As a small and relatively new private foundation, we were intrigued by Kania, Kramer & Russell’s discussion of an emergent philanthropy framework. While our initial debates focused on the ‘newness’ and the key elements highlighted in their article were theoretically interesting, we were more attracted to the ‘how to’ elements outlined in the ‘How to move to an emergent model’ section.
For us, the authors’ move away from their views on strategic philanthropy does not mean that emergent philanthropy loses its own requirement to be strategic. Rather, it honours the notion that the shift from predictive to emergent models requires different processes, communication and cultures to ensure that we can describe the impact of what we are doing.
To this end, the ultimate potential of the article lies in its attempt to explain how emergent philanthropy can be done. Sadly, this does not seem to be the focus of much of the discussion that has occurred. This strikes us as a squandered opportunity. Imagine the incredible value of all the organizations that participated in this debate talking about ‘co-creating strategy’, ‘working the attractors’ and ‘improving system fitness’ – do they embrace these elements, what has worked, what hasn’t, what have they learned? We are sharing our story in the hopes that it inspires more experienced foundations to join a discussion of the ‘how to’ aspects of the article.
Emergent philanthropy could easily have struck us as ‘yup, doing that’ because we were always open to change. But change is not emergence. We found ourselves wanting to make sure that change was not for change’s sake; that it actually led to an evolutionary advance in our impact. Our mission is to provoke innovation and build capacity in social entrepreneurship. To make sure that our individual activities added up to a coherent whole we developed a framework (lovingly referred to as ‘the pie’) that articulates eight key areas needed to build a vibrant social entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Then something strange happened. We saw the power of the pie was not just as a framework to evaluate the sum total of our activities; it inspired us to ensure that each grant, programme and partnership we design advances multiple elements of the pie. For example, an educational programme would not just seek to build capacity for grantees. Rather, we’d see that same programme as a way to harness data to advance policy, or see if it could yield insights to provide new financing tools, and we’d hook the programme into influential networks to share best practices on programme development.
The strategy shows potential in allowing us say ‘yes’ to things, guide their design, and inform an evaluation focused on the social impact of the system, so that, over time, we hope to see the pie as a whole expand, not just each of the pie pieces. Admittedly, we did not co-create the pie (although it draws on the work of many), but it will be a crucial tool in our co-creation work with grantees and partners. We are also beginning to test it out with local leaders who are similarly dedicated to advancing the social entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Where we have struggled is being accountable to our board for our greater focus on learning, an issue the article alludes to under the category ‘organizational structures and systems’. You can’t predict a quantifiable amount of learning; you can’t even really guarantee it will happen. That type of open-ended accountability seems like a blank cheque that would make any board nervous. We see this approach as promising, but it’s still a pilot. Ensuring clear articulation of an emergent strategy requires constant communication, the setting aside of ego, and a shared belief that if we can get that pie moving (fly wheel) we can indeed make social entrepreneurship mainstream.
We share these examples not out of certainty, but from a gut feeling that this work requires a different approach to strategic planning. For us, emergent philanthropy creates the opportunity to share exactly where our own journey is experiencing bumps and opens up the opportunity to learn from others using similar processes to achieve impact. We see value in the specific articulation of the concept, whether it is new or not. We hope others will join us and explain their journey.
Michele Fugiel Gartneris Director, Strategic Investments & Operations, at the Trico Charitable Foundation and Daniel Overall is Director, Collaboration & Innovation.
As discussed in yesterday’s blog, there is a lack of experience in building a sustainable basis for resource mobilization in transitional countries that are leaving aid behind and moving into middle-income status. A recent review of a Dutch programme from Wilde Ganzen brings together experiences from newly ‘graduated’ middle-income countries such as India, Kenya, South Africa and Brazil.
Since the 1950s, Wilde Ganzen has raised funds from the Dutch public, mainly via a Sunday television/radio slot, in order to match funds raised in the Netherlands by small private groups wishing to support development and welfare projects they identify themselves in the developing world. Using a similar co-funding model, Wilde Ganzen started a new programme in 2007, first in Brazil followed by India and South Africa and a few years later in Kenya (not yet a middle-income country).
The model stressed two elements of co-funding. The first part of the programme supports small poverty reduction programmes at community level where funds would be released by Wilde Ganzen (through a national partner) once the community had raised their matching component (normally 50 per cent of the total budget). The second element was to help an existing national body that would manage this process, as well as engage with donors in their countries to provide matching funds for their own institutional costs and eventually for community projects as well – in so doing replacing the present funds from Wilde Ganzen. In other words the whole programme was an attempt to help groups transition from foreign to local funds, using the co-funding as an incentive for organizations previously dependent on foreign funds.
Despite trying slightly different approaches, all of the participating agencies found that communities were initially almost always more successful in raising their contribution to the co-funding scheme than the intermediary agencies. Although it had been hoped that the need to raise funds locally would lead to poor communities making contacts with local middle classes, either as individuals or through local businesses, this was not always what happened. Often poor communities engaged in events and fundraising campaigns and raised the funds from themselves – although in other cases local businesses and people did support these community initiatives.
One thing that came out of our review was that many local private donors are copying some of the big global players by setting up their own projects rather than fund existing groups. This trend of course undermines the sustainability of almost any programme in the longer term so any gains of short-term efficiency are at the cost of longer-term inefficiency. Programmes will inevitably come to an end and close, whereas investment in local organizations has at least a chance of longer-term impact and survival.
