The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, to give it its full title, is more than anything about celebrating social entrepreneurs. The 2014 Skoll World Forum, held in Oxford 9-11 April, was no exception. The awards ceremony, though less glitzy than previous years, and all the better for that, is the supreme moment of celebration.
Social entrepreneurs are disruptive, said Skoll Foundation president Sally Osberg, introducing the ceremony (‘disruptive’ is a favourite Skoll word). ‘They take aim at perverse systems and uncover solutions; they disrupt the status quo … Getting rid of global problems is no task for the faint-hearted.’
No task for the faint-hearted
It certainly isn’t! Take Girls Not Brides, whose founder Mabel van Oranje ‘wants to end child marriage in one generation’. Currently 14 million girls get married under 18 each year. Launched in September 2011, Girls Not Brides is now a global partnership of more than 300 civil society organizations working across 50 countries. Or Fundación Capital, whose founder Yves Moury aims to get 100 million families set up with bank accounts and financial training in the next six or seven years. Or Malala Yousafzai, known simply as ‘Malala’, who is only the third ever recipient of Skoll’s ‘Golden Global Treasure’ award, and wants all children in school by 2015. Clearly not goals for the faint-hearted!
And the other Skoll awardees were no less impressive – B Lab, Global Witness, Medic Mobile, Slum Dwellers International and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP). Click here to read more about them>
The most touching stories …
Everyone at Skoll – and in the philanthropy world more widely – is keen on the idea of ‘stories’, and many of the social entrepreneurs at the Skoll Forum had wonderful stories. Often whole enterprises had grown from a single experience. Sam Parker of WSUP described how, eight years ago, he saw a 2-year-old sitting on the ground with sewage running over his feet. There was a tap nearby but no water coming out. WSUP is now providing water and sanitation to nearly 2 million people in urban slums in six countries.
Mabel van Oranje of Girls Not Brides remembered talking to a 14-year-old girl in Bihar about her wedding day. ‘I was afraid,’ she said. ‘I was a child.’ As the mother of two daughters, aged 7 and 9, the story hit her.
For Jenny Bowen, a previous Skoll awardee and founder of Half the Sky Foundation, it all began when she adopted a little girl from a Chinese orphanage. The child was suffering physically and emotionally from the effects of institutionalization, but a year’s love transformed her. This experience determined Bowen that providing training and support for carers in Chinese orphanages could transform the lives of other children. Founded in 1998, Half the Sky Foundation is now the biggest NGO in China, with 1,700 staff, working in partnership with the Chinese government in 54 cities in China.
The biggest buzz …
Impressive as these social enterprises are, what they achieve is still only a drop in the ocean compared to the problems to be solved. While Fundación Capital aims to reach 100 million families in the next six or seven years, a hugely ambitious target, the world has 2.5 billion adults who are unbanked, ie lacking access to financial services.
Achieving scale was the focus of a session on Friday afternoon which saw the launch of Monitor Inclusive Markets’ (MIM) new report Beyond the Pioneer: Getting inclusive industries to scale. The report looks at the key barriers to scale at the level of the ecosystem rather than the individual business and identifies the role of ‘facilitators’ in removing them. Harvey Koh, one of the authors, described how MIM’s housing programme had moved from building houses to getting affordable finance to working with government.
There was a real buzz in this session. Scaling is a critical issue for many, as attested by the packed room. ‘If I was a social entrepreneur, I’d love to have Shell Foundation coming in and hugging me, or DFID “tweaking” with government,’ commented Skoll Foundation’s Alex Sloan, an excellent ‘facilitator’. Shell Foundation and DFID are two of the facilitators cited in the MIM report.
The work of B Lab, one of this year’s Skoll awardees, is all about creating the infrastructure for social businesses. B Corps or Benefit Corporations are companies with a social purpose that serve both their shareholders and society more broadly. Before the creation of B Corps in 2007, people trying to use businesses to solve social problems were often constrained by their legal structure. With 20 states in the US having passed Benefit Corporation legislation, nearly 1,000 B Corps certified, and 16,000 companies using its tools, B Lab is now focused on accelerating the global adoption of this new model.
… and the coollest innovation
I have to end with Will Marshall of Planet Labs, who featured in a star-studded closing plenary. ‘What could you do if you had access to images of the earth every single day?’ was the question he threw out. Social entrepreneurs tend to work in places with little data and little information, he said. Satellites are big and expensive, and existing images of the planet are old. How to democratize access to satellites and satellite data? Well, working in a garage, Planet Labs has created a tiny satellite called Dove, measuring just 30 by 10 by 10 centimetres. Twenty-eight have already been launched and soon there will be 100 in orbit. Forming a continuous line round the earth, they will take a picture of each part of the earth every 24 hours as the earth rotates. Someone monitoring deforestation due to illegal logging will be able to see daily changes. How cool is that!
Caroline Hartnell, is editor of Alliance magazine.
Since 2009, Sankalp Forum has been bringing the voice of the social entrepreneur into the impact investing conversation. This was evident again in Mumbai this year (9-11 April) as over 1,000 delegates and 103 speakers from across the world gathered to discuss hard-pressing global challenges which could be addressed through market-driven solutions.
Highlighting innovations from across India, enterprises including Karadi Path, which delivers English programmes to over 55,000 children, and iKure, which aims to bridge the healthcare divide among the 840 million people in rural India, were recognized. Speakers at the conference included Vijay Mahajan, founder & chairman of BASIX Group; Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce; and Paresh Parasnis, head of Piramal Foundation.
The underlying theme throughout the three days, and in particular the panel which I moderated, focused on the need to bring all stakeholders into the conversation. All forms of capital (grant, debt and equity), integrated networks (partnerships with government, corporate sector, social entrepreneurs) and differing perspectives (community leaders, youth, and companies) are needed to solve these wicked problems.
A case study on empowering adolescent girls in India was used to discuss the different roles required to delay marriage and childbirth and provide education and employment opportunities to girls. With 43% of all women aged 20-24 being married before the age of 18 and twice the number of adolescent mothers facing death during pregnancy, there is an urgent need to focus on this group. Delaying marriage and childbirth for adolescent girls can add USS110 billion to the Indian economy, and 90% of women’s income will be invested in their family’s welfare as opposed to 40-50% of men’s income. This becomes a significant reason to invest in adolescent girls.
On the panel, Paresh Parasnis highlighted the Piramal School of Leadership programme which has worked with the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, state governments, public schools and communities to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Anuradha Ramachandran from Omidyar Network spoke about their efforts not only to scale social businesses but also to support non-profits that focus on governance and transparency. Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, talked about their work with lawyers in TrustLaw to ensure ‘a stronger focus on legal framework, wherein the girls’ rights are safeguarded and policy makers need to look at long-term solutions’.
