Ten things you might not know about South African Philanthropy: South African PhilanthroFacts 3

Gabrielle Ritchie | Director, The Change Room | 23rd May 2017

Many multiple months have passed since I wrote South African Philanthrofacts 1 and 2 (no need to check back!) – but better late than never is one of my life mottos, and it applies here too.  So this is South African Philanthrofacts 3!

PF 1 was about the common knowledge that “little is known about South African philanthropy” – so I provided ten possible sources that could be consulted and pursued so that we could find out more about this terrain.

PF 2 was about the politics of philanthropy and who benefits from the ever-changing and whimsical sympathies of the benefactors.  That piece looked specifically at summer fire-fighting in the Cape Peninsula area, and the politics of an incredibly successful radio appeal for funding support for fire-fighting.

The focus for South African Philanthrofacts 3 is TEN things you might not know about South African Philanthropy:

  1. The first-ever Chair in African Philanthropy has been established at the Wits Business School. Acknowledgement loudly goes to Dr Bheki Moyo and Southern Africa Trust, and Wits Business School, for pulling this initiative together.
  2. I am the first PhD student (actually, I might be the first student!) under the new Chair (Professor Alan Fowler). It is also the first Chair in Philanthropy on the continent.  Big FIRSTS.
  3. The Social Justice Initiative has been established to provide a smooth mechanism for South Africans (and others) to support social justice work with their philanthropic giving – including work around gender-based violence; women’s economic empowerment and other issues central to South Africa’s social development.
  4. There are a number of different estimates around the ZAR scale of private philanthropy in our country. The Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa (IPASA), when it was still the Private Philanthropy Circle based at Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, estimated that it represented around R1.5billion (in 2014) in annual grant spend.  It is not possible to extrapolate this out because, although IPASA represents somewhere between 25 and 35 philanthropic entities, the number of formal donor foundations in South Africa is completely unknown.  I have been told verbally in passing (and am not able to reference this), that recent research has revealed that private philanthropy in SA is worth over R40billion annually – but I am reserving my right to see this as a bit of a stretch and I really look forward to being able to unpack that number.
  5. South Africans with disposable income don’t give enough. We don’t give enough. I often wonder what we are holding on to.  If we are not investing in our own social development, then who on earth is going to?
  6. There are ENDLESS incredible projects to support. If you have disposable funds or are thinking of investing some money in social development, let me know.  I would be delighted to point you in some right directions.  There is superb work happening in job creation and support for micro-entrepreneurs – such as The Big Issue (declaration: I am the Chair of the Board!); in education – for example, Partners for Possibility; in health – health-e news is one such project; working to expose and end corruption – such as Corruption Watch; to develop community-based health care projects – like NACOSA is doing nationally; standing for our rights as citizens to be able to access information – such as Right to Know and Amabhungane.  Really endless, people.  It is not hard to find a project or a cause.  But if you are struggling to decide where to invest, I would be more than happy to provide information and find you some good, reliable, dependable, hardworking, effective projects to support!
  7. While many speak of things changing rapidly in the philanthropy space, this is not really the case. There is mention, for example, of the potential for incredibly exciting shifts and wild innovation such as consulting directly with communities and activists on the ground.  Yes, apparently this is new and wildly innovative.  It is also something that has been discussed for years, and for which calls have been made by the very people living in communities and working on the ground.  So perhaps it is “new” because the philanthropists are finally hearing it?  Come, people – there needs to be a far smaller gap between what how we do philanthropy and how we KNOW we should do philanthropy.
  8. There are very few people talking much at all locally about philanthropy, funding, grantmaking, social justice and social development. To listen to those who are sharing their pearls, follow these folk on Twitter:  @RAITHFoundation | @SocialJusticeSA | @BerthaFN | @OtherFoundation | @Tshikululu | @bheki_moyo | @shelaghgastrow | and me on @philanthropiSA | If you know of others, please share!
  9. Personal philanthropy is still not much of a discussion topic, not amongst traditional white wealth in South Africa anyway. I think we might be stuck a bit in the British tradition of “we don’t discuss money… it’s impolite”.  But how grand would it be if we all spoke about what we invest socially, why we chose those causes and/or organisations, whether others know of good projects needing support, how we decide as individuals whether projects are support-worthy, what we think we can achieve with our particular investment choices.  Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it?!
  10. South African philanthropy is part of a much broader philanthropy space across the whole continent. As such, it is part of a growing conversation about practice, process, people, and pathways in giving money in support of a bigger social project.  It is exciting stuff – and these times will become ever-more interesting as our understanding of the breadth of practices of different kinds of philanthropies becomes more and more evident on the continent.

