to engage with and spread risks across a range of ‘untested’ groups to take the lead on those issues that affect them the most, such as the case of grassroots activism around mining land rights supported by the Fund for Global Human Rights in Guatemala.

Clearly, the current shift by more and more large foundations away from the ‘front lines’ of more traditional, open-ended styles of grantmaking, often in favour of ‘big bet’ grants to a smaller number of larger, more established organizations, has implications for grassroots organizations. It cuts them out of the loop.

Grantmaking in emerging contexts
In developing and emerging contexts, dismissing grantmaking has even more significant implications. Here, philanthropic sectors are still young or emerging, and grantmaking is new or not well established. It is in these contexts that grantmaking has the greatest potential to play a role in bringing about real change that goes far beyond the transactional nature of cheque-writing. In Russia, for example, grantmaking, although now well established thanks to the efforts of philanthropy infrastructure organizations like the Russian Donors Forum and CAF Russia, dates back only 20 years. In Sub-Saharan Africa, too, the cohort of social justice grantmakers, such as the African Women’s Development Fund and TrustAfrica, are at an early stage in their existence. While the East Africa Association of Grantmakers can claim a decade of existence, its continent-wide sister, the African Grantmakers Network, was established only in 2009. Further north, the Arab Foundations Forum is a mere seven years old.

Why does grantmaking matter so much in these contexts? In the Global North, where functioning legal systems and a level of public awareness of the role of non-profits can be assumed, the role of grants might be less significant. But in contexts where trust is low, where people simply don’t believe in institutions, grants play an enormously significant role in building trust and modelling transparency and democratic good governance. As Filiz Bikmen observes, 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. Similarly 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.

The ‘retreat’ from traditional grantmaking in parts of the world where it never got established in the first place is a particular concern in terms of its effects on strengthening democratic culture and fostering social innovation, as argued by Andre Degenszajn, discussing the situation in Brazil. It also represents a harsh blow to those who have sought to introduce grantmaking – in doing so, choosing the road less followed – a task which can be fraught with challenges.
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For emerging public philanthropic institutions such as community foundations, which are both fund seekers and grantmakers, it can be an uphill task to convince potential donors to support their grantmaking programmes when their instincts are to want the community foundations to deliver programmes themselves rather than to grant funds on. Donor education becomes essential to demonstrate how giving to and through local grantmakers can offer a way for donors to spread their philanthropic resources across a broader cross-section of grassroots groups and civil society organizations and, by doing so, to spread their risks too. Giving to local grantmakers can also play an important role in creating strong, well-managed local groups and serve as a way to build important bridges between donors and beneficiaries.

Where grantmaking is so new, its easy rejection is of great concern if it encourages corporate or business-oriented donors, impressed by management school wisdom, to believe that operating their own programmes is a preferable option to partnering with civil society organizations. It serves to justify their resistance to working with non-profits, and allows them to look no further than themselves, rather than seeking to build partnerships with, and harness the expertise and experience of, others engaged in social development.

Beware all models

So far in this article, we have argued that thoughtful grantmaking can create positive social change. This view is reinforced by stories of successful grants made by grantmakers in different countries covering diverse issues ranging from same-sex partnerships in Ireland through to drones in the war zones of the Middle East, education in Brazil, micro-micro lending in America and many more.

These examples seem to counter the idea that strategic or catalytic philanthropy or philanthrocapitalism is superior to traditional philanthropy.

Does this imply that we should abandon trying to build models in philanthropy? Not necessarily, but it does mean that we need a better understanding of what different models offer. Given that the process of social change is so complex, it is unlikely that the simple three-fold FSG hierarchy will be sufficient.

A more nuanced approach can be obtained by looking at how foundations themselves actually perceive change. We have reanalysed material from a survey of 80 European foundations conducted by Selim Iltus and Barry Knight in preparation for a session at the 2013 European Foundation Centre conference called ‘From Good to Great Philanthropy’.

Questions were based on an extensive literature review on ‘what makes organizations great’ conducted by Bettina Windau from the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Based on her literature review, we identified 28 items that could transform ‘good’ work in a foundation into ‘great’ work. Examples included: ‘a first-class theory of change’, ‘a highly focused programme’, ‘the right grantees’, ‘remaining positive in the face of setbacks’ and ‘good knowledge management’.

