The International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) 9th international conference in Istanbul in July was a rich experience for those of us who aspire to understand and strengthen philanthropy’s potential to advance equitable economic growth and social justice. It showcased some of the world’s most accomplished and thoughtful researchers and scholars in civil society and philanthropy.
At sessions throughout the conference, colleagues presented new research and new thinking on philanthropy. Prominent themes included:
A widespread belief that philanthropy has an increasingly important role to play around the globe. Papers from Africa, the Arab region, Asia and Europe demonstrated the rapidly expanding interest in and practice of philanthropy. Persistent poverty, chronic underdevelopment, and economic and social inequities compel more and more individuals to take private action. Happily, such action is facilitated by widespread political reform, increasingly favourable policy environments, and the growing diversity of philanthropic giving models and strategies.
A recognition of the formidable challenges faced by philanthropy and civil society. Despite the optimism, longstanding obstacles founded in political constraints, societal expectations and cultural norms are combining with new challenges posed by the global economic and financial crisis and concerns regarding global security and terrorist activities. In many countries, legal and political controls continue to limit philanthropy and civil society largely to charitable work and service delivery.