Disruptive Philanthropy: must philanthropy be disrupted?

disruptive-product-on-flickr-photo-sharing

Image from: Cause Capitalism

Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

20th October 2016

Collaboration, partnership, disruption, innovation, grantmaking for empowerment, risk, big bets  – these are all key concepts in the current philanthropy moment.  The African Philanthropy Forum has just had what looked like a fantastic 2-day annual meeting (17th – 18th October 2016) in Rabat, Morocco – with many of these topics on the agenda.

The next philanthropy forum gathering on the continent is the Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa‘s annual gathering, which takes place in Johannesburg from 25th – 26th October 2016. In line with this forum’s overarching theme, Disruptive Philanthropy, the programme offers a session juxtaposing the notions of Disrupting Philanthropy and Disruptive Philanthropy.  This is a great topic, and worthy of some investigation – since our current general love of the notion of disruption, dating back at least as far as 2010 as a  hot topic for philanthropy forums, doesn’t look to be fading any time soon.

There is a volume of resources available on disruptive philanthropy, the meaning of disruption relative to philanthropy,  how to be more disruptive with one’s philanthropy, and so on. Jho Low, Director of the Jynwel Foundation explains that disruptive philanthropy captures the idea that:

to effectively address the complex challenges faced by society, people need to treat giving as a significant, long-term investment in their collective future

The Charities Review Council, in their outline for their 2014 Forum, DISRUPTIVE PHILANTHROPY: IMAGINE, CREATE, INNOVATE,  defines disruptive philanthropy as:

a transformative event or moment, an act of giving and relationship building that is a departure from the status quo. It may not be easy, endorsed or comfortable, but it is necessary to inclusively create a shared vision, a new sustainability, innovation, imagination and growth

This second definition expresses a far more disruptive energy than the first definition above, which reads as safe and as not much of a departure from existing, smart, effective grantmaking. Jho Low does go further, however, and breaks the Jynwel Foundation’s disruptive mission into five practical steps:

  • Dig deep. The foundation researches and talks to experts until it discovers the root of any given problem.
  • Collaborative design. Motivated by cross-continental thinking, it works to bring partners from all walks of life together in order to plan its programs.
  • Think very long term. The foundation believes that nothing can be solved in 3-5 years, so it makes commitments of 15-30 years or longer.
  • Invest big. The foundation actively looks for places where its funds will have the greatest social return, and invests accordingly.
  • Measure to grow. Each program is carefully evaluated every step of the way, and partners are brought in to make the foundation’s efforts even more powerful.

Lee Fox, of Cause Capitalism, seems to suggest the approach that a disruptive philanthropy might require a different approach to grantmaking.  She comments as follows:

the ideology of disruptive philanthropy identifies how a new population can participate in a way that was historically only accessible to an elite group.

Disruption implies a tipping up, a disturbance, a changing of the shape of things.  For philanthropy to be disruptive, it needs to disrupt not just the social challenges it seeks to address and the solutions it seeks to support. It also needs to disrupt its own dynamics, how it functions, sets strategy, develops grantmaking programmes, and distributes its funding.

Indeed, would these very terms and practices still be valid in a disrupted philanthropy? Would we need to talk about a qualified disruption?  Is philanthropy inherently conservative?  Is it possible to maintain the existing relations of power with regard to decision-making and fund management, and still achieve a disruptive social result?

Certainly for philanthropy to be disruptive, philanthropy itself must be disrupted.  Anything short of this implies a lack of capacity for self-reflection about one’s own participation in existing philanthropy power relations – relations that themselves serve to maintain a certain status quo and that would serve to prevent any real disruptive potential for philanthropy.  If disruption, relative to philanthropy, is understood as defined by Jho Low above, then perhaps it is not so disruptive after all?