The culture change required from groups that had lived for more than a generation with one dominant model only to find it no longer working should not be underestimated. The first problem is denial, disbelief that the system is coming to an end. This denial runs through the whole system. Hence when interviewed, developing country NGOs would often say that they had no warning, and that the donor’s ‘desk officer’ didn’t believe funding would be withdrawn any more than they did. In some ways it was easier for newer organizations to adapt than those with more baggage from the past.
In Kenya the case we studied (KCDF, Kenya Community Development Fund) has had success in attracting both corporate and individual donors for its programmes, some of which are to award grants to community groups. The importance of this example is that they were able, before the country attained middle-income status, to develop local resource mobilization based on an indigenous culture of giving.
All the countries we reviewed have some tradition of giving, sometimes through faith membership or individual alms giving ( to beggars, outcasts) or through local communities to friends, neighbours or relatives. Different resource mobilization strategies need to be employed depending on the history of giving. One of the challenges is whether such often random giving can be better channelled for greater public good, for example through improved education and health facilities. More challenging still is raising funds for more controversial social issues around rights, alternative resource allocation or anti-corruption programmes, where there may be a clash with local power elites. It is easy for people in a middle-class suburb to identify with the needs of the national cancer hospital, harder to see why they should fund a training programme for locally elected councillors in a poor district, or a programme of child protection for under-aged prostitutes. It is a major challenge for local philanthropists and middle-class donors to back human rights and other issues through appropriate civil society groups. Wilde Ganzen hope that by encouraging a change in the culture of giving at all levels of society, eventually even these more challenging areas will begin to gain support from within their own societies.
Brian Pratt is a freelance consultant, editor in chief of Development in Practice and an INTRAC associate.
The roles and types of donors dominate too much of the current discussion on philanthropy in international development. There are, for example, many debates around the increasing role of private philanthropy or corporate giving versus a decline in funding from official agencies or European NGOs. The issue of civil society sustainability seems to be tied to this debate when in reality the future of civil society is a far more serious challenge.
Behind most of these discussions there is still an assumption that external funding is the key to development in a range of social sectors and countries. Whereas in fact the most important challenge for civil society in any previously developing country is the development of a local funding base and local constituency.
In recent workshops I attended in India on this subject, the discussion merely reflected similar concerns to those in the developed world, for example as to whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) money would replace traditional sources of funds from international NGOs and developed country embassies. Although we did find that some local NGOs were planning to, or had already, closed in the absence of external funds, others were transforming themselves by default into not-for-profit companies, selling services previously offered for free (e.g. seeds, fertilizer agricultural advice). The workshops I attended were just before the new CSR law came into play, which does indeed specify that a percentage of profits should be designated to CSR, but it is too early to tell whether companies will just give to traditional causes such as temples and orphanages or whether to a new form of giving for social causes.
What is clear is that regardless of the nature of external funds, many civil society groups are being forced to take into account the basic fact that dependency on foreign funds will never provide long-term sustainability. Foreign funds from a variety of sources have played an important role in assisting a massive range of activities and groups over the past 40 or more years. However, as the transition of an increasing number of countries to middle-income status is showing, this was probably a short-term historical process linked to a post-colonial movement of solidarity and humanitarian responses in the post-war developed world. Some groups will inevitably continue to raise funds and transfer them to their favourite cause or group, but this does not make for a sustainable strategy unless it is clearly linked to a programme of genuine capacity building and developing a local constituency that can fund or resource the group in the future. Rick James, and indeed many others, casts doubt on the nature of capacity building from most western donors, in that the focus has been to meet donor requirements rather than to develop a locally sustainable strategy.
It is understandable that groups that have been well funded from foreign sources for a generation will find it difficult to realize and act on such a major change as the withdrawal of aid funding. There is always the hope that another donor will come along and bail them out. Indeed the discussion in some of the Indian workshops was exactly along these lines: who will be the new external donor? Will it be a different embassy, church, international NGO, or maybe a private foundation?
What I see missing in this debate is a concern that we have created civil society organizations throughout the developing world that are heavily if not totally dependent on external funding. For many years donors and recipients alike have acted as though this was part of the natural order. It was assumed by most in development that flows of funds from rich to poor countries and organizations would continue for ever. Despite some concerns about the overbearing nature of donors, and the top-down nature of much development, these debates were all held under the overarching view of a resource transfer model in which rich people and countries would pay for development work and social welfare programmes in poor countries. Insufficient time and energy has been spent looking at genuinely sustainable ways of ensuring local civil society can cope with a world without foreign aid.
Tomorrow’s blog will look at one experimental model.
Brian Pratt is a freelance consultant, editor in chief of Development in Practice and an INTRAC associate.
 See recent blogs by Rick James WWW.intrac.org
Gerry Salole, chief executive of the European Foundation Centre, once commented: ‘Philanthropy tends to get stuck in the swimming pool, when the real action is in the sea.’ The recent controversy about strategic philanthropy and the newly coined (or as it turns out not so newly coined) emergent strategic philanthropy seems to be a storm in the swimming pool. Responses to John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell’s ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’, published in the summer issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, have come largely from the US and from people who write regularly about philanthropy. Many of them have focused on the way consultants behave and how they interact with foundations and non-profits – in other words, the philanthropy system. We would like to broaden that debate and in doing so to leave the swimming pool and venture out into the sea.
In March 2014, we edited a special feature for Alliance on ‘Grantmaking for Social Change’. We see this Alliance special feature as very much part of this same debate – the debate about what is needed to bring about social change. It was triggered by a perception that grantmaking as a tool for bringing about social change had fallen out of favour, to be replaced by newer, snappier-sounding forms of philanthropy – venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, philanthrocapitalism and catalytic philanthropy. Despite a wide range of contributors from many parts of the world, there was an impressive consistency running through all the articles. There were two main conclusions. First, grantmaking is central to social change (particularly in developing and emerging market contexts). Second, and most central to this debate, a wide range of different approaches and tools are necessary to produce social change in our complex world, such that no single approach – strategic, emergent or otherwise – enjoys a monopoly of method.
