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Press Room: The quest for evidence of impact

Posted By WINGS, Thursday, September 3, 2015

The following is an excerpt of an article originally published in the September 2015 issue of Alliance magazine. The full article can be found here.

Assessing the impact of infrastructure organizations is important. It is necessary to show how infrastructure support is affecting practice in different countries – how it influences legislation, funding, and other aspects of the enabling environment within which philanthropy and civil society can operate effectively.

To demonstrate the value of philanthropy infrastructure, evidence of real world impact is needed. To begin this assessment, the WINGS report, Infrastructure in Focus: A global picture of organizations serving philanthropy, identified some of the main benefits of support organizations.

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Philanthropy for dinner

Posted By WINGS, Friday, October 10, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

WINGS was featured in the Financial Times Magazine article by Gillian Tett, “Philanthropy for dinner”, published on 10 October 2014. View the article here (FT subscribers only).

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Global Philanthropy Data Charter

Posted By WINGS, Thursday, October 9, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the Instituto C&A website on 9 October 2014. The original article can be found here.

São Paulo (SP) – Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) has been divulging around the world the Global Philanthropy Data Charter. In Brazil, GIFE (Group of Institutes, Foundations and Enterprises) and Instituto C&A are WINGS’ partner in the process. The three institutions are signatories of the document, produced in a collaborative manner through the participation of 30 organizations from all five continents.

Originally introduced in March during the 2014 WINGS Forum, the letter is part of the Global Consultation on Philanthropy Data project, executed with support from Instituto C&A. The initiative consists of the involvement of several institutions in the search of reliable and globally comparable data about philanthropy.

The proposal of this project is to generate strategic thinking about the scope and nature of challenges in accessing information about philanthropy; exploring paths to improve data collection; and working towards a common vision, as well as a set of principles, for organizing global philanthropy data.

The letter seeks to define values regarding the collection and use of data in order to prepare a guide for studying, managing and disseminating information. Some of the themes addressed in the document include access, data quality, knowledge sharing and ownership, privacy, and use of information.

According to Ana Pinho, coordinator of the project at WINGS, there is more and more demand worldwide for concrete and comprehensive data on philanthropy. “The letter fosters a culture of data and collaborations, so that they not only be collected, but also be comparable, in order to strengthen the sector and allow for a diagnosis of strengths and challenges that need to be mastered,” she said. Ana also said that the letter will help the private social investment field become more transparent.

To divulge this action throughout the world, WINGS recently launched The tool presents the letter in its original format with translations in Portuguese, Chinese and Russian. “The objective is for the charter to have a global reach. And, therefore, we are joining efforts to translate it into different languages. The expectation is to receive more translations,” said.

According to the coordinator, partners of the initiative around the world are also disseminating the document in spaces such as conferences and institutional websites. So far, 14 countries are signatories of the charter.

The translation of the document into Portuguese was done by GIFE as a first step for divulging the charter in Brazil. The material is also available at the following link:

According to Janaina Jatobá, manager of Instituto C&A’s Institutional and Community Development area, the orientation provided by the charter will allow Brazil to dialogue with other countries and discover where it stands in relation to philanthropy.

“We do not have a clear scenario of philanthropy in the country. But in order to work in this field, we need to know who we are,” she said. “We need to produce quantitative and qualitative data to guide our social action. We need technical knowledge to cause impact, and Instituto C&A’s support to this action stems precisely from this concern," said Janaína.

According to André Degenszajn, secretary-general of Gife, the charter is a tool directly used by all those that collect or work with data. “For investors, it is fundamental to have reliable data, in order to guide their investment strategies,” he said. Degenszajn believes that the process of preparing the charter was important, but only its effective incorporation by other institutions will define the project’s impact.

For more information on the construction process of the charter, go to

WINGS is an organization that encompasses philanthropic associations and institutions that support the sector in 35 countries. Founded in the late 1990s, the organization is the result of animated discussions regarding the future of philanthropy worldwide, conducted in international meetings where GIFE played a leading role. Since 2011, WINGS’ headquarters are located in São Paulo, Brazil.

