The Arab Foundations Forum (AFF) organized its 2012 annual meeting in Cairo, Egypt from 16 to 18 September to explore ways of maximizing philanthropic resources in times of change and austerity.
Around 170 delegates, including various AFF members as well as distinguished guests, convened during three days to flesh out the various aspects of philanthropy in the region and ways to encourage good practices in this field.
The sessions covered a variety of interrelated topics. In the first session, ‘catalytic philanthropy’ was discussed as a means of maximizing the impact of philanthropic investments. Delegates reflected how development actors have to move beyond the conventional rhetoric about their needs and activities by adopting highly innovative, experimental and sometimes risky ways of addressing old problems with new solutions.
As youth empowerment and employment remains one of the main challenges facing the Arab region today, philanthropic investments and programmes in the region are learning the need to be sustainable and scalable and have flexible design and execution to cater to different local needs. While the delegates discussed this, they also had to address the multidimensional challenges as well as ways to broaden the range of stakeholders engaged in efforts to empower youth and increase employability.
After finding out how foundations can better measure the difference they are making, attendees were then introduced to the basic elements of the Rights Based Approach and its applications to development. This was followed by a discussion about the challenges pertaining to the adoption of the Rights Based Approach in the Arab region.
The second day started with a conversation with community philanthropy and asset-based practitioners from the Arab region about practices and values that would enhance the impact and profile of foundations’ work both at the community level and among official development aid agencies.
This was followed by a review of the different advocacy tools that are available to Arab philanthropists to engage strategically with policymakers, with a focus on the enabling legal landscape and the development of civil society laws that comply with international standards.
The question whether the ultimate impact of services and development projects is to alter social, economic and political equalities remains a relevant one in a context where poverty, exclusion and discrimination – just to name a few – still prevail. A session organized in conjunction with the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice presented examples from Africa and the Arab region that suggest new ways to frame the nature of foundations’ work and thus increase the effectiveness of scarce philanthropic resources.
During the last session, Resource Alliance provided a comprehensive overview of effective fundraising and communication techniques to enhance strategic grantmaking for long-term sustainable development in the Arab region.
On the third day, Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) and AFF convened a workshop on ‘improving the accountability of international philanthropy’. The workshop brought together philanthropic leaders from the WINGS network in Africa and the Arab region to review and strengthen the existing principles document and craft strategies to make the document come alive in daily practice in the Arab and African regions and organizations.
Recognizing the impact of working together, sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices, the AFF succeeded in bringing to the table valuable inputs from the region and abroad to help its members fulfill their missions in times of change and austerity, with the aims of maximizing the benefits of philanthropy and achieving greater better social justice in the Arab region.
Dr Elie Abouaoun is executive director of the Arab Human Rights Fund and an AFF member
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