The Emerging Societies – Emerging Philanthropies International Forum in Peterhof, Russia brought together around 60 representatives from 14 emerging countries in which philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and impact investments are developing rapidly: Belarus, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam. This event is probably the first worldwide event that gathered under the same roof so many leading actors of philanthropic strategies and social projects in these different emerging regions. In addition there were representatives from five developed economies (Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, UK and US).
During the multiple roundtables that took place it became evident that philanthropy is at very different stages of development in each of the countries represented. Chinese philanthropy is a very recent phenomenon and one that faces significant challenges, including tacit and explicit opposition by the Chinese authorities. Russian philanthropy is more developed but still in its infant stages compared to countries in Latin America such as Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. However, rapid progress is happening in China, Russia and India, given the size of these economies and the rate of wealth creation that, ultimately, promotes social investing and philanthropy.
A most important result of this event was the realization by many of the participants that emerging countries have much more in common in issues related to philanthropy, CSR and impact investment than with more advanced countries like the United States. American experience with philanthropy and CSR will continue to be an important role model but it is time for emerging countries to work more closely together and exchange ideas and lessons learned. Through this interchange, emerging economies can advance philanthropy in its various manifestations more rapidly and better adjust its strategies and implementation to their own realities.
An example of common challenges is the fact that in Russia, China, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia entities focused on promoting private philanthropy have been created in recent years. Some examples are IDIS in Brazil, Filantropia Transformadora in Colombia, the South African Institute for Advancement, the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV) and the Chinese Foundation Center. All of these initiatives surfaced independently, without a common nexus, and yet these entities face very similar challenges and opportunities.
It became evident as the event progressed that a network of philanthropy practitioners from emerging market countries is required and could represent a significant contribution to advancing philanthropy and social investing in those countries. Next year’s WINGS Forum in Istanbul was mentioned as an event where some of the participants can meet again and continue the conversation, with the hope that another Emerging Philanthropies Forum will be organized in some other emerging country in the next couple of years.
While a willingness to meet regularly, exchange information and collaborate became evident at the Peterhof meeting, it remains a challenge how these meetings will take place, how the exchange of information will develop and how these meetings can be funded going forward. Each of the actors present has a full agenda, given the challenges faced in each country. Nonetheless, we need to make a collective effort to meet and share what we are learning day-to-day in each of our countries. Let us hope we can succeed at this.
Luis G Gallo is general director of Banco de Inversion Social, Colombia.