As with social justice, however, different meanings would be ascribed to different combinations of the terms “disruptive/ disruption” and “philanthropy”.  In the case of social justice, “social justice philanthropy” and “philanthropy for/in support of social justice” mean different things – appropriately, I believe.  The first refers to the very practices of grantmaking, where social justice considerations are taken into account and implemented in how grant decisions are made/ who makes grant decisions.  The Other Foundation is an excellent example of efforts at more participatory grantmaking processes, and of working to practice social justice philanthropy.

The second phrase refers to philanthropy that supports social justice initiatives but where the grantmaking process and practice are “business as usual”, and the social justice aspect refers to what is supported rather than who makes decisions and how they are made.  Similarly, disruptive philanthropy could (or should?) imply a funding context in which the very practice of philanthropy and funding is in itself both disrupted and disruptive, and challenges existing / traditional/ “business as usual” grantmaking.  This would support an agenda of going beyond the limits of simply funding initiatives that are designed to disrupt, which is perhaps better described as “philanthropy for disruption”, or “philanthropy in support of disruption”.

If a philanthropy is working to support disruptive initiatives, rather than being designed as disruptive in itself, my sense is that such philanthropy continues to operate in a “safe zone” and has the longer-term potential to get stuck in its own echo-chamber, limiting its capacity to be an energetic catalyst in a genuinely disruptive process toward fundamentally disruptive solutions.

Data for a better South African philanthropy

Gabrielle Ritchie: Director, The Change Room

28th September 2016

Data is at the centre of many current debates in the development sector.  Certainly, data on philanthropy, grantmaking and donor funding is in hugely short supply in South Africa.  In a recent blog I attest to the absence of helpful data that can serve to inform strategy both for grantmakers and grantseekers, and that can support the rigorous development of a philanthropy infrastructure for South Africa.

Lauren Bradford, Director of Global Partnerships at the Foundation Center in the USA, recently wrote an article about the need for data globally to support the development of grounded understandings of patterns, trends, impacts, successes and failures in the grantmaking and philanthropy space towards improving grant impact.   Bradford makes a fundamental point when she explains that “… for data to be collected, processed, analyzed, and eventually shared—all while taking into account individual country contexts around the world—the data has to exist in the first place”.  South Africa is a perfect example of the absence of philanthropy data, and highlights the extent to which real analysis – of effectiveness and impact in grantmaking – is impossible in such a data-empty context.

The Foundation Center has adopted a particular strategy to tackle this yawning gap, towards developing a much-improved understanding of the impact of the billions invested in social development of one kind or another, and towards amending approaches where results have been disappointing.  Bradford outlines this approach as follows:

Foundation Center has developed a partnership program that it is implementing with philanthropic infrastructure organizations around the world to work to create a culture of data, build much needed data management capacity, and create and use data for more effective development and grantmaking outcomes. This program aims to strengthen local foundations, and associations of foundations, to develop their own long-term sustainable in-country data strategies, better understand and fill their capacity gaps through skill development, and highlight and provide tools to enable foundations to better work with data. 

One project undertaken by the Foundation Center in Kenya was designed to support those working in the Kenyan philanthropy sector to:

  • identify and agree on principles for collaborative data and knowledge management
  • identify the biggest data challenges and needs in the Kenyan philanthropy context
  • use appropriate technology effectively for collecting and sharing data and knowledge
  • agree on a set of the most important goals and priorities for data collection and knowledge management for philanthropy – both in their own organisations and as a sector in Kenya.

There are a number of disparate research initiatives and projects related to philanthropy, sources of funding, funded sectors, funded activities and foundation practice.  There have been efforts at developing an indication of the size and scope of philanthropy in South Africa – with varying degrees of success.  For example, National Treasury has recently produced a research report covering aspects of South African philanthropy, and Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement is still completing a size-and-scope study funded in 2013 through the National Lotteries Commission (no update/ current status available).

Lauren Bradford closes her article with the following persuasive encouragement to get involved in, and take responsibility for, contributing the development of the philanthropy data field:

“… next time you’re doing research to guide your decision making and you’re wondering why you can’t find data you need—from general information about an organization to a particular program’s impact or funding—ask yourself: Do you think the data exists? If not, think about how you might help to create it.”