The panel agreed that along with innovation and entrepreneurship, there is a need to reach out to the beneficiary group and strike a balance between trying to achieve change and working within the framework of already existing laws.
Deval Sanghavi, is partner and co-founder of Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation.
These are exciting times for ambitious charities and social enterprises in the UK. The government recognizes the difference they can make providing key services and creating jobs and wealth in their communities, and is encouraging them to scale up their activities and bid for public contracts.
Around the country the social sector is worth £55 billion, supporting more than 2 million jobs. More than one in four social enterprises does work for the public sector, encouraged by policies such as the Localism Act.
The social investment market has grown strongly to fund this expansion of activity and demand is expected to reach around £1 billion by 2015/16. New forms of investment, such as social impact bonds, have been developed to target investors who seek both a social and a financial return on their money.
But as the market grows more sophisticated many charities are finding that they don’t have the skills to seize the new opportunities. Raising millions of pounds of investment and bidding against commercial organizations for public sector contracts requires specialist skills in law, financial management, corporate finance and public service commissioning.
The Investment and Contract Readiness Fund was launched in May 2012 to tackle these problems. It is the world’s first fund designed to equip charities and social enterprises with the business skills they need to raise serious amounts of investment and compete for public service contracts, and it is making ‘a significant and positive impact’, according to a report from the Boston Consulting Group, released on 9 April.
The £10 million fund, financed by the Cabinet Office and managed by the Social Investment Business, has made grants to 94 ventures worth £8.9 million. Of those, 74 are still carrying out their business support programmes, but the first eight have already raised investment and won contracts worth a total £35 million.
Pure Innovations, a charity that supports disadvantaged people, used to have a poor record of winning tenders but a £52,250 ICRF grant helped it secure a five-year contract worth £11.7 million from the Royal Borough of Kingston to take over the running of its learning disability service.
Doug Cresswell, CEO of Pure Group, said: ‘The ICRF grant has made a very tangible and positive difference. It enabled us to undertake a focused review of our growth plans and crucially to secure high-quality tendering and bid-writing support. As a result of winning the Kingston contract we have significantly increased our group turnover and rapidly extended our reach to vulnerable people.’
Empower Community received a £108,650 ICRF grant, which helped it take its model to the mainstream investment market and secure a £10.1 million 20-year loan from a UK institutional pension investor. It used the funds to buy existing solar panels on 2,327 social homes in Sunderland owned by Gentoo housing association, and it will continue to provide tenants with free daytime electricity, which can reduce bills by up to 40%. The refinancing will allow Gentoo to install solar panels on up to 3,000 more homes in the city.
Alex Grayson, managing partner at Empower, says: ‘The beauty of this deal is that everybody’s interests are aligned: the investor makes solid financial returns, with measurable social and environmental impact; tenants enjoy access to free daytime power, which helps them escape fuel poverty; Gentoo enjoys an ongoing return and financing to continue their exciting developments; and the community receives funding for local initiatives from the profits.’
Boston Consulting Group found evidence that the ICRF is starting to change the market. Ventures that have received business support say their skills and knowledge have increased significantly and 70% expect to need less help in the future. They are more willing to pay for these services as they become aware of the benefits they can bring. And the fund has increased the professional support available.
The ICRF Investor Panel has been fundamental to this success, allowing major social investors to review ventures’ plans to scale up their operations and impact. The panel, which decides which applicants receive business support grants, is chaired by Big Society Capital, and includes the Big Lottery Foundation, NatWest, Triodos Bank, Bridges Ventures and the FSE Group.
We want to build on this success. We’ve already started introducing repayable components of grants, to ensure ventures have more skin in the game, and we hope this will also allow business support to be spread more widely.
We hope the stories of pioneers like Pure Innovations and Empower will show charities and social enterprises how professional business support can help them realize their ambitions and encourage them to think big.
Jonathan Jenkins, is CEO of the Social Investment Business, one of the UK’s leading social investors, which has invested more than £340 million in over 1,300 charities and social enterprises since 2002. @TheSocialInvest
Oxfam has been banging on to good effect recently about extreme global inequality in income and wealth. Over many years, we have also been making the case for universal health and education. It turns out the link between the two is stronger than I’d realized, according to ‘Working for the Many: Public Services fight Inequality’, a new paper published today.
We normally discuss inequality before and after tax (eg it’s progressive taxation that really brings Europe’s inequality down). But recent work published by the OECD and World Bank has put a monetary value on the ‘virtual income’ provided by public services. This produces some startling findings on inequality.
‘Public services mitigate the impact of skewed income distribution, and redistribute by putting ‘virtual income’ into everyone’s pockets. For the poorest, those on meagre salaries, though, this ‘virtual income’ can be as much as – or even more than – their actual income. On average, in OECD countries, public services are worth the equivalent of a huge 76 per cent of the post-tax income of the poorest group, and just 14 per cent of the richest. It is in the context of huge disparities of income that we see the true equalizing power of public services.
The ‘virtual income’ provided by public services reduces income inequality in OECD countries by an average of 20 per cent, and by between 10 and 20 per cent in six Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay – see graph). Evidence from the IMF, Asia, and more than 70 developing and transition countries shows the same underlying patterns in the world’s poorest countries: public services tackle inequality the world over.
In Mexico, and even in Brazil with its award-winning Bolsa Familia cash-transfer scheme, education and healthcare make double the contribution to reducing economic inequality that tax and benefits make alone. But regressive taxation in many Latin American countries, including Brazil, is undermining the potential to combat inequality through fiscal redistribution, and preventing even greater investment in health and education.
This evidence underlines a double imperative for governments: to ensure progressive taxation that can redistribute once when collected and again when spent on inequality-busting public services.’
And seen through the eyes of inequality and redistribution, the private v public debate becomes even starker:
‘Far from being a magical solution to providing universal access to health and education services, private provision of services skews their benefit towards the richest. Amongst the poorest 60 per cent of Indian women, the majority turn to public sector facilities to give birth, whilst the majority of those in the top 40 per cent give birth in a private facility. In three of the best performing Asian countries that have met or are close to meeting Universal Health Coverage – Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Hong Kong – the private sector is serving the richest far more than the poorest. Fortunately, in these cases the public sector has compensated.
Services must be free at point of delivery to reach their inequality-busting potential. Health user fees cause 150 million people around the world to suffer financial catastrophe each year. For the poorest 20 per cent of families in Pakistan, sending all children to a private low-fee school would cost approximately 127 per cent of that household’s income. The trend is the same in Malawi and in rural India.
Whereas public services provide everyone with ‘virtual income’, fighting inequality by putting more in the pockets of the poorest; user fees and private services have the opposite effect. Fees take more away from the actual income of poor people, and private services benefit the richest first and foremost. This is the wrong medicine for the inequality epidemic.’
