The first day of the Council on Foundations’ Fall Conference for Community Foundations started as many other conferences I have attended. Polite greetings to familiar faces and the true joy of meeting friends from other countries.
But I think the unique feature of this conference is that it is celebrating a double achievement: US community foundations are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Foundation. Community foundations in the US have achieved a long and productive existence; as announced today, they are among the most successful fundraisers in the country.
But another celebration is also taking place. It is the celebration of the international movement of community foundations, which is finally getting robust and recognizing itself as a field within community philanthropy. There are at least 75 international participants at this conference, representing community foundations from countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, Romania, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, UK, South Africa, Ireland, Hungary, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The amazing thing is that when this diverse group of people got together, invited by the Global Fund for Community Foundations for an informal session, we found common challenges and the collective will to work to build the field of community philanthropy from another perspective.
Building the international field of community philanthropy means more than simply copying the model of community foundations from the US.
As proposed today, it should be a product of co-creation by diverse organizations, working in different contexts, but which share the commitment to build assets, to strengthen local organizations, and to build trust in the communities where they operate.
As reminded by Ambassador Joseph in the opening plenary this morning, community foundations have the potential to generate multiple forms of capital: social, moral, intellectual and reputational. Examples where these forms of capital are being generated come from organizations operating in different countries.
It seems that we will have a lot more to celebrate in the coming years, as the concept of community foundations is cherished for its long existence and for its ability to reinvent itself through multiple experiences around the globe.
Lucia Dellagnelo is founder and chair of the board of ICom-Brazil.