Importantly, the “Treasury Report” indicates that almost a third (32%) of the Foundations contacted for the study did not provide any information on the required facets of the provided matrix (and received a rating of ‘None’ on the disclosure of information scale).  This references directly to the challenges of trying to identify trends in South Africa philanthropy, and to the general lack of data – which is further addressed in a report titled A Snapshot of South African Philanthropy, published in February 2016. This snapshot report provides the most recent general overview of the state of the philanthropy sector in South Africa.

To develop a national data project that would best serve the development sector – both grantmakers and grantseekers – the Foundation Center approach is sound.  We need to be thinking how, in South Africa, we could develop a similar framework to encourage the development of a national data platform on philanthropy, grantmaking, sector foci, grant amounts, strategies, partnerships, collaborations, funding impact, failures, and other key philanthropy considerations.

We need to be thinking: Does the data exist? If not, how might I help to create it?

 

Funding our future with philanthropy

Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

22nd September 2016

South African civil society is broad and diverse, and its funding requirements can feel somewhat like a bottomless pit. This is particularly highlighted in the arena of social and welfare services, previously provided by the state with some support from non-governmental organisations.  Increasingly though, NGOs are the only structures providing any kind of social support such as counselling, trauma support, wellness services, and health information and related services at community level, and they are receiving wholly inadequate levels of funding for this critical community health provision.

Since citizen engagement and civic action take place increasingly through the formal structures of nonprofit organisations, NPOs in South Africa are currently the key vehicle for effecting systemic change. Given the scale of the current non-NGOised student movement across South Africa’s tertiary institutions, it remains to be seen how effective such movements will be in achieving and sustaining the desired change without formalised funding and grant management.  This is an important area for monitoring, towards understanding the dynamics and efficacy of non-funded movements.

While there are many social movements and organisational forms which don’t require funding to effect their mission, it is certain that for social change and development organisations to be effective in achieving their aims, effecting change and delivering services, funding support is required.  This begins to map out the basic link between social change nonprofits and philanthropy – where both endeavours are points on continuum of change and work best as partners in development.

Nonprofits are central to ensuring and securing a positive and progressive social development agenda. Likewise, philanthropy is also critical in achieving social change, through (amongst other practices) funding support for the work of non-profits and, where appropriate, working in partnership to craft strategies and programmatic agendas for change.  Resourcing Philanthropy is an online resource that provides an extensive review of The Atlantic Philanthropies Reconciliation and Human Rights funding programme in South Africa.

This resource delves into the many ways in which funders can work with organisations, co-craft agendas, convene donors and grantees, use their power-linked networks to leverage additional influence and support, and provide operational support (among many other grantmaker strategies and practices). This is little-explored territory in the South African context, and the Resourcing Philanthropy platform provides a first effort at really unpacking how a grantmaker’s approaches worked (in this case The Atlantic Philanthropies) and the ways in which their grantmaking strategies achieved measurable change and positive impact.

Partners for Change

Nonprofits, as change partners working with philanthropic funders, serve also as the operational vehicle through which funders are able to craft and service their own funding and change agendas. A number of important questions arise in starting to examine the potential for organisational-philanthropy partnerships in effecting real change.  These include (as a starter list):

  1. What is the change we want to achieve?
  2. How does this map to the context, and to current change agendas?
  3. Who sets these agendas, and who should be part of this agenda-setting process?
  4. Is there potential for a shared social change agenda, when there might exist inherent tensions between funding agendas and organisational agendas?
  5. What is the role of citizens, government, business and philanthropy in crafting and effecting social change?
  6. What is the role of philanthropy and of donors in achieving this, and how can this role best be played?

The philanthropic practice of giving, or grantmaking, or donating (and so on) inevitably carries with it the deep dynamic of an unequal power relationship.  This is likely to be the case in instances of giving and receiving between individuals; between entities; within a community – as much as it creates a power dynamic if this relationship exists between countries. In discussing and practicing philanthropy, funding and grantmaking, these dynamics must be considered and tackled in efforts to build partnerships to effect social change and development.

