The South African NPO Funding Crisis – again?

quote from www.resourcingphilanthropy.org.za

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director, Change Room

4th May 2017

If you think that the South African NPO sector is in a particularly tight and horrible funding crisis right now, battered from all sides by events impacting negatively on funding sources, that’s understandable.  You will have been bombarded with a range of tweets, blog posts, articles and chat around which latest local, national, regional or global event is going to make it harder for us to raise funds – and how or why it might make it harder.

I kind of have news for you, though.  Raising funding in support of your non-profit work has never been an easy task. It takes incredibly hard work, and consistent excellence in the practice of a few fundraising basics.  While it isn’t rocket science, it does take commitment, and it requires investment – in whatever way your organisation is able to invest.  This might be budget, for a staff post, a marketing campaign, the implementation of a donor CRM database, or the development of a 5-year strategy and operation plan for attracting funding.  It might be staff time, to conduct 1 hour of prospect research every day, or to staff fundraising events, or to contribute to your organisation’s public profiling efforts.  It might be your volunteers, your board members, or a series of video stories.  However your organisation is able to define “resource”, your organisation will not attract funding without some well-planned resource investment.

So is there a crisis?  Is it getting worse?  Do we need to be on constant watch for what Zuma said at #WEF2017, or Trump’s bulldozing efforts to cease foreign funding (or at least significantly contract existing funding programmes). How impactful was Zuma’s Cabinet Reshuffle, and how will those impacts play out? Does non-profit funding at a local level require economic confidence at a global level?

For every action, there is a reaction.  Basic physics, really. And funding streams have not been predictable for South African non-profits for quite some time, if ever. Since 1994, and no doubt prior to that, non-profits have been hit with one or other “latest funding crisis”.  In 1994, foreign donors decided to channel their funding through the new government’s RDP initiative, rather than fund non-profits directly. These crises have continued emerging, and will definitely continue to do so.  Change is the only constant!

This means that non-profits cannot EVER take funding for granted.  This is a serious and difficult challenge, because all organisations are focused on doing the work they were set up to do – and if funding seems to be taking care of itself, then little attention is paid to building new relationships and identifying new prospective funding sources.  For example, many social justice organisations in South Africa are funded in most part by a well-known group of social justice-focused funders.  My advice?  Do not take your eye off the ball.  We know there are no guarantees that funding will continue to come in from those same sources, but we often ignore this basic funding rule in the interests of being able to get on with the work.  Unsurprising.  But, just like in most for-profits where the next contract/ customer/ client is being sought or pitched to or chased, so too in non-profits we need to identify potential partners and pursue with vigour and commitment to bringing in that next funder, to support us in driving our work forward.

If only the funding crisis would just settle already. It isn’t going to. So is it indeed a crisis?  It feels like it for organisations struggling to find support for their work, but it has levelled out into the “existing state of affairs”. The funding terrain has its peaks and troughs, it’s easier times and rougher times – but if you had to ask any non-profit who has successfully attracted sufficient funding and support to cover overheads, “programme” costs, and growth, you will find an organisation with a strong focus on profiling their work, identifying funders, networking, building relationships – by any means necessary.  And even then, it ain’t easy.

In short, then, it is almost guaranteed that any morning news headline could be argued to have a potential impact on South African non-profit funding.  So keep your eye on what is happening out there, but definitely keep focused on building your organisational profile, ensuring excellence in organisational governance, and don’t stop looking for opportunities in their multiplicity of forms.

 

 

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Philanthropy in South Africa: Support for defending digital civil society

digital-civil-society

Image from Heinrich Boll Foundation. Creator: Niklas Hughes

Gabrielle Ritchie: Director, The Change Room

16th November 2016

Philanthropic funding is critical for a host of democracy-defending and –strengthening initiatives that would otherwise have little or no financial support at all to implement the tough work that needs to be done to defend our democratic space.  In South Africa, we must remain vigilant about our freedoms and must continue to push to ensure that rights – as per our constitution – are realised for all.

So where does digital fit into discussions on democracy, development and donors?

I have been thinking a lot about digital civil society – which, in my view, is the same thing (at least currently they remain the same) as civil society using digital technology.  A few weeks back, I had the energising experience of being part of an Enset/ Resource Alliance panel discussion in Cape Town about South African civil society and the digital space, which I will be writing about in the next week or so (so watch this space!).  It’s a huge topic, with so many sub-topics, not all of which link up neatly together.  The digital space and its implications for civil society has been a hot topic for precisely this reason – there is SO much to discuss!

One of my most favourite, self-proclaimed philanthropy wonks is Lucy Bernholz. Her latest blog post is about digital civil society and the looming threats to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, all the more threatened with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.   Her urgent call is that we all need to stand up, make our voices heard, and resist attempts to close down civil society space.

This is not a challenge limited to the US.  Far from it.  Increasingly across the African continent, there are noises and threats regarding the closure (or further constriction) of digital space, in addition to pressure on the physical civil society space – where it does exist – to organise and express challenges to governments.

As Bernholz says:

All our civic action – from philanthropy to protest, from petitions to polling – now takes place on a digital infrastructure. Every organization that is dedicated to helping the vulnerable, to free expression, or that understands it is simply an institutionalized form of our right to peaceable assembly and private action for public benefit should realize now that their existence depends on the rights now threatened. As civil society has closed elsewhere, so has it now been directly, overtly, and rather unabashedly threatened from the people elected to lead our government. 

The most important point that Bernholz makes, though, is that we all need to get ourselves trained up around digital space, the ways (both actual and potential) in which this space is threatened, and what we need to start doing about it. Right now.

Bernholz mentions a number of angles, including “capacity building, consulting, governance training, and technology support need to address digital governance and practices”.  And she goes on to stress that “It is not optional, it’s integral to running a safe and effective organization”.

In other words, this isn’t something we need to watch out for coming down the line.  Rather this is something that we need not only to be monitoring now, but we need to be managing the risks already, and putting place policies and practices that will ensure we are able to continue to work effectively and safely.

Ute Scheffer’s September 2016 article, No right for digital participation in many regions of the world, offers insights into the current state of play with regard to journalism and clampdowns on expression and organising.   According to Scheffer, South Africa ranked 39th of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.  This is above the US, and only one place behind the UK. There are two thoughts on this – one is that this is very revealing about the squeeze on press freedom in these apparent bastions of democracy and freedom; the second is that having a reasonable ranking means we must maintain and increase (not loosen) our vigilance.

digital-philanthropy

It is critical to bear in mind that, with regard to digital civil society – and the digital space in which we operate – it is not just about access to news and information, but is also fundamentally about forms of communicating, organising, advocating, mobilising, and attracting resources in support of organisational and campaign work.

Organisations in South Africa working on these issues (and supported with philanthropic funding) suddenly become central to South African civil society then, right?  So who are they, what are they working on, and how do we find them?  Below are a few of the best known organisations working to defend our freedoms with regard to information, and the sharing of information in print and in the digital space.

Start engaging around our digital space, people – global trends (and Lucy Bernholz) indicate that the time is now.

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Disruptive Philanthropy: must philanthropy be disrupted?

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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.

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

 

 

A perfect pinotage pairing: wine farmer philanthropy in South Africa

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Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

13th July 2016

Let me start by saying I wanted to write an energising piece about the increasing predominance of wine farmers linked with philanthropy – and it would probably have ended up sounding a tad romantic, with visions of committed philanthropists making funding decisions to change South Africa’s entrenched dynamics of poverty and injustice, while sipping on a glass of world-renowned pinotage as the sun sets over their vineyards and workers bring in the last of the day’s grape harvest.

This blog hasn’t turned out quite that way.

The grape-growing and wine-making industry in South Africa has two interlinked histories.  These are stories of honour, but more stories of horror. Firstly, there is the honour of regular multiple international awards for our excellent quality wines. Superb wines.  And, secondly, there is the horror of the industry’s historical roots in slave labour and the dop system (which saw farmers compensate farm workers for their labour with part-payment in rations of low-grade alcohol), resulting in the Western Cape remaining in first place for the highest incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.   While the dop system is now almost (but not entirely) defunct, the legacy of addiction, alcohol abuse and its related social dysfunction continues.

