I am at Jo’burg airport on my way back to Italy. I leave South Africa after the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy with a warm, energizing feeling of belonging. There is a global community of passionate professionals who are practicing community philanthropy and that for the first time ever had the chance to meet and purposely did it in the Global South.
The Summit was absolutely enriching and inspiring. For two full days the Summit explored deeply into the core of all issues: how to spur and sustain transformational change, how to shift the power which is too far away from the people.
Is the grant-makers and grant seekers relationship aiming at maintain the status quo or at spurring social change? Is it providing charity or promoting justice? Is it tackling the root causes or merely alleviating the consequences and eventually perpetuating patterns of discrimination and inequality? Are we willing and ready to shift the power?
370 delegates from Community Philanthropy from 60 different countries were vocal and bold in saying the power, the decision making, the ownership and resourcing have to be local.
This is a radical claim in front of the mainstream approach of a development aid industry and mainstream philanthropy that in our same days was at the High Level Meeting on effective development cooperation (Nairobi 28 November – 1 December 2016) and, out of the 25 billion dollars a year of official development assistance (ODA), in 2016 has given to local civil society organizations less than 2 per cent.
But the key idea is that community philanthropy organizations are essential players for the SDGs agenda everywhere, in the so called ‘developed countries’ as well in the ‘developing’ ones.
Community foundations have increased 75 per cent in the last 25 years and they are different in origin, background, mission. Community philanthropy is, by nature, a field highly context-specific and this is a plus and a richness.
In the today changing landscape of civil society space and donor funding, community philanthropy is a critical part of the process to strengthen the capabilities of communities to make claims, to boost their sense of agency. Community philanthropy is a powerful strategy to break down the divide between donors and the so called “beneficiaries” towards an idea of co-investment where different actors bring different strengths and needs to the table; a strategy to people-led local development and a concrete way to achieve mutual accountability, local ownership and at the end sustainability.
Community philanthropy is local and context specific but we do need a global movement to make the case for it, to engage mainstream philanthropy to invest in community foundations.
Philanthropy infrastructure organizations are key in this process and we need strong philanthropy infrastructure organizations at national, regional and global level to make community philanthropy more informed, connected, and vocal.
Carola Carazzone is secretary general of Assifero, the national association of Italian grantmaking foundations.