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Eleanor Roosevelt and Data Post-2015

Posted By WINGS, Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the Philantopic blog on 1 October 2014. The original article can be found here.

By Angela Hariche

Two weeks ago, I was down with the flu AND jetlagged, so all I could manage to do in the evenings was get under a blanket and watch all fourteen hours of "The Roosevelts" on PBS. I thought it was riveting and the timing was perfect. It has been a particularly busy time for us at Foundation Center and there have been an inordinate amount of meetings and conferences around the annual meeting of the UN general assembly. Happily, most of the people sharing a table with me at these events had also been watching "The Roosevelts." We all admitted it was nice for once to discuss something else other than the grind during the lunches and coffee breaks!

So, it was no surprise when Kathy Calvin, president of the United Nations Foundation, said at a recent Ford Foundation event, "Channel your inner Eleanor Roosevelt post-2015." I think that was my best tweet all week. But what does it mean? Well, Eleanor certainly was a force. In fact, she was the driving force behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was able to move the needle on things in the face of incredible resistance. And "post-2015" is about what comes after the Millennium Development Goals effort comes to an end next year.

The event brought together leaders from philanthropy, the UN, business, and civil society to talk about philanthropy and the role of the sector in the coming years. Brad Smith, president of Foundation Center, and Helena Monteiro from WINGS (Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support) convened a session that focused on the data and knowledge needed to a) get a better grip on what we know and don’t know about funding for global development goals; b) how to get an accurate picture of development progress; c) how to build standards and trust so working together isn't so hard; d) how to climb the mountain of definitions when so many cultures (both organizational and geographic) name things differently; and e) how to remember that we are talking about people's lives here. It was noted during the session that ten years ago nobody would have wanted to attend a session on data!

So what came out of it?

Brad Smith noted that there are more than 86,000 foundations in the U.S. with total assets of close to $800 billion and $55 billion in giving. This is about equal to U.S. Official Development Assistance (ODA). Brad also noted philanthropic dollars matter not only in their volume but also in their flexibility and that this is one of the last sources of funding that isn't earmarked. But if foundations are not forthcoming with their data, we will not be able to analyze the impact of the sector as a whole or on gender equality, education, or any other issue. Foundations have to be more transparent if global progress is to be made.
To address the fact that we don't have anywhere near an accurate picture of development progress, some have called for a data revolution. UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon has assembled an advisory group to advise him on coordination of the effort, on better use and analysis of data, and on the difficulties faced by underresourced national statistics offices. Several in the room noted that the strengthening of local knowledge systems is incredibly important. If more research comes from the local context, fewer people will get left behind in the aggregation process.

Helena Monteiro presented the Global Philanthropy Data Charter as a way to address the issues of trust and standards when working with data. An example of an organization that used the charter to guide them is the International Human Rights Funders Group. Working with Foundation Center, IHRFG came up with a standard definition of human rights grants, collected data from foundations around the world, coded the grants, and launched a website. Voila! Eleanor would be proud.

Finally, Danny Sriskandarajah of CIVICUS reminded us that storytelling, citizen voice, and accountability will be key for post-2015 success. It was also noted that data is "development capital." If development data is available to citizens, they will be able to make better, more informed decisions.

At Foundation Center we are working hard on a project with the United Nations Development Programme, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, and MasterCard Foundation to collect foundation data and knowledge on post-2015 goals for a publicly available web portal that will launch in June 2015. If you are interested in channeling your inner Eleanor Roosevelt and being a part of it, please contact me at

Angela Hariche is director of international data relations at Foundation Center.

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Partnership Platform for Global Philanthropy

Posted By WINGS, Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published by Pro Bono Australia on 16 September 2014. The original article can be found here.  