For nonprofit organisations, this funding dynamic is essential to take into account in how NPOs position themselves in a potential funding relationship. As formal organisational structures, nonprofits are the entities that provide the platform, or conduit, or vehicle through which foundations, trusts, corporates and government are able to achieve their goals.

Too often, NPOs understand themselves (often in spite of some stern self-talk) as the recipients of good will, rather than as partner agents in a trajectory of change.  More and more, NPOs need to shift their frame of perception and positioning, to disrupt fundamentally the begging bowl approach.  Philanthropic funders could contribute here by challenging themselves more thoroughly on what a “disruptive philanthropy” might look like, and how they can genuinely contribute to a new, transformational kind of funding practice, adopting strategies that have a greater chance of achieving social change.

NPOs, as part of civil society, occupy pole position when it comes to shaping how nonprofits operate and position themselves, and how they can grow and strengthen civil society.  A core dynamic in this is the NPO/ funder relationship.  Philanthropists therefore need to tackle the power dynamic inherent in their fund-holding position, in an effort to forge real partnerships based on mutual interest, shared values and agendas, and a clear vision of a desired future.

Philanthropy (foundations, private individuals, and wealth management advisors, amongst others) needs to take on the task – with donor and grantee partners – of pursuing and building a new kind of funding approach and grantmaking practice in South Africa.  Achieving change, in line with a social justice approach to development, cannot only be about the work of nonprofits.  It must, necessarily, be built also on a more inclusive, consultative, progressive approach to grantmaking.

Previous articles that touch on this topic include those listed below:

https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/philanthropy-advisors-and-service-providers-building-the-infrastructure-for-south-african-philanthropy/

https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/knowledgeonphilanthropy/

https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/why-i-love-philanthropy-and-why-it-can-only-do-so-much/

GrantCraft is one of my most favourite resources for guides on, and insights into, grantmaking practice, the challenges of effective grantmaking, and a range of related topics.  Those listed below focus specifically on partnerships:

http://www.grantcraft.org/videos/supporting-a-new-partnership

http://www.grantcraft.org/curated-content/cross-sector-partnership-formation

http://www.grantcraft.org/guides/supporting-grantee-capacity

The article below is an excellent challenge to whether grantmaker-grantee partnerships are in fact possible, or are currently more fiction than fact:

http://www.blueavocado.org/content/foundation-nonprofit-partnerships-fact-or-fiction

 

 

Why I love philanthropy – and why it can only do so much

Collaboration

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director, The Change Room

2nd June 2016

Philanthropic funding opens up so much possibility.  It comes with the excitement of potential – the potential to design, implement and conclude a project with real social impact, that actually makes a difference to a community (however narrowly or broadly one delineates or defines “community”).  In many instances philanthropy provides the freedom and the space to create – new thinking and ideas, space for discussion, the development of new research, the discovery of new solutions.  The idea of new, sparkling, energetic. Potential. Possibility.

This is why, with all its contradictions, I love philanthropy (and because of what actually does get achieved!).

With this, though, comes hard work.  We know that nobody ever made anything happen by simply dreaming or talking about. An idea must be planned, and that plan must be executed, to become a reality.  Both the funders and the funded need to put in the effort, the thought, the planning, the discussions, the collaborations, and the willingness to allow for (and speak about) failure.

One funder that has engendered this sense of possibility, through its Reconciliation and Human Rights programme in South Africa, is The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life foundation currently spending out its endowment fund. Everyone in South Africa’s social justice activist sector will know of The Atlantic Philanthropies, who granted over $360million in South Africa in just over a decade for a wide range of projects and initiatives, until their exit in 2013/14.

The Atlantic Philanthropies announced last Tuesday (31st May 2016) the latest initiative in its “big bet” grant strategy – $200 million to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) for an Atlantic Fellows programme, and for the establishment of the Atlantic Institute as a home for collaboration amongst the fellows.  This grant, according Chris Oechsli (Atlantic President) in their press release on the grant, is about supporting individuals to “recognize that they are most effective when they collaborate with others”.  Atlantic says that its ultimate goal is “to create, over time, a cohesive network of change agents who could impact the areas Atlantic has long cared about…”.