Smart and important work by Emma Seery and colleagues.
This article was originally published on the Oxfam GB blog on 3 April 2014. The original article can be found here>
Recently I attended the 10th annual fundraising reception organized by the Mongolian Women’s Fund (MONES). It was a relief to see a big venue full. And it was a pleasant surprise to learn who the people attending this event were— owners of top bakery shops, directors of medium size industrial entities, program directors and managers of international organizations, owners of jewelry shops. This crowd was quite different from what it was five years ago. Back then, people who came to this annual event, were from the inner circle, people who were already concerned with social issues—mainly NGO activists.
MONES has been doing domestic fundraising since its starting days. Being a pioneer in Mongolia by fully engaging in domestic fundraising through events and campaigns, MONES experienced many ups and downs in its 15-year-long fundraising journey. We often struggled to meet our annual goals, every dollar was earned the hard way. Yet, we felt compelled to carry on. Our fundraising was never about raising money only. It was and is about raising support for women’s rights. We recognize that women’s participation— not only political but also economic— as essential for development. Economic participation includes philanthropy.
So, as a fundraiser, I felt proud of my people. In a country, where, for very long, the state took care of all social issues, people, finally, are taking it personally. They are willing to donate a portion of their income to a social cause, to women’s rights, for that matter. Yet, as I discovered during the process of this annual event, the “cause” itself was not the primary reason for many people to attend. They came because of friends, relatives, and colleagues.
The power of personal networks
Mongolia, with its culture rooted in nomadic lifestyle, is a clan-based society with tight-knit networks of relatives and friends who rely on each other for help. Here, giving is a must. Every month you are supposed to give to newborns, for funerals, to cover medical expenses, to pay tuition, to buy clothes, food, books—not just for yourself, but for the community. This list is endless and can range from an apartment to a pair of old shoes. And your level of income is of no relevance. Your donation can be small, but it is a must. Whoever is in need within this network can expect the network to extend its help.
Since society is not entirely nomadic anymore, networks have diversified and multiplied. Now, a person is affiliated with more than one network and can be a part of several networks – not only relatives, but classmates, co-workers, business affiliates, friends from a summer camp, from a dance club, etc. Nevertheless, the same rule of network help is applied here, although the level of commitment is lower. If you hear someone from any of your networks is in need, you are expected to help.
Who funds social causes?
It’s been two decades since the state stopped being a sole caretaker of social issues, like maternity health, education for rural children, services to disabled children, etc. Social issues exist in abundance, but the state has neither the capacity nor the will to take care of them. Many international aid projects have since filled the void to tackle these issues. However, their outreach is focused on improving the situation of target groups. Here the general public plays more of an observer’s role, without being offered many opportunities to participate.
For MONES, we’ve learned that domestic fundraising has proven to be the most powerful tool to connect individual people with the issue of women’s rights. It is absolutely crucial that this support is built from within and is extended throughout Mongolia as it has become more than just giving money. Our donors give more than money. Through giving to women and girls many, in turn, become advocates of women’s rights more broadly.
As MONES, we are rooted in Mongolia. We are part of and have access to these personal networks—networks that can be harder to enter and engage with as international funders. So, after many trials and lessons, we learnt to engage with these personal networks and find ways to make connections to women’s rights organising in our country.
We invite a range of people to attend our events and encourage them to give donations through people they themselves know and trust. They may not yet be fully aware or feel supportive of women’s rights, but they respond to personal invitations. So, do we really need to break the culture of giving through personal networks? Or, is it better to utilize the existing culture and create a new channel that leads to more people supporting and recognizing the importance of social causes, like women’s rights? Maybe, in a due time, people will feel they can go outside of their networks to give to causes they support and are passionate about.
We at MONES will continue the journey of developing an understanding of local philanthropy within Mongolia that is inclusive of women’s and girls’ rights. In the meantime, I am encouraged by the fact that people who attended our annual event left feeling inspired.
Bolor Legjeem, International Communications and Fundraising Officer
The Mongolian Women’s Fund (MONES) was established in June 2000 to financially support projects from women’s NGOs and grassroots women’s groups. It is the first and only national grantmaking organization that is fully dedicated to mobilizing resources and providing financial support to achieving social change through the empowerment of women. This article is part of a series posted by Mama Cash sharing the perspectives of the local and regional funds that are its grantee-partners.
One common concern many people share about the current state of Asian philanthropy is that it’s not very transparent. Much philanthropy in Asia is still done ad hoc, and a cultural emphasis on modesty that is pervasive in many Asian countries means that details of who’s giving to what, where, and when can be difficult to come by.
But things have been changing as of late. Back in 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, arguably the world’s most well-known philanthropists at this time, visited China to encourage the country’s new class of billionaires to give more publicly and generously a la The Giving Pledge. Their efforts are believed to have been effective.
Now, Gates is once again lending his social capital to make philanthropy part of the mainstream chatter in Asia. The Jakarta Post reports that Gates and nine Indonesian philanthropists have signed a memorandum of understanding to fund a multi-million sustainable health initiative in Indonesia. The funding initiative is being co-led locally by Dato’ Sri Dr Tahir, an Indonesian philanthropists who is himself a signatory of the Giving Pledge.
According to the Jakarta Posts:
At the [signing] ceremony, Gates handed over US$40 million to the Indonesia Health Fund. The program is part of the joint philanthropic efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Tahir Foundation.
Last year, both Gates and Tahir, who is also chairman and CEO of the Mayapada Group, donated a total of $207 million, with each of them providing $103.5 million.
The other Indonesian philanthropists who have signed onto the memorandum include: Adrian Bramantyo Musyanif (Samali Hotels and Resorts); Hendro Gondokusumo (PT Intiland Development); Ted Sioeng (Sioeng Group); Edward Suryadjaya (Ortus Holdings); Benny Tjokrosaputro (PT Hanson International); Anne Patricia Sutanto (Pancaprima Ekabrothers); Henry Jaya Gunawan (PT Gala Bumi Perkasa); and Luntungan Honoris (PT Modernland Realty). They have all committed to providing $5 million for the next five years.
It’s absolutely wonderful to hear of more Asian philanthropists giving back publicly, and we hope to see more of this happening in other Asian countries.
Anh Ton, is the communications and development coordinator at Vietnam Health, Education & Literature Projects (VNHELP).
This article was originally published on the Asian Philanthropy Forum blog on 5 April 2014. The original article can be found here>
‘Social enterprises say, where’s the money? Social investors say where are the deals? Is social investment a great hype or a great hope?’ asked Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, introducing the first event in STEP/Philanthropy Impact’s new Philanthropy Programme, held in London on 19 March – the same day that UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a new 30 per cent tax relief for social investment.
