Peace and Security

Humble grant or strategic philanthropy? Let’s champion ambitious grantmaking

Alliance Magazine - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 03:00

Alison Bukhari

Last week’s panel discussion at the Alliance Breakfast initially positioned ‘strategic philanthropy’ as something different to ‘humble grantmaking’. I suppose the various prefixes like traditional, conventional, reactive, responsive … grantmaking etc didn’t help. But I have to argue that I don’t see strategic philanthropy as an opposing force to grantmaking. I see it as grantmaking PLUS.

The organization I work with, Dasra, champions the grant. So much so that we have moved ever so slightly away from our previous position of dividing our time nearly equally between organizations taking investment capital and organizations taking grants. We are now largely back to our ‘old’ grantmaking. But there is nothing humble about it – we are most certainly what Martin Brookes described as ‘ambitious’ grantmakers.

Not only do I want to champion the grant, but I want to champion the intermediary – the eco-system builder, the organization, like Dasra, that acts as a bridge between grantmaker and grant receiver.  Where there are issues of power, I like to see the intermediary, in this case Dasra, playing a critical role in helping to balance the power.  He with the money does not necessarily hold the majority share of power. Dasra hand-holds the donor, in our case generally a consortium of 10 donors, and persuades them to give a recipient organization unrestricted funding, a cumulative grant of just under £0.5 million.  Given the funding is unrestricted, the trust is placed in the CEO of the recipient organization to operationalize the grant. Where Dasra plays a role is in supporting the organization with management assistance, aligned to the allocation of that funding against an ambitious growth plan. We work closely with the donor to help him or her understand the challenges and to comprehend the impact assessment and ongoing presentation of results; and we unlock the donors’ social and intellectual capital to play a role, where appropriate, in the grantee’s work.

Where I totally agreed with Barry Knight was in his articulation of the error in the champion of catalytic philanthropy, Mark Kramer’s, call to foundations to ‘tear up their grant application forms’.  I relate my concern over this comment to the situation in India. In a country like India that is currently building a philanthropy ecosystem, we have seen first hand the need to champion the grant. And there is no more important time than now.  The Indian government announced last autumn a new bill that mandates that companies over a certain size must allocate 2% of their profit to CSR.  This could apply to c 16,000 companies and unlock $2.9 billion in funding.  If we listen to the narrative that grants are no good, what will happen to this funding? Already many donors in India have an innate mistrust of NGOs. A large and well-established foundation in India came to us the other day and said, ‘we need to learn how to make grants to NGOs.’ In their history to date they had only operated their own programmes; they had never given a grant.

The overwhelming trend in India is for philanthropists and companies to set up their own operational foundations, as they tend not to trust anyone else to spend their money. This leads to duplication, fragmentation and a chronic lack of local philanthropic funding for NGOs the length and breath of the county – and those NGOs are often undertaking the most innovative poverty reduction work. If grants continue to get a bad name, this could lead to those billions of dollars being donated into new operational foundations, lacking in experience, with the potential of accountability being lost, while established, high-potential NGOs miss out on this swathe of funding.

The funding unlocked by the new bill has to benefit the NGO sector. Despite my evangelical support for venture philanthropy and strategic philanthropy and my admiration for the successes of a lot of catalytic philanthropy, the people who know best in India are generally those closest to the problems and their organizations are being starved of funding exactly because of a lack of grantmaking. There are some wonderful companies across India who have the potential to create enormous social change. We need to present to them a vibrant, high-impact non-profit sector and the power of the grant!

Whether it be humble or, like ours, grants that seek to help organizations scale their work 30 to 50 times, let’s not pitch grantmaking against strategic philanthropy. Let’s champion the middle ground, impact-focused grants with an ambition to make a real, measurable difference to those that matter.

Thanks to Alliance for pulling together four great speakers to stimulate this discussion!

For further information and debate on India’s new CSR bill see Dasra’s conference videos online Dasra Philanthropy Week Day One.

Alison Bukhari, director of Business Development and Partnerships at Dasra.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Opportunity International and MasterCard Foundation announce new initiative in Africa

Alliance Magazine - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 08:30

Alliance magazine

On 25 March Opportunity International in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation announced a $22.7 million project to promote access to loans, savings programmes and other critical financial products and services to help more than 7 million people in five African countries work their way out of poverty through 2018. The funds will be used to launch the Opportunity International Africa Growth and Innovations Initiative through its financial institutions in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi and Tanzania.

‘The Africa Growth and Innovations Initiative will expand our unique delivery channels, with a focus on low cost branches and mobile banking, to drive increased savings outreach and expand financial services for smallholder farmers to increase crop yields, productivity, income and food security,’ said Vicki Escarra, CEO of Opportunity International.

The initiative builds on the successful partnership between the Foundation and Opportunity International’s US and Canadian offices over the last four years in the same five countries. The partnership focused on extending a full range of financial services to rural areas in Africa, including crop-specific agricultural loans to smallholder farmers, savings programs and alternative delivery channels such as mobile banking.

To read the full press release, click here>

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Are European banks finally becoming interested in social impact?

Alliance Magazine - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 03:00

Ruth Whateley

Last week saw the launch of a new EVPA report Social Impact Strategies for Banks: Venture Philanthropy and Social Investment  by Dr Leonora Buckland supported by London Business School. This is the first report on how European banks are currently active in venture philanthropy, social investment and impact investment.

Why was I there?
I would like to say I attended this launch event with an open mind, but if I’m honest I’ve always been a bit sceptical of big banks and some of the ethically questionable practice taking place (to put it mildly).

However, I’m also sure the situation isn’t clear cut. What if I told you large investments from banks are being directed to essential lifesaving social and environmental projects? Would that make you think twice about the role banks play? Certainly I was intrigued by the title of the report, particularly given my work at the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA).

What are banks doing?
The total investment in social enterprise/social business by the mainstream banks surveyed in this report was €261 million (excluding microfinance funds).  These banks range from retail banks such as BBVA in Spain to investment banks such as JP Morgan and private banks such as UBS.

The banks in the report have made some significant steps towards integrating a social dimension within their core business model and not just their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. For example JP Morgan and the Gates Foundation launched the Global Health Investment Fund of $100 million in 2013 and BBVA’s Momentum social investment project has been investing €2.5 million in Spanish social enterprises since 2011.

The report outlined how the model of banking (retail, private or investment) can influence the type of involvement that banks can have in social impact investment as leaders/field builders, investors or intermediaries. The investor activity includes both internal venturing and external investing through direct or indirect funds and deals.

