What we can learn from crisis response around the world


Alliance magazine


How is global philanthropy working to respond and build resilience to crises in their regions?

The war in Ukraine, economic instability and a sudden increase in the cost of living, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, restriction of reproductive rights: the list of global crises seems as if it is getting larger and larger.

Philanthropy has always worked to respond to crisis, but how is it approaching the question of building resilience to crisis? Alliance magazine is focusing on crisis, response, and resilience over the next three months as part of our December issue special feature.

We reached out to colleagues around the world to ask:

  • What is impacting your region and your community, and how are you responding to it?
  • How are you approaching this response? What is the impact of your response on the community?
  • Is building resilience a part of your crisis response work? What does that look like?

Their answers are collected below.

Working on a Just Energy Transition in Africa

Saliem Fakir, Executive Director at African Climate Foundation
South Africa

The African Climate Foundation has focused primarily on energy transitions since it started in 2020. Our key work was to develop an ecosystem on the Just Energy Transition (JET), as well as JETs which have led to the evolution of a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP).

This partnership involved aligning the energy transitions to a new climate ambition, which South Africa submitted in 2021 before COP26 in Glasgow. Here, South Africa and the international partners group, (involving the US, the UK, France, Germany, and the EU) announced an $8.5 billion deal. This deal has now led to an investment plan, which will be announced at COP27 in Egypt and sets out South Africa’s vision and plan for clean electrification, hydrogen, and electric vehicles for the next 25 years or so. The $8.5 billion deal is a catalytic deal, involving cheaper sources of climate finance and is aimed at fast-tracking South Africa’s transition to clean energy and the phasing down of coal.

This particular investment from the ACF has enabled South Africa to receive the right climate finance support. It is also the model that is starting to be replicated across other parts of the continent (particularly in Senegal, Nigeria, and Egypt) as well as outside of Africa (such as Indonesia and Vietnam) that are also looking at the JETP model to turn their NDC goals into concrete investment plans. This idea evolved out of the contribution of the ACF and has increased contributions from other philanthropies looking at such models.

Furthermore, we are interested in developing work in agriculture and want to look at investments in adaptation, resilience, and urban transitions.

The Foundation is growing from strength to strength. It is now operating in several countries including Senegal, Nigeria, and Egypt. Our grants reach about 23 African countries, and we are slowly building extensive support for the development of the hydrogen economy in Namibia. 

We are in an exciting phase of our growth and believe our work ensures three elements. The first is that it must be transformative. Secondly, that transformation should be inclusive and just. And thirdly that communities vulnerable to climate change or are subject to the polluting effects of coal plants, are given the necessary support and awareness. 

We are keen to ensure that we promote climate with the understanding that it needs to have development outcomes and consistently make the point that economic and community resilience is a sure way to ensure climate transmits.

In Ukraine, third-sector work is unprecedented in pace, capacity, and speed

Eugenia Mazurenko, CEO of the Zagoriy Foundation

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine has left millions of people and animals in need of urgent help. Needless to say, the third sector faced new challenges, starting with the complexity of organizing work processes under constant shelling and ending with a larger-than-ever necessity for cooperation with international partners, which was new for many. In my opinion, the work that the third sector has been doing in Ukraine is truly unprecedented in pace, capacity and speed of adaptation and growth.

We try to teach it to others, so that in case of sudden new challenges and crises, the sector has the potential to continue our work.

As part of our response plan, we started by deciding on our priorities, which are supporting the third sector through the provision of grants and expanding the possibilities for learning and development. To strengthen our resources, we turned to international partners and for the first time in our existence attracted external funding thanks to our new partners Fondation de France, Choose Love, and Global Giving.

By making a decision to grow our circle of supporters, we expanded our partner network, which enabled us to hold 3 grant competitions and support 33 grant projects. Zagoriy Foundation also conducted an online training on increasing organizations’ capacity for 200+ participants and is already preparing for the next launch.

We stay true to our mission and continue to support local organizations whose work supports the existence of civil society. We continue to boost our resilience and stability through the development of internal processes and the formation of the core. And we try to teach it to others so that in case of sudden new challenges and crises, the sector has the potential to continue our work.

A boost to collaboration in Chile

Magdalena Aninat, Founding Director of the Centre for Philanthropy and Social Investments at Adolfo Ibáñez University’s School of Government

In the last three years, Chile has faced a series of events that have hit the labour market, education, mental health, among other aspects of people’s well-being, especially the most vulnerable. Prior to the pandemic, the country experienced a social crisis at the end of 2019 that led to a process of constitutional discussion and a change of government from right to left wing. Political uncertainty and the effects of the post-pandemic economic crisis have aggravated the challenges in housing, education, security, among other matters.

As often happens in periods of catastrophe, philanthropy grew enormously in the period. Especially in 2020, the hardest year of the pandemic, donations registered by the tax agency had a historic increase of 56 per cent compared to the previous year. The pandemic made visible the important role of civil society in providing comprehensive care to the most vulnerable people. This allowed the promotion of a new law that expands the type of charitable organizations that are able to receive donations as well as the type of donors with tax incentives and the limits on the amounts donated. The bill was approved earlier this year and should come into force soon.