From strategic to emergent
Many have welcomed the admission by some of the prime architects of the strategic philanthropy approach that its rather cut-and-dried approach – clear goals, data-driven strategies, heightened accountability and rigorous evaluations – doesn’t fit the complexities of social change. FSG consultants Kania, Kramer and Russell now suggest moving away from a ‘rigid and predictive model of strategy’ to ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’. The reason for the change, they suggest, is that strategic philanthropy doesn’t work for complex problems because you can’t spot the necessary causative links leading to social change and therefore you can’t plan for them. Strategic philanthropy works fine for simple problems (building a hospital) and for complicated problems (developing a vaccine) but not for complex problems (improving the health of a particular group in the population) because you can’t see the links in the chain.
Emergent strategies take into account that initial hypotheses will have to be modified as they come into contact with circumstances. They still require that a clear strategic intent should guide the funder’s actions, but there is also a willingness to acknowledge that specific outcomes cannot be predicted. Using the Rockefeller Foundation’s catalysing of impact investing as its key example, the article adduces three main characteristics:
• co-creating the strategy (getting important players involved);
• amplifying positive attractors (attractors are sources of convergence within a system – like planets in a solar system) and reducing negative ones (things that move the system away from desired outcomes – like black holes);
• and improving system fitness (developing the ecosystem, or encouraging those factors that are conducive to the change they want to see).
AYNI- the Indigenous Women’s Fund, based in Peru, is the very first Fund for and by indigenous women. Indigenous women face significant challenges to the full enjoyment of their human rights. They experience multiple forms of discrimination, often lack access to education, health care and ancestral lands, face disproportionately high rates of poverty and are subjected to violence, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, including in the contexts of trafficking and armed conflict.
We strongly believe that indigenous women are vital actors in the fight against poverty, racism and social exclusion. When empowered, indigenous women produce a ripple effect that reaches the lives of other women and children. One of the defining characteristics of AYNI is that we embrace a holistic approach to philanthropy in which the knowledge, experience and efforts of indigenous women are fundamental.
Our grantmaking programme relies on the human rights framework and focuses on the funded organization and/or community: it is based on indigenous women’s valuessuch as traditional knowledge, reciprocity, complementarity, respect for diversity and participation, among others. For example, FIMI endorses the concept of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). All of FIMI’s work is based on building networks through informed consent. The principle of FPIC is central to Indigenous women’s exercise of self-determination and the right to participate in decision-making in matters that would affect their lives, including their lands, territories, and natural resources. The substantive and procedural norms that underlie FPIC empower Indigenous Peoples to meaningfully exercise their choices, particularly in relation to developing proposals.
For example, AYNI requests a letter establishing Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for the implementation of every project and initiative at the local level. Each letter expresses how the community is involved in the design of the project. In that way, AYNI intends to assure the full participation of the actors affected by the project. For example, in the case of an organization from Peru, various members of the community signed a letter informing their consent for this organization to implement their planned project.
Promoting ownership and sustainability
One of AYNI’s most innovative and positive approaches is the strong conviction that contributions made by indigenous women in their own communities are essential for the development of their projects. This is why the fund takes into account not only ‘quantifiable contributions’ made by the candidates, but also ‘non-quantifiable contributions’, such as traditional knowledge, practices, and spiritual resources, among others. In our last call, organizations included non-quantifiable contributions such as social networks, indigenous language translations and spiritual support. Moreover, we have learned that including applicants’ own contributions promotes ownership and sustainability.
By funding small projects, with a maximum grant size of 5000 USD, AYNI aims to strengthen indigenous women and their organizations, to encourage self-development and to learn lessons that they can replicate on a larger scale. In this regard, one key aspect to achieve the goal of empoweringindigenous women is the fact that priority is given to projects submitted by organizations and communities that have not received prior funding.
Our flexibility regarding applicants’ proposals promotes indigenous women’s autonomy. We set four project areas (Educational Empowerment, Economic Empowerment, Political Participation and Institutional Strengthening) but we not decide the topics or issues that each project will address: it is indigenous women and their organizations that decide, according to the needs they identify at the local level.
When it comes to the evaluation process, AYNI’s methodology has helped to strengthen local expertise and network building. Instead of centralizing the process, FIMI encourages local organizations to take the lead and conduct the monitoring and evaluation process of the granted projects. This has helped create bonds between smaller and larger organizations and networks at the local/national level, leaving behind a paternalistic and centralized approach to the evaluation process. As an added value, such monitoring methodology includes specific instruments based on indigenous peoples’ needs and realities, which enables a more in depth learning process in the field than traditional bureaucratic methodologies.
These strategies are part of AYNI’s holistic approach when it comes to empowering small indigenous women’s organizations. Indigenous Women’s priorities and proposals have gained visibility at international, regional, national level and have shown very positive results. Indigenous women’s organizations at local level are able to articulate their demands with regional networks, participate in capacity building sessions, present their project to larger donors and advocate for the inclusion of their priorities at national and international processes.
For more information please write to us: email@example.com
Yohanis Amador, indigenous woman from Colombia and AYNI Fund Coordinator
The mission of the Indigenous Women’s Fund is to mobilize resources (material, financial and human) to support capacity building of the indigenous women’s movement, develop leadership and strengthen the organizations that defend and promote the rights of indigenous women. The AYNI fund was launched in 2008 and works globally; it has an administrative office in Lima, Perú. 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.