Why are banks involved?
Representatives from JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank on the panel identified with the variety of drivers for involvement in this field. These drivers include client demand, competitor advantage, personal belief, bank ethic and CSR interest.

For me this point was very interesting. I perceive a real fear in the social sector that a private investor’s financial mission will continue to trump the social mission of the investment. If we want to create significant positive social impact for the most at need in our society I think this should continue to be a worry.

From both the event and the report it appears that one of the significant barriers to this re-prioritization of social and financial mission is organizational culture. The report points out that banks have much to contribute in the way of human, financial and social capital. However, it hints that organizational culture must change for this work to be successful and I think it will change only by attracting more workers with social sector experience into the banking sector. This must happen alongside collaborations between banks and social sector organizations such as foundations.

Creating social impact
Another important point flagged up was that social impact investment is only one way banks can create social impact. Bank involvement in grantmaking and other forms of philanthropy is still hugely important and should remain so for interventions where social investment is not appropriate.

Furthermore, panellists mentioned that if banks are serious about social impact they need to start forecasting for, measuring and analysing social impact as an integrated part of the investment process, something with which I wholeheartedly agree. International network organizations such as SIAA, The SROI Network, Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and EVPA should also continue to ing and ing the impact measurement and analysis cause. Understanding impact and targeting investments to social causes is supposed to be at the heart of what social impact investment is about.

What does success look like?
At the event I heard mixed messages about what success looks like for social impact strategies in banks. For some, establishing a fund and convincing enough colleagues that it is worthwhile is success. For others, success is something that may happen beyond our lifetimes when banks truly take social and environmental impact into account during their work as well as financial returns. This second view of what success looks like sits well with me, however radical some people may feel it is.

I think it is still an open question as to whether European banks are truly moving towards considering social and environmental impact in their core business. I really hope they are.

Ruth Whateley is manager of the Social Impact Analysts Association.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

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Alliance Magazine - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 09:22

Alliance magazine

Alliance magazine is the definitive resource for all philanthropy and social investment professionals worldwide.

Each edition of Alliance magazine features interviews with leaders in the field and articles on topical issues by key thinkers from around the world, as well as updates on new developments, letters, conference reports, book reviews and more!

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Categories: Peace and Security

Building transparency into the operational structure of a new fund

Alliance Magazine - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 03:00

Sophie Pritchard

This article is cross posted from the Foundation Center’s GrantCraft blog. GrantCraft: 

It’s nearly two years since the inception of Edge Fund. From the beginning, we had aims to be democratic, accessible, and accountable to the groups and communities our decisions affect whilst also providing much needed funding to grassroots efforts. Transparency has been an important part of what we do and has led to an approach that involves the communities and groups we aim to help as decision-makers, and brings them together to support and learn from each other.

As a group of people concerned about social justice, it was not sufficient only to focus on inequality of wealth, but also to overcome issues of power. Therefore, the process of setting up our fund was a collective process involving around fifty people from different communities and groups across the UK. We wanted to get funding to groups that other funders considered to be too radical, and to groups led by and for communities facing injustice and discrimination who often face many barriers to funding.

Gaining trust

One of our biggest challenges is gaining the trust of communities who have long been excluded and minoritised by the mainstream. Isis Amlak, of grantee group One Voice Community Collective and a member of Edge Fund, explained the situation with one community:  ”Historically when ‘Black’ (in a political sense, to include all communities facing discrimination based on their race) groups have taken funding, they have found themselves compromised and, restricted, and far too many became reliant to the detriment of creativity, self-reliance, and self-sustainability. When the funding stopped, they stopped. There is also a great deal of suspicion, rightly so, about sources of funding; who are the benefactors/philanthropists behind the scenes? What is the real agenda?” The same issues apply to many other communities, such as low income communities and disabled people, who often find that both funders and charities impose their own solutions on to them with little consultation let alone actually involving them in the decision-making process.

At the beginning, the vast majority of those involved with Edge Fund were from privileged backgrounds; mostly white middle class people. This had to change. In order for people from less privileged backgrounds to trust us and get involved, we would need to be completely open and transparent. The best way to promote this level of transparency is to actually involve the groups and communities we want to support in determining our collective values, how we operate and what we fund. This led to us incorporating as a form of co-operative. A co-operative is run by the people who benefit from its services, known as their members, who each have an equal say. A handful of our members have contributed sums of at least £5,000, but have no more say than those who have not contributed at all. Our form of co-operative benefits both our members and the wider community. With just one part-time member of staff, we rely on our 125 members to be actively involved.

After every round of funding, we invite people from the groups we’ve funded to join us as members, which has helped the organisation to grow and become more diverse. We also receive membership applications from people outside the application process and have made public call outs for people from communities facing discrimination and injustice to join us. Anyone who came to our initial meetings would not recognise us now, the make-up of the membership has changed so much, but we are still a work in progress and hope to keep improving. Decisions about our values and how we operate were initially made at our early meetings and are reviewed after every funding rounds. All members are invited to take part in reviews, and we do our best to make the process accessible by covering travel costs where needed and allowing members to contribute over email, online surveys, or side meetings. Minutes and notes are shared publicly on our website.

Getting funding to those who need it most

Alongside the issues of trust and transparency is that of accessibility. Common barriers to funding include being outside the usual networks or practical issues relating to language, literacy, and access to computers and internet. Most of the groups we fund are informally structured (i.e. not registered or constituted in some cases) and don’t have any paid staff (certainly not paid fundraisers), which represent more barriers to receiving other funding.

To make our funding accessible, we’ve tried to pay careful attention to the language we use and our methods of communication (e.g. not being reliant on email), although we have a lot more work to do to get that right. We have a two-step application process; in the initial stage there are five questions, including who runs the group (particularly in relation to who they aim to help) and how much money they raise every year, which can be answered over the phone with one of our members. In the second stage, we have members on hand to help applicants submit further information, either in written, audio, or video formats. Here we ask for details such as who makes decisions and how and which others groups they work with.

Another important part of being transparent is providing meaningful feedback to applicants to explain our decisions, especially when an application is turned down. Feedback is based on the comments provided during our members’ evaluation of applications (see below). Whilst it can take months to get feedback to each of our applicants, it seems it is genuinely appreciated. Sometimes it highlights areas where we can be clearer about our aims or where we could offer more support, particularly to applicants who are more likely to face barriers.

