I’ve been to tens of global meetings and I always find them energizing – both those that inspire and rejuvenate, and those that make be so angry I can’t help but act. I think I have enough experience to say without reservation that EDGE Funders’ Global Social Change Philanthropy Conference was different from all the rest. For three intense days, funders critiqued the capitalist system from which their institutions emerged, and explored the incredibly inspiring work being done to address global inequality. Since I live and work in Palestine where hopelessness reigns, the mindfulness and intentionality of this group really struck me.
Now, at the airport on my way to return home to Palestine, I am organizing the many contacts I made into piles. I have a list of 19 people who joined a ‘dine-around’ on the topic of Palestine. A few of them fund in Palestine, and a few more of them are exploring expanding their giving to Palestine. Most were just interested in hearing what it’s like to try to do social justice work in a place plagued by long-term oppression and crippling aid dependence. I won’t be surprised if some of them visit.
I have a list of 13 participants from our workshop on ‘Local Innovations in Community Philanthropy: Lessons from Palestine, South Africa and Vietnam.’ These folks shared their ‘take away’ learning on flipcharts at the end of the workshop, which I will type up and send out. They hung around after the workshop, hugging and smiling, enthusiastic to figure out ways to value local resources through their work.
I have 24 business cards, most with notes written on them reminding me to send an article or to request more information about some fascinating innovation that I’m sure we can incorporate into our work. It will take days to follow up with them all, time very well spent.
But at the very top of the pile of folks I treasure meeting through EDGE Funders are two people I actually ‘met’ before I came. Dana Doan and Fulu Netswera were speakers on the panel I organized. I was introduced to Dana by our mutual donor, Jenny Hodgson of the Global Fund for Community Foundations. Jenny believed that Dana’s LIN Center in Vietnam had done impressive work that could help Dalia Association’s efforts to expand local private sector philanthropy. She was right. Later, when the opportunity to present a panel came up, it made sense to build on the relationship we’d started with Dana. Fulu was introduced to me by Bhekinkosi Moyo, who was introduced to me by Neville Gabriel, who I met at a Synergos Institute meeting in Namibia several years ago. Dana, Fulu and I had deep conversations about local philanthropy in preparation for our session. We co-created a format that let us focus on innovations in local philanthropy while recognizing the different contexts in which we work, and that helped us compare and contrast our experiences, leaving space for participants to share too.
It must be noted: our really useful experience at EDGE Funders was not an accident. Once again, convening and networking funded by northern donors led to opportunities for meaningful collaboration among community philanthropy folks in the global south. I must also thank the Global Fund for Women for the travel grant that enabled Saeeda Mousa, Executive Director of Dalia Association and me to take part in the EDGE Funders conference, and for enabling the planting of seeds that, with our tending, will surely blossom into good things for our communities.
Nora Lester Murad is a writer and volunteer with Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation.
First published by Global Fund for Community Foundations.