Helping philanthropy better understand the opportunities for engaging in global development goal processes is underway via a project by the newly establish Global Philanthropy Data Charter, writes Heather Grady, Senior Fellow on Global Philanthropy with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Over the past decade, the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, have been critical in mobilizing resources and driving real progress on some of the world’s most pressing problems. With the MDGs’ deadline of 2015 fast approaching, discussion over what should succeed these goals — known as the “Post-2015 development agenda”— is an important collective undertaking for those concerned with international cooperation.

As this agenda, often referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is being negotiated, there has been a push to use international funding for development more effectively through enabling innovative models of collaboration by a wider group of partners and stakeholders.

The project for the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy (the Platform) focuses on philanthropy’s input into this developmental landscape by helping grantmakers to better understand the opportunities for engaging in global development goals processes. It will help to build a collective voice for philanthropy in the global discussions on the Post-2015 agenda, something welcomed by many governments and others.

The project will, at the same time, assist governments and the UN system in comprehending the added value of philanthropy’s direct engagement. It will also, crucially, help amplify the voice and action of grantees in determining and achieving international targets and strategies. The project is implemented jointly by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Foundation Centre (FC), and a Collaboration Committee guided and supported by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA).

Why Now?

Historically, official and private aid has been only partially successful at tackling both the root causes and symptoms of the goals addressed by the MDGs. While there have been wide gains in poverty reduction, many challenges are increasing – not the least growing inequality, the degradation of natural resources, and the predicament of unemployed youth. The international system must work differently to tackle these and other crucial issues. Currently, a global planning process is underway on the SDGs, with a dual focus of finishing the job of the MDGs and addressing new development challenges that have come to the forefront. Philanthropy can play a greater role in determining these priorities by leveraging its “neutral” position to bring other non-governmental stakeholders into the process – a task with which development aid agencies, such as UN Development Program (UNDP), have historically struggled.

To catalyze different ways of addressing these challenges, the organizations listed above began to converge their efforts in early 2014 in a participatory and consultative process. A March 2014 convening organized by the Hilton Foundation and UNDP brought together foundations and networks interested in the greater engagement of philanthropy around the SDGs.

The forum on “Fostering Commitment and Leadership for the Post-2015 Agenda” was opened by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and built upon earlier convenings held by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Participating foundations continued their deliberations at the Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) Forum 2014 in Istanbul, the Salzburg Global Seminar on Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Social and Financial Transformation, the 2014 annual Council on Foundations meeting, the Development Cooperation Forum in Istanbul in June 2014, and other events.

The response has been very encouraging. At the Council on Foundations conference over 100 participants joined the session. A panel entitled “Enhancing Philanthropy’s Role in Sustainable Development” at the Global Philanthropy Forum in April 2014 drew many newcomers to philanthropy and generated great interest. There was widespread acknowledgment among the attendees of the timeliness and importance of philanthropy becoming more engaged with the post-2015 goal process.

In the closing plenary session of the Forum, Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and widely respected world leader and acknowledged author of the “sustainable development” paradigm, challenged the philanthropic gathering to be a better collaborator:

“What we need is everyone stepping up to the challenge. Because it’s the sum of what all of us are able to do – from the government, from the local community . . . to the private sector – totally – that’s what will help us, as quickly as possible, get to sustainable development.”

Responding to this imperative and building on the outcomes of the various meetings are three strong organizations committed to the implementation of the Platform, and incorporating a deeply collaborative approach. UNDP, the Foundation Center (FC) and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) each bring a unique set of assets that are critical to this project’s success. UNDP is responsible for coordinating the UN system’s role in the post-2015 goal identification process. The FC has the capacity and institutional expertise necessary to deliver on its web product, as seen in its prototype RPA has many years of experience in working with philanthropists to achieve thoughtful, effective philanthropy, and enabling funding collaboratives to achieve their members’ shared aims.

Several foundations have been engaged in the planning process, not only the Hilton, Ford and MasterCard Foundations, but also the Oak Foundation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Humanity United, the Global Fund for Women, and networks such as the African Grantmakers Network, European Foundation Center, Council on Foundations, Global Philanthropy Forum, and WINGS.

