Foundations keen to collaborate on SDGs

Barry Knight

We are at a pivotal moment in the history of the relationship between philanthropy and official development assistance. The key question is: will foundations take part in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? To find out, Alliance and Centris collaborated on a survey.

Based on past history, expectations should be low. Rarely has there been a meeting of minds between foundations and development agencies. The history has been chequered, with Barry Gaberman, former senior vice president of the Ford Foundation, once describing the two sectors as ‘ships that pass in the night’. Given the replacement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will it be different this time?

There are positive signs. The development of the SDG Philanthropy Platform means that foundations are more organized than in the past. has been set up to enable funders to engage in the global development process. The result is that there is more of a ‘buzz’ about the SDGs than ever there was about the MDGs.

Yet there is scepticism in some circles. According to CIVICUS, some of its members say the acronym ‘SDGs’ stands for ‘Seriously Distracting Gimmicks’. In the March 2015 issue of Alliance, Kevin Watkins suggested that the philanthropic community had been ‘conspicuously absent’ from the debate about SDGs because the process was ‘boring’ and the ‘shopping list’ of 17 goals and 169 targets signified absence of an underlying strategy[1].

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