A key point on this massive investment, with the potential to change the collaboration game amongst progressive social development researchers, is that funding can only go so far.  The rest has to come from the individuals supported through this funding, either as members of the Atlantic Institute or as Atlantic Fellows.  Philanthropy is often viewed as the fix, and although philanthropic funding is a key component of the continuum of activism and the hard work of social change, it is only a component.  It will be up to the Fellows supported by the Fellowship grants and the Institute to commit to longer-term collaboration, and to commit to making the initiative work.  That must be part of the mutual expectations contract that comes with funding of this nature. The philanthropy can only do so much

And, as David Callahan says on his Inside Philanthropy blog on this grant “…Atlantic’s new thing sounds pretty cool. Let’s hope it works.”

For much more on Atlantic’s work in South Africa, particularly in the area of COLLABORATION, go to http://resourcingphilanthropy.org.za/approaches/responsive-collaboration/

 

Cellphones, philanthropy and activism – legal rights, safe practice and backlash

 

cellphones philanthropy activism rights

Cellphones, philanthropy and activism

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

10th May 2016

Its “Top Trend Tuesday” – so what is my top philanthropy trend for today? And are global trends reflected in local South African trends?

Let’s me establish up front that I take my lead from Lucy Berhnolz in terms of global philanthropy trends. Lucy Bernholz (Twitter @p2173) is a leading trends expert and produces an annual Blueprint for Philanthropy – an industry forecast.

A key trend in civil society, which impacts directly on philanthropy and grantmaking programmes, is the widespread use of cellphones. Lucy says in her Blueprint for 2016 that while internet-connected cellphones might be the key tool for filming injustice and for spreading activist messages and mobilising communities around a cause, it is clear that there are areas of knowledge and practice that must catch up with this. These include: knowledge about legal rights, safe practice and backlash, and also include an understanding and practice of ethical, safe and just use of such channels.

The question, then, is: how does/ will this affect philanthropy focus, grant areas, and donor practice? And are these same issues prevalent in South Africa?

Firstly, yes – the cellphone issue is global, and their use continues to grow as a tool for activism. Secondly, the lack of knowledge about rights, practice and the potential for backlash is just as applicable. The right to film police action, for example, is constantly being re-established by members of the public who get their phones confiscated on filming police action.

With regard to ethical, safe and just use of such channels – across social media – we have witnessed a spate of public idiocy in 2016, resulting in the vilification of a number of idiots who have thought it appropriate to share their racist vitriol on social media channels. The most recent example (that emerged on Sunday 8th May 2016) is the #Mabel Jansen/ #Gillian Schutte saga around Judge Jansen’s racist diatribe regarding rape.  In this instance, different to the many other examples, questions have been posed around the ethics of and agenda in sharing a “private facebook conversation”. This might be the wrong question – or at least an unfair one – because while Jansen has said the conversation was private, Schutte has said the conversation was very much a public facebook conversation.

If one’s activist agenda is to expose racism, though, what are the ethics around sharing conversations if one party believes the conversation is being held privately – even if that conversation exposes brutal social prejudice?  I don’t know the answer to this question, so if anyone has answers or thoughts or more questions, please share!

On the original question about what activists and funders know, in South Africa, about safe practice, legal rights and the spectre of backlash around the use of such comms tools – I don’t know the answer specifically, but I suspect that Lucy Berhnolz’s take for the USA applies in South Africa too: not enough.  It is time to learn, and to take this forward as a key public information-sharing knowledge area in South Africa.

For your own peek at Lucy Bernholz’s Blueprint for 2016, look here:

http://www.grantcraft.org/assets/content/resources/blueprint_2016_final2.pdf

Researching South African Philanthropy – for growth!

by Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

1st April 2016

Image source: CAF Southern Africa: I believe I can make a difference. Report on Giving in South Africa. 2015

In the last few weeks in South Africa – preceding the 31 March 2016 milestone ruling in South Africa’s Constitutional Court regarding #Nkandla – we have seen a couple of important events in South African philanthropy.  In some senses the #ConCourt judgement is as much a victory for philanthropy in support of democracy as it is a major victory for democracy itself.