Project Description

The four overarching objectives of this project are to:

  1. Create a collective voice for philanthropy willing to engage as a partner in the global discussions on the Post-2015 development agenda.

  2. Develop country-level platforms that help inform and identify opportunities for philanthropy and grantees to collaborate with multilateral, government, and other development partners.

  3. Create new methods of outreach and engagement at global level that support dialogue and collaboration among the UN, philanthropy, governments and civil society organizations during and after the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs.

  4. Build a web portal that makes data on philanthropic investments more accessible for philanthropy to track progress, find partners, and tell their stories on the road to the completion of the MDGs and the beginning of the SDGs.

These objectives will be met by the three implementing partners – UNDP, FC, and RPA through its guidance of a multi-stakeholder Collaboration Committee. Each organization will have fiduciary and management responsibilities for the activities within its respective component. UNDP and the FC will communicate about and promote relevant good practice guidelines through their websites and to foundations who attend meetings, such as the Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement (GEPEs), Disaster Philanthropy Protocol, and the Global Philanthropy Data Charter.

The overarching assumption behind this initiative is that a deeper understanding by foundations around the world of the MDGs and SDGs transition process, and how they can engage and contribute their work to the global agenda, will be enormously important to achieving global goals.

This, together with a more in-depth understanding by the UN and governments on the role of foundations, will foster more and better national and global partnerships, which will in the long term enhance the impact of each stakeholder’s interventions.

About the author: Heather Grady, is a Senior Fellow at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Grady joined RPA in July 2014, and leads the organization's strategy and program development in global philanthropy, including collaboratives, global programs, research, publications, presentations and other initiatives. Just prior to joining RPA she helped to launch a new collaboration between the Hilton, Ford and MasterCard Foundations, the Foundation Center, and the UN to encourage philanthropy to engage more meaningfully in the Post-2015 Agenda, which has since become a part of RPA’s programming. This article was first published at Contact

The Global Philanthropy Data Charter is the result of a collective effort, conducted by WINGS jointly with the Foundation Center in the US, which brought together global stakeholders to work towards a common vision for global data on philanthropy. The Data Charter was first launched at the WINGSForum 2014  to reflect the philanthropy sector’s commitment to using accurate and accessible information to set priorities, allocate resources, assess needs and identify trends.

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Good Data For Greater Impact

Posted By WINGS, Monday, September 15, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the Markets for Good website on 15 September 2014. The original article can be found here.

By Ana Pinho 

Demand for reliable, globally comparable data on philanthropy has never been greater – recent initiatives such as Markets for Good, focusing on information for social impact, attest the importance of data to drive efficiency and innovation. Here at WINGS, we are an independent not-for-profit global network that brings together 90 support organizations serving philanthropy in 35 countries. Furthermore, our members represent 15,000 Foundations, mobilizing $83.6M around the world. As such, various actors in the philanthropic field have approached WINGS for information, from researchers and governmental bodies, to associations keen on providing better services to their members and funders looking at data as a way to maximize their impact.

The Global Philanthropy Data Charter is the result of a collective effort, conducted by WINGS, jointly with the Foundation Center, bringing together stakeholders from all regions to work towards a common vision for global data on philanthropy. It is a framework to guide organizations in the sector as they set out to improve philanthropy data, providing a code of good practice to improve the working relationships of those involved in philanthropy data, and also for engaging other sectors around sharing and using philanthropy data for public benefit.

The aim of the Data Charter is to improve cooperation among stakeholders of existing data initiatives and encourage new initiatives, as well as foster efficiency in data collection and sharing. Key benefits include better decision-making processes and greater visibility of the sector’s contributions to society. The Data Charter was first launched at WINGS Forum 2014 in Istanbul and its new website reflects the philanthropy sector’s commitment to using accurate and accessible information to set priorities, allocate resources, assess needs and identify trends. The website includes:

  • a map of initiatives using the Data Charter to guide their work;
  • the Data Charter’s uses and benefits;
  • current endorsers and instructions on how to join; and
  • a special seal that endorsers can use to demonstrate their commitment to good data for greater impact.

