Global Summit on Community Philanthropy 2016

Financial capital was not the only means of philanthropy, former US ambassador to South Africa James Joseph said at the opening of the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy, where he was the main speaker.

More than 350 delegates from across the world attended the two-day summit, which was held at the Turbine Hall in Johannesburg. Of them, 11% lived in Johannesburg, 48% travelled more than 16 hours to be at the event, and 20% travelled between eight to 16 hours.

The summit, which took place on 1 and 2 December 2016, was the first of its kind. Its aim was for delegates to discuss how local giving could shift power to communities and local institutions. The summit was organised by the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

The theme was #ShiftThePower.

Different ways of philanthropy

James was also a panellist. He spoke about the different ways of giving to communities as a philanthropist. "You can provide intellectual capital. Giving people the information they need – that is a powerful thing.

"Let's not only depend on financial capital," he said. "Think of how you can influence those networks."

James challenged philanthropic leaders to take risks, to not be afraid to stand for something. "Act wisely and boldly, without fear. Managers impose order, leaders take risks.

"Think big, respond boldly to great issues facing our communities."

While charity was good, he said, justice was better. "When you provide help, you provide hope."

To make more of a community, James added, use your social capital. "Respect for the different is the first thing to find common ground. Fear of the different is fear of the future."

Keep up with your vision

Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, advised communities to defend their right to be themselves. "Keep up with your own vision, your own truth. Don't let anyone define you."

She also pointed out that many people who worked on the ground were expected to get little or no payment for what they did. It was unfair that those who managed the grant funding, on the other hand, earned a lot of money and discussed issues at hotels.

Hilary Pennington, the vice-president of education, creativity, and free expression at the Ford Foundation, said initiatives created by young people, such as #BlackLivesMatter, showed the compassion and community of this generation.

The American foundation is a global philanthropic organisation.

"We must interpret the environment," said Pennington, adding that networks were important.

Grantmakers had a lot in common, Pennington said: "We have to show how our collective work is making people's lives better.

"We have to be smart, strategic and stay connected."

The participants

People such Gail Jacobs of the West Coast Community Foundation in South Africa and Antonia Autuori of the organisation Fondazoine della Comunita Salernitana in Italy shared similarities in projects to which they gave grant funding.

For example, each one of their projects concerned helping people with physical disabilities.

Jacobs' foundation supported a youth group in Eendekuil on the West Coast. The group, comprising more than 10 people, raised funds to help the needs of their community. "The youth identified three physically disabled individuals in their community. They communicated with these people, as well as their community and decided that they would build appropriate ramps outside their houses.

"This is to give the people with physical disabilities easier access and mobility."

The youth were busy building the ramps during the week of the summit. "It took them two years to raise funds for this project," said Jacobs. "They sold goodies for example at rugby matches."

Autuori said that they had identified 18 people with disabilities in Salerno, in southern Italy. "We funded this project to renovate a building for the 18 people. On 10 December we plan to open the building for them to live there."

Her organisation also planned to hold workshops for these beneficiaries. "They will make small, hand-crafted things and do things such as grow olives."

Delegates also split into in smaller groups to discuss various topics, such as "Resources: are we addicted to scale?" and "Participation and mobilising people: models of participating grantmaking".

More about the conference

Jenny Hodgson, the executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, said the summit brought together hundreds of people from 60 countries. "Community philanthropy taps into the drive of local people to help each other, a naturally occurring asset found in societies and cultures.

"In some countries, the wealthy individuals are establishing their own foundations and, in others, a growing middle class has its own disposable income, and an increasing appetite for giving to social causes."

She added that community philanthropy organisations – such as community foundations, women's funds, environmental funds, social justice funds – raised and gave local money and other assets. "In doing so, they involve local people in development processes and decisions in new ways, making them 'co-investors' rather than passive 'beneficiaries.'"

Hodgson said that over the past 10 years the Global Fund had aimed to grow a network of people who wanted to give. "The characteristics (of the givers) we've seen all over the world are assets, capacities and trust. These three things connect them."

Because this was an empathetic sector, relationships were important, she said. "It's not enough to be a grantmaker. The quality in the way we do our work is critical. Institutions matter."

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Date published: 
Tuesday, 6 December, 2016

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