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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: quali opportunità per le fondazioni?

  • Pubblicato il: 19/11/2015 - 14:28
Articolo a cura di: 
Emanuela Gasca

Quali opportunità per le fondazioni? Intervistiamo a Jenny Hodgson - Director of Global Fund of Community Foundations (GFCF)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes foundations as a key driver for inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
In your experience what could be the new role of foundations in this process?

I think that philanthropy (and here I mean private foundations) and development have always struggled to understand each other and therefore to work together effectively. And so I appreciate the recent amount of attention that has been paid to this relationship, specifically in terms of the SDGs[1]. But yes, there are institutional – even cultural - barriers that sometimes need to be overcome: development funding usually comes from and so it requires a particular kind accountability back to taxpayers in the donor country, whereas private philanthropy – which can be described as private resources for public good - does not have the same kinds of restrictions: foundations are in a better position to think and plan long term, to be more flexible with their resources and perhaps to take more risks with their funding decisions.
The particular focus of my work is community foundations, a sub-category of foundations that potentially have an important role to play in the SDG process. As it is however, the whole SDG agenda can sometimes appear quite inaccessible to community level organizations working on the ground in particular contexts.
Community foundations are public or multi-stakeholder philanthropic institutions – mostly geographically based - which seek to build and grow local philanthropic resources on the one hand and which target grant and other kinds of support to local community groups and organizations. The GFCF has built up a network of around 150 organizations - community foundations, community philanthropy organizations, women’s funds – in over fifty countries around the world.
Although community foundations may be financially small – many are still young and based in the global south, in Africa and Asia etc. - they offer a very important “bridge” between and among local communities as well as between larger or external donor organizations.
It also is interesting to note that a number of these community foundations have been established as a critique of development aid, a response to what is wrong with the current system, with its big money, short-term project thinking, and use of large NGOs as development partners. All of this often results in frustration on the ground because resources often don’t reach the community level and they rarely build on existing community assets. Community foundations offer the potential for external donors both to leverage local assets and to channel resources through them to very – often overlooked - local groups.
The success of the Sustainable Development Goals won’t just be about numbers and outputs: without strong trust at the community level, between NGOs and communities and donors and communities, they won’t work!
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development suggests that the work of foundations should focus on building dynamic, sustainable, innovative and people-centred economies, promoting youth employment and women’s economic empowerment, and support the development of decent jobs for all.
How do you think Foundations are working on these issue?

The SDGs sound good in principle and there have been a lot of nicely written documents about them: in the end, however, really sustainable, locally owned development will only really happen if the SDGs are implemented hand in hand with serious investments in local civil society infrastructure and organizations.
To me one key thing that is often missing from all kinds of philanthropy and development aid, is donors’ ability and willingness to be serious about investing in local organizations. In short, I think foundations are doing ok but they could certainly do better!!
Do Foundations have a strategic role to support local participation?
«Yes, and building on what I have just said, it isn’t just about participation, but is about participation connected with power, power connected with access and access connected to resources. Participation on its own isn’t enough!»
Nowadays Foundations, in addition to the funding the provide, are considered more and more as a source  of expertise and knowledge.
In your experience, are there any examples / projects / case studies / inspiring synergies that could be considered best practices of this new role of Foundations?

I think that in the last ten years in particularly we have seen foundations explore more and more this non-funding role for themselves.  (Not all foundations, I should point out, only the good foundations).
There have been some very interesting developments in the area of data in philanthropy – collecting, sharing data and also contributing to shared data sets that help build up a picture of how much foundations are investing in what. In this regard, data can help to shape learning – both internally and collaboratively with others working in the same spaces (and it can also help to avoid duplication).
In the area of community philanthropy in particular, we are currently involved in a five-year multi-donor initiative called The Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy - GACP.  The GACP brings together six donors – including USAID and the Mott Foundation – who are ready to sit down together and share and learn in a programme research and other activities aimed at advancing the practice of community philanthropy and at influencing international development actors to better understand, support and promote community philanthropy’s role in achieving more lasting development outcomes.
This kind of multi-stakeholder collaboration is really important!
What is the role of philanthropy in building networks and support this process?
Infrastructure or membership organizations such –the European Foundation Centre,  Assifero, and the Council of Foundations in the United States are all important platforms for sharing, learning and strengthening both a collective identity and voice. Philanthropy can also ensure that this kind of infrastructure is developed in developing countries too.
How are different types of philanthropy developing in different regions and what is their role in developing activities with regional and local authorities, sub-regional institutions, international institutions, academia, and others? We are thinking about the differences between Anglo-Saxon and European philanthropy…
I understand that there are some differences between the “so-called” Anglo-Saxon approach and the European one: some of these are functional (such as grantmaking, which is a common feature of US and UK foundations) and others shaped by larger historical and socio-economic factors (such as different assumptions around the role of government).
When community foundations were first established twenty years ago in Eastern Europe and in Africa, one criticism of them was that they were based too much on the Anglo-Saxon (grantmaking) model. However, over the last ten years, we have seen the emergence of community philanthropy models that reflect more these kinds of diverse regional, contextual and philosophical differences. So moving beyond just Europe and North America, for example, in Russia you see government playing a much more active role in community foundation activities. In other countries you don’t.
Similarly, much of the community foundation has tended to be in English: if you take a word like “grant-making”, for example, it can be quite hard to translate with the exact same English meaning into French or Spanish. In French for example “grant” is often translated as “subvention,” but that can also evoke connotations of activities more associated with government. Whereas in Russia, the word “grant” has become quite established and is in common usage.
In the end we would like to know what are, in your opinion, the new opportunity in this sector.

The willingness for some foundations to be involved in this global SDGs Agenda is important and positive,. But simply “collaborating with development agencies” won’t in itself be enough.
I also think that this ok and important for other foundations to decide to remain outside the SDGs process and use their money to develop independent programs that can help identify some of the gaps and target some of the most marginalized and neglected groups and issues of our time.

[1] SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals.

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