Some initiatives already using the Data Charter to guide their partnerships and data collection efforts include the Community Foundations Atlas, the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy and the Spanish Association of Foundations’ report on the foundation sector in Spain. To increase the Data Charter’s global reach, and to engage local actors and further develop information infrastructure and partnerships, the document is being translated into several languages, the first being Chinese, Russian and Portuguese.

Organizations can join our effort to improve data in philanthropy by endorsing the Data Charter and committing to honoring and promoting all values and principles embodied in the document with respect to their data-related work.

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Challenges and trends in private social investment and philanthropy in Colombia

Posted By WINGS, Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the Alliance blog on 3 September 2014. The original article can be found here.

By Atallah Kuttab and Maria Carolina Suarez

The Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales (Association of Corporate Foundations) in Colombia, hereinafter AFE, held four focus group discussions from 19 to 22 August in the four largest Colombian cities: Bogota, Barranquilla, Cali and Medellin. The purpose was to reflect upon the challenges in private social investment and philanthropy. This is part of a wider study in Latin America covering Colombia, Brazil and Argentina that is being carried out by GIFE, CEMEFI, GDFA and AFE, with the support of AVINA Foundation and the Inter American Bank Foundation, and the active participation of WINGS.

The focus groups covered definitions and their meanings in the local context; key actors (individuals, families, corporations, institutions, hybrid NGO-foundations, foundations); mechanisms (direct implementation, grantmaking, and for-profit or not-for-profit programmes for social impact); reflections on the last 10 years and challenges for the next 10 years; driving forces behind the sector; and collaboration between private and public sectors, and civil society.

Most participants (over 95 per cent) were corporate and family foundations. Some represented the governmental agencies focused on social challenges. Although NGOs were invited, only a few attended – which is a shame as they are key actors.

The first author participated in the focus group discussions as part of his fellowship funded by Robert Bosch Foundation to identify the emerging new Arab philanthropy discourse, and in so doing to look at discourses in other regions and countries to identify similarities and differences and to identify processes that are shaping the new forms of global philanthropy. The hope is to raise interest in Latin America to do the same reflection and research as the one being done in the Arab region.

There will be a detailed report by AFE on the various focus group meetings. However, some of the early key impressions are summarized here:

1. There is no consensus on the reach of the word philanthropy. Most of the attendants understand philanthropy as an act of generosity and solidarity, altruistic expressions, no return expectations, and love for humanity. The majority agree that philanthropic actions have no focus and short-term results; they imply charity and handouts that do not generate social value; and they are performed by individuals. There is no strategy involved in philanthropic actions. Most refer to philanthropy as an act of giving fish without teaching how to fish, so philanthropic actions do not generate capabilities. Only one participant, out of a total of close to 60 in all focus groups, mentioned social transformation.

2. Private social investment, on the other hand, implies sustainable approaches to social change. Words to describe it are: sustainability, measurable impact, returns (some focused on financial returns while others meant wider financial and social returns), planning, strategic approaches, empowerment, engagement, partnership and collaboration, innovation, and risk-taking.

3. There was tension between aiming at social change while making financial profits versus reinvesting any profits in expanding the work for scaling up. While there was general acceptance of social investment, social business was not readily accepted by all the attendants.

4. There is a sense of disconnection between ‘philanthropy’ and social investment. Only a few saw a link between the two or accepted that, to meet societal needs, both approaches are needed. For some, philanthropy and private social investment can complement each other and can be made by the same organization according to the contexts in which it moves. In Medellin, one of the attendants highlighted that when someone is drowning it is necessary to lend a hand to get them out of the water because there is no time left to start swimming lessons. Therefore, there are conditions in which it is necessary to engage in philanthropic actions and assist people. To the majority, however, philanthropy and private social investment are two completely different approaches when you think about social change.