Philanthropy has tiny resources compared to government or business, said Green, quoting Bill Gates saying that his own foundation is tiny! Social investment is all about making the most out of limited resources and leveraging larger amounts of capitals.
The event took the form of a case study of Impact Ventures UK (IVUK), formed in December 2013 by Berenberg and LGT Venture Philanthropy and managed by LGTVP. The fund aims to support social enterprises to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged people in the UK – LGTVP is experienced in quality of life measures – and to cover its costs: it offers its investors a net annual return of 7 per cent. Speakers were Richard Brass of Berenberg; Nick Jenkins, philanthropist and founder of Moonpig.com, and one of four volunteer advisers for IVUK; Andrew Purvis, director of K10 (formerly Reds10), IVUK’s first investment, and Luke Fletcher of law firm Bates, Wells Braithwaite, an expert on social investment.
‘There is demand for social investment,’ said Brass, ‘we just need to get the money in.’ Berenberg and LGT are the current investors. They have approached 350 people and 7 have signed up – generally agreed to be a great achievement. A particular achievement is having the London Borough of Waltham Forest Pension Fund among its investors.
K10 is a for-profit business with social purpose, said Purvis. The problem it exists to solve is the decline in the numbers of apprentices in construction. K10 now has 190 apprentices on its books; construction firms pay to have them for whatever time they want while K10 looks after the apprentices, arranges their college training, etc. They are now breaking even, and the money from IVUK will enable them to scale up the business. K10 has always been a business, he said; the social impact element has evolved, and they are now embedding it in everything.
What are the challenges of receiving this sort of funding? Purvis dwelt on the rigorous due diligence. But this wasn’t all negative: the relationship with the fund was stronger afterwards, he said.
The big challenge for the fund is clearly the difficulties of raising capital – the discussion kept coming back to this. IVUK is now £20.8 million, and it could reach £30 million to £40 million, said Brass. One big question is whether Waltham Forest is a one-off institutional investor or a beginning. The lack of established track records for social investment is an issue, he said: what will risk-adjusted returns look like? Deals are expensive to make and the values of deals is low, so costs need to be brought down. Another issue is that investees are not used to collecting the data investors want: how can investors enable this to happen? Fletcher talked about the legal environment for social investment, still a challenge for investors with fiduciary duties, with interpretations of the recent Charity Commission CC14 guidance still uncertain.
Jenkins talked of the need to move away from the two-lane approach to life – destroying the world from 9 to 5 and repairing it and doing some good from 6 to 6.30 – and hoped to see a more intelligent approach to investing. It was clear from hearing him talk that it will be much easier to get money direct from asset owners like him, who have the freedom to make their own decisions and take risks if they want, rather than advisers, who are naturally more cautious as they are looking after other people’s money. But wealth managers can start to move things by asking clients what they want to achieve with their money. Jenkins remembered asking advisers if there were any products like IVUK 5 years ago and the answer was no.
Does he see social investment in terms of a trade-off, accepting the possibility of lower financial returns alongside the social impact? While this is a huge issue for institutional investors, including foundations and pension funders, it clearly isn’t a big issue for Jenkins. He would be happy to establish a fund for building boreholes in villages in Africa and to see less than 100% repayment, he said, or to support start-ups and not see his money back. He is happy with a whole spectrum of results – he can please himself!
Caroline Hartnell, is editor of Alliance magazine.
The winner of the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize was announced on 27 March at WINGSForum in Istanbul. After the announcement, He Daofeng, who is executive president of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) and chair of the China Foundation Center, talked to Caroline Hartnell about philanthropy in China and his own role in its development. Below is the transcript of the interview.
Could you very briefly describe the state of philanthropy in China today? How many genuinely independent foundations are there (as opposed to GONGOs)? Are these mainly corporate foundations or foundations formed by wealthy individuals and their families?
Chinese philanthropy is too complex to describe briefly. There are more than 240,000 registered NGOs including GONGOs (government-organized NGOs) and independent NGOs, plus over 200,000 NPOs, which are involved in various kinds of philanthropic activities.
According to China Foundation Center data, there are 3,700 registered foundations in the country. Among them, 1,400 are independent, and the other 2,300 are GONGOs. Among 1,400 independent foundations, more than 400 are formed by companies, and 900 are formed by celebrities such as famous artists and scholars. Less than 100 are formed by wealthy individuals and families.
How much giving to charitable causes is there among ordinary Chinese people?
In 2013, 3,700 foundations raised a total donation of RMB 35 billion (US$ 5.8 billion). Among them, ordinary individuals contributed RMB 7 billion, accounting for 20% of total donations.
What do you see as the main barriers to the expansion of private philanthropy in China?
I think the barriers are very complicated.
First, selfishness and ideology driven by market economic mechanisms.
Second, lack of religious faith and shared values in society after the huge shocks of the Cultural Revolution and market economic mechanism, influenced by an ideological tide of materialism and money worship.
Third, GONGOs’ bad reputation. This includes poor programmes missing targets for the needy, poor management, a bureaucratic, top-down work style, lack of information on beneficiaries, lack of transparency, lack of independent evaluation and monitoring on effective use of charitable resources, etc.
Fourth, there are not enough good independent NGOs with a good reputation that can mobilize more social resources and deliver more services with effective social interactions with people.
I understand that the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, of which you are executive president, is the first GONGO to be transformed into a fully independent foundation. You say in your interview in the Alliance supplement that this was very difficult because you were breaking new ground: ‘If I didn’t tread carefully, I felt it would incur the hostility of many parties, provoke a crisis for the whole sector, and maybe even put us in physical danger.’ Can you tell us about the difficulties you faced and how you overcame them?
The system called the ‘iron rice bowl’ protects people with official identity from any kind of management pressure. This means that nobody, including CEOs of GONGOs, has the right to fire anybody who has a formal official identity except for criminal activity. Therefore people’s relationships are frozen. You cannot let inefficient people leave and get intelligent people in.
In such a system, how can you upgrade the organization’s performance? I transformed the foundation by introducing market rules into the system, including employment. You can imagine that the people who lost their ‘iron rice bowl’ protection hated me and even wanted to kill me. The other 99.9% of GONGOS saw this as rebellion. So I felt lonely and under great social pressure for a long time under such circumstances. In overcoming the barriers, certain things helped me, including: my deep faith in the social reform of China; persuading the government to sign a contract with me to protect me; doing my best to do everything as a true volunteer, and not getting any payment from the foundation; not speaking to the mass media.
You talk in your Alliance interview about deciding as a young man to focus on ‘promoting philanthropy and cultivating social self-governance, the civil society spirit and citizen obligation’. How revolutionary is this approach in China?
