Meet the philennials

Alliance magazine

A dedicated group of philanthropy practitioners born in the same year as Alliance was launched share their hopes for a better world

An anniversary issue of Alliance magazine would not be complete without hearing the views of a younger generation of philanthropy practitioners – in their own words. In the run-up to this issue to mark our 25th anniversary, we asked a dedicated group of practitioners born in 1996 to express their hopes for the next 25 years.

Alliance asked them to reflect on three questions: 

      • What changes do you most want to see in the world?
      • Can philanthropy help bring about these changes?
      • Does philanthropy need to change to make this happen?

While we were initially unsure about how many people born in 1996 actually worked in philanthropy, we were surprised and encouraged by the significant global response, and are delighted to share a selection here.

What this group of young people want to see includes a big emphasis on climate change as well as attention to its many different aspects and ramifications such as its effect on inequality and impact on women and girls. Many articulate a strong belief in philanthropy’s potential, though with a healthy dose of scepticism about its roots in capitalism, and call for more systemic changes to our global political economy.

When it comes to the changes needed to philanthropy itself, our 25-year-olds were in no doubt: philanthropy needs to be far more participatory and inclusive.

We hope you enjoy the following contributions.

Change the system…

Mitra Dastbaz, fellow, Oak Foundation’s International Human Rights Programme
The parallel threats posed by an ongoing pandemic and shrinking of civic space have underscored the urgency of sweeping systemic change. Piecemeal progress has proven insufficient to stem the tide of rising inequality across the world. These challenges require us to be more daring in our strategies, our alliances and our ambitions. Siloed approaches must be abandoned. The UK government’s rapid response ‘Everyone In’ initiative to accommodate people sleeping rough during the pandemic highlighted what can be achieved with vocal campaigning and political will.

But while philanthropy can act as a plaster over an inequitable system, it cannot fundamentally correct it. Philanthropy is predicated on the accumulation of capital, and capitalism cannot solve what it has caused itself. However, philanthropy grants us a unique opportunity to funnel the resources at our disposal to those on the peripheries who lack the same access or wealth. Judicious and collaborative funding can substantially affect the work of our grantees, enabling them to accomplish remarkable successes in their respective fields.

Covid-19 has catalysed monumental global upheaval, and philanthropy has largely risen to the occasion. The roll-out of streamlined rapid-response funds has crucially fortified our grantees at a time of immense socio-economic strain. Once the dust settles, we must renew our commitment to core, flexible and long-term funding. Beyond that, we should proactively leverage our social capital to broker meaningful connections for grantees, utilising donor collaboratives to find and plug underfunded areas. We must be willing to engage in deep and uncomfortable introspection, to be critical of the system in which we operate, prepared to expose its structural inequalities and, ultimately, offer a compelling and transformative vision in its place.

…and design a new one

Bella Wiggs, director, Wiggs Family Foundation and co-chair, New Gen Network at Philanthropy Australia
I want to see a hard reset in our psyche so that human-made systems support people and planet, by design. If our economy doesn’t exist for the sake of ensuring access to our needs – food, healthcare, education, employment and a habitable climate – then for what purpose does it exist?

If philanthropy doesn’t bring about such a systemic shift, I’m not sure what will. Philanthropy is more interested and, pertinently, more trusted, than business or government. Philanthropy exists to de-risk investments that pay returns to the greater good.

There are issues to be overcome within our own field of practice for this to happen. I think the two biggest changes in Australia are around inclusivity and specificity; inclusivity regarding who can be a philanthropist and specificity concerning what is an issue for philanthropy. Aussies have a strange culture of giving – something too often reserved for the ‘uber’ wealthy. Other cultures not only set the bar much lower, but have the idea of ‘giving back’ steeped deeper. Many Australians have the capacity to give, but don’t see it as their moral or civic obligation because some others are better off. In other cultures, it is because someone is always worse off that you see a generosity of spirit across the income spectrum.