The many are smarter than the few

Funding decisions are made collectively by members and based loosely on the ‘wisdom of crowds’ theory. Members receive a minimum of ten applications to individually score and give feedback on. Their scores are collated and averaged out to draw up a short-list. In our last round over 60 members took part in the individual scoring and the final meeting, where the final decisions are made, was attended by 68 people from our membership and shortlisted applicants who all took part as equals. During the funding meeting the final applicants set up stalls, giving members and other applicants the opportunity to find out more about their work, before voting for them at the end. After our first round we decided to include an extra stage in the process to improve our accountability; this involves members scoring applications affecting their own community first and giving guidance to the rest of the members. This helped to resolve issues where members were making judgements about communities or issues they did not have sufficient understanding of.

Whilst this may seem like a time-consuming task, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Aside from the obvious democratic nature of the process, we are also drawing on the knowledge and networks of a large number of people. Often members know the groups that have applied and can provide detailed information about the group. It’s also an educational and reassuring process for members, who get to read about a variety of issues affecting a range of communities and what work is being done to tackle them.

 Connecting people, communities and movements

We are repeatedly told that actually it’s not our funding that is the most important aspect of our work; it’s the bringing together of people from different groups and backgrounds. Applicants seldom know who the other applicants are, but in our process, they get to meet some of them in person, hear about their work, and then vote for each other.  As mentioned above, the final stage of the funding process involves both members and applicants working together as equals to decide the final allocation of grants. Many representatives of groups we fund then join us as members. Connections are made at our meetings that seldom happen elsewhere. Most importantly, through meeting others outside our usual networks, the inter-related nature of all the issues we’re working on can become clearer which can help build solidarity between movements and increase understanding of their root causes. In our last meeting, Michael Daduc, of grantee group Europe Roma Network and an Edge member, met with the Chagos Refugees Support Group. He said, “I could see how they feel. They have been evicted from their home and have to live somewhere else. They don’t have their own country anymore, just like my community, the Roma people. They should be able to go home”.

We believe it is essential that funders involve the communities they aim to support in their decision-making. We are just learning ourselves how to do this and would love to learn from others too. Some approaches could involve including people from communities you aim to help on your board, or perhaps even ear-marking a pot of money for a particular community and letting them determine its use for their own benefit. Ultimately, those who feel it know it – it’s time to let people determine their own futures.

Sophie Pritchard, is the co-ordinator and co-founder of Edge Fund.

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.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

The Next Round in Gaza

With Hamas’s fortunes on the decline and Gaza suffering its worst isolation and economic constriction in years, it is only a matter of time until a flare-up with Israel escalates into a major conflagration – unless the two reach a modest understanding to extend a fragile quiet.

Alliance Breakfast Club 19 March: Grantmaking for Social Change

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 03:00

In a world eagerly adopting venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy and more recently catalytic philanthropy, is there still room for the ‘humble’ grant and if so what role can it play? This was the question before the Alliance Breakfast Club, held in London on 19 March and co-hosted with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

For Barry Knight, secretary of CENTRIS and guest editor for the March 2014 issue of Alliance, the dominance of these new, largely donor-led approaches has made many people dismissive of grantmaking. ‘Throw away your grant proposals,’ Mark Kramer of FSG advised delegates at last year’s EFC conference.

The choice of language to some extent frames the debate, said Knight. No one is going to say they don’t want impact or they don’t want to be strategic, he argued, but contrasting these approaches with grantmaking seems to imply that the latter is not concerned with impact and is not strategic. Far from it, he said. Of course grantmaking is concerned with impact. The difference is that it places the emphasis on the grantee-led approach to delivering success.

Grants allow for a bottom-up approach, putting ownership over social change in the hands of civil society organizations capable of defining and measuring impact on their own terms. The new approaches are much more top-down, he said, largely driven by external business practices and consultants, with foundations specifying measures of success that don’t necessarily tally with the aims and experiences of organizations and individuals on the ground.

This is not to suggest that grantmaking should be the only model. ‘There should be no “ism” that rules the world,’ Knight insisted. The different approaches are all needed, complementing each other like the different instruments of a jazz ensemble.

Agreeing that grants are an important tool in supporting civil society, Judith McNeill, grants director at Comic Relief, identified several key uses for grants. They can support new talent and potential. In these cases you often don’t know what the impact will be. She gave an example of supporting a small Ugandan organization offering savings and loans. They quickly discovered that when women had more money, gender-based violence became more prevalent. The organization therefore decided to tackle this issue, with considerable success, at local, district and regional levels. How effective grants can be in kickstarting small, local organizations is shown by the number of organizations she notices investing in projects that were themselves originally Comic Relief grant recipients. Grants can also serve to help build new fields of activity. She talked of how Comic Relief has sometimes noticed a new issue emerging and has supported a range of organizations to begin to develop new approaches.

Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative and co-author of Philanthrocapitalism, dwelt unexpectedly on the value of grantmaking. He highlighted the danger of being led by strategy, remembering how the Department for International Development (DFID) made grants in Kenya to a new initiative called M-Pesa, the hugely successful mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinance service, and later considered cutting all support because it didn’t fit with DFID’s ‘strategic approach’. The great thing about grants, he said, is that they can empower organizations or individuals that would be seen as too risky to invest in.

Nonetheless, he argued, we need to focus on optimization of scarce resources. We need to have tough conversations about impact, about grants that haven’t worked. If we fail to measure impact we are simply not doing a good enough job. Philanthropy needs more robust numbers: although data is not everything, it is still important.

Martin Brookes, director of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, agreed on the need for measurement, arguing that a ‘relentless search for impact’ is forcing foundations to ask difficult questions, to think about what they want to achieve and to be more effective in doing so. Grants are a tool but the tool is incidental and shouldn’t become the focus. ‘Do you care about the impact or do you simply rejoice in the process of grantmaking?’ he asked.

In response Knight pointed out that there are many ways of measuring change. He declared himself to be ‘passionate about impact’ but insisted that the focus on how you measure success is a red herring. Peace building, for example, cannot easily be measured. Civil society itself should be able to judge what success looks like rather than adopting a system of measurement devised by the foundation. Several audience members asked what we might be missing if we focus solely on grants with provable impact.

Brookes questioned this. The difficulties of trying to measure success are not a reason not to try, he said. You may not do it perfectly, but understanding that you are on a journey towards a goal is more important than the mechanism you use to get there, grants or otherwise.