Three mechanisms that facilitate the resilience of the social sector were developed as an effect of the social crisis and the pandemic. First, collaboration as a practice. There was an increase in collaboration between charities and public entities and also between donors. Second, working locally, a novelty in a long and narrow country, highly centralized in Santiago, the capital. Thus, a series of initiatives have emerged with a focus on territorial development attending local realm and the model of community foundations is being promoted. And finally, new structures are emerging to put effort into achieving results instead of just amount of people covered by a program. An example of this is Bien Público, a collaborative initiative by a group of private foundations articulated with public agencies and investors to reduce gaps in education following the model of social impact bonds.

America’s democracy crisis

Gina Dalma, Executive Vice President of Community Action, Policy and Strategy,Silicon Valley Community Foundation
United States

The United States is facing a democracy crisis. According to Freedom House, our nation’s Freedom in the World score fell by 11 points between 2010 and 2020. Many of us see and feel the effects of this decline, evidenced by increased political polarization, alarming acts of extremism, and policies that disenfranchise people from using their civic voice. 

One significant contributor to this decline is the growing disparities in economic opportunity and political power. At Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), it’s our mission to address these disparities in our region. To this end, SVCF makes targeted investments in two areas that are vital to achieving civic participation that results in systemic change: movement-building and power-building. 

SVCF’s movement-building grants support organizations that are working to achieve systemic change on issues of racial and economic justice. We define power-building as a range of activities from grassroots organizing to advocating for policy change. These grants support efforts to increase connections, capacity, and community-led action. 

A community with strong connections, support and trust is more resilient to things like misinformation and partisan divisions and can bring the community together to strengthen civic engagement.

We’ve shifted our practices so that nearly two-thirds of our funding goes to movement- and power-building, up from about one-third in 2019.

Our LatinXCEL Fund and Movement- and Power-Building Fund intentionally give unrestricted funds to nonprofits that are led by, organize and serve people of colour, build coalitions and advocate for public policy changes. Along with 20 other funders, we co-founded the California Black Freedom Fund, a five-year, $100 million state-wide initiative to ensure that Black power-building and movement-based organizations in California have the sustained investments and resources they need.

In 2021 alone, grants from these funds went to more than 100 different nonprofits in the Bay Area and across California, totalling more than $15 million in support, led by people of colour. 

Providing organizations like these with unrestricted funds and general operating support allows them to build resilience by creating a strong foundation in their community. A community with strong connections, support and trust is more resilient to things like misinformation and partisan divisions and can bring the community together to strengthen civic engagement. No one organization can address all of the threats to American democracy, but organizations working to build movement and power can create long-term resilience against some of the most pernicious threats and help build our democracy.

Rights-based solutions to climate-forced displacement

Mohammad Shahjahan, Deputy Director (head)-KM4D Department and Focal Point – Climate Change Issue, YPSA

YPSA (Young Power in Social Action), an organization in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN-ECOSOC) since 2013, is a voluntary nonprofit organisation for sustainable development contributing to national goals for making a difference in the lives of the population since its establishment in 1985. ‘Bangladesh suffers from regular natural hazards, including floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts. These are leading to the displacement of individuals and communities from their homes and lands. Among the 64 districts in Bangladesh, 26 coastal and mainland districts are already producing climate displacement. Therefore, Bangladesh has been facing the challenge of mass displacement; both external and internal, due to climate change as the country is not yet adequately prepared in providing permanent rights-based solutions through the relocation of such a large number of climate-displaced people.

Environment and Climate Change is one of the themes of YPSA’s six programme themes. YPSA has been implementing different projects under the Environment and Climate Change theme since its establishment. To identify and implement rights-based solutions and actions as well as to ensure and safeguard housing, land and property rights for climate-displaced persons, YPSA took an initiative for Bangladesh Housing Land and Property (HLP) Rights of Climate Displaced People in 2012. As the Focal Point of this initiative, I lead the Initiative since the beginning, which has achieved a number of considerable successes including research and publications, and advocacy and lobbying with local, regional and national government officials on the need to respond to climate displacement in a rights-based framework.

Over this period, YPSA realised that there is a scope to pilot already identified rights-based solutions as per the need of climate-forced displaced people. Hence in the first phase, YPSA rehabilitated nine displaced families from Sandwip Island, which provided durable shelters with land titles and ensured livelihood, drinking water facilities and other necessary support for living a sustainable life in the new place through community-based planned relocation with the support of Displacement Solutions. After that YPSA starts a partnership with the CJRF for the project ‘Addressing the rights and needs of climate forced displaced people in South-Eastern Coast of Bangladesh’. To achieve the project objectives, the project formed different community teams comprising displaced people who are at the centre of implementing all planned activities including the selection of the most vulnerable people for services, to organise different community engagement events by mobilising community people and doing the campaign with different stakeholders including local level Government administration for claiming their rights and fulfilling their needs. Major achievements of the project include climate-forced displaced people having increased capacity to claim their rights and secure their livelihoods; relevant stakeholders playing a positive role in securing rights-based solutions to climate-forced displacement; climate-forced displaced people leading a better life and increased adaptive capacity due to new support received for critical needs; climate forced displaced people having shelter, water, and related facilities in a safer location through community-based planned relocation.

Upcoming issue: Crises happen: be prepared

The December 2022 issue of Alliance magazine will explore the role of philanthropy in crises and suggests that acting before the fact – rather than simply reacting – is the way ahead. The issue is guest-edited by Patty McIlreavy and Regine Webster of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Subscribe today to make sure not to miss it!

Tagged in: Crisis response and resilience

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