This post first appeared on the Foundation Center’s GrantCraft blog. GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Center, taps the practical wisdom of funders to develop free resources for the philanthropy sector.
It’s a common refrain these days: a perfect storm is changing the way philanthropy is done, and that change is likely to accelerate in the years to come.
Some of the forces driving this change are external, beyond the control of stakeholders in the field. Others are emerging from the field itself and represent some of the best opportunities philanthropy has to embrace, leverage, and accelerate its own evolution.
One of those internal forces is the simple yet confounding issue of grantmaking practices.
You don’t need me to tell you that complexity is the rule when it comes to grantmaking strategies. Every funder has its own ideas about who it wants to fund, why, and the outcomes and measures of success it uses and is looking for.
At the same time, meeting nonprofit needs has become trickier, as the demand for services continues to outpace the resources available to meet those needs, making the decisions on who should be funded that much harder.
Against this backdrop, I’m pleased to report that some of the most exciting changes in philanthropy, changes that involve the how of grantmaking, are just waiting for funders to take advantage of them. As the association representing grants management professionals – the people who actually develop and execute grantmaking practices at foundations – Grants Managers Network has a unique vantage point on the ways in which grantmaking practice is becoming more important. Indeed, we feel so strongly about the issue, we’ve decided to share our perspective in a new report titled Blueprint for the Future.
In the Blueprint, we acknowledge some of the external forces at play in the field – things like rapidly changing technology; data generation, collection, and analysis; and public policy. But the main focus of the report is on grantmaking practice – how grants get made, and how looking more closely at one’s grantmaking practices can (and probably should) lead to change.
Let’s be honest: grantmaking is a field without a guidebook, so grants managers are working harder than ever to develop and implement efficient and effective practices while also managing the results of those practices in terms of reporting and measurement. In effect, we’re trying to build the boat as we help sail it – and, as a result, have less time to think and innovate. That’s not an ideal situation. Which is why Blueprint for the Future calls for greater resource development and sharing among grants managers, with the goal of providing the people who do the actual work of grantmaking with access to the knowledge and sources needed to develop practices that work for grants managers, their organizations, and the field.
The report also recognizes that those in the field who don’t work on a day-to-day basis with the minutiae of how grants get made need better information about how their decisions inform (and are informed by) grantmaking practices at the ground level. Much of that knowledge inevitably will flow upward from grants managers themselves. But program staff and foundation executives also need to proactively seek out information with respect to the most effective grantmaking practices and how they influence funding decisions. The idea is that better-trained professionals will lead to better practices, as well as a deeper understanding of why those practices matter.
Perhaps most importantly, this kind of knowledge creation and sharing requires more connections and better collaborations among grants managers and other philanthropy professionals than has traditionally been the case. Both within individual organizations and across the field as a whole, we’ve got to get professionals to step out of their siloed domains and start talking and working both vertically and horizontally with other stakeholders.
GMN’s Blueprint for the Future is an optimistic document and outlines a way of working in philanthropy that has the potential to flatten hierarchies and more effectively distribute roles and responsibilities within and beyond organizations, all with the goal of driving more and better mission-driven outcomes. After all, isn’t that what drew us to this work in the first place?
Nikki Powell is communications manager at Grants Managers Network, a professional association of nearly 3,000 grantmaking professionals. You can find her and GMN on Twitter @nikkiwpowell and @grantsmanagers.
On 19 August the Rockefeller Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that they are collaborating on a $100 million effort to help regions of Africa and Asia respond more quickly and effectively to weather disasters linked to climate change, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Global Resilience Partnership will focus on South and South East Asia and the sub-Saharan Sahel and Horn of Africa, where typhoons, floods, earthquakes and drought are increasingly destroying lives and derailing economic development. The partnership’s initial project will be a competition for proposals on making communities more resilient to extreme weather, food insecurity and the effects of climate change.
Earlier this month, on 4-6 August, in conjunction with the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC, more than $200 million in public-private partnerships was announced in support of efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity for over a million people in Africa.
Announced at the Investing in Our Future at the US-Africa Leaders Summit symposium, the initiatives include Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment, a $200 million partnership between the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. With investments of $150 million from PEPFAR and up to $50 million from CIFF, the programme will work to double, to 600,000, the number of children in ten African countries receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy over the next two years.
Click here to find out more>
According to Wikipedia – yes, it’s already in there! – ‘the Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association in the United States. It went viral throughout social media during the Northern Hemisphere summer of 2014.’
The challenge has been highly successful in fundraising terms. As of 18 September, the ALS Association had raised $15.6 million since 29 July – compared to $1.8 million in the same period last year.
There have already been many articles written weighing up whether it’s a good or a bad thing. Both the Nonprofit Quarterly and the Chronicle of Philanthropy provide summaries of some of these. One obvious criticism is that the whole thing trivializes charitable giving – and of course ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease. Another is that it seems to suggest that donating to pouring a bucket of ice-cold water might be better than donating to charity.
British charity Macmillan Cancer Support already has different rules, which get round this particular difficulty by asking people to pour ice-cold water on their heads and donate to charity (which it is of course hoped that people will do anyway). ‘Just challenge someone via Facebook or Twitter to have a bucket of ice-cold water poured over their head in exchange for a text donation to Macmillan.’
‘Can This Crew of Aspen Institute Big Shots Show the Way on Philanthropy?’ This is the question posed by David Callahan, writing on the Inside Philanthropy blog.
