Where do foundations fit within the ‘Development Galaxy’?

Bathylle Missika

Where do foundations fit within the ‘Development Galaxy’? This was the question addressed by Michael Green (co-author of Philanthrocapitalism: How giving can save the world) in his keynote speech to the April plenary meeting of netFWD – Network of Foundations Working for Development. Green unfolded aspects of a possible ‘clash of civilizations’ between traditional development cooperation and philanthropy. More than a ‘clash’, these two worlds have been evolving in parallel in the last 20 years, he said. But they should be able to cooperate better. While development is changing dramatically, it seems its future will increasingly lie in the private sector and market-based solutions.

Members reaffirmed netFWD’s role as a platform to influence policy and share innovative practices on philanthropy for development. They came to the OECD to exchange lessons and discuss the development of specific work, including:

  • unfolding the drivers and value added of ‘venture philanthropy for development’;
  • data sharing, transparency and accountability, building on the OECD’s collaboration with the Foundation Center;
  • innovative philanthropic approaches to support youth empowerment.

So how can development and philanthropy cooperate better? Recommendations that came out of the meeting include:

  • On the ground, traditional donors’ approaches should be issues-based and focused on results if they are to build partnerships with foundations and allow efforts to be scaled up.
  • The lack of available data on the diversity of foundations and the sectors they are engaged in should be addressed, and their efforts on transparency enhanced.
  • Finally, foundations should be ready to discuss failure as much internally as externally.

netFWD members subsequently joined the OECD Global Forum on Development. The voice of foundations was made prominent with a keynote speech by Heather Grady, vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, who described the foundation as learners, analysers, catalysers, enablers and brokers, focusing on promoting the wellbeing of humanity. She also reiterated the importance of using the post-2015 momentum for philanthropies to engage further in partnerships for development. The Rockefeller Foundation, Instituto Ayrton Senna and Mo Ibrahim Foundation were among the foundations that supported the UN dialogue co-organized by netFWD on the role of philanthropic organizations in the post-2015 setting which took place at the end of April in New York.

Bathylle Missika is head of netFWD and deputy head Policy Dialogue Division, OECD Development Centre.

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