Looking at the experience of modernization in East Asia countries such as Japan, Taiwan (of China) and South Korea, fostering of social self-governance organizations and civil society must follow transformation of the economic structure. China is at the turning point of civil society transformation now (namely the urbanization rate is over 50%). More and more people feel unhappy when simply making more money instead of helping others by means of social self-governance organizations. The new generation begin to seek for significant meaning in life. So citizen participation and civil society development is inevitable. Some things are happening now. A new social self-governance movement has been developing in China in recent years.
The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation works across borders, in Africa, Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia? Can you tell us a bit about this? How many Chinese foundations support causes outside China?
CFPA has been providing cross-border aid to vulnerable groups and communities since 2005, including aid to victims of the tsunami in Indonesia, earthquakes in Pakistan and Haiti, the typhoon in Myanmar, hunger in Horn of Africa, building a hospital in Sudan, providing ambulances to Guinea-Bissau, a school feeding programme in Cambodia, etc. The total aid is about $15 million. So far, about 50 foundations are involved in overseas aid to varying degrees, and CFPA is the earliest and the best.
What have you done to encourage the practice of philanthropy both among high net worth individuals and among more modest givers?
I have established two fundraising departments in CFPA since 2006: one targets wealthy individuals and companies in different industries, and the other one targets modest givers. For different targets, we use different methodologies.
Can you tell us about the work of the China Foundation Center, and in particular the Self-Regulation Alliance for Chinese Foundations, in addressing issues of lack of transparency and lack of trust in foundations and NGOs in China and in promoting collaboration and greater democratic self-governance among Chinese foundations.
A huge movement for public accountability by GONGOs has been taking place since 2011 when total giving decreased by almost 50% all over the country. The China Foundation Center persists in requesting all registered foundations to make a pledge and commitment to open their operating information to the public. At the first level, the China Foundation Center presents the basic information automatically collected from the government’s legal registration department for each registered foundation on its website. At the second level, the China Foundation Center asks every foundation to disclose its financial and audit report. If anyone refuses, its window on the website will be kept empty. On the third level, the China Foundation Center asks for open information on programmes, donors and management and so on for its website.
More open information brings more transparency and higher public reputation. In accordance with the collected information, we can do some ranking, comparative study and research, and leadership training by means of mass media, to push China’s philanthropy sector to be transparent. Based on this platform, we can call on some foundations which value their public reputation to collaborate as the Self-Regulation Alliance for Chinese Foundations
You have also been instrumental in bringing a group of experts to help the provincial government of Yunnan to develop its first local charity law and in promoting media coverage of philanthropy. Taken all together, your work has done a great deal to help to make philanthropy into a more integral part of life in China. What is needed now to modernize philanthropy in China?
China’s new generation leaders have been firmly determined to deepen reform of the economic system and social restructuring, but power struggles among ministers have always been barriers to deepening reform at every turning point since 1978. Therefore reform pioneers have always sought cooperation with provincial government to break down barriers as a kind of response to the top leaders in the central government. This has always been the political wisdom of reform in China.
So I made use of this kind of political wisdom in Yunnan province to respond to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang’s social sector reform policy. It means that the Yunnan Provincial Government will withdraw from the role of collecting and being the recipient of donations, and will encourage social donation giving to equal NGOS instead of to local government by issuing new legislation.
For modernization of philanthropy and civil society in China, we need to deepen reform as follows:
So we have a long way to go. We must go the way of striving for social civilization upgrading and for changing of the generations, building a modern civil society at this turning point of modernization of China. We must stand for the deepening reform of China’s rigid social mechanism.
That will be China’ responsibility for the world; that will be every single Chinese citizen’s responsibility for our nation; that will be every excellent Chinese NGO’s responsibility for mankind. Those jobs are worth our sacrifice for generations!!! Philanthropy is without borders of nation.
Do you have any plan for the prize money?
I have never thought about applying for any kind of reward or thought that what I do is worth any kind of reward. Today I am here surprised at what has happened right now. I don’t know what to say at this moment. I do not think what I have done is as good as your prize committee has judged. I am only one common person among thousands of contributors in the philanthropy sector. I just do some little things that I ought to do following my heart.
Therefore I think that the prize is not for me; it is for everybody who wants and tries to do something to help someone or to change our painful world. The prize is just to encourage me, my colleagues and everybody in this field to learn from Olga, to adopt the spiritual heritage Olga left us, to contribute more, and to do our best for world peace, goodness, honesty, beauty and all philanthropy. So I will represent your love by donating the prize money to the Hungry Children Program of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. Thanks again!
1 NGOs (non-governmental organizations), also known as civil society organizations, are created by legal persons that are not part of the government. NPOs (non-profit organizations), also known as endowments or foundations, aim to raise substantial funds to use for the organization’s purposes, eg public arts organizations, trade unions and charitable organizations.
Caroline Hartnell, is editor of Alliance magazine.
Today in Mexico City, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation holds its first ministerial meeting. The ministers, bilateral donors, multilateral agencies, NGO leaders, private sector peak bodies and foundations in attendance expect an event billed as the space to institutionalize effective development cooperation at the global level.
Though much of the attention has rightly focused on more and better inclusion of civil society in development governance and cooperation moving forward, foundations’ contribution to the global cooperation project will be introduced in the form of the Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement.
Led by the global Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD; housed in the OECD) and with the support of WINGS, EFC, Rockefeller Foundation, myself and colleagues at Stars, the Guidelines are meant to act as a bridge across the collaboration divide separating foundations and governments in particular.
Under three broad headlines – Dialogue; Data/Knowledge Sharing; Partnering – the Guidelines offer an early blueprint for foundations with an appetite to collaborate to engage with governments in a meaningful way.
Read the Guidelines here.
Read an early blog on the relevance of the Guidelines here.
The Guidelines have undergone wide consultations, including an intimate ‘focus group’ discussion held by Stars under Chatham House rules to receive feedback and gain greater insight into the ‘collaboration aspirations’ of UK foundations that support international development.
Participants’ reactions broadly fell under four critical questions to the Guidelines’ authors. The more salient, provocative and representative responses follow.
Who are the Guidelines speaking to?
What do UK foundations think of the Guidelines themselves?
Why is a set of cooperation guidelines necessary for the sector?
How would the Guidelines be implemented?
The Guidelines have since been refined, and will be formally recognized at the GPEDC meeting this week.
With this political legitimacy, advocates and allies of the Guidelines will be expected to move to a more practical discussion, building momentum towards field-level ‘country pilots’. This will be the real test; whether the Guidelines will be orphaned once they are pushed out into the world, or whether foundations writ large and governments will recognize enough of themselves and their aspirations in the document to actively embrace them.
David Crook, is development director at Stars Foundation.
