Alliance asked a group of association leaders from different parts of the world to respond to Steve Gunderson’s interview and the idea of holding an all-embracing Philanthropy Summit. This is what they said.
Gerry Salole European Foundation Centre
“I see CoF’s forthcoming Summit in Washington as a pivotal moment in the relationship between US and international philanthropy.”
Steve Gunderson has successfully fought for an inclusive, diverse and truly international view of philanthropy from the outset of his tenure at the Council on Foundations. This approach is most evident in the Council’s ambitious annual conference which he is spearheading this year, and which is bound to raise philanthropy’s role and potential in pressing global issues.
I see CoF’s forthcoming Summit in Washington as a pivotal moment in the relationship between US and international philanthropy. Such an event is long overdue and augurs well for the future of global philanthropy. In the US and Europe alike, I believe we are finally beginning to focus less on superficial differences of ‘form’ that may exist between us, and are now concentrating more on what we have in common and what our combined and complementary roles might be. This change of attitude should equally be reflected in how we forge partnerships and alliances among ourselves but also with the public and private sectors. Steve’s vision of an international protocol of philanthropy is inspired, and I believe both US and European foundations and trusts will now be obliged to ensure that the public and governments better understand what foundations are, how they are governed, and where their competitive advantages lie. By raising philanthropy’s profile, Steve is helping to launch a new era which I am confident will deliver great changes in many people’s lives. I look forward to the global summit and its outcome.
Gerry Salole is Chief Executive of the EFC. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fernando Rossetti GIFE, Brazil
“If this tendency also affects philanthropy, collaboration might not be a very useful strategy. And civil society diversity might be in danger: which voices will survive all these changes?”
There seems to be a worldwide trend relating philanthropy and globalization. Besides the Council on Foundations’ Summit, at least two other leading grantmaker association conferences have similar themes this year: Community Foundations of Canada, with Our Communities. Our World (7-9 November, Montreal), and GIFE’s 5th Congress on Private Social Investment in Brazil, on Local Experiences, Global Transformations (2-4 April, Salvador, Bahia).This apparent coincidence shows that the new world economy, besides affecting businesses, has also been setting the agenda for governments and civil society organizations. The size of the state, shared responsibility for public policies, the role of businesses and NGOs in building sustainable societies – these have become global issues that are experienced locally, by our communities.
The new perspective is that, to be effective, the actions needed to reshape the world must be global in scale but also take communities into account. You could make the opposite statement to the one made in the 1990s: think local, act global. Or maybe better: be local and global.
Steve Gunderson is right: many major social and environmental challenges today, such as climate change or even youth employment, are transnational issues, and philanthropy, as a strategic field for social intervention and transformation, should acquire this new perspective. Considering the concentrated forms of wealth generated by the global economy, and the need corporations have to differentiate themselves in the world marketplace, global philanthropy is apparently set for a special momentum.
The worrying side of this is that the global arena tends to be highly competitive. In most industries there is a push towards consolidation, through mergers and acquisitions. If this tendency also affects philanthropy, collaboration might not be a very useful strategy. And civil society diversity could be in danger: which voices will survive all these changes?
Fernando Rossetti is Secretary General of GIFE. Email email@example.comMonica Patten Community Foundations of Canada
“These are important moments to break through our complacency and our belief that the context in which we are working is so different from others that it is ‘unique’.”
The world is in desperate need of spaces where people can connect, share experiences and ideas, and simply be together. For those of us working in philanthropy, this space exists thanks to the work of associations that bring an international focus to their work. This focus is young and developing, and must continue to be nurtured – though there are worrying signs that the interest in international networks and connections is waning. Gatherings that bring people from around the world together shine the light on the value and potential of global networks and conversations, especially given that much of philanthropy’s current urgent focus, including the environment, poverty, immigration, and civil society’s role in communities and countries, knows no borders.
But space to connect is not enough. It has to be filled with rich and thoughtful content that gives conversation meaning; opportunity to truly hear others; safety to challenge ideas, debate perspectives and develop collaborative strategies; passion to deepen our commitment to philanthropy and enthusiasm for action. And it’s a two-way street. Those of us who attend these connecting gatherings will need to set aside preconceived notions and beliefs as best we can so that we can fully benefit from the opportunity we have been given. Speakers and presenters at global meetings, informal and formal networking times, and inspirational stories of what is possible, are designed to encourage all of us to make good use of the space.
We know so little about each other, and sometimes we’re content to let that be. The Council’s Philanthropy Summit and other international meetings like the EFC’s annual conference and Community Foundations of Canada’s conference for community foundations around the world are important moments to break through our complacency and our belief that the context in which we are working is so different from others that it is ‘unique’, and that we have little to learn from and with each other. I for one am grateful for that.
Monica Patten is President of CFC. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Mutuku East Africa Association of Grantmakers
“Stability is critical if we are to become an effective part of a movement, not only greater than ourselves but one that is capable of promoting the common good around the world.”
I’d like to take up Steve Gunderson’s point about the need for leadership. Philanthropy cannot afford to be a passive raiser of money from the wealthy sections of society to ‘merely provide donor services’ – a euphemism for doing what the rich want. Whether we appreciate it or not, poverty is a luxury the rich cannot afford. Philanthropy is therefore part of the development agenda, with major leadership and capacity-building challenges. One of these is building institutions: without them, giving remains largely informal with inadequate transparency and accountability, and we are therefore unable to build public trust. The sector further needs to promote a commitment to ethics and standards of excellence for it to grow.
Steve also mentions that America is not very good at partnerships. I think the whole sector internationally needs to look at this, and not just internally. Partnership-building with the private sector and the broader civil society is a challenge for local and international resource mobilization, but necessary for building social capital, promoting social justice and human rights, and addressing systemic/structural problems that lead to problems such as Kenya is facing today.
I agree with his citing the need to promote social justice. But, for us, there is a parallel question of stability. We need to build local institutional/community capacity capable of mobilizing development resources for poverty eradication, human rights, and equitable distribution of resources in order to promote both social justice and our long-term stability.
Stability is critical if we are to become an effective part of a movement, not only greater than ourselves but one that is capable of promoting the common good around the world.
Monica Mutuku is Secretary of EAAG. Email email@example.com
Atallah Kuttab Arab Foundations Forum
“If the discussions are not carefully structured, they will be heavily focused on US interests, which will have a negative effect on people attending from outside the US.”
The Council on Foundations’ effort to transform its annual meeting to make it more international and to discuss such an important topic as building a common purpose for philanthropy worldwide is a great idea. Of course this is not the first time that philanthropists from across the globe have met, but it is hoped that the upcoming CoF meeting will bring a large number of US organizations that are not normally represented internationally together with others from across the globe.
COF’s plan is ambitious for two reasons. First, there is a reluctance in my region (Arab countries, and specifically the Middle East) to take its values from the US. People are cynical about the US drive to bring democracy to the Middle East when in fact the few countries that have adopted ‘democratic’ values are breaking down (Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq are examples). People are saying, we do not want this ‘democracy’. Second, the fact that the meeting is in the US means there will be heavy attendance from US-based organizations. If the discussions are not carefully structured, they will be heavily focused on US interests, which will have a negative effect on people attending from outside the US.
Steve says that the meeting will focus on leadership, partnership and impact for the greater good, but ‘good’ can have many meanings, and what the US Government sees as ‘good’ often differs in its interpretation from that of the people in our region!
I acknowledge that US philanthropists aren’t the US Government, but US foundations have failed to push back sufficiently against the draconian regulations imposed on international philanthropy under the guise of fighting terror. Not only have philanthropists in the US become more reluctant to get engaged in international efforts but the budding philanthropy movement in the Middle East also fears getting on the US Government’s ‘terrorist’ list. We see many philanthropists funding western-based NGOs instead of local ones because it seems safer.
While I am against regulation (we should not give governments more space to abuse 9/11), I am very much in favour of building agreement on a code of practice, as Steve suggests, in areas such as good governance, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness. Associations like CoF or the Arab Foundations Forum (http://www.arabfound.org) should push their members to meet certain standards on a voluntary basis, with the clear benefit of being more transparent and hence accountable to their constituencies and supposed beneficiaries and therefore staying ahead of possible government attempts to curb philanthropic giving.
Atallah Kuttab is founder of the Arab Foundations Forum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rory Tolentino Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium
“I am not sure that his next statement, that every element of American philanthropy is committed to global social justice issues, is accurate. I am not sure that this is true in any part of the world.”
I enjoyed reading the interview with Steve Gunderson. I particularly liked the perspective he brings to the Summit, that we are all part of a global economy, and because of this there are global philanthropic issues that should be discussed at an international conference such as this.
I also liked the theme of a vision (or visions) for philanthropy in the 21st century, and putting to the fore the issue of leadership and partnership with different sectors. I very much liked Steve’s admission that none of us – including Americans – fully understand the most effective way for philanthropy to work in other parts of the world.
I am not sure, however, that his next statement, that every element of American philanthropy is committed to global social justice issues, is accurate. I am not sure that this is true in any part of the world. I think that philanthropy, by its very definition – private giving for public purposes – is motivated by a desire to help, but a commitment to social justice means actively analysing the causes of injustice and inequity and seeking to address them. I am not sure the philanthropic sector does this all the time.
I hope that the Philanthropy Summit does provide space for reflection on the nature, causes and consequences of injustice, whether domestic or global, so that, individually and collectively, we can think about what we can do to mitigate and address these issues as a sector.
Rory Tolentino is Executive Director of APPC. Email email@example.com