Much has been happening in local philanthropy, aside from the extent to which Constitutionalism in our country has so fully been strengthened with philanthropic funding. The first event I refer to was the launch of a unique new online knowledge resource (at www.resourcingphilanthropy.org.za) which offers insights, thoughts, expertise and knowledge on practices of grantmaking in South Africa, and an overview of the current state of the local philanthropy field, with a particular focus on funding in support of human rights and social justice.

This is the first resource of its kind, offering a comprehensive look at the “as is” in local philanthropy, as well as documented insights and views from a range of key practitioners in the social justice and philanthropy fields. In addition, the resource offers illuminating insights into the innovative grantmaking practices and approaches of The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life Foundation which has now exited from its grantmaking in South Africa after funding more than $355million in projects, programmes, initiatives and capital developments in the Southern African region.  Remarkable stuff.

The second event I refer to is the launch of South Africa’s first Chair of African Philanthropy at Wits Business School (announced last year and launched recently), a long-overdue energy shot for building the field of philanthropy, not only in South Africa but also more broadly across the continent. This is most exciting, and a pan-African seminar has been held to kick-start the development of the academic programme under this new Chair.  With Professor Alan Fowler leading this development, the knowledge environment is seriously opening up for the local philanthropy field.

These are both clear signs of the growing energy and interest in the field of philanthropy in South Africa and on the rest of the continent – not just in the forms of giving, but also in who gives; what people commit their support to; the intentions behind giving; the reasons for wanting to contribute to a particular cause or organisation; how this giving takes place; and trends in amounts invested in social issues and in particular causes.

While these research initiatives and this energy are absolutely critical in the strengthening of the environment in which philanthropy is built and broadened, there is a range of other features required for local philanthropy promotion and growth.

The global experience in growing philanthropy indicates a number of key requirements for encouraging and improving the levels of philanthropic funding investments in social change.  These include the provision of encouragement and motivation for philanthropy; fostering an interest in and understanding of the field of philanthropy; developing a strong research-derived knowledge base in this area; and building a strong professional infrastructure around the business and practice of high net worth philanthropy. Additional to this is the requirement to ensure that the legislative framework for philanthropy actively enables and encourages giving, rather than inhibiting it.

To build, maintain and strengthen support for a strong change-focused agenda for civil society in South Africa, the following (amongst many others) are important enablers:

  • Active citizenship – the commitment and active engagement of South Africa’s people in the identification and removal of obstacles to rights and justice
  • The freedom to build democratic participation through social movements and civil society organisations
  • The willingness of philanthropists, nonprofit organisations and social activists, to define and implement programmes for social and political interventions for change
  • A Constitution which outlines the inalienable right to human dignity and equality, and which can be called upon directly in support of efforts to access rights
  • A legislative framework that facilitates the space for civil society activists to speak, organise and demonstrate where they deem necessary, without fear of sanction (or worse)
  • The political will of the state to ensure that civil society can operate openly without restriction, within the boundaries of the Constitution
  • A post-secondary education system and structure geared to engage responsively with the needs and requirements of a strong democratic culture, and not only to respond to the needs of commerce and industry
  • A progressive media that seeks out news and stories on issues of rights, civil society initiatives, and the watch-dogging of government and big business (for rights violations and other transgressions around good governance, transparency and accountability)
  • The financial resources to conduct the work required – to support the organisation of initiatives, the design and implementation of campaigns, the physical space where organisations can do their work, legal challenges in court, and the many other tactics that might be employed by a movement or organisation to achieve access to rights and justice.

Currently in South Africa, most of the above enablers exist – and some require a more demanding and vociferous public than others, for the realisation of the enabler.   While human rights and change-focused activism takes place all over the world regardless of the existence of any of these conditions, it is these which most directly and actively support the attainment and realisation of rights and justice.

However, it is the area of financial resourcing (outlined above), that surfaces as a key challenge in South Africa.  Any South African news channel will provide ample indication of the ongoing urgency for financial support for social justice initiatives at a local, provincial, national and regional level.

For example, we all want a free media but we need to learn to pay for it. So as my sign-off, I am providing my organisational PICK OF THE DAY for strong investigative journalism:

Amabhungane at http://www.amabhungane.co.za Support amaB. Support Democracy.