A new cross-sector partnership, US Global Development Lab, aims to end extreme poverty by 2030 by adopting a science-and-technology-based approach to international development. The partnership, led by USAID, draws in just about every other sector, involving corporations, foundations, universities and non-profit organizations. It will work on solutions to challenges in water, health, food security and nutrition, energy, education and climate change; according to a press release, it will benefit 200 million people over the next five years.
USAID has also announced a new Research and Innovation Fellowships programme which, this year, will send more than 60 young scientists, technology experts and innovators to work on development challenges at universities, research institutions, non-governmental organizations, and private-sector companies in 12 developing countries. Partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates and Skoll Foundations, Save the Children, World Vision, the Smithsonian Institution, University of California, Berkeley and Duke, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State and Texas A&M Universities.
Meanwhile an existing partnership, Uniting to Combat NTDs, spearheaded by the Gates Foundation and also involving USAID, the UK’s DFID and foundations, global health organizations and pharmaceutical companies, has pledged a further $240 million to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The commitments include $50 million from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) to provide technical assistance to national deworming programmes and $50 million from the Gates Foundation to explore the feasibility of interrupting transmission and mitigating the risks of drug resistance. At the same time, Dubai Cares will design programmes to integrate nutrition, deworming, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions in schools, while WaterAid will deliver WASH programmes in NTD-endemic areas. ‘We’re taking the “neglect” out of neglected tropical diseases, thanks to the commitment of partners from across the public and private sectors,’ said Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates in a new report on the group’s progress, adding, ‘If we stay focused, we can reach the London Declaration’s 2020 goals and help provide millions with access to health.’
Bill Gates again – this time signing a memorandum of understanding with eight Indonesian business leaders to establish a public-private partnership that will fight infectious diseases and work to expand access to family planning services in the Indonesian archipelago. Gates will contribute $40 million and the eight local business leaders $8 million each to the Indonesia Health Fund to tackle dengue fever, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the country and to expand access to contraception.
For more information
“U.S. Agency for International Development and 32 Partner Organizations Launch U.S. Global Development Lab to Help End Extreme Poverty by 2030.” US Agency for International Development Press Release, 3 April 2014.
“Global Partners Are Taking the ‘Neglect’ Out of ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’.” Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases Press Release, 2 April 2014.
“Gates, Conglomerates Sign MOU on Philanthropy.” Jakarta Post, 6 April 2014.
WINGSForum 2014, held in Istanbul 27-29 March, was a great event to connect and reconnect people and to bring together information that is relevant to maximize the effectiveness of grantmaking. Its title, aptly, was ‘The Power of Networks: Building Connected Global Philanthropy’. In this positive environment representatives from 42 countries shared similarities and differences to potentially enhance philanthropy around the world.
‘It has never been easier and cheaper to establish networks,’ said Danny Sriskandarajah from CIVICUS. But how we nurture a network and keep it alive and useful and how we measure its effectiveness are key challenges. WINGSForum intensely pursued the proposed role of ‘building connected global philanthropy’ highlighted in the Forum subtitle. Debates focused on the importance of data, the legal environment and the role of associations. 40% of the participants (there were interesting instant surveys during the Forum) declared that the legal environment poses restrictions to the development of philanthropy in their country.
Brad Smith from the Foundation Center (US) made a creative comparison between foundations and vampires: ‘without data they cannot see themselves in the mirror.’ However, funding data collection is still a difficult task since most philanthropic organizations do not have funds for this; grantmaking goes to causes like education, health, etc.
In fact, data can help funders see the value of infrastructure. WINGS presented an interesting report, Infrastructure in Focus: A global picture of organizations serving philanthropy, which is worth taking a look at. The report maps the benefits of infrastructure, calling them the 4 Cs: connection, capability, capacity and credit.
Sector trends were broadly discussed, and points made included:
• Innovation will come from emerging economies.
• Philanthropy should work to mitigate the negative effects of globalization.
• The new generation of HNWIs focus on making money allied with social impact.
• The increasing complexity of social problems.
• The importance of responsiveness of grantmaking to civil society to promote social change.
• The role and potential of technology.
The concurrent sessions, thematic lunch tables and breakfast sessions resulted from a selection from over 50 sessions proposed by WINGS members. The post-2015 UN agenda and the Sustainable Millennium Goals (SMG) were mentioned in more than one session, reinforcing the debate about inclusion of philanthropic organizations around this theme. New concepts like Philanthropication thru Privatization (PtP) and old but relevant topics like strategies for collaborating with development stakeholders, cross-border grantmaking and talent management also enlightened participants, among many others. Grantmaker associations and support organizations, which represent 32% of those attending the Forum, gathered to debate best practices, sharing of information and data needs.
I would like to highlight two memorable events on the agenda: the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize, which went to He Daofeng from the China Foundation Center, putting China on the philanthropic map as an important player; and the humorous and thoughtful trial of associations. The trial was really bold and presented with an insightful mindset the role of associations for the future. Associations were considered not guilty regardless of the good job made by the prosecution, represented by Christopher Harris, a well-known personality in the sector. And a nice picture of the participants, a crowd of philanthropy activists, was taken at the end of the Forum. It is also worth looking at it – you will certainly find someone you know!
Paula Jansco Fabiani, is the executive director of IDIS – Institute for the Development of Social Investment – in Brazil.
One of the most significant international developments since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has been the growing economic power of the so-called BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Dismissed in the 1970s by many as economic basket cases, the four countries, which account for over a quarter of the globe’s land mass and more than 40 percent of its population, have, in the quarter-century since that momentous event, opened their economies to the world and emerged as dominant global suppliers of manufactured goods and services (China and India), and raw materials (Brazil and Russia).
The startling surge of economic activity in each of the four countries over the last twenty years has been accompanied by an explosion of wealth, which in turn has led to the emergence, in all four countries, of organized philanthropic activity and what those of us who cover philanthropy would call an infrastructure to support it.
Indeed, that activity is the subject of a new report just released by the Foundation Center, in collaboration with WINGS (Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support), a global network of grantmaker associations and philanthropic support organizations. Authored by Joan E. Spero, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (and the first president of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation), the report, Charity and Philanthropy in Russia, China, India, and Brazil identifies some of the cultural, economic, social, and political forces that are shaping giving in the BRICs and examines the growth and nature of foundations and the philanthropic sector in each of the four countries.
Because the charitable sector in each of the four countries is new and not well organized, the data on charitable activity in each country is limited and difficult to compare. Nevertheless, there are common characteristics and issues that emerge from a comparison of giving in these countries. For example, the report looks at the traditional cultural and religious origins of charity/philanthropy in the four countries, including the Jewish concept of “tzedakah” (or righteousness), which has influenced a small but important part of contemporary Russian philanthropy; the concept of “zakat,” one of the five pillars of Islam, which has shaped giving in the Arab countries and on the Indian subcontinent; and the concept of “dana,” which is embraced by Hindus and Buddhists and has also influenced the small but important Parsi or Zoroastrian community of India.