‘Aspen has never had much difficulty rounding up high-level folks for its working groups,’ he reports, ‘and the 2014 roster of the Aspen Philanthropy Group, which just met last week, is a case in point. It includes the chiefs of the following foundations: Carnegie, Gates, Goldman Sachs, Heron, Hewlett, Intel, Irvine, Kaufmann, MacArthur, MasterCard, Margaret Cargill Philanthropies, New Orleans Foundation, Packard, OSF, Rockefeller, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
‘A few non-foundation folks are also in the mix, representing Bridgespan, the Foundation Center, FSG, and the Philanthropy Roundtable.
‘So: Who’s missing from this group which bills itself as “a small gathering of leaders in philanthropy and civil society who are at the cutting edge of social change?”
‘I guess the answer depends on how you define “cutting edge.” But it seems that nearly any definition would encompass a range of players in philanthropy who aren’t part of the Aspen group.’
Click here to read more and find out who’s missing>
First published 01 April 2014, by Alliance magazine.
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.
So what is the pain that you’re making them feel?
If people don’t want to invest in you or work for you because of your lack of interest in sustainability, which is what happened to Shell in Nigeria and over Brent Spar, it’s a very painful thing. Look at Dow Chemical, which is now seen as the superstar sustainable chemical company. What were its best-known products in the sixties? Napalm, Agent Orange, defoliants. How did they get from there to here – because during the Vietnam War many students didn’t want to work for them, and if you’re a big company and the best and the brightest don’t want to work for you, you have a problem. We’re focusing on the financial sector, showing them that it’s in their interest to look at what they call extra-financial issues: climate change, waste, energy, resource use, human resources management. All of these things ultimately produce better returns with a reduced risk, and if you ask anybody – even cocaine traffickers, criminals – do you want a financial return with a social and environmental added value, it’s pretty hard to find somebody who says no.
But you cannot push the moral imperative to someone who has a target if the two things are in conflict. You have to show that their self-interest aligns with the social and environmental added value. If the financial sector sees money flows going in a certain direction, they’re likely to follow.
I remember when I started, people would ask for research to show that ESG [environmental, social, governance] investing doesn’t underperform and that, at its best, it can outperform. So I stupidly sent out hundreds and hundreds of research papers before I had my ‘aha’ moment: I realized that it wasn’t about proof, it was about belief. How many investors read the research on the risk associated with sub-prime collateralized debt obligations that created the financial meltdowns? Almost nobody. How much money went into it? Everything, because people believed that this was the new way of endlessly making money.
Since the financial meltdown, are you finding finance companies more willing to listen?
Yes, but not as much as I’d like them to.
The China Charity Forum, entitled ‘Open a Philanthropy Era’, was convened in Beijing from 16 to 17 August with participants from across China and from other countries. The two-day forum consists of discussions and a field visit to Lao Niu Foundation. This is the first international forum organized by the China Charity Alliance since its formation a year ago. Below are my main takeaways from the forum.
The potential of philanthropy high in China
Private foundations have increased by more than 50 per cent from five years ago. China ranks as the second largest economy in the world, with over 200 billionaires, and with more than 67,000 people with assets of over RMB 100 million Yuan (over US$16 million). Everyone believes philanthropy in China will show a boost.
Legislation yet to be prioritized
From high-ranking officials such as the Minister of Civil Affairs and the legislator from National People’s Congress, Dr Zheng Gongcheng, to philanthropists such as Wang Jianlin and Lu Dezhi, there is consistent advocacy for prioritization of legislation to protect the legal status of philanthropy and to incentivize philanthropic activities in order to unleash the potential of philanthropy in China. According to an insider from the government, there is a wide disparity of perspectives around charity law legislation, and a consensus has yet to be formed.
Challenges of doing philanthropy highlighted
Mr Ma Weihua (former governor of China Merchants Bank and now chairman of the board of One Foundation) shared as one of the plenary speakers: ‘It is more difficult to do philanthropy than to do business in China, with little social recognition.’ This was his experience as he made the transition from a banker to a philanthropist. Although Mr Ma talked a lot about philanthropy during the National People’s Congress in March 2014, media reporters seemed more interested in banking and finance than in philanthropy. Philanthropy in China is still in an early stage of development, though the potential is great.
Private sector contribution to global development emphasized
The original aim of the forum was to discuss trends in global philanthropy. As a result, most of the discussion was focused on how Chinese philanthropists and foundations can learn from international best practices as they go global. According to Christophe Buhuet, China Country Director of UNDP China Representative Office, the private sector contribution globally is over five times larger than that of the public sector (with the OECD total contribution to global development in 2013 at US$135 billion from the public sector vs US$577 billion from the private sector, including US$59 billion from private philanthropy). Private philanthropy doesn’t just fill gaps in funding; it also contributes insights and innovations. It has yet to explore, however, how to leverage social and technology innovations and private-public partnerships to promote human development globally and locally.
Sharing of best practices on how to internationalize philanthropy in China
A dedicated breakout session focused on global collaboration in philanthropy. Despite a large economy, China is an emerging country at a learning stage in philanthropy development. Experts from the US, UK, Taiwan and Hong Kong, among others, shared best practices and innovations as Chinese philanthropy learns to go global. Currently the ecosystem of philanthropy tends to be government-driven, with much room to improve in the national strategic plan and legal framework governing philanthropy and charities, as well as in increasing self-governance, transparency and capacity of charities.
