How to be effective and responsive to communities?

Chandrika Sahai

The December issue of Alliance focused on the topic of community philanthropy and the concept of ‘durable development’ – shifting power closer to the ground and giving agency to local people and their organizations. Here, Chandrika Sahai responds to Susan Wilkinson Maposa’s article ‘Data needed…and more besides’.

Susan Wilkinson Maposa’s article is very timely and provides a practical tool for funders to align their strategies with systemic change. At a time when we are witnessing the further alienation of marginalized communities all over the world and the rise of intolerance, assessment of the nature that Susan offers – a ‘horizontality gauge’ – helps philanthropy understand what it can do differently to effectively support vulnerable communities.

There are three points emerging from Susan’s article that those in the field can take up immediately in order to be more effective:

1) Use the ‘horizontality gauge’ to understand and name the forces that affect foundation behaviour. This tool helps to bring the often intangible but in my view the most important aspects of social change – ie community resources and leadership – from the footnotes to the main conversation.

2) Use the data produced through this method to self-reflect and alter foundation practice in meaningful ways, to ensure our behaviour is empowering community philanthropy organizations and communities and not diminishing what power and agency that already exist with communities.

3) Create spaces for an honest conversation about the opposite pulls of donor compliance and community needs and come up with ‘optimal accountability processes and practical action’ for the field.

Chandrika Sahai
Coordinator, Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace

On the same topic of community philanthropy: ‘Impact of new approaches needs to be demonstrated’ by Anna Wansbrough-Jones, ‘Strengthening the bonds of civil society’ by Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen, USAID must reform to truly support a community philanthropy model’ by Aisha Mansour, Measuring small-scale contributions to the SDGs’ by Dana Doan, SDGs must be part of community philanthropy agenda’ by Carola Carazzone

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