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Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy members take centre stage at launch of GrantCraft paper in Washington D.C. and New York 

Standing room only at the D.C. launch

What do the Aga Khan Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Inter-American Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and USAID have in common?

Well, for starters, they were all present at one or both of the launch events for the new GrantCraft report on How Community Philanthropy Shifts Power in Washington D.C. (in partnership the Council on Foundations) and New York (at Philanthropy New York) over the last week of April. But more than that, it their a shared interest in understanding, fostering and advocating for community philanthropy that has brought these six funders together as members of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP).

Funder interests in community philanthropy stem from a variety of places. Sometimes they emerge in response to what’s not working – whether because of the external environment, such as the shrinking space, the challenge of civil society legitimacy, the rise of populism and intolerance, or because of factors closer to home in terms of actual funder practices and behaviours (too top-down, short-term, controlling etc., none which do much to stimulate local ownership and lasting results). Other times they are part of a response to new opportunities and possibilities, such as the emergence of new local philanthropic sectors and technologies for giving in many parts of the world, or long-held institutional beliefs around power and equity, the recognition of local assets, and of the agency of communities to do things for themselves.  

Jen Bokoff, Foundation Center (R) leads the panel with AKF and IAF

Speaking at the Washington event held at OpenGov Hub, Marcy Kelley and Gabriela Boyer described the Inter-American Foundation’s Grassroots Development Framework which lies at the heart of their programming, as well as the standard requirement for local contributions as part of any grant, as an important sign of local buy-in. And local giving and a (very!) long-term view are central pillars in the work of the Aga Khan Foundation, such as in their support for the Yetu Initiative in Kenya, confirmed Megan Scanlon and Matt Reeves. Meanwhile, said David Jacobstein, speaking by video at the New York event, for USAID, community philanthropy offers both an important piece of the puzzle for those countries embarking on a journey to self-reliance (i.e. that USAID and other bilateral donors will be exiting from), but also a way for a large, often bureaucratic, funder to recognize the primacy of, and engage with, local community knowledge and structures. For Chris Cardona of the Ford Foundation, community philanthropy – in, say, the form of modest contributions – can play an important role in claiming power and agency amongst the most marginalized communities.

N.Y. panel also featured Kaberi Banerjee-Murthy, Brooklyn CF (2nd R)

The global emergence of community philanthropy – with its emphasis on asset development, the strengthening of community capacity or agency, and trust – offers a new and alluring prospect to anyone concerned about ownership and durability, a glimmer of hope and opportunity, both as an overarching idea and a set of linked-up practices. However, the field is still young, fragile, under-theorized and largely overlooked by many of the big development actors. If community philanthropy is going to realize its full potential, there is serious work to be done in terms of strengthening evidence, making the case and demonstrating impact. Although the field needs to make its own case, donors can play an important role here too.

So, with the GFCF playing the role of animator and coordinator, for the past few years the GACP has invested resources in research and convenings (including the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy, in December 2016, which marked a critical moment in the emergence of the global field). But it has been about more than money: as important as the work done by and about the field have been the discussions among GACP members themselves, the efforts to arrive at shared language and concepts (despite the significant institutional differences) and to come up with a minimum basic definition of what community philanthropy is that might appeal to donors of all kinds interested in investing in something longer-term that will continue to exist at the community level once their project is finished - have been equally important. A kind of magic or secret ingredient that can improve any kind of grantmaking dish.   

For more information about the GACP and opportunities to engage with other funders interested in community philanthropy and the larger, #ShiftThePower, debate contact the GFCF.

« Global Summit on Community Philanthropy inspires movement to #ShiftThePower | Main | GFCF grants to three new partners »

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