Farm workers in South Africa continue to suffer dire and exploitative working conditions, often without – according to some reports – any paid leave (sick, vacation or maternity); and often living in dreadful conditions on farms.  The more I read about links between wine farmers and philanthropy, the more I only came across material documenting the ongoing state of exploitative and oppressive labour practices on wine farms in South Africa. Two reports in particular stand out, both of which caused much controversy at the time of their release – the Human Rights Watch report titled Ripe with Abuse, and the BAWSE report titled Farmworker Voices: Reflections of Worker Conditions on South African Farms.

That said, there have clearly been massive efforts to clean up South Africa’s wine industry in terms of its dubious history and inheritance of oppressive labour practices, and to break down the entrenched whiteness of the wine-making industry. There are – amongst a range of other interventions – empowerment initiatives; winemaker support programmes to diversify the demographic profile of South Africa’s winemakers; commitments by representative bodies to hand over to the police any farmers found still engaging in providing alcohol on a daily or regular basis to their farm workers; and many wine farm owners who have made the requisite effort to provide decent lodgings for their farm workers (often seasonal), and generally offer improved conditions of service.

In the last decade or two, many wine farm owners have woken up to the heritage of horror in their industry, and have started doing what they can not only to right these wrongs on their own farms, but to engage in philanthropy more broadly.  The Western Cape, in particular, has not only seen a number of philanthropists buying wine farms, but a number of wine farmers becoming philanthropists.

It seems, perhaps, that wine farming and philanthropy are becoming an increasingly well-matched pair.  Wine estate names whose owners are involved in philanthropy include, amongst many others, Jordan, Val de vie, Graham Beck and Meerendal.  Two names, however, stand out for me in terms of the various initiatives undertaken by each to improve not only conditions on their farms but to engage philanthropically in broader social issues.

They are Wendy Appelbaum and Mark Solms.

Wendy Appelbaum is, by some estimates, the richest woman on the African continent.  Now owner of De Morgenzon wine estate in Stellenbosch, Wendy is one of Africa’s most active philanthropists, having donated over R274 million to date.  As the daughter of Sir Donald Gordon, Wendy now oversees the Donald Gordon Foundation and the Gordon family philanthropy.  The De Morgenzon website states that while Wendy has had a long, highly successful career in business and in financial investment (amongst other areas), her philanthropic involvement includes her being a director of the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (Wits University’s Faculty of Health Sciences’ teaching hospital); a trustee of The Donald Gordon Foundation (one of the largest private charitable foundations in Southern Africa) and also sits on the boards of various other non-profit organisations.  In addition, Wendy is a member of the Global Philanthropists’ Circle (GPC).  For more information, go to http://www.demorgenzon.co.za/about_people.html

Mostly recently, Wendy demonstrated the power of philanthropic involvement in defending citizen rights.  In 2012 Appelbaum learned that garnishee orders had been obtained against some of the workers on her wine farm, with up to 80% of their monthly income being attached via illegal emolument attachment orders (EAOs).  It has happened in many EAO cases that workers were left with no take-home income at all. Taking the whole matter to court through the Stellenbosch University Legal Aid Clinic, the focus was on the root causes behind the EAO system.  The court ruled in their favour against these illegal attachment orders, but the fight is apparently not yet over.

Mark Solms and Richard Astor are co-owners of the Solms-Delta estate in the Franschoek Valley.  Through the Wijn de Caab Trust, established to benefit the historically disadvantaged residents and employees of the farm, the Solms-Delta estate has transformed the farm’s housing, education and health care facility, the general quality of life, and has fundamentally empowered the farm community. The 180 people living on the farm are now all shareholders in the wine-making business, and benefit from their work, the wine business and the many other income-generating activities that the farm offers.  As a result, Solms Delta is recognised as one of South Africa’s most progressive wine estates, a far cry from its once oppressive, slavery-based structure.

For this, the wine farm owners receive an Inyathelo Philanthropy Award for the innovation shown in tackling entrenched impoverishment in wine farming in the Western Cape, and ensuring that workers were able to gain a sense of ownership of the land.  To watch a short film about Solms-