Lloyds Bank Foundation’s Paul Streets questioned philanthropy’s obsession with scaling up successful projects and the equation of scale and impact. ‘Small can be beautiful,’ he said. It may depend on what sort of impact you are looking for. Phrases such as social change and impact lack meaning, said Balihar Sanghera from the University of Kent. What sort of social change? It is hard to achieve change in an area such as social mobility, but that doesn’t mean the funding is not justified. An over-emphasis on a measurable impact may push funders to cherry-pick specific, easily attainable aims to the detriment of less achievable but more important structural changes.

Both McNeill and Brookes saw grants as at one end of a spectrum based on the knowledge that a foundation has on a given issue. In areas where little knowledge exists, McNeill said, you have to back a cause based on a hunch, an intuitive feeling that it is a good thing and in the direction you want to go. Brookes acknowledged that grantmaking is partly about humility, admitting that you do not know that much about an issue and so offering more control to the grantee. As you gain in knowledge, you can move along the spectrum and begin to understand the impact you want to achieve and how it can be measured, then you can introduce different approaches. ‘We can only exercise power when we know what we are talking about.’

Green noted that if you take risks with grants it becomes more incumbent to talk about failure. Brookes then revealed his plans for Paul Hamlyn Foundation to publish a report detailing their failures, stressing the need to be ‘brutally transparent’.

For McNeill failure was not the main concern; the far greater risk is ‘chronic mediocrity’, she said. As a funder that raises its money annually from the public, Comic Relief is in the public eye and cannot afford to stagnate. Other panellists agreed about the dangers of mediocrity. Knight commented that foundations that exist in perpetuity can end up ‘going to sleep’. Green felt that foundations should be put under heavy public scrutiny so as to force them to raise their game. He suggested that the Treasury might do well to publish how much each foundation receives in tax subsidies so that the public can decide if their work is worth the loss of tax income.

Are grants a bottom-up approach compared to so-called impact-driven approaches that put too much power in the hands of the funder? Is it a contradiction in philanthropy that it wants both to take risks and to be more effective in achieving and measuring its goals? Or are these false dichotomies? These questions proved too big to answer in just one sitting of the Alliance Breakfast Club, though all panellists seemed to end up agreeing that impact is crucial and grantmaking is one valuable tool among many.

What are your thoughts on the discussion? Do you agree with the panel? Let us know what you think in the comments section below…

Purchase the March issue, Grantmaking for social change, for £15 or less here>

Caroline Hartnell, editor and Tom Rennell, marketing officer at Alliance magazine.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Hewlett Foundation changes direction of effective philanthropy programme

Alliance Magazine - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 02:52

Alliance magazine

•    According to an article published on 23 March by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the board of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the US’s fourth-wealthiest grantmaker, last week voted to phase out an eight-year, $20-million effort to finance work by Charity Navigator, GiveWell, GuideStar and other groups that provide in-depth information about non-profits’ performance. The reason is that it wasn’t doing enough to persuade donors to give solely because a group is worthy and not for emotional reasons. Instead, Hewlett will try to improve philanthropy by ‘shifting to a strategy to foster openness and transparency and collaboration’ among foundations and non-profits, said Larry Kramer, Hewlett’s president.
•    He says the foundation is also supporting work designed to break the political system get over the gridlock that has stymied policymaking and to find new ways to deal with cybersecurity threats.

To find out more about the Hewlett Foundation’s current philanthropy programme, click here>

Transparency has recently been in the spotlight in the UK too, where an initiative to promote transparency in the UK philanthropy sector has just been launched. See Fran Perrin’s article, ‘Foundation transparency: why it matters’, in the March issue of Alliance for more about the thinking behind Three Sixty Degree Giving.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Thailand Needs Friends To Help It Through Its Crisis

"Usually, in the past, we would have had a coup by now," said one retired senior Thai official this week about his country's travails. He didn't mean the absence of a coup marked progress; he was reflecting a widespread resignation that without action by some external force – such as the military – the crisis being played out in Bangkok risked running the country into the ground.

Girls to the fore in this year’s expanded Dasra Philanthropy Week

Alliance Magazine - Fri, 03/21/2014 - 03:26

Karishma Sanghvi

The Dasra Philanthropy Week, now in its fifth year, is the largest strategic philanthropy conference in India. The conference has expanded over its five years; this year, it ran for three days, 5 to 7 March, with content for different audiences on each day. The audience has increased threefold, from about 200 attendees last year to 600 attendees this year.

The first day targeted corporate social responsibility teams to provide content relevant to the passing of the Companies Act 2013, which mandates large companies in India to dedicate 2% of profits for corporate social responsibility activities. Sessions on this day dealt with demystifying the new Act, sharing lessons learned, the need for impact assessment in all funding, facilitating employee engagement and choosing the right organizations to fund.

The second day targeted foundations, multilateral agencies and impact investors, focusing on topics such as measuring impact, viewing the sector through a gender lens and harnessing India’s demographic dividend.

The final and most highly anticipated day targeted individual investors such as high net worth individuals concerned about utilizing their philanthropic money in the most scalable and impactful manner. The day began with the launch of the annual Dasra/Bain report on the Indian philanthropy sector, followed by panels on building a philanthropic ecosystem and on domestic violence, highlighting Dasra’s newest report on the topic, No Private Matter: Confronting domestic violence in India. The day ended with talks by three well-known philanthropists, Harsh Mariwala, Roshni Nadar Malhotra and Peter and Jennifer Buffett (by video link) on their giving strategies.

Two highly appreciated additions to the conference this year were short 15-minute sessions termed Dasra Changemakers and Dasra Heroes. Dasra Changemakers highlighted individuals in various fields who had the courage to fight their circumstances and change their lives. Nadia Zouaoui spoke about her documentary describing her forced marriage at the age of 19 and her journey to freedom and empowerment. Bani Kohli, a 16-year-old girl from New Delhi, founded Jai Jan, a Delhi-based non-profit that helps feed the underprivileged by collecting and distributing unused food from local restaurants. Selvi spoke about her journey from defying patriarchal traditions and an abusive child marriage to become Karnataka’s first female taxi driver, empowering both herself and her community in the process.