As for the issues which philanthropy has to tackle, the obvious one for me is climate. When I’m 50, I hope the 2.5 per cent of Australian giving that currently flows there has increased in proportion with its status as the biggest problem of all time.

Act together, grow together

Marcella Maksoud, co-founder Projeto Com Junto, Brazil
It is time to change the system and the way it functions, being able to understand the power of empathy in every process. For this to happen, philanthropy needs to be redefined as an open door of transformation for every single person who wants to participate in this movement.

We must forget about the stereotype that philanthropy is only fit for those who own fortunes, and think of it as something that needs to be democratised, taught and motivated. All of us have the duty to act with kindness towards humanity, and the best part is that it may be done in infinite ways. There is no correct amount, no better way and no right cause. Whether it’s your time, your knowledge, your gesture, your money; the genuine intention to help those in need is what really matters.

The understanding that no one is better than anyone is revolutionary; we are all the same, with the opportunity of being protagonists in this movement. We can´t and shouldn’t leave anyone behind.

Get more political

Hanna Hanses, project officer, Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (Dafne)
I would like to see swift and collective action on climate change, migration and social exclusion.

There is also the new arms race to address. It is crazy that military expenditure increased 75 per cent over the past 20 years and now stands at around $1.7 trillion annually. World leaders should get their priorities right and invest in making our societies fairer, more just and more inclusive. We should also draw lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic: we must strengthen resilience and especially our health and social systems. We must invest more in digitalisation, both at the workplace and in schools and universities. There is a lot of work to do to enhance people’s participation in democratic decision-making and combat conspiracy theories.

Philanthropy can help bring about these changes. Philanthropy is a force for good that covers so many sectors. It connects people with causes that are close to their heart, it stimulates businesses to think beyond profit, and it helps policymakers to see beyond the next elections and adopt a long-term vision.

Philanthropy should dare to be more political. Philanthropy is sometimes too timid in its advocacy, perhaps because we fear a public backlash when engaging in politics. Philanthropy can reach its full potential when we act across sectors and across borders, engaging people on issues that are important to them, such as climate change, economic inequalities, erosion of trust in institutions and human rights. Politics is where change happens!

Take an intersectional lens

Oishika Ray, youth adviser, Blagrave Trust
I was not in education, employment, or training after graduating from university because I’d been diagnosed with ADHD and dyspraxia but, since then, I’ve been working with the Blagrave Trust as an adviser helping youth charities respond to Covid.

In brief, I’d like to see greater attention paid to intersectionality in society’s approach to running itself.

I also think change is needed in funding organisations. To understand intersectionality, I think there needs to be radical change in the power dynamics within philanthropy, and greater diversity in the people who are running both charities and philanthropic organisations. Unless you have an intersectional lens on a problem, organisations can think, wrongly, that they are being inclusive and diverse. Sometimes, with the kind of people who are running the show, it’s not even seen as a problem.

I think philanthropy has a role to play, both in influencing more intersectional approaches and funding them, but it also needs to transform itself before it can do that.

Tough times lie ahead

Alexandre Gonçalves, communications analyst, Institute for the Development of Social Investment (IDIS), Brazil
Despite being an underdeveloped country, Brazil in the 2000s was a promising country. In a matter of years, this scenario has switched and now we are facing tens of thousands of deaths due to Covid-19, high unemployment rates and millions hungry. A virus that could have been avoided if we had preserved our wildlife is a warning sign. Scientists who warn of the effects of climate change have been ignored (and still are) and now we can see one of the consequences.

We now have the opportunity to focus on structural changes to our lives. In the last year, we have seen examples of great ways to engage government, companies, social organisations and people. Philanthropy can support those changes. It can help by providing people with a voice, empowering local communities to maintain their activities and providing a safe space for civil society to fight against inequalities. Of course, these things can only happen if there is trust. So philanthropists could identify strategic partners and, with trust, help them build a better organisation, a better country, a better continent and a healthy and just planet. It is not up to others, it is up you, me and all of us.