Using a statistical technique called factor analysis, we found seven archetypes perceived by foundations as the route to greatness that foundations aspire to.

Seven routes to greatness

Passionate rationalists These foundations use a first-class theory of change. They are dedicated in what they do and always measure their impact. They are also good organizers, valuing collective impact with collaborating agencies. They are good at leveraging resources and, when necessary, find new ways of tackling old problems.

Flexible risk-takers These foundations are always optimistic and hopeful about their results. They like to take risks and have a flexible approach. Valuing learning, if things do not go well, they change course and explore new options.

3. People-centred For these organizations, it is all about people. This means the right leadership, good people in the right positions and the right allies. They also have a strong understanding of the political context.

Short-term pragmatists They value short-term gains. They also aspire to spectacular outcomes. They do not always plan in detail but they always have clear short-term plans for how to proceed and achieve results.

Focused professionals These foundations have highly focused programmes. They concentrate on a few areas and have clear objectives. They clearly define their role from the beginning and stick to it. They also stick with their grantees and make long-term commitments.

Gamblers These foundations believe in luck and not necessarily in careful planning. They also go after simple ideas. They believe any project can turn out to be a success or failure.

Big investors These believe that for foundations to be successful, they need to make big investments. They select their grantees very carefully, because they also think that the right grantee is the key. They tend to avoid social justice investments.

The first type of foundation – the passionate rationalists – looks very like ‘catalytic philanthropy’. However, the model allows for six other types. What is striking is that all of the types use grants as part of the strategy, though the role of grants is different in each case.

These results suggest that there is a variety of ways that foundations aspire to achieve greatness. Moreover, since there is a variety of ways to achieve greatness, there needs to be a variety of forms of evaluation, risk assessment, and other management techniques. These findings relate only to European foundations and it is likely that we would add to the picture if we incorporated foundations from other parts of the world.

This special feature suggests that we should be wary of coming in with a simple slogan or matrix to guide our actions. The world is more complicated than this allows for and multidimensional approaches are called for. Above all, we should run a mile from management books or consultancy advice that promote a single, simple answer – otherwise we will fall prey to unevaluated fashion. Indeed, as Andrew Kingman observes in his excellent article, which seeks to delink the idea of catalytic philanthropy as a breakthrough model from the sound development principles that lie behind it, the interventions of development and philanthropy have often been unambitious in both their framing and their delivery. When it comes to social change, we have to embrace complexity, and that means many different tools, approaches and processes which, as Kingman illustrates in his case study from Mozambique, can be driven by a ‘thoughtful NGO or a good grantmaker’ as much as by an ‘inspired philanthropist’.

Conclusion
The impressive consistency in the views of the range of grantmakers writing in this special feature suggests that grantmaking should advance, not retreat. It is clear from the contributions that follow that practitioners see grantmaking playing a central role in fostering creativity, promoting democratic participation, changing power dynamics and reducing poverty and inequality. Philanthropy has many other important tools besides grantmaking, to be sure, but the evidence suggests that grantmaking is central.

We hope this special feature will bring the debate to a higher level so that we do not all rush to the next simple solution that tells us that there is a ‘right way’, when in fact there are ‘right ways’.

This article was first published in the March 2014 edition of Alliance magazine which had a special feature on Grantmaking for Social Change

1 Paul Brest: www.nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/22745-bill-schambra-s-problem-with-evidence-based-philanthropy.html 

2
 Pablo Eisenberg: http://philanthropy.com/article/Strategic-Philanthropy-/141263  

3
 Peter Buffett: www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/the-charitable-industrial-complex.html?_r=0 

Real Results: Why strategic philanthropy is social justice philanthropy, Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski, NCRP, 2013

Jenny Hodgson is executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations

Barry Knight is secretary of CENTRIS

Their joint publications include More than the Poor Cousin: The emergence of community foundations as a new development paradigm and A Different Kind of Wealth: Mapping a baseline of African community foundations.

Of Narratives, Networks and New Spaces: new report on Africa’s growing philanthropy support sector!

A new report, Of Narratives, Networks and New Spaces by Halima Mahomed, commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, on the state of Africa’s philanthropy support sector notes the significant progress that has been made over the course of the last fifteen years. This progress reflects both the growth of Africa’s own homegrown philanthropic sector as well as the investments of a number international funders such as the Ford Foundation. Both of these have also resulted in the emergence of philanthropic membership networks and associations across the continent.

