The Global Philanthropy Forum, a community of nearly 1,800 donors and social investors, has held its 2013 conference in the middle of April in San Francisco. The event focused on debating ongoing issues like hunger, disease, joblessness and slavery, and how the digital revolution allows philanthropy to target its interventions with greater precision and innovate more than ever.
This year’s focus was very much on Asia and Africa, and hearing the experiences of philanthropists in regions facing the most dramatic problems of humanity was inspiring and mind-opening. Corruption is still an important issue that hinders some of the work done in Africa, so working on governance and empowerment in the region seems urgent. In Asia one can encounter contemporary solutions such as impact investing side by side with old issues such as slavery/human trafficking and food security. In the panel session about Latin America, the role that business and social investors can play in advancing inclusive development in the region was interestingly debated, emphasizing how human capital is both more relevant and more scarce than financial capital.
Unfortunately, there was also bad news during the three-day forum. The news about the bombing during the Boston marathon filled the room with astonishment and sadness. It felt like a paradox to be part of a crowd that was discussing so vigorously how to improve the world while such an event demonstrates how some individuals work hard to go in the opposite direction.
Jane Wales, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council & Global Philanthropy Forum, plays a key role in running the forum; she has a great ability to approach worldwide issues in a very engaging way. One of the most interesting themes discussed during the forum was the growing earnings gap between those with access to education and those without. Jane interviewing Salman Khan from the Khan Academy is worth taking a look – it is incredible how one single person can impact societies around the world. Another surprising moment of the event was Peter Buffett’s engaging presentation combining music and image. And the speech by Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, celebrating 100 years of the Rockefeller Foundation was as inspiring as it could be. The foundation is a remarkable example of how an organization can address the emerging challenges facing humankind through supporting innovative thinkers and actors to move them from idea to impact.
It was a great opportunity to meet great people doing great work, review mindsets, refresh energy to try innovative approaches in our own countries and renew our commitment to strategic philanthropy. From this experience I suggest always checking if there is something in other countries that can help you developing your own work. In this connected world, philanthropy can be global and local at the same time, can’t it?
Paula Jancso Fabiani is executive director of IDIS (Institute for the Development of Social Investment) in Brazil, a member of CAF Global Alliance. This article is part of a series by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) written by the members of its Global Alliance.