5. There was clearly an issue of trust between foundations and NGOs. There is not much synergy between their activities, with many foundations implementing their own programmes with little grantmaking.

6. All of the attendants highlighted the importance of ‘territorial’ development, ie local development programmes between foundations, businesses and the community. Corporate foundations are bringing the relationship between businesses and communities closer, building collaborative strategies with other stakeholders in order to develop geographical areas and build local capacities.

7. The key changes over the last ten years (and expected to continue for the next ten years) include: moving from CSR to social investment, inclusive development programmes, and more inflows of funds to social investment. Also, more consideration is given to sustainability, accountability, transparency, impact measurement, knowledge management, and collaboration with governments. All foundations are aware of the importance of influencing public policies and strengthening public-private partnerships.

The foundation sector in Colombia is growing and playing a pivotal role in the development of Colombian society. The dominant approach by these foundations is social investment. The application of the taxonomy from the well-established foundation sector in the Anglo-Saxon domain could be limiting in identifying the diverse local practices. The use of the word philanthropy clearly does not have universal meaning. Unraveling existing practices, terms used and approaches from the various regions of the world should precede defining conclusive trends regarding global philanthropy. A key driver for the growth of the foundation sector in Colombia is the partnerships forged among several corporate foundations on central societal issues like improving education, peace building, inclusive programmes for members of rebel groups to help them find their place in society, and helping internally displaced groups to reclaim their deserted villages and rebuild their communities.

Atallah Kuttab is founder and chairman, SAANED for Philanthropy Advisory. Maria Carolina Suarez is executive director of AFE.

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Philanthropy, the Post-2015 Agenda, and Diffuse Collaboration

Posted By WINGS, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog on 30 July 2014. The original article can be found here

By Heather Grady

At a recent gathering of foundation and corporate fundraising professionals, Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer shared his perspectives on philanthropy. His remarks really struck a chord with me; they were frank and incisive, and pointed out some structural issues that relate to an initiative we are working on with colleagues from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Foundation Center, and the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support network.

Our group conceived this initiative (currently called the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy) over the last half-year or so to do two things: 1) help philanthropy better understand the opportunities for engaging in global development goal processes, and 2) help governments and the UN system understand the added value of philanthropy’s engagement. It will also move forward what Kramer calls “a common vocabulary”—in other words, a common information base so that foundations and others involved in international development can see the extent to which their efforts are complementing each other in contributing to the global development agenda. So far, it has been a challenge to convince foundations to invest in it; many think it is a good idea, but few are actively committing financial resources. It occurred to me that if we came up with a more eponymous title, we might attract natural allies faster. But after hearing Kramer’s comments, it dawned on me that there is much more to it than that.

He put it bluntly: There are enormous problems with collaboration within philanthropy—it is “really, really difficult.” He pointed out that this derives in part from the professionalization of our sector over the past few decades. We have gotten much better at developing theories of change for our grantmaking and programmatic portfolios, and I believe on balance this is good. This is what good NGOs do already—build consensus internally on their archetype of change, and then deploy their (usually) scarce resources accordingly. But as each foundation works to develop and test its own strategies for change, it rarely matches with those of other foundations—and there is precious little incentive to combine resources to conserve funds within the sector.

A related challenge is coordinating decision-making. Kramer acknowledged that most foundations probably have four layers of decision-making: the individual program officer, a program director or equivalent, the CEO, and the board of trustees. In most cases, they must all buy in to programmatic efforts before making grants, and once committed to a theory of change and portfolio direction, it is very hard to change it or make exceptions. If an idea introduced by another foundation doesn’t quite fit, individuals are reluctant to override (if they are more senior) or challenge (if they are more junior) their colleagues. A lucky coincidence is when two foundations’ strategies align well for shared purpose—but this isn’t common.