The report also notes that there is still a long way to go and that there also many obstacles that need to be overcome. Firstly, until now there have been neither any research nor any sector-wide conversations about existing infrastructure: this has meant the absence of a common agenda and of an African “voice” on philanthropy. Although new opportunities exist with the rise of African philanthropies, legal and fiscal frameworks, low visibility of the sector and a need to support existing leaders and grown new leaders all also prevail.

As a global organization, based in South Africa and focused on strengthening philanthropic institutions and their networks, the GFCF welcomes this report and looks foward to seeing how some of the dilemmas, questions and opportunities it raises might be turned into action!

Read the report

Guest blog: Development finance: Can it advance local ownership?

John Kerry’s VIP convoy speeds through Ramallah, rushing past local Palestinians: and so goes the development finance discourse – rushing past grassroots development activists. If the development finance folks would just slow down for a moment, here are a few things they might hear from those who are aid dependent about financing the post-2015 development goals:

1. Development finance isn’t just about what you put in. It needs to account for failure, as well as success

Development failure is no accident. It is, in general, caused by the same forces and interests that enrich donor countries and make others needy. Yet, with few exceptions, the post-2015 development finance discourse seems to ignore the macro-causes of development failure. So how can development finance experts hope to estimate the true costs of achieving the MDGs or post-2015 development goals?

For example, how much will it cost to eliminate food insecurity in Gaza? That depends on whether Israel lifts the siege on Gaza, allows Palestinian farmers to export crops, and allows fisherfolk access to the ocean.

And if development finance is to be relevant, it must acknowledge the causes of development failure, and it must recalculate to show the real costs, not only of development interventions, but of doing nothing. If Europe continues to grant preferential trade status to Israel, which Israel then uses to export crops produced illegally on Palestinian-occupied land, thereby entrenching Palestinians’ inability to produce their own food, should Europe’s food aid to Palestinians be reported as aid? The problem itself might not exist if Europe and others didn’t empower Israel and fail to hold it accountable for international law.

2. As ‘development’ expands to include rights, development finance must acknowledge people’s right to control their own resources

Reading the mainstream development-finance discourse, one might think that all that is needed is to raise money. With money, it would be possible to vaccinate all the children in refugee camps, and this would indicate development. Of course all children should be vaccinated, but shouldn’t they also be able to claim their right to live at home, in peace, with rights, and not in a camp? Global civil society is working hard to integrate the concept of rights into post-2015 development discourse. But are the finance folks open to the idea that recipients have the right to decide how resources are used on their behalf? Even when international actors make decisions identical to ones that locals would make for themselves, the process of external control over local development decisions is inherently anti-developmental. There can be no real, sustainable development without self-determination.

3. Development finance should supplement local resources

The idea that development finance should be ‘..complemented by private capital, development  cooperation  among countries of the South, remittances from migrants and private  donations…. is backward. Development finance should complement local resources – and not just taxation, but local resources defined more broadly.

In reality, communities survive on local resources whose value is totally ignored by the development industry, with disastrous consequences. For example, if my mother in California sends $100 to an international NGO to buy a boat with a logo that picks up stranded flood victims and takes them to safety, this is counted as ‘aid’. But if a local person uses his or her own boat and carts family and neighbours, perhaps for 20 hours a day for weeks – before the boat with the logo arrives and long after it has gone, this is not only not counted as ‘aid’, it’s not counted at all! The system ‘counts’ the problem (X number of people stranded by floods), but then only ‘counts’ the part of the response that comes from outside. The result is distorted picture of the world: local people are always needy, without resources and entirely dependent on external help while outsiders are always abundant, generous and needed.

New models of international support for local development financing

The Overseas Development Institute’s project, ‘Localizing Aid’ took a major step forward by expanding the discussion about financing development through local systems to include a focus on local civil society and by prioritising the strengthening of local systems as an explicit objective of aid. Yet ODI’s findings are inconclusive, perhaps because they asked the wrong question. The question should have been whether development (not aid) should be localised, and the obvious answer would have been yes. If ODI had explored how international development finance could support localised development (including respect for local rights, local resource mobilisation, local accountability, and sustainability), then they might have come across one of the most exciting, high-potential local systems for accountable and sustainable development we have: The community foundation.