Bin Pei is a senior program officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
This is the last in our series of responses by contributors to the March issue of Alliance to John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell’s ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’. We published these articles throughout last week – starting with Kathleen Cravero’s on Tuesday, Avila Kilmurray’s on Wednesday, Ambika Satkunanathan’s on Thursday and Rana Kotan’s on Friday. Tomorrow we will publish an article drawing all the threads together.
I was not aware of these debates, but the issue very much resonates with the work of the community foundation in Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the complexity of the problems we face every day in our transitional, post-war, politically and economically torn society.
As Kania, Kramer and Russell say, foundations (and I add especially community foundations) are better suited than other NGOs to make progress against complex social problems, because they work on a long-term basis, isolated from political and other pressures.
We have invested a lot of efforts to become strategic in our activities and grantmaking but it seems that our strategies were always realistic about complex circumstances, insecure living conditions, multiple problems within the legal system, post-war damages, the social problems of economic development, closed factories and private businesses, etc.
In such environments, it is hard to measure outcomes if the strategies are too rigid and focus on one or two problems and agendas. I very much like Henry Mintzberg’s scheme of emergent strategy into which we fit completely, as a community foundation that is deeply rooted into local circumstances. Having in mind all the complex problems within Bosnia and Herzegovina society, we were aware from the beginning that we cannot make accurate predictions about the expected results of our interventions in the community.
We have always worked strategically – but as in Mintzerg’s scheme we had an ‘intendant’strategy that had to emerge over time and be shaped up to the changing reality (for instance, improving the quality of life in the Tuzla region by encouraging vulnerable groups such as youth and women and the unemployed in rural areas to participate in community life, convene people to press for better policies and public services, and encouraging local people to invest in their community and civil society).
There have been so many events and changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last 10 years (like electoral changes, demonstrations against government at all levels, horrible floods, changes in the law unfavourable to non-profits and philanthropy development, etc) that have made us abandon or adapt parts of our strategy. This might be because of actions taken by government or other organizations or because our aims could not be realized because of political circumstances. In these circumstances we had to adapt the time-frame or completely abandon certain strategies or evolve them to meet the changed circumstances.
The debates will not change our approach because I think that we have
all elements that are needed for measuring the impact of our work (which perfectly fits with both strategic and emergent philanthropy theories): we have clear goals; we do research; we approach problems in a strategic way, involving many stakeholders in problem-solving activities; we do evaluations and learn from the results. We expect our grantees to work in the same way.
Jasna Jašarević is executive director of Tuzla Community Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This is the fourth in our series of responses by contributors to the March issue of Alliance to John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell’s ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’. We will be publishing these articles throughout this week – starting with Kathleen Cravero’son Tuesday, Avila Kilmurray’s on Wednesday, and Ambika Satkunanathan’s yesterday. Next week we will publish an article drawing all the threads together. On Monday we published a response from Angela Kail of NPC.
Are you aware of the debates?
Yes, I was aware of the recent article by Mark Kramer and his colleagues, but I wasn’t following the debate very closely.
Do the issues resonate with you?
Most of the ideas mentioned in the article resonate with me.Strategic philanthropy has indeed lots of shortcomings and I want to give credit to the authors for challenging the current practices and suggesting new approaches for grantmaking. Some of their suggestions are arguable, but I believe this debate will help us to take philanthropy one step further.
Mark Kramer and his colleagues suggest that foundations adopt a more collaborative, flexible and intuitive approach, as opposed to the rigid, cause and effect based approach applied by major foundations, especially in the US. I agree with that.
At the Sabanci Foundation, we do not apply strategic philanthropy in a rigid way. As I’m sure many foundations do, we collect feedback regarding our grant projects and try to make the necessary adaptations while the implementation continues. Learning and adaptation are necessary regardless of the nature of the problem. Yet, I believe this is nothing new and all grantmakers who aspire to create social change apply this flexibility in one way or the other.
During our gender trainings for high school teachers last year, the module on LGBT prompted a heated debate and created huge resistance among some of the conservative teachers. Because of this module, the entire training was a failure for some teachers. In this year’s training, therefore, we changed the name of the module to ‘discussing difficult topics’ and amended the content so that the concepts explained were easier to comprehend and accept. There is no linear causality relationship between training and change in attitude, since different factors intervene, including family, education, character and beliefs of the teachers. But by identifying and eliminating the negative attractor, as Kramer and his colleagues call it, the success rate can be improved. This can be applied even to a simple case like this one.
Have you invested time and effort in becoming more strategic? Do you see this as wasted?
At the Sabanci Foundation, we don’t apply a rigid ‘predict and prove’ model, instead we empower grantees. While doing that, we use lots of intuition and adaptation, and use different tools to catalyse social change:
Sometimes we see the need to redefine the success of our grant or modify the initial hypothesis. For example, we have been supporting the disabled women’s movement for three years. We initially predicted that training and empowering disabled women would help them get formally organized and fight for their rights in a more sophisticated way. However, we didn’t achieve this goal completely. We were able to reach women with different disabilities in different provinces. Since most of them are unemployed and stay at home, getting them out of their homes should be considered a success itself. Therefore, we needed to change our predictions along the way, in order not to miss the small successes/changes that the project creates.
While the feminist movement and the disability movement were born at least two decades ago and have achieved significant milestones, disabled women could not get their voices heard in either of these movements. Even if the desired outcome is still missing, we as Sabanci Foundation are proud to support the creation of this new movement, which will grow slowly but surely into the future.
Will the current debates in any way change your approach to how you do your work? Or how you expect your grantees to work?
We apply two different approaches in our philanthropy. One is grantmaking, the other one is a longer term programme designed in partnership with the UN. Turkey still lags behind most countries in terms of gender equality. Based on the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2013, Turkey ranks 120th out of 136 countries. We are fully aware that one foundation alone cannot create progress on complex social issues such as this, so we co-created this programme to tackle it. It is a multi-year programme involving different stakeholders, including government authorities, ministries, municipalities, UN agencies, NGOs, academics, high school teachers and women living in communities.
This debate made me realize that we do apply most of the practices suggested by Kramer and his colleagues in their article. We probably apply a mixed method of the strategic and the emergent approach. One thing I have become aware of is that we may need to think about improving system fitness a little bit more. The article talks about the importance of ‘relational trust’. Going forward, we may spend more time in nurturing the relationships between different stakeholders involved in our projects.
Rana Kotan is director of programmes and international relations at Sabanci Foundation, Turkey.
This is the third in our series of responses by contributors to the March issue of Alliance to John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell’s ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’. We will be publishing these articles throughout this week – starting with Kathleen Cravero’s on Tuesday and Avila Kilmurray’s yesterday. Next week we will publish an article drawing all the threads together. On Monday we published a response from Angela Kail of NPC.
Although until recently I was not aware of the debates on the limitations of strategic philanthropy, and the need to adopt more emergent approaches, I find the discussions are very relevant to the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust (NTT), based in Sri Lanka. Since the article by Kania, Kramer and Russell focused only on the global North, and the resulting spirited responses did not include any voices from the global South, I hope this perspective will contribute to our common search to become better at adopting collaborative approaches.
The reality is that foundations working in post-war scenarios or in contexts that continue to be plagued by identity conflicts have no option but to adopt an emergent strategy in order to be effective, and more importantly to ensure organizational survival in a hostile and rapidly changing environment. Even formulating solutions to problems the authors categorize as ‘simple’, such as building a hospital, can become arduous, perilous tasks, depending on the location of the hospital and the population it serves. If communities are divided along ethnic or religious lines, the construction could lead to conflict over resources or allegations that the donor funding the project is conspiring to cause conflict between two different groups by favouring one over the other.
Hence, we see the ‘interplay between multiple independent factors that influence each other in ever-changing ways’ even when tackling these ‘simple’ problems. Adopting an emergent strategy is hence not a choice but compulsory. As Frumkin states, certain parts of the problem may not be immediately actionable, while some factors are entirely outside the control of the foundation.
At NTT, while being faithful to our broad aims, we have had to allow our strategy to evolve to accommodate a volatile socio-political environment. The authors’ assumption that foundations are ‘insulated from financial and political pressures’ does not apply in contexts where the state is repressive or undemocratic. In such a setting all organizations are subject to the vagaries of an unstable and unpredictable political environment. Yet, in is in these very circumstances there is a need to grapple with the root causes of a problem. Doing so requires flexibility – a flexibility that enables the foundation to take calculated risks. Speich’s comment that ‘human interaction is unpredictable’ is nowhere more applicable than in Sri Lanka, which is why ‘sensing the environment’ and ‘sensing and leveraging opportunities’ have to become second nature to organizations working here.
One of the main critiques of strategic philanthropy is that it ignores the voices of non-profits and shifts too much power to donors. This is a valid criticism. We’ve found that many programmes have been donor driven in alignment with the policy agendas of bilateral and multilateral donors, which in repressive environments might also be forced not to support certain programmes, such as those on human rights or provision of psycho-social care, due to government restrictions. In such instances the voices of non-profits, particularly community organizations that are closest to the frontlines, are drowned out. A local foundation such as NTT has learned that listening to the voices of communities enables us to have the most impact, as they are most aware of their needs.
Over the years we have also realized that research and learning play an integral role in enhancing our effectiveness. However, as a small public foundation that has to make every dollar/rupee count, we have had to be creative in making this happen. For instance, graduate students of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University undertook a number of assessments and reviews for NTT as part of their coursework. We’ve also found it useful to weave learning into existing projects, such as the women’s fellowship. This enabled us to fine-tune the strategies being used to strengthen the leadership of women within their communities.
Kania, Kramer and Russell emphasize the importance of improving system fitness, pointing out that we should focus on ‘strengthening the systems and relationships that can generate solutions, rather than on constructing the solutions themselves’. Yet, in our post-war context, although strengthening nascent community groups in conflict-affected areas should be a priority and an integral part of rebuilding social networks, limited energy and resources are dedicated to this. Instead, donors often expect these nascent groups to become professional bodies immediately but without providing adequate support to help strengthen them.
When considerable resources are provided to an organization with limited experience and capacity to manage and absorb it, inevitably it leads to failure; worse, it may tear apart the existing structure and place excessive pressure on institutional and inter-personal relationships. In this regard, our strategy is in line with Katherine Fulton’s call to invest in leaders who work close to the frontlines. This becomes particularly important when systems and processes are weak, because these individuals will be able to continue to function as catalysts for social change.
Ambika Satkunanathan is chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, Sri Lanka.
We will be publishing these articles throughout this week – starting with Kathleen Cravero’s yesterday. Next week we will publish an article drawing all the threads together. On Monday we published a response from Angela Kail of NPC.
After 20 years as director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland I have a confession to make.
Hence I come to the current debate on ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’ (a Kania, Kramer & Russell confection, 2014) as something of an outlier to the in-world of academic conceptualization of philanthropy. Emerging from the clutter of a paper-strewn desk, the more cynical me cannot help wondering if there is a growth industry of academics talking to academics and/or policy gurus employed by well-endowed foundations – perhaps this sector represents an emerging market in itself!