Kramer borrowed a term from international relations to explain why this is particularly challenging for philanthropy—diffuse reciprocity (versus traditional reciprocity), a concept that he discussed in an April 2014 SSIR blog. Reciprocal behavior amongst nation-states or institutions happens in situations where partners exchange items of more or less equivalent value, and where the sequence of action and the rights and obligations are clear. But in the case of diffuse reciprocity, there is no obvious equivalence nor mandated sequencing of steps, and the process more likely involves a group of actors not just two. Indeed, when there is a close relationship between program officers or presidents of different foundations, there may be an informal agreement on shared support, but it is usually for modest, one-off grants rather than complex partnerships. There are no immediate rewards for deeper partnerships but only, as academic Robert Keohane notes, good overall results for the whole group.

In our own effort, the Hilton and Ford Foundations are attempting to bring together foundations that share a common belief in philanthropy concerting more of our global grantmaking toward agreed global goals. Our assumption is if we do this 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.

Our growing group of partners has an inside joke that we dare not speak of coordination, let alone the contentious term alignment. What we need to do instead, taking a page from Kramer, is find a way to nurture that norm of diffuse reciprocity: Get others to contribute to this effort “without demanding or expecting an immediate payback or return, knowing that you and others will do the same later and that we’ll all be better off in the long run as a result.” To be sure, there are valid questions about the specifics of this effort. UNDP and the UN system is a bureaucratic partner; governments do not necessarily endorse our civil society grantees’ interests; and as the Institute for Development Studies’ respected development guru Robert Chambers pointed out in a UN meeting recently, inclusive partnerships and collaboration have time costs, not just benefits.

Nevertheless, the value of philanthropic collaboration on global development goals has been proven time and again—in the fields of health, agricultural innovation, HIV/AIDS, community-based natural resource management, and urban climate change resilience, to name but a few. So here is an offer: 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.

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The matter of international development cooperation

Posted By WINGS, Friday, July 4, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the Global Fund for Community Foundations website on 4 July 2014. The original article can be found here

Jenny Hodgson
Executive Director, GFCF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three final thoughts on the conference:

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

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

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

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Foundations and civil society organizations convene during UN Week to advance Post 2015 development agenda

Posted By WINGS, Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2015

The following was originally published on the United Nations Development Programme website on 2 October 2013. The original article can be found here

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were at the heart of discussions on 27 September, as various stakeholders met at the Ford Foundation in New York to discuss how philanthropies and their civil society partners can contribute to the future development agenda, to be renewed in 2015.

The event – organised by the Ford Foundation, the European Foundation Centre, the Rockefeller Foundation, UNDP, WINGS and OECD netFWD – focused on accountability and innovation, and how these organisations can work together to have a greater impact.

“You can't have civil societies without a strong ecosystem of civil society actors,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, who urged participants to keep the ideal of social justice at center stage.  

In shaping the next post 2015 development agenda, UNDP stressed the importance of connecting the UN with people and changing the way multilateralism is done. The organisation also encouraged grant makers to share MDG-related lessons with governments around the world.

The Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN, Csaba Korosi, called for a greater involvement of the scientific community to "provoke, motivate, inspire and advise". He reminded that the new development framework should consider socioeconomic and environmental issues, while keeping in mind the most important thought: to benefit our communities.

Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ) advocated for better access to health care, based on geography and demography, while the Mayor of Cali in Colombia, Rodrigo Guerrero Velasco, stressed the role of education in the new agenda.

The African Grantmakers Network (AGN) reiterated the need to recognize the role of women and girls in development, as targets can never be achieved by marginalizing 50% of the human race. Philanthropy needs to utilize regional networks and organisations as well as include the voices and needs of indigenous peoples in collective efforts that support development, according to AGN.

"Philanthropies can work better not just by listening, but by actually hearing,” said Theo Sowa, Chair of the African Grant makers Network and CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund. “New technologies aren't enough. We need to reach far deeper".

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