Dalia AssociationCommunity foundations build on long traditions of giving, sharing and self-reliance, and shape them into new community forms and processes. They mobilise resources – including local, diaspora and private sector monetary and non-monetary resources – and they make grants that strengthen communities and social capital.  Studies indicate they are proliferating, especially in the global south, in response to local priorities and local opportunities, and reflecting a critique of dominant donor-controlled development models.

For international donors with a sincere commitment to local ownership (i.e. ‘respecting basic norms of sovereignty and horizontality’ (p. 16)), community foundations offer some very attractive benefits. By investing in (not ‘channeling through’) community foundations, international donors can take part in long-term, locally-owned, locally accountable social change while simultaneously strengthening the civil society sector for the long-term. This will not happen, however, if community foundations are ‘used’ as or by apex partners, to adopt the ‘Localising Aid’ jargon. Community foundations should not be contracted to engage in short-term, donor-led projects. Instead, international donors need to invest in ways that respect local rights to self-determination in development.

One way to do this is to invest in endowments for community foundations. Endowments can either fund grant-making or operational support, but – above all – the decisions are made locally, by those with the greatest stake in success.

Nora Lester Murad lives in East Jerusalem, where she writes literary fiction. She blogs at The View from My Window in Palestine, addressing issues of aid, development and daily life under military occupation. She founded the Dalia Association, Palestine’s first community foundation, and served as director until 2010.

This was first published on the Development Progress website, a hub for ideas, debate and resources on how the world is doing on international development goals 

Introducing the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy: article in the EFC’s Effect magazine

In a recent article in Effect, the magazine of the European Foundation Centre, Jenny Hodgson, executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, introduces the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy and its goal of making the case for community philanthropy as a key strategy for increasing local ownership and accountability in local development processes.

Read more 

Guest blog: New directions in Southern Human Rights Funding

The next generation of foundations in the Global South will likely be the vanguard of experimentation and learning. A look across the current funding landscape for human rights and justice in the Global South suggests reason for both disappointment and for optimism. For the sake of this review, I put aside official government aid—there is plenty there to discuss—and only look at the smaller world of private philanthropic giving.

Most past criticisms of foundation support for human rights and justice are still relevant. These critiques—apart from the very real problem of simply not enough money—include concern over weak funder strategies, timidity, short attention span, evaluation fetish, poor or no accountability and the absence of centres of research and learning committed to funding rights and justice.

Most funders who express concern about poverty, injustice and the abuse of human rights still employ strategies that that can be described as ‘charity’—funding the provision of services to reduce suffering or an immediate injustice. Although these are important if you are the victim, these strategies are silent on the causes of injustice, and leave them untouched. As a result, charitable approaches rarely deal with the frequently invisible structural sources of injustice, be they legal, economic, political or cultural.

Foundations also often have unrealistically short time frames with internal pressure to fund something new, rather than sticking with the same old problem. However, the exact opposite is necessary if one is interested not only in documenting an abuse, but working to eradicate it. Social change takes time and effort, and often requires strategic evaluation assessment and adjustment. Few foundations, however, think in terms of decades of support, rather than in yearly cycles.

Another problem is foundations’ often misguided efforts to measure success, and their seemingly blind attraction to metrics. To be sure, measuring and understanding success can be a powerful tool for learning and correction. Still, most contemporary evaluative work looks at managerial and financial issues, does not measure social impact, and is deeply burdensome. Few foundations, moreover, have effective learning mechanisms.

Funder accountability is another gaping hole. An oft-cited example is the Gates Foundation, whose assets are greater than the Gross Domestic Product of 40 of Africa’s 52 nations, but is accountable to only three trustees – Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet – none of whom are African. Most funding for human rights in the Global South is still coming from the North. As a result, this is where donors take most decisions about issue framing and the choice and deployment of methods, frequently without voice from the regions where the work will be done. While care must be taken not to over-regulate foundations and unduly restrict their creative abilities, there remains room for more thoughtful rules about governance and accountability. This is especially true where such enormous power and (what is now public) wealth are unhealthily concentrated in the hands of a few.

What, then, is the good news about global funding for human rights? There are some exciting trends worthy of note, including new funders, different kinds of funders, and new networks to strengthen them.

Over the past two decades, the global foundation landscape has changed profoundly, with many new foundations based in, and indigenous to, the Global South. New institutions like TrustAfrica (Senegal) and the African Women’s Development Foundation (Ghana) now speak to Africa, from Africa. Though still heavily reliant on overseas funding, these groups are increasingly raising money from African donors, including individuals, civil society groups and corporations. For example, several African national air carriers have “donate spare change” envelopes in the seat pockets. More importantly, these African donor organizations offer a different voice in the intra-funder conversation.

Other independent foundations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are increasingly visible—though not all are committed to human rights and justice. Several large funds in the Persian Gulf, for example, seem more interested in marketing the donor’s name. But in another exciting example, the Welfare Association in Palestine has shifted over the years from providing services to funding programmes focused on rights and justice. In Israel, the New Israel Fund is under attack by conservatives for its firm support of human rights and social justice. In India the Dalit Foundation is run by, organizes, trains and champions the rights of dalits (so-called untouchables) against remarkable odds.

There has also been a rapid growth of funds explicitly devoted to human rights and justice. Some, like the Brazil Human Rights Fund and the Arab Human Rights Fund, are specifically designed to serve a particular region or, in the case of the Fund for Global Human Rights, to offer grants more broadly. Others like the Astraea Lesbian Fund for Justice , which provides grants in 39 countries, and the Santamaria Fundacion GLBT in Colombia, are among a rapidly growing number of foundations that support LGBT rights, and can be found in almost every corner of the globe.

Another important trend is the growth of community-based funds across the Global South. Unlike their counterparts in the U.S. and U.K., where community foundations are often politically timid, many of these community donor groups help build constituencies among marginalized groups and negotiate for their rights with the state. The Kenya Community Development Foundation (Nairobi), the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation (Cairo) and the Amazon Partnerships Foundation (Ecuador), among many others, pose a new vision for developing stronger communities. They also challenge many assumptions of outside development aid, such as imposed problem identification and strategies, and lack of community agency. Most mainstream foundations in the U.S. and Europe, as well as most bi-lateral aid agencies, are unaware of this growing phenomenon.

Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation, Egypt

Perhaps the most impressive collection of funds are those focusing on the rights of women and girls. While the Global Fund for Women (US) and MamaCash (the Netherlands) operate worldwide, a rapidly growing number of women’s funds are anchored in national and local communities. From Serbia to Mongolia, and from Bulgaria to Bangladesh, there are almost 50 members of the International Network of Women’s Funds (INWF). This number does not include the women’s funds in the U.S. While many of these funds have very limited budgets, they represent a new movement of philanthropic giving. One particularly impressive example is Tewa, the women’s fund of Nepal, which has raised funds from over 3,000 Nepali donors, most of very modest means. Although large foundations often belittle small donations of this kind, they misunderstand the critical importance of building local power and community ownership. Tewa and the other women’s funds are closely linked to one another by the INWF, and demonstrate a high degree of collective work and joint learning, unlike most mainstream foundations. In some instances, women’s funds form regional coalitions, as in the case of Latin America, to deal with common issues.

INWF is just one of several active funder networks supporting human rights and justice in the Global South. These new networks have a vitality and seriousness of purpose largely missing in the North. Exceptions include groups such as Ariadne in Europe, which has partnered with the International Human Rights Funders Group to work on funding for human rights worldwide. Several issue-based groups (e.g., Foundations for Peace) and location-specific ones (e.g., the African Grantmakers Network) are actively engaging their members in work that deals with human rights, social justice and peacebuilding issues—changing the traditional role of foundation associations.

So, while old problems remain, new funders are emerging with an explicit commitment to justice and rights. They are challenging the dominant philanthropic discourses, and in some instances, are experimenting with radically different practices. In one example of new thinking, a few groups are talking about moving away from sole reliance on foundation support and looking not at discrete grants—but the possibility of tapping small percentages of massive international financial resource flows. Ideas like these point to the role of this next generation of foundations in the South as the likely vanguard of experimentation and learning.

Christopher Harris was Senior Program Officer for Philanthropy in the Peace and Social Justice Program of the Ford Foundation for a decade. He now works as a consultant to foundations, and works with the international Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, which he founded. 

This article was originally published on openGlobalRights a new and accessible platform for debate about advocacy strategies, funding, successes, and failures. It is also available in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Arabic.