Notwithstanding these wayward thoughts, I am a firm believer in critical self-reflection and analysis, given that philanthropic organizations – no matter how small – have the luxury of financial resources that position them as power-holders. The pity is that all too few acknowledge this fact and what it entails in practice.
So then – how real is the ongoing debate to me, the staff that I worked with and the community based partners that we fund? Well, I can’t say that it keeps them awake at night. Managing a meagrely endowed community foundation in the contested and violently unsettled conditions of Northern Ireland is a sharp lesson in keeping the head down, the ear to the ground and a weather eye on what might be coming down the tracks. We didn’t have to be told to ‘sense the environment’ – or as we termed it ‘keep a finger on the pulse’ – we had to do it to survive. While the science of predicting project outputs, let alone outcomes, for us was more the art form of answering the ‘what if?’ query. What if the peace process disintegrated? What if a fraught marching session set one community against another? Indeed we spent many hours in futile argument with the managers of EU-funded PEACE programmes caveating the logframed target of peace and reconciliation. In the end everybody involved was forced into what I termed ‘a minuet of mutual deception’; we told the EU bureaucrats what they needed to hear; the funded projects assured us that they would meet unrealistic objectives; and we pretended to believe them. And so it went on. Yet the reality was that some exceptionally good and courageous work was supported (including work around the re-integration of political ex-prisoners; provision for victims/survivors of violence and community development with many of the most marginalized and alienated communities), while the lodestar for the foundation was a clear set of values and ethos. It was the latter, rather than any artificial clarity of short-term project objectives, that kept us honest both to ourselves and to our community partners. Yes of course we identified what we would want to see, but all too often it was a case of one step forward, two steps back, along the tortuous path of getting there.
So were we engaged in emergent strategic philanthropy? Who knows – or indeed cares? Certainly we consulted widely as to priorities and actually took the time to listen to those groups and communities that were most affected by poverty and violence. Many programmes had Policy Advisory Committees made up of activists, academics, statutory decision-makers and interested individuals. They were all involved on a volunteer basis, and given the diversity of background and experience every effort was made to avoid any unwarranted collation of exclusionary terminology. Indeed, whenever I ventured to inject a concept or theory picked up through conference attendance or reading there would be audible moans from any grantee within earshot for fear that the community foundation would lurch to embrace a new strategic approach. Change, when it was introduced, had to take account of grantee perception – they were our partners not guinea-pigs and they were never slow to voice their reservations.
So to the nuances of the current debate – I am impressed that Kania, Kramer and Russell admit their disappointment in the results of the previous strategic philanthropy approach; I am less happy, however, with a refurbished narrative which seems to beg, borrow and steal from a pot-pourri of economics, management-speak, astrophysics and ecology. Can we not just recognize that when any funder sets her/himself the task of addressing complex issues, such as social justice and conflict transformation, there needs to be provision for continuous consultation, practice, reflection and change? Is it not possible to have academic challenge and insights without the need for translation?
Although the article shares some elegant quotes (my own favourite from Einstein is ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’), I was left pondering as to what we might call the place advocated by Kania, Kramer and Russell, where ‘rigor and flexibility meet’ – the philanthropic fitness suite? And is it overly jaundiced to view an ‘emergent strategic philanthropist’ as a newly fledged butterfly weighed down by systems maps? As we shift from strategic philanthropy to strategic philanthropy with the gloss of uncertainty, I still raise my glass to inclusive visioning, trial, error and learning drawn from a clear evidence base and, preferably, presented in everyday language.
Avila Kilmurray was director of the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland from 1994 to 2014. She has recently joined the Global Fund for Community Foundations.
In a recent article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’, John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell suggest moving away from a ‘rigid and predictive model of strategy’ to ‘emergent strategic philanthropy’. While strategic philanthropy works fine for simple problems (building a hospital – is this really a simple problem?) and for complicated problems (developing a vaccine), it doesn’t work for complex problems because you can’t spot the necessary causative links leading to social change and therefore you can’t plan for them. Responses to the article have come largely from the US and from people who write regularly about philanthropy. In order to broaden the debate, Alliance went back to the contributors to the March issue of Alliance, which focused on ‘Grantmaking for Social Change’, and asked them to respond to four questions:
We will be publishing some of their responses throughout this week – starting with Kathleen Cravero’s, below. Next week we will publish an article drawing all the threads together. Yesterday we published a response from Angela Kail of NPC.
Are you aware of these debates?
Yes, I read everything I see on these issues. I find it both frustrating and entertaining.
Do the issues resonate with you?
I guess the best description for what I feel when I read this stuff is: ‘Seriously? This merits a whole debate – articles in top journals?’ Why do I say that? Here is what I get out of the SSIR article:
Okay – to me this is COMMON SENSE philanthropy. Oak Foundation did not need outside experts to tell us this.
One more thing: I am not sure that problems can so be so neatly categorized into simple, complicated and complex. The bricks and mortar of a hospital are simple – but what about the complexity of building a public hospital in a neighbourhood that doesn’t want it? That becomes a complicated – or even a complex – problem, right?
Have you invested time and effort in becoming more ‘strategic’? Do you see this as wasted?
No, because we always thought that being strategic meant being open, collaborative and aware of the big picture. We never bought into metric-driven, treat-it-like-a-business, solve-it-like-a-math-problem approaches to philanthropy.
Will the current debates in any way change your approach or how you work? Or how you expect grantees to work?
It is never a waste of time to think about what one is doing and why one is doing it. As the saying goes: ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do …’ On the other hand, it is a waste of time to chase after every new term that pops up. It is usually old wine in new bottles.
Kathleen Cravero is president of the Oak Foundation.