By SHEILA BEACHUM BILBY
Community philanthropy is offering new ways for ordinary people using their own money, time and muscle to help fix problems and bring about deep-rooted change in their local communities, according to a new report, “The Value of Community Philanthropy: Results of a Consultation
Rather than relying only on outside help and external resources, people in local communities worldwide are increasingly putting into practice a philosophy of “taking what we have to build what we need” to create inclusive and equitable societies, according to Barry Knight, who authored the report.
| “The Value of Community Philanthropy: Results of a Consultation” is available at no cost online.
Available online at no cost, the report examines the evolving field of community philanthropy worldwide and explores ways to support it as a means of helping build civil society and leverage the effectiveness of development aid.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation USA, with help from the Global Fund for Community Foundations, brought together leaders in the field for three roundtable discussions held over a year’s time that focused on community philanthropy. The subsequent report synthesizes the results of those consultations conducted in Washington D.C. in September 2010, Johannesburg in June 2011 and Dhaka, Bangladesh, in September 2011.
“Community philanthropy has the potential to transform the landscape of aid and philanthropy because it transforms communities from passive recipients to active partners in fulfilling their dreams,” said Knight, who facilitated the consultations.
Community philanthropy already is being practiced daily worldwide, from the U.S. to Asia to Africa and beyond. In Nepal, for example, Tewa (Nepali for "support") has been working for the past 15 years to train women to help raise money locally to be used to support small community development groups. The goal is to help create sustainable development without relying on foreign aid. To date, Tewa has 3,000 local donors and has raised a permanent endowment of 46,068,715 rupees, or roughly $589,689 in U.S. dollars.
But the next step, the consultation collaborators agree, is to collect the data and evidence that will help bring community philanthropy, working hand-in-hand with community foundations, recognition as an effective development strategy. Further, they say that community philanthropy needs to have an ongoing role in good development, not just an add-on part.
The Mott Foundation has long sought to help develop community foundations in the U.S. and around the world as a way to connect individuals with their communities. Indeed, Mott’s long-term support helped the number of community foundations almost double worldwide from 2000 to 2010, with 1,680 such foundations listed in 2010.
But, increasingly, Mott became convinced that community philanthropy, though underdeveloped, has the potential to become what the report calls a “game changer” in building civil society — not only because it offers greater long-term sustainability but also because it is a powerful form of civic participation.
If successful, the report concludes, community philanthropy “leads to more lasting, entrenched outcomes by increasing local ownership and local accountability.”
While the traditional model in philanthropy has been wealthy people working from the top down, community philanthropy turns it upside down. Ordinary people work from the bottom up — donating their money, time and effort — to tackle local issues, with the potential to “help to solve some of the deeper problems in our society, such as poverty, racism and gender inequality,” the report notes.
The report suggests that the field of community philanthropy should be developed so “it can more effectively partner with foundations and development agencies.” To build capacity, it notes, there should be a joint program to “strengthen the infrastructure, build key links between partners and enhance technical features such as definition, performance and evaluation” while working to expand the pool of funders and inform development-aid practitioners about the value of community philanthropy.
The potential of community philanthropy to promote partnerships both within groups and across groups in local communities is rooted in one of its key tenets: “Help the other, but also help the other to help the other.”