Make streets at night safe for women

Emily Allen, fundraising executive, UK think tank and consultancy New Philanthropy Capital
There is one change I would like to see unequivocally over the next 25 years – I want to see women around the world able, totally safely, to walk alone at night. Growing up in London, I had it drummed into me from a young age to stay alert whilst walking home late, sticking to well-lit and busy main roads, yet sadly, one only has to look at the tragic abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in March to see that attacks on women on the street continue to remain a very real problem.

The goal of removing all obstacles women face requires large-scale, yet low-level, behavioural changes – and this is where philanthropy makes a crucial difference. Charitable donations can fund films or documentaries which explain the complex message of women’s safety on the streets in a narrative that people understand. They can also enable the funding of projects which make streets safer for women, such as Plan International’s ‘Safer Cities for Girls’ programme which funds initiatives in cities including better street lighting and more CCTV.

It may take 25 years, or 25 years more, but I believe that women’s safety on the streets at night is a change that, with long-term philanthropic support, the future will get to see.

A more equitable world

Joanna Pienkowska, policy officer, Association of Charitable Foundations
The common thread running through my long wishlist for the year 2046 is that of a more equitable world. I want us to be further along in creating a global system that is respectful of its people and planet, with each person’s basic needs met and rights respected. Admittedly, I am not an optimist – especially with Covid having exacerbated existing inequities and precipitated attacks on human rights, and the climate crisis promising more of the same.

Yet philanthropy can help bring about the necessary changes to make the world more equitable. I and the independence to take risks in addressing them. But it has some uncomfortable existential questions to face. Equity will require a change in the status quo and the rapid shifting of power and resources. It will require acknowledgement of the harmful origins of wealth accumulation, and the oppressive structures that philanthropy has internalised. It will call on philanthropy to face the paradox of its mission of social good and simultaneous connection to elitism, exploitation and extraction.

There is some encouraging and innovative practice in the sector. Consideration is being given to core, longer-term and unrestricted funding which more sustainably supports causes and communities. This funding should not be exclusively financial – philanthropy ought to use its convening power, voice, reputation, and its investments to create positive change. I would also like philanthropy to become more comfortable with taking risks and funding social movements and imaginative work led by marginalised communities, recognising the solutions that exist in more local knowledge. The scale and urgency of change requires philanthropy to look to participatory funding models that help shift power foster greater collaboration within and beyond the sector.

Gender parity in education, now

Lucy Hart, development associate, The Athena Advisors
The change I want to see is meaningful progress towards gender parity in primary education. At present, only 66 per cent of countries worldwide have such parity, according to Unicef. But progress has been made. Since the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, just one year before Alliance was founded, 180 million more girls have enrolled in primary and secondary education. Now the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening to reverse this progress.

Philanthropy can make a difference and be a catalyst for meaningful change. Yet, donations to women and girls’ organisations represents a minute amount of philanthropic giving – just 1.6 per cent in the US, according to The Women and Girls Index.

Feminist philanthropy encourages individuals and corporations to think more deeply not about who they donate to, but why they’re donating. By adopting a feminist lens, philanthropy might look towards the margins, at smaller, grassroots organisations in the Global South. In Alliance’s December 2019 special feature ‘Philanthropy is a Feminist Issue’, Ise Bosch and Ndana Bofu-Tawamba echoed Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, writing: ‘Feminist philanthropy is not a charitable act or an act of power. It is an act of solidarity and mutual empowerment’. This is the philanthropy to carry forward into the next 25 years: one of solidarity and mutual empowerment.