The report also examines the process of economic liberalization in the four countries (a process, as Spero writes, that “has been accompanied by the growth of the middle class and the accumulation of vast fortunes by a new, wealthy business class, often linked to the global economy”); considers the increasingly worrisome issue of inequality, which has increased in China, India, and Russia over the last twenty years and remains very high in Brazil, where it has always been a feature of the economic landscape; and looks at external influences, including philanthropic support from foundations like Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, MacArthur, Mott, and Open Society in the U.S., the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Germany, and the British Charities Aid Foundation.
Here are a few other takeaways from the report:
At the same time, the report is not shy about identifying challenges for philanthropy in each of (and across) the four countries, as well as offering solutions and/or possible courses of action. Among other things, it calls on foundations to do what they can to support improvements in the political environment for philanthropy, including legal, regulatory, and tax reform, and stresses the importance, in each country, of “a trusting yet independent relationship with political and bureaucratic leadership at various levels.” It suggests that foundations in BRIC countries to be more open and transparent about their activities and the entities and causes they support. And it urges foundations in each country to work on and improve their own organizational and management structures.
The report does not say that any of these things will be easy to achieve, or that evolving political systems, corruption, and growing inequality will not be factors in the future shape and effectiveness of philanthropic and civil society organizations in these countries. But Spero and her colleagues at the Foundation Center and WINGS do agree on one thing: that the report itself is a first step in building “greater awareness and understanding of both the diversity and challenges faced by philanthropy in emerging economies.”
We hope you agree and will join the Foundation Center and WINGS in a broader conversation about the development of better systems for documenting and sharing the story of philanthropy in all its forms around the world. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing posts from philanthropy professionals on the ground in each of the four countries with the goal of sparking that conversation.
You can download a copy here>
Mitch Nauffts, is publisher/editorial director of Philanthropy News Digest. PND is a service of the Foundation Center.
In trying to get the business community to participate in an economy which takes into account people and the environment, not just profit, Robert Rubinstein, founder of TBLI (Triple Bottom Line Investing), doesn’t put his faith in the sector’s idealism but in investors’ greed and the ability to inflict ‘excruciating pain’ on business. He explains to Caroline Hartnell how and why this works. He is optimistic about more money flowing into impact investing, as defined by TBLI, but not that hopeful that it will be in time for climate change mitigation. ‘Get your wellies out,’ he advises.
You founded TBLI in 1998. What did you hope to achieve?
I wanted to create an economy based on well-being by engaging with the business sector. I realized that to do that, the business sector has to buy into it, and they will only buy into it if they feel excruciating pain. I concluded they had three pain buttons: finance, personnel and reputation.
First, I looked at personnel. I tried teaching MBA students about sustainable finance, but most of the students were only worried about defaulting on their student loans. They didn’t follow their hearts and went to work for companies that didn’t share their values.
So then I looked at finance. I decided to focus on the financial sector. I worked out that the top hundred or so owners or managers in 1998 had direct or indirect control of 30-40 per cent of the money. So I hit on the idea of trying to convince those hundred CIOs [chief investment officers] through a conference. It sounds rather naive but it does work: if you show the financial sector over and over again the self-interest, opportunity and money flows in sustainable business, it’s not hard to change behaviour.
The hard part is access. I call it the Shawshank Redemption approach – that’s the prison movie where, after 15 years of chipping away at a wall, the guy broke through but no one knew about it. That’s what this work is, it’s chipping away over and over again, there’s no big ribbon-cutting ceremony. We’ve seen massive money flows and very large deals done at the TBLI Conference, so I know we’ve had an influence on the behaviour of the financial sector, and now I would like to scale up dramatically.
Beijing – the day before this photo was taken I joined Maria Rendon, of USAID and Bin Pei of the Gates Foundation at an event hosted by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. We were there to talk about data and digital civil society. (It took place on the other side of the wall in the photo – other than location there is no connection to Mrs. Obama). We drew attention to the many ways digital data are becoming part of the emergent nongovernmental sector in China. We heard from the China Foundation Center about its plans to open up the data it collects (all of which is digital). The level of registration and oversight for NGOs in China creates a robust digital trail of information, allowing for much more robust data gathering on civil society than is possible in other parts of the world.
Brazil – 25 hours of flying and half a world away I found myself at the GIFE Conference in São Paolo. Brazil has a disbursed, diverse, fragmented economy of civil organizations – from global NGOs to political activist networks. Brazil is home to a vital, vibrant, messy and confusing social economy – it’s a great place to think about what it would take to map such a space, and all the different implications of that economy as it goes digital. Here are the slides I used to get us started:Inventing dig civ soc brazil 031914 from Lucy Bernholz
Registration and oversight of these organizations or networks is very different from that in China – and I repeatedly heard funders, nonprofit leaders, financiers, and scholars bemoan the lack of comparable data about the sector. There is a working group of leaders from the sector that wants to remedy this situation, possibly by developing a Brazilian “Blueprint” such as the one I write every year. This is very exciting and I hope it comes to pass.
Here’s the deck of “working examples” I used to jumpstart a conversation on how we are using digital data to create new forms of civil society. Note – these are deliberately scattershot, I was trying for a wide range of data types, tools and uses. Turning these working examples into a typology or framework will require many more examples and some more time. I welcome your input:Data examples and dcs gife 2014 from Lucy Bernholz
In both Brazil and China I had the chance to tout the state of digital data on civil society in Canada. The country collects data on foundations and nonprofits electronically, makes it open and machine readable in useful time frames, allowing companies such as ajah.ca to use those data feeds to produce search tools that are really useful and collective efforts such as PoweredByData* that provide models for the rest of us.
I didn’t really get to travel the globe looking for digital civil society (but I’d love to if anyone wants to foot the bill or host me). We need a global conversation about data, social change, and digital civil society – including examples, challenges, new norms, and opportunities from all over the world. The Markets For Good platform and Feedback Labs are two places these conversations can be catalyzed and captured – do you know of others? I have been in touch with folks at Betterplace Labs in Berlin – and they DID go around the globe as part of their Lab Around the World Tour. I’m looking forward to learning more about what they learned and helping share it more broadly. Stay tuned.
*I am an unpaid independent advisor to this effort.
Lucy Bernholz, is a visiting scholar at Stanford University, where she co-leads the Digital Civil Society Lab, and at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. She writes about all things digitally philanthropic at philanthropy2173.com.
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‘I have become a volunteer leader, organizing other young people with wealth to to do great things with their giving. I never imagined myself being this type of leader … I’m an engineer!’
