CoF – What role for philanthropy in global development?

Representatives from 16 countries and 6 continents joined the Council on Foundations at the 2014 Philanthropy Exchange conference in Washington, DC, to tackle some of the most pressing issues confronting the field today – notably the role of philanthropy in a rapidly shifting landscape of global development.

The conference opened with the Annual Global Philanthropy Dinner, at which Dr Lester Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, spoke about the ‘revolution in social purpose finance’. As he discusses in his new book, Leverage for Good: An introduction to the new frontiers of philanthropy and social investing, socially minded enterprises are increasingly using new forms of finance. Salamon showed how foundational tools, such as grantmaking and community engagement, can complement the new instruments, strategies, and technologies being used to raise capital in the non-profit market.

During the conference, attendees looked at the role of philanthropy in the post-2015 agenda. In front of a standing-room only audience, speakers considered how foundations can both engage in the process and use their comparative advantages. As Ed Cain, vice-president for programs at the Conrad N Hilton Foundation (and one of several funders leading this initiative) put it, ‘We are doing what philanthropy does best – being an agitator.’

Other sessions explored the State Department’s role in exploring global public–philanthropic partnerships and talent management for global philanthropy in the 21st century, which, attendees agreed, has a vital role to play across borders and around the world. Brad Smith, president of the Foundation Center, put it best: ‘We are part of a global growth industry; there is a tremendous proliferation of philanthropy around the world.’

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