Climate prescription is vital for survival

Rakia Korgho, Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC), Burkina Faso
There is one paramount question for our generation: climate change. It’s a phenomenon that can destroy the world of tomorrow. Over the next 25 years, the changes that I want to see are:

– the massive involvement of women in the struggle against climate change
– a great shift in human behaviour towards eco-responsibility
– the enacting of laws and adoption of green policies
– better education on environmental matters for children and young people

Philanthropy can help to bring about these changes by taking actions that support, sensitise and give voice to marginalised groups, whose participation is key to success. They can support and campaign for better education and improved welfare. They can help them institutionalise green actions such as reuse and recycling in everyday life. Finally, they can help maximise the adoption of renewable energy and the construction of bio-climatic housing.

Diversify to prosper

McQuillin Murphy, programme administrator, office of the vice president for Development & Alumni Relations, Penn State University
When I think about the world I want to live in 25 years from now, there are three major issues I hope we will have significantly addressed by then, all of which are intertwined: climate change, the threats to democratic norms and values of the past decade, and the ongoing discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender and more.

To work with and for the next generation, the sector needs to continue to diversify, elevating disadvantaged groups and, particularly when looking to the future, young people. We cannot wait 25 years to formally involve my generation in the philanthropic sector. Paid internships, youth grantmaking committees, and philanthropy curricula will be key in building a pipeline of current and future philanthropists to support and work in this sector, but so will directorships and employment. Foundations in particular are uniquely positioned to make investments in the future; the voices of the future must be present to inform those decisions.

Likewise, a greater diversity of voices, those of all stakeholders of civil society, need to be present, included and welcomed. Much has been said about young people’s lack of trust in institutions; that concern will doom philanthropy’s best efforts unless mission-based organisations build trust and transparency with the next generation by bringing all their constituents into positions to inform, advise and make decisions.

Ultimately, I am an optimist. I think philanthropy has an opportunity to take an exciting, innovative and leading role in transforming the world of 2021 into a more sustainable, more equal, and freer 2046.

A conduit for change

Ebru Saka, graduate of Esas Sosyal’s First Chance programme promoting inclusive employment for recent graduates in Turkey
Giving structure to the process of giving is what we call philanthropy. Turkey has very strong philanthropic roots. Since the Ottoman period, this tradition has been institutionalised in today’s civil society organisations (CSOs). As a 25-year-old currently working in a civil society organisation, I am in the middle of that giving process.

Philanthropy attracts all kinds of donors and volunteers including the business sector. Over the next 25 years, I think that private companies will be more engaged with our sector, and cooperation with stakeholders will expand all over the world. I hope that in 25 years everybody knows our sector and is involved in philanthropic activities. At the moment, in Turkey, people generally prefer to help the people around them directly. I think that when they begin to donate to CSOs, the impact of those organisations will increase and this perception will change.

Take a look at our food systems

Joé Oberweis, Oberweis family business, Luxembourg
What I wish is that people start to value food again and understand where the products are coming from.

Cheap, high quality and preferably fair and environmentally friendly products are demanded but, especially when it comes to meat and fish, over-consumption leads to mass production and overfishing, both resulting in the destruction of our environment. Our oceans are dying, and large farms emit a lot of carbon dioxide. Today, meat or fish is often on the menu several times a day. I hope that consumption will be reduced.

Philanthropy has been used to justify consumption through labels like BIO for meat consumption or Marine Stewardship Council for overfishing. Consuming without feeling bad is the current motto, which is why these labels are so successful. Other labels such as Fairtrade seem to represent sustainable and fair products. I am sure that, in the beginning, such labels certainly had the idealistic objective of improving the world. The bottom line is that these labels have earned negative press over the past few years. Organisations that were originally founded for a good cause ended up becoming money machines. In my opinion, it is precisely this problem that needs to be solved. The system needs to change in the future but so does individual behaviour. If consumption remains at the same level, then over-consumption will also remain, the oceans will still be overfished and meat will be farmed excessively. I want philanthropy to raise awareness that each individual counts and can help in making the change.

Bring altruism to the fore

Nii Noi Kofi Omaboe, youth leader, Climate & Sustainable Development, Ghana
I want to see climate action from an altruistic standpoint, where the pursuit of climate justice is not just as an environmental issue but a social issue that requires moral responsibility.

Philanthropy can support grassroots activists who are selflessly leading community action in the face of the climate crisis. The global philanthropy community can mobilise financial resources to support innovative youth-led climate solutions that put people and planet at the centre. Climate change presents multidimensional risks which all have a direct relationship on the traditional focus areas of philanthropic foundations, like health, hunger and poverty. There is a need to make climate philanthropy central to the work of all philanthropy. Philanthropy groups invested in unclean energy need urgently to divest from them.

As corruption in climate finance is rife in many parts of our world, and given the lack of transparency and accountability of successive governments in poor countries in managing climate finance, philanthropy must channel financial resources towards community-based adaptation and finance efforts supporting local NGOs and local community-led initiatives rather than governmental efforts.

Learn to be more proactive

Valeria Bortă, intern, European Foundation Centre (EFC)
Climate change has reached critical levels, all while politicians have been organising a multitude of climate meetings and setting goals that are never met. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how fragile our health system is and that something needs to change to avoid future pandemics. Human rights are still violated in many places around the world, affecting girls and women disproportionately, and access to justice is still limited for too many people. These issues need to be urgently addressed to bring about change and improve our world.

Philanthropy should be at the heart of solving these issues. It has had outstanding success in tackling similar issues in the past, such as the eradication of polio in Africa. To do so, philanthropy needs to become more proactive and demand a seat at the decision-making table. When fighting polio in Africa, the philanthropy sector, including actors such as Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, worked closely with international organisations and governments. This level of cooperation between the philanthropy sector and the global decision-makers, and this level of proactivity from the philanthropic sector is what’s needed to tackle pressing issues.

A duty to protect

Kishor Chandra Bala, organiser, Dhrubotara Youth Development Foundation (DYDF), Bangladesh
The rate of population growth in the world is constantly increasing, so agricultural land is diminishing to make way for housing. As a result, the production of carbon is increasing at the same rate as humanity and its products, while the oxygen levels in the forests are declining and harmful chemical fertilisers have to be used on a dwindling stock of agricultural land to meet the demands of this rapidly growing population.

So we need to act now – don’t just stick to textbooks, seminars and roundtables – to protect the environment. All the countries of the world must simultaneously take strict steps to protect agricultural lands, endangered species and create new forests. Protecting the environment is not just a movement, it is a duty. In the next 25 years, I would like to see a green world where every street is lined with trees and every country will proudly say 40 per cent of its land area is forest.

Since not all countries are equal in terms of population and production, industry and technology, the developed and richest countries have a moral obligation to help the least developed and developing countries. Every wealthy individual should contribute to human welfare by providing financial support to organisations working for humankind.

Intimations of a better world

Ivy Njeru, deputy national coordinator, AYICC, Kenya
I would like to see a world where people spend natural resources sustainably, where poverty is reduced or even non-existent. I want to see a world where we can coexist with each other, a world where we can roam without being questioned, or fear for our lives, where we can still socialise with each other and not rely on technology.

As an environmentalist, I dream of a world where there is clean air and water, forest cover, and affordable, clean and reliable energy, where we don’t have to compete over resources to fuel our livelihoods. A world, too, where we take the environment seriously, for some of the challenges we face are due to lack of knowledge. The future I want has good healthcare and well-being for all ages, gender equality and food security.

Philanthropy can help bring about these changes as it is all about promoting human welfare to help create a better world.

Gen Z’ at the ready

Clémentine Colson, cheffe de projet, Philanthropia at Hopening Groupe
In the future, taking into account global environmental and social issues by changing our consumption habits will be required to ensure a decent life for the next generations. Crucial topics regarding gender equality that were and sometimes are still considered taboo have begun to be addressed recently, but we should deepen these initiatives in order to foster a more egalitarian and tolerant environment towards women in both private and public spheres.

