WINGSForum 2014, held in Istanbul 27-29 March, was a great event to connect and reconnect people and to bring together information that is relevant to maximize the effectiveness of grantmaking. Its title, aptly, was ‘The Power of Networks: Building Connected Global Philanthropy’. In this positive environment representatives from 42 countries shared similarities and differences to potentially enhance philanthropy around the world.
‘It has never been easier and cheaper to establish networks,’ said Danny Sriskandarajah from CIVICUS. But how we nurture a network and keep it alive and useful and how we measure its effectiveness are key challenges. WINGSForum intensely pursued the proposed role of ‘building connected global philanthropy’ highlighted in the Forum subtitle. Debates focused on the importance of data, the legal environment and the role of associations. 40% of the participants (there were interesting instant surveys during the Forum) declared that the legal environment poses restrictions to the development of philanthropy in their country.
Brad Smith from the Foundation Center (US) made a creative comparison between foundations and vampires: ‘without data they cannot see themselves in the mirror.’ However, funding data collection is still a difficult task since most philanthropic organizations do not have funds for this; grantmaking goes to causes like education, health, etc.
In fact, data can help funders see the value of infrastructure. WINGS presented an interesting report, Infrastructure in Focus: A global picture of organizations serving philanthropy, which is worth taking a look at. The report maps the benefits of infrastructure, calling them the 4 Cs: connection, capability, capacity and credit.
Sector trends were broadly discussed, and points made included:
• Innovation will come from emerging economies.
• Philanthropy should work to mitigate the negative effects of globalization.
• The new generation of HNWIs focus on making money allied with social impact.
• The increasing complexity of social problems.
• The importance of responsiveness of grantmaking to civil society to promote social change.
• The role and potential of technology.
The concurrent sessions, thematic lunch tables and breakfast sessions resulted from a selection from over 50 sessions proposed by WINGS members. The post-2015 UN agenda and the Sustainable Millennium Goals (SMG) were mentioned in more than one session, reinforcing the debate about inclusion of philanthropic organizations around this theme. New concepts like Philanthropication thru Privatization (PtP) and old but relevant topics like strategies for collaborating with development stakeholders, cross-border grantmaking and talent management also enlightened participants, among many others. Grantmaker associations and support organizations, which represent 32% of those attending the Forum, gathered to debate best practices, sharing of information and data needs.
I would like to highlight two memorable events on the agenda: the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize, which went to He Daofeng from the China Foundation Center, putting China on the philanthropic map as an important player; and the humorous and thoughtful trial of associations. The trial was really bold and presented with an insightful mindset the role of associations for the future. Associations were considered not guilty regardless of the good job made by the prosecution, represented by Christopher Harris, a well-known personality in the sector. And a nice picture of the participants, a crowd of philanthropy activists, was taken at the end of the Forum. It is also worth looking at it – you will certainly find someone you know!
Paula Jansco Fabiani, is the executive director of IDIS – Institute for the Development of Social Investment – in Brazil.