Dasra Heroes brought to the forefront stories of people who have worked with or been influenced by the efforts of Dasra’s more than 20 portfolio organizations. Meena Bhati, a communications officer for Educate Girls, spoke about her hunger for education from a young age; with her husband’s support she fought her family to go back to school after marriage. Mohammad Arif spoke about Sarathi’s work with adolescent girls. Reena Hogani and Pramila Peter, both child malnutrition workers from SNEHA, and Chhaya Jadhav, a teacher from Muktangan, spoke about their experiences. All these heroes spoke in their local language and their passion and dedication to their cause brought tremendous hope and inspiration to the participants.

The Dasra Girls Alliance was created in 2013 as a $14 million partnership with USAID and the Kiawah Trust for building the ecosystem for empowering India’s 113 million adolescent girls. This year, at Dasra Philanthropy Week, a new partner was announced: the Piramal Foundation joined the alliance with a contribution of $3 million.

This was also the inaugural year of the Dasra Girl Power Awards. 196 organizations were screened under the three categories of health, education and life skills. The 17 finalists were supported through a Dasra-led executive education workshop and invited to the awards ceremony. Three winners, one from each category, walked away with an award of $16,000 as well as further Dasra capacity-building support. The three winning organizations, CULP (education), Ashish Gram Rachna Trust (health) and Vacha (life skills) spoke about their journey so far and their future goals.

Karishma Shanghvi volunteered at Dasra as a Fellow conducting research on the social sector. She has a strong interest in private and public healthcare management, having prior experience working at her family’s business Sun Pharma.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Tony Benn’s hardest question: how do we get rid of you?

Alliance Magazine - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 03:00

Caroline Hartnell

In an article for The Nation  remembering his friend Tony Benn, who he describes as ‘a proud radical, an anti-colonialist, a socialist without apology and the inspiration for generations of activists, organizers, parliamentarians, presidents and prime ministers around the world’, John Nichols recalled Benn’s five questions, which he believed should always be asked of those with economic, social and political power:

•    What power have you got?
•    Where did you get it from?
•    In whose interests do you use it?
•    To whom are you accountable?
•    How do we get rid of you?

Benn asked these questions everywhere he went, Nichols remembers. ‘I saw him write them on the chalkboards of classrooms and lecture halls. I heard him repeat them at rallies, protests and marches. I think his favorite of the questions … was: “How do we get rid of you?”

‘“Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system,” Benn explained.’

We must hope that the holders of wealth in our society, including foundations and individual philanthropists, have good answers to question three since they can have none for question five.

Toni Pearce, president of the UK’s National Union of Students, described Tony Benn as ‘a thorn in the side of the establishment, a fierce critic of unaccountable elites, and a true champion of the powerless, the poor, and the dispossessed’. He will be much missed; in the UK politics will be much the poorer without him. In his memory, we can keep asking his questions.

Caroline Hartnell, is editor of Alliance magazine.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Aligning investing and grantmaking: thoughts from the social change/human rights field

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 03:00

Suzanne Biegel

A group of grantmakers in the arena of social change and human rights got together last week in Barcelona to share best practices (and failures) around funding. As part of this conversation, we held a session on impact investing, zooming in on the question of ‘could you align investments with grantmaking in an area as specific as community security and justice?’ And could we use that as a proxy to talk about aligning grantmaking and investment for any theme?

Erica ten Broeke

These were the challenges we set for ourselves:
•    Can we find investable opportunities directly connected to our themes? If not, how far out do we need to go?
•    Can we get to scale? Are there enough opportunities? And can we do this efficiently/get start-up costs repaid?
•    What are the potential reputational risks, especially related to conflict/political sensitivity?

And here are a few insights we would like to share:
•    If we are co-investing with others, for example in an area such as ‘security and justice’, we must clarify our definitions and objectives for the different actors. Definitions may vary significantly.
•    Investing in security and justice is challenging and far from obvious: we might have indirect impact coming mostly as the result of a different area of work (stimulating entrepreneurship, empowering women, etc) but it may be hard to get right to the core for some of our issues. For example, can investing in sanitation in a slum (like Sanergy or Loowatt) address issues of personal security for women? Can investing in a women-only taxi company carrying women (like Viira Cabs in Mumbai) address security both for the worker and for the customer?  Can something like CommonPlace, a community-based data-gathering tool based in London for developers and local authorities, be used for physical community security solutions input?  There are no impact funds focused on human rights or security and justice that we could identify. We did talk about a conversation hosted by Impact for Breakfast in London, about two years ago, on whether one could do a social impact bond in a human rights context, and whether we could imagine one now.
•    Sharing not only mistakes made (and lessons learned) but also ideas and projects could be beneficial to our group of organizations. We developed some examples of projects during prep for the session which are community-based organizations now but could spawn businesses that are investable and completely aligned.
•    Donor motivations vary: some spoke about the value of moving communities from dependence on grantmakers to becoming partially or wholly independent; some spoke about using investments to further their mission with new capital and new strategies; some felt this new wave of investment is coming anyway and we have an opportunity to inform it with our unique expertise and perspective. There is a need for collaborative action with new actors from the impact investing space – otherwise new investors will come up with their own definitions of social change and human rights and run the risk not only of failure but also of adverse effects on the very problems they want to solve.
•    Alignment of donors takes time: the example of some foundations investing ‘traditionally’ and using the profits to make an impact is well known. We’re looking for a whole different trajectory: ideally we would like our foundations to align investments with grantmaking to make maximum impact, and be mindful of where we invest the bulk of our capital.
•    The transition from grants-only to combining grants with investments is a process: we need to find adequate staff, skills and advice. Some on the investment or grantmaking team may adapt and learn; sometimes it will be right to bring in new faces.
•    The investment industry is being progressively pulled towards impact investing (both with stricter rules/regulations and requests for accountability and as a new market). The role of grantmaking foundations as an interface between traditional investing and transitional impact (‘next step’ of grant funding) is hugely important if we are to achieve the impact and outcomes that we are all aiming for.

So how do we go from here?

We agreed that bringing the unique knowledge of this community to impact investing is a real opportunity. Echoing a theme from a later session, we should be thinking about how to be at the table whether we are initiating impact investments or not, to represent the frame of social change and human rights in the strategy of new investors.

This community needs space and time to learn, and needs to take some risks. Given the objectives and the likely costs, the creation of thematic funder collaboratives could be of real value – to mitigate risk, to capture best thinking, to share the costs of R&D and start-up, and to put more capital to work than any individual funder might be ready for at the start. It would be helpful to do workshops where we engage in thought exercises around new products or investment opportunities, in safe places and in a safe environment. Grantmakers may at times be the most knowledgeable about potential impacts – unintended negative impacts as well as intended positive impacts – and could therefore play a valuable role for other impact investors.