Jessan Hutchison-Quillian was brought up in Seattle. In 2007, after graduating as a computer scientist at the age of 20, he went to work for Google. Realizing that his salary would be far in excess of his needs, he began to seek out progressive causes to give to. In 2009, he became involved with Resource Generation. Through Resource Generation, he found Social Justice Fund Northwest, and in 2010 he joined the first SJF Giving Project, a cross-class group of people who come together to fund organizing in the US North-west. He is now the engineer for Google’s Corporate Social Responsibility Team, which aims to build a strong culture of giving at the organization.
Jessan Hutchison-Quillian doesn’t need all the money he makes at Google, so he gives nearly half of it away each year – not just because he can, but because he feels he should. Here he explains the roots of his philanthropy and his commitment to funding social justice issues and community organizing. This interview is based on a Bolder Giving conversation with Jason Franklin and a subsequent phone conversation with Caroline Hartnell.
Can you tell me how you started giving?
My first gift was to the Human Rights Campaign. It was around the presidential elections of 2004 and there was a lot of anti-gay rhetoric. My parents are lesbians so this was upsetting and I wanted to do something about it. I thought, ‘hey, if I give 30 bucks to this it’ll totally solve it.’ I’ve always had this idea that money is one way that you can help change things. Another of my early gifts was to help set up a teaching award in the name of a really great young professor I had who died of cancer – three bucks or something that got me on the donor list for my university for the rest of my life! I think that reflects two different aspects of giving that are common, both for me and for a lot of people. You give for your connections and you also give because of the change you want to see in the world.
It was when I started at Google that I got more deeply into giving. It was already clear to me that I was making way more money than I needed and that I wanted to do something good with the rest. I have been very lucky: my parents have always given me the love and support I need, I’ve had enough to eat and a nice place to live. Others haven’t been so lucky. But I didn’t just want to address basic needs; I wanted to support progressive causes in the US in a way that would be transformative. I also wanted to give internationally because the US economy is based on taking disproportionate resources from the rest of the world and I wanted to give something back. Another reason for getting more into giving at this point was that Google matches your donation up to $6,000 per year, which I wanted to take advantage of.
In the past year, Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP party have faced mass protests in Istanbul and other major cities, a widely publicized corruption scandal with deep roots in the party leadership, and a backlash over attempts to censor Twitter and other media. Despite these scandals and growing dissatisfaction with his administration, the AKP managed to win a plurality in the most recent municipal elections.
In the past year, Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP party have faced mass protests in Istanbul and other major cities, a widely publicized corruption scandal with deep roots in the party leadership, and a backlash over attempts to censor Twitter and other media. Despite these scandals and growing dissatisfaction with his administration, the AKP managed to win a plurality in the most recent municipal elections.
Sithie Subahaniya Tiruchelvam, the founder of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust (NTT), an indigenous philanthropic organization based in Sri Lanka, passed away in Colombo on 22 March at the age of 69 following a brief illness. Writing a tribute to Sithie Tiruchelvam is not an easy task as Sithie was an intensely private person. Yet her public achievements, particularly her numerous contributions to social justice causes in her role as the founder of NTT, have to be shared.
The ‘wife of Neelan Tiruchelvam’ is a phrase that has been frequently used to describe Sithie, a corporate lawyer with a deep and abiding interest in social justice, research and the world of ideas, and the arts, since she passed away. However, to those who knew Sithie she was never merely ‘the wife’ of Neelan Tiruchelvam, a constitutional scholar, legislator, peacemaker and institution-builder.
After Neelan’s death Sithie wanted to further the values Neelan worked for during his lifetime and realized that an indigenous grantmaking organization could make meaningful contributions to address existing gaps in responding to the needs of communities. This belief led her to establish the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, the only indigenous grantmaker that supports human rights and peace-building work in Sri Lanka. NTT is rooted within the community and has supported catalysts for social change by focusing on community initiatives.
After the Trust was established Sithie dedicated considerable time and energy towards creating an organization that was more than a grantmaker, as she understood that in order to create confidence among partners and grantees NTT had to support their institutions in ways that extend beyond solely funding projects. Hence, with her support and guidance, NTT actively sought and supported nascent community organizations, often in conflict-affected areas, that were engaged in innovative work in difficult circumstances, sometimes in isolation.
Since the aim is to facilitate community organizations to play an active role in rebuilding social networks, as they are more tuned to the ground realities and needs of the population, NTT’s support has included strengthening institutional capacity to enable organizations to become sustainable and access larger donors and broader partnerships. Sithie felt strongly that indigenous foundations have to look beyond the narrow framework within which grantmakers sometimes operate and encouraged NTT to be brave enough not only to extend these boundaries but also to contribute towards redefining these frameworks, for instance by moving beyond using narrow indicators to measure the ‘success’ of initiatives we support. She believed in taking (calculated not reckless) risks in order to invest in nascent organizations that implement innovative projects which larger donors may not be willing to support.
Sithie recognized the arts could be used as a non-confrontational medium for self-expression and discussion of contentious issues in a restrictive environment, and had the foresight to encourage NTT to support such initiatives. To date NTT has supported theatrical and artistic projects that focus on the impact of war and promotion of pluralism and diversity.
Sithie was very passionate about the work of the Trust and held it to exacting standards. At the same time she took great pride in our achievements. She was particularly proud of our Women’s Fellowship Programme, which seeks to enhance the capacities of women working at the community level to increasingly assume leadership roles within families, communities and villages.
NTT’s foray into the global philanthropic sector is entirely due to Sithie, whose efforts led to the Trust becoming a founding member of Foundations for Peace (FPP), a network of indigenous foundations. As FFP members will attest, Sithie was one of the strongest and proudest champions of the network as she appreciated the potential and power of collectives of like-minded people and organizations, not only to support and sustain catalysts for social change but also to function as a source of strength and a security net for indigenous foundations that work in difficult or hostile environments. For instance, the success of our Women’s Fellowship Programme can be attributed to our collaboration with FFP partners, which enabled Fellowship participants to learn from, and share experiences and strategies with, activists working in similarly challenging contexts in other countries.
Sithie was a spirited, strong woman who did not mince words and was not afraid to speak her mind. She showed great affection and generosity towards those she cared about and has supported and encouraged young people in numerous ways, most importantly by introducing them to those who would be able to inspire and mentor them. Making connections between people with varying interests and from different generations and disciplines, sometimes thinking of common areas of possible collaboration one would never have imagined, was something that came naturally to her.
During the past weeks I have been receiving messages from our friends from the global philanthropic sector, particularly those from the Foundations for Peace network who remember her love of life and indomitable spirit and strength. We remember and miss the courage and passion that fuelled her unstinting support and commitment to supporting social justice initiatives.
Ambika Satkunanathan, is chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust.