Philanthropy for a safe, healthy, and just world: New report explores peacebuilding and philanthropy


Catriona Gourlay


In 2019, Candid and Centris, with support from PeaceNexus Foundation, conducted a survey, Philanthropy for a Safe, Healthy, and Just World. The results, based on 823 civil society organization responses, reveal philanthropists can do better to support global peacebuilding efforts. Catriona Gourlay, Executive Director at PeaceNexus Foundation, reflects on the survey.

The idea for this research originated from a shared frustration: why aren’t more philanthropic actors investing in peacebuilding when they are uniquely positioned to do so? As the authors of this study suggest, philanthropy possesses three essential qualities to play a unique role in conflict – a moral compass, financial resources, and patience. The potential of philanthropy to amplify impact and leverage other sources of funding also resonates with our operational experience.

PeaceNexus Foundation provides organisational development and capacity-building support for partners working to strengthen social cohesion, social justice, and conflict resolution in conflict-affected contexts. We have seen firsthand that while many of our partners receive the majority of their funding from public sources, flexible, private sources of funding are critical to their independence and ability to lead influential initiatives with strong community support. And yet philanthropic funding remains scarce. As we know from data compiled by the Peace and Security Funders Group and Candid, less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding goes toward peace and security, and even less is specifically focused on peacebuilding.

In 2019, we partnered with Candid and CENTRIS to better understand the reasons behind this low figure through a survey. An unprecedented number of organisations – over 800 – responded and the preliminary findings were presented in Alliance magazine’s June 2019 issue, dedicated to peacebuilding. The breadth and depth of the data warranted more thorough analysis. This report delves deeper into the data and provides important insights into funding patterns and motivations of philanthropists.

The research confirms some concerns of donors in relation to funding peace-related work, such as the fear of being seen as political. It also confirms that funders of peacebuilding are strongly values-driven and have a mandate to work in places that have experienced violent conflict. Better understanding of what motivates funders to support— or not support—peace can help organisations advocate more effectively for their work to reduce violence and strengthen social cohesion.

Although the research was conducted in 2019 before the current global pandemic, its findings are also relevant for funders and practitioners working to build back better. The pandemic has deepened social and political divisions and the dire economic consequences will undoubtedly increase both social unrest and competition for philanthropic funding across the globe. In this context, we all need to explore how a greater proportion of grantmaking also contributes to social resilience.

This survey is therefore an invitation for dialogue with all philanthropists and practitioners that share a commitment to furthering respect for individual rights, pluralism, and building just and resilient societies that are the foundation for peace. While only a few of us will want to embrace the label of peacebuilding, many more may see it as an urgent priority to support work that strengthens social solidarity and social cohesion in this time of unprecedented need and suffering.

Catriona Gourlay is Executive Director at PeaceNexus Foundation.

To download and read the report, visit here. To read Alliance’s June 2019 issue on peacebuilding and philanthropy, click here.

Tagged in: Next Philanthropy

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