This evolution certainly goes hand in hand with a collective commitment to helping people in need. Many structures such as Care have chosen to act cross-functionally on these themes in order to generate more impact in the long run. Philanthropy can be used to leverage initiatives at a local level. Many projects like Génération Climat supported by the Fondation Nicolas Hulot pour la Nature et l’Homme, are emerging. Funding through a foundation allows long-term development and enables these projects to be scaled up. Moreover, employees want to make an impact within society and to find meaning in their work and companies have started involving them in cross-functional projects.

This trend must be encouraged in order to engage more and more the stakeholders of our society. Unfortunately, philanthropy is still seen as a practice that is limited to an elite. Scandals have also called into question philanthropic practice and how it should become an integral part of the democratic system by becoming more transparent about funding sources and destinations.

Furthermore, ‘Gen Z’ is at the forefront of major changes in our society. It is a generation full of creativity and will to change our society. They must take part in the evolution of philanthropy so that it is more attuned to current societal issues. It has now become a ‘must’ to involve them when defining major fundraising players’ strategies.

Time to mobilise

Isabela Lima Curvo, Intern, IDIS
Over the next 25 years, I would like to see global development being considerate of topics that we are still only starting to invest in such as the sustainable use of technology, visible progress on the human rights agenda, a focus on climate action and social evolution in matters of equity and equality.

Philanthropy, as the private investment arm of action, can  considerably influence change by mobilising resources in support of strategic plans to achieve objectives the government usually has lots of difficulty reaching. Also, it can influence not only the government by making a call to action, but also other bilateral and multilateral international organisations to follow their lead in creating social impact.

But while pushing specific agendas, it is important to be mindful of the territories’ and populations’ actual needs. If philanthropists continue to use their power and influence to achieve changes that are primarily relevant to their business or individual goals, the agenda becomes their model of change, not a cooperation from and to everyone. As a result, we’ll never find a sustainable solution to tackle big problems such as world hunger or endemic diseases, since just providing food for those in need and vaccines is not enough. Philanthropy needs to reinforce and work towards global sustainable development. It’s not about the help one wants to give, it’s about assistance for the vulnerable.

Space for social good to thrive

Tucker Rush, manager, Member Engagement & Analytics, Council on Foundations
As a young professional working in philanthropy, I would love to see more people incorporating their passions for social good into all aspects of their everyday life. I think when people are fuelling their genuine passions and able to apply lifetime experience to the working world, there is more opportunity for compassion, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

Philanthropy is a unique space that empowers people to share their lived experiences to benefit their organisation, those they partner with, and the communities they serve. I believe that philanthropy can help a diverse group of people and experiences come together for the greater good.

Through more opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing across philanthropy spaces, I think the fight for the social good can be strengthened. It is truly heart-warming to see how helpful, active and free flowing online peer communities are among philanthropy professionals. Spaces like these also create great opportunities for feedback loops to address problems and discuss solutions. Different organisations supporting one another and harnessing their strengths creates opportunity for collaboration, allowing more efforts for social good to thrive.

People need a voice

Isadora Pagy, project analyst, IDIS
I would like to see a world that is more equal and just, where people are not treated differently because of their appearance, race, sexuality or gender. I would like to see a world where young people have a voice about their future and about the decisions that affect it, and where changes to the climate are taken seriously. And where the future is not something that we fear, but something that we hope for.

Philanthropy has an essential role in making these changes happen, by investing wisely in projects, programmes and organisations that work towards this future, and by influencing decision-makers to make sure that we are walking in the right direction.

In order for philanthropy to play this role, we need to make it even more analytical and to prioritise emergency issues, but also (and most importantly) have structural change as a goal.

Alliance magazine wishes to thank the 25-year-olds from around the world for their insights, and dreams of a better world.

Featured image: embroiderizer/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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