There are many places for us to play roles as grantmakers to help grow the capacity and the ecosystem to move this forward, whether or not we are ready to invest.

Stay tuned, and let us know if you are a grantmaker who would like to collaborate with us.

Suzanne Biegel is a senior adviser at ClearlySo in the UK.
Erica ten Broeke is a ‎Partnership Development Manager Security & Justice at Cordaid in the Netherlands.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

A new issue of Alliance magazine is out now!

Alliance Magazine - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 08:00

March 2014 issue

This issue has a focus on ‘Grantmaking for social change.’

With grantmaking increasingly dismissed as a serious strategy for achieving social change in favour of more fashionable approaches such as venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy and most recently catalytic philanthropy, it’s time to bring grantmaking in from the cold, argue guest editors Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson.

The special feature includes articles from Africa, Brazil and Turkey showing how vital grantmaking is where philanthropy and civil society are emerging, and a piece from Helena Monteiro on why grantmaking matters to WINGS. A series of short articles showcases successful grants from countries as diverse as the USA, Ireland, Sri Lanka and Namibia.

The special feature also includes Andrew Kingman considering ‘catalytic philanthropy’ in action in Mozambique and a write-up of an Alliance webinar in which participants discussed the role of grantmaking and other approaches in achieving social change. Context is everything, concludes Phil Buchanan, reflecting on the various contributions.

Also in the March issue of Alliance: Gerry Salole and Bradford Smith look back at three years of working together on the GrantCraft partnership, now ending; opinion pieces on foundation transparency and accountability; articles on the growth of collective philanthropy in Asia and the reasons for low levels of giving in Latin America; and letters in response to December’s special feature on next gen philanthropy.

Read guest editors, Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson article, ‘Bringing grantmaking in from the cold,’ for free here>

You can buy this issue for as little as £15, here>

Or subscribe to Alliance magazine for just £35, here>

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Categories: Peace and Security

Venture Philanthropy and Development

Alliance Magazine - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 03:00

Heather Grady

Venture Philanthropy in Development (90 pages, PDF), a new report from the OECD’s NetFWD, charts the directions that many foundations and individual philanthropists are taking to tackle today’s social, environmental, and economic challenges. While the term venture philanthropy has been around for almost half a century (credited in the report to John D. Rockefeller III, who said it was “the imaginative pursuit of less conventional charitable purposes”), it is seen as an emergent field, and there is little enough agreement on the term itself that the originators of the report gave scant attention to precisely defining it.

At a panel I moderated on the occasion of the report’s launch, common dimensions of venture philanthropy were easily identified: high engagement with the grantees supported within any particular portfolio; provision of non-financial as well as financial support with a targeted group of grantees (e.g., convenings); an entrepreneurial start-up approach; a blending or even blurring of the lines between grant contributions and investments for financial return; working at a systems level to influence a combination of practice, policy, markets and even public opinion; and focusing on a positive enabling environment to achieve success.

The report is based on research from which the authors conclude that those sharing in depth their venture philanthropy experiences (the Rockefeller, Lundin, Shell, and Emirates foundations) were on a transformational journey, one that was not a “from-to” path but a much more inclusive and – as I read it – meandering one. As an integrative approach, it provides new opportunities for foundations to work with their grantees differently, and also for coalitions of foundations, civil society organizations, governments, and businesses to enter differently into shared ventures, not unlike the collective impact approach.

I learned a new term when one of the main researchers, Alexandra Stubbings, told us that the approach may force foundations to do a “drain-up” review. While that sounds fairly unpleasant, philanthropic institutions do need a good shaking out now and again.

Our discussion didn’t gloss over the doubts and risks. First and foremost is the inevitable question of whether all this is simply old wine in a new bottle. Paula Johnson of Harvard’s Hauser Center reminded us that venture philanthropy has been around for a couple of decades, and what is particularly interesting now is the nexus of venture philanthropy and development. She also noted that we need to look at how grantees feel about this and be honest that part of the appeal is the interest of many (often newer) funders to roll up their sleeves.

David Crook of the STARS Foundation, which didn’t participate in the study but is an important member of NetFWD, sees the litmus test of venture philanthropy as whether it can address the most fundamental problem facing most NGOs today – a dearth of stable, unrestricted funding, which prevents them from being independent and resilient and requires them to constantly chase funds. He also wondered whether it will address, or exacerbate, the power imbalance between donors and grantees. I wondered if there wasn’t a conflating of venture philanthropy’s measurement emphasis with what is, quite simply, a broader embracing of monitoring and evaluation methods among an increasing number of foundations. Meanwhile, probably the biggest potential confusion is that venture philanthropy will be conflated with support for market-based approaches.

One finding of the study was that the agendas of foundations, official donor agencies, and governments can be starkly different, even when aims are shared. Ultimately a measure of the worth of venture philanthropy will be whether it stimulates and enhances collaboration and reduces fragmentation of effort – no small task in an environment bursting with new and often unpredictable sources of wealth and giving. Will it enable smaller foundations and NGOs to punch above their weight and bring fresh thinking and ingenuity to the table? The answers to these questions are crucial to solving many of society’s most intractable problems.

Given its nature, venture philanthropy can be likened more to taking an exciting journey than following a playbook. And, as with all emergent trends, thoughtful and engaged leadership with “ears to the ground” will determine whether it is a passing fad or an increasingly important direction for philanthropic institutions.

Heather Grady, most recently was vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and currently is serving as an advisor to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

This post first appeared on Philanthropy News Digest’s PhilanTopic blog. Philanthropy News Digest (PND) and PhilanTopic are services of the Foundation Center.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility launched by IFC and Goldman Sachs

Alliance Magazine - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 03:13

Alliance magazine

On 5 March IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women programme launched the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility. The aim is to raise $600 million, which will increase access to finance to as many as 100,000 women entrepreneurs in emerging markets. This is the first fund of this kind to be dedicated exclusively to financing women-owned small and medium businesses in developing countries. IFC will invest an initial $100 million and the Goldman Sachs Foundation will provide $32 million. IFC will manage the facility, which is expected to mobilize up to an additional $468 million from public and private investors.

An estimated $300 billion credit gap exists for women-owned enterprises, according to IFC research. A new report by Goldman Sachs, Giving Credit Where It Is Due, demonstrates the impact increasing female access to capital can have on per capita income, particularly in developing and emerging markets.

To read the full press releases, click here>

New Oxfam fund for women

Also announced on 8 March, Oxfam has launched a new fund to promote women’s rights in the Arab Spring countries. The Innovation Fund offers small grants to emerging and new women’s organizations in Tunisia, Yemen, Palestine and Morocco. Grantees will be able to access awards of and in-kind support of up to $35,000. The fund is part of the AMAL (‘Hope’ in Arabic) programme.
Applications for the Oxfam Amal Innovation Fund will be open until 15 April. Apply using the form below, forms should be returned to

To read more about this new fund, click here>

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Categories: Peace and Security

Divided Cyprus: Coming to Terms on an Imperfect Reality

To avoid another failed effort at federal reunification in the new round of Cyprus negotiations, all sides should break old taboos and discuss all possible options, including independence for Turkish Cypriots within the European Union.

DFID and UK foundations: let’s keep in touch

Alliance Magazine - Thu, 03/13/2014 - 03:00

Caroline Hartnell

M-KOPA Solar, a small start-up company based in Nairobi, Kenya, helps low-income consumers in off-grid communities access what would normally be prohibitively expensive energy products such as solar home systems. Repayments are made in small increments by mobile phone, on a pay-per-use basis. Most own their systems outright within a year.

Shell Foundation has supported M-KOPA since 2009, providing grant funding and technical assistance to help them develop their technology, refine their business model and build capacity. In 2011 the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) made a grant to Shell Foundation to enable them to extend their support for M-KOPA. Finding the partnership with Shell Foundation worked well, DFID has now given them another £2 million to support M-KOPA to develop a new range of products and services and a further £2 million to fund other innovations.

M-KOPA is a good example of how public funding can be used to seed innovation and unlock private markets – an area of emerging interest for DFID. In the three years since its launch, the company has sold 50,000 solar home systems. Last week it secured $20 million funding, including $10 million commercial debt, to expand its customer base to 1 million homes by 2018.

How can these partnerships work? DFID wants to give direct support to enterprises in its target countries but doesn’t have the capacity to do the due diligence and build the relationships. Shell Foundation can identify innovators, build strong, trusting relationships with partners and provide business expertise to support them to scale, but has limited funding. So DFID builds on Shell Foundation’s due diligence and experience – a win-win all round.

A meeting held at the Baring Foundation in London on 26 February aimed to build relationships between DFID and private foundations and to encourage information exchange. Myles Wickstead, chair of Baring’s International Development Committee, recounted how, when he was at DFID, there was lots of contact with NGOs but foundations were not really part of the picture. In the last five years or so, Gates and other wealthy philanthropists are actually making a difference to the aid figures. DFID now has a ‘strong, structured relationship’ with Gates and some other large foundations and works with other smaller foundations on a practical level. ‘Most foundations wouldn’t want a comprehensive relationship with DFID,’ said  Anthony Smith, director of DFID’s International Relations Department. ‘If a foundation has interests/issues, they can come and talk to DFID. If a foundation and DFID have common goals, they need to think if it’s worth trying to work together and see if there are synergies.’

In future, he said, partnership will be a prerequisite for everything DFID does – with the private sector, NGOs, other governments, and foundations. ‘Foundations are part of a network of development finance that we need to understand better and incentivize effectively so they address key development needs.’

Their financial resources apart, DFID is interested in partnering with foundations largely because they can complement the work of DFID. For example, foundations can often reach marginalized populations and local entrepreneurs, as in the Shell Foundation example. DFID and foundations also have different areas of expertise. The basic message seems to be that DFID and foundations should keep in touch, know what each other are doing, and work together if the opportunity is there.

Not that it’s always that straightforward. I went to the breakout group on economic development, which is one of DFID’S key priorities, and economic growth is a core part of that agenda: no country has significantly reduced poverty without sustained growth, said Adrian Stone, head of DFID’s Investment Climate team within their policy division. Many NGOs and foundations are, understandably, wary of the growth agenda: in the UK economic growth has gone hand in hand with growing inequality. Trickle-down is totally discredited. How do we know growth will be inclusive? DFID is not just interested in growth rates, Stone insisted, but in economic transformation, sustainable growth that includes the poorest. There is also disquiet about working with multinationals, the question of ‘who benefits?’ always there. NGOs are more comfortable working with SMEs, and talk about creating livelihoods rather than economic growth.

There are some concrete examples of successful partnerships between DFID and foundations but clearly room to develop more. In addition to the work in Kenya, DFID is working with Shell Foundation to spur the SME sector in Jordan. It is partnering with the Omidyar Network in establishing a new source of finance for innovation, with Omidyar bringing their investment expertise to help them understand how to work with entrepreneurs and assess investment opportunities. DIFD is also partnering with the Gatsby Trust in East Africa, taking a market systems approach in certain sectors, such as cotton and tea, where productivity gains have the potential to lift large numbers of poor farmers out of poverty.

Stone stressed more general areas for cooperation: the need to build the evidence base around impact – to ensure that when things get better for business they also get better for the poor – and to share knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Corporate foundations can also play a valuable role in making the case publicly for a greater focus on economic development and greater engagement with the business community – in an environment where many campaigning NGOs are highly critical of corporates.

One thing that became clear from our breakout group was that foundations working in the same area are often not aware of what each other are doing. This lack of transparency means there is no way of knowing what’s working and what’s not. As Shell Foundation’s Richard Gomes put it, foundations have ready access to risk tolerant capital to spur innovation and DFID could play a great role in scaling this up – but how does anyone know what the most effective solutions are?

So what was the overall assessment of the event? Most thought that it had been a good ‘getting to know you’ event, appreciated by DFID and the foundations. Any future event should move beyond sharing information and be more practical, said Richard Graham of Comic Relief. There is a huge need for leverage, for co-funding, he said. Could there be some structured mechanism by which foundations can look for other funders, or do they just need to go out and look in each case? Could foundations be categorized according to their interests, to help DIFID?

So should the next meeting be more targeted and focused? While a very open meeting has advantages – some people commented that they appreciated the opportunity to meet with a wide range of actors – there is a limit to how many open meetings there can be. In any case, the meeting was a helpful stocktake for DFID to assess how and when to work with foundations, and there did seem to be an appetite for further meetings, especially if held under the hospitable auspices of the Baring Foundation.

If you are a foundation and would like to contact DFID please email

Caroline Hartnell, is editor of Alliance magazine.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Lessons from a transatlantic partnership: what’s collaboration really like?

Alliance Magazine - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 03:00

Brad Smith

GrantCraft is embarking on a new chapter. After three years of being a collaborative project of the Foundation Center in New York and the European Foundation Centre in Brussels, GrantCraft will continue to grow as a global resource managed solely by the Foundation Center beginning 1 April. The European Foundation Centre has decided to focus its resources on face-to-face learning programmes specifically targeted to their members, and it was mutually agreed that GrantCraft integrates seamlessly into the Foundation Center’s efforts to empower donors with knowledge tools.

Gerry Salole

There is a lot of talk about collaboration in the philanthropy sector, but what is the experience really like? In their joint article in the just-published March issue of Alliance, ‘Lessons from a transatlantic partnership’, Foundation Center president Brad Smith and European Foundation Centre CEO Gerry Salole take an honest look at this three-year cross-continental collaboration, now coming to end.

Read the article here>

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security

Venture philanthropy and social investment: could banks be doing more?

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 10:03

Alliance magazine

Yes, says Leonora Buckland, author of a new report from the European Venture Philanthropy Association, Social Impact Strategies for Banks: Venture Philanthropy and Social Investment, launched today. ‘Banks could certainly do more – this report will hopefully catalyse greater activity in this space as a practical roadmap starts to emerge as to how a broader section of the banking sector can get involved.’

The report, written with the support of the London Business School, provides the first comprehensive guide as to how European banks are currently active in venture philanthropy, social investment and impact investment.

The main findings are that banks have the skills and resources to play a defining role in the future scaling of venture philanthropy and social investment, and that social investment increasingly offers banks a promising new investment opportunity. However, due to the substantial challenges and barriers to banks operating in this relatively immature sector, social investment initiatives have been largely fragmented and small-scale, with only €260 million committed to date by the European banks surveyed in the report.

The report includes in-depth case studies from a selected group of pioneers in a variety of European countries (Bank Degroof, Belgium; Banque de Luxembourg, Luxembourg; Deutsche Bank, UK; BBVA, Spain; BNP Paribas Wealth Management, France; JP Morgan Social Finance, UK; Erste Bank/Foundation, Austria; Triodos Bank, Holland; UBS Wealth Management, Switzerland).

To read the full press release, click here>

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Categories: Peace and Security

More than 4 billion are without insurance: why it matters and what donors can do about it

Alliance Magazine - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 03:00

Craig Churchill

Microinsurance, the microfinance family’s less glamorous and less understood new arrival, is urgently needed to protect the poor and reduce poverty. It allows farmers in Kenya to keep their livestock even when drought hits. It allows women in Guatemala to access cancer tests and treatment for the first time. It allows microentrepreneurs in Haiti to get their businesses running again immediately after a hurricane or an earthquake.

First the good news: about 500 million low-income people earning less than $2 a day had access to insurance products in developing and emerging countries in 2012, up from 78 million in 2007. Often the missing piece in the financial inclusion puzzle, microinsurance protects low-income people against health, life, funeral and agriculture risks.

Alice Merry

Evidence increasingly shows that it protects them financially and helps break the cycle of poverty. Microinsurance can be a viable business model and is increasingly attracting the attention of local and multinational insurance companies.

The bad news: billions of poor households still don’t have access to good value insurance products, with devastating effects. Microinsurance is available on a significant scale only in a handful of countries like India, the Philippines, South Africa and Mexico. Glaring geographic disparities in coverage persist. In many developing countries the insurance industry does not have the know-how and tools to serve this market effectively.

A microinsurance client receives a health check-up in Bangladesh

Foundations, companies and individual donors might think that building microinsurance markets for the poor is best left to bilateral agencies. We beg to differ. We believe that private donors can make a tangible difference with targeted interventions.

After six years of working closely with insurers and other public and private insurance stakeholders worldwide, we know how to significantly increase the access to microinsurance globally and at a large scale. In this blog, we would like to share a few concrete examples of how private donors can be catalysts in accelerating insurance markets for the poor.

Market development: convening stakeholders
All insurance stakeholders – including regulators, multinational reinsurers, brokers, NGOs and cooperatives – have to work together to make insurance markets work for the poor. Bringing together stakeholders in countries like Indonesia, Nigeria and Senegal, which have high potential for microinsurance market development, is crucially important at this juncture.

Take Zambia, for example. In 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Capital Development Fund and FinMark Trust convened industry representatives, potential distribution channels, consumer advocates and donors to discuss the findings of a diagnostic study and create a roadmap to promote microinsurance in Zambia. This included training and workshops for insurers and distribution channels, changes to insurance regulations, and financial education campaigns. The result: the industry has launched five new microinsurance products that now protect 220,000 people.

Product development: understanding what clients want
Low-income populations are an important growth market for national and international insurers. But reaching low-income clients can be difficult. It requires rethinking traditional marketing approaches and going back to square one with an open mind. Not an easy task. Insurers that strive to be microinsurers need tools and support, otherwise reaching low-income clients will remain too risky and too low a priority for a very long time.

Here is an example from South Africa that worked. At first, Old Mutual’s retail funeral product called ‘Pay When You Can’ was too complex and sales were disappointing. A client value analysis using the ILO’s PACE (Product, Access, Cost and Experience) assessment tool helped Old Mutual simplify the product and meet client needs. More insurance practitioners need access to PACE and other tools so that they can experiment and enhance the value they offer low-income clients.

Peer learning: putting good practices on a plane
Over the past couple of years we started experimenting with peer learning among microinsurance industry pioneers. In 2013, the Microinsurance Innovation Facility went one step further. We piloted an exchange of microinsurance practitioners from La Positiva in Peru and Old Mutual in South Africa. The results were encouraging. They jointly developed solutions to cope with challenges they face serving low-income rural populations. Enhanced knowledge management and capacity building will allow organizations from geographies as diverse as South Africa and Peru to learn from one another, accelerating the development of these markets.

These are just a few examples to demonstrate that targeted interventions can make a big difference, driving the growth of microinsurance markets to protect the poor. Microinsurance matters, and donors and foundations can play an important role in ensuring it reaches scale.

Craig Churchill is team leader and Alice Merry is knowledge officer at the ILO’s Microinsurance Innovation Facility.

Established in 2008 thanks to an initial grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the ILO’s Microinsurance Innovation Facility aims to increase the quantity and improve the quality of insurance for the working poor.

Latest from Alliance is the blog of Alliance, the leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide. Subscribe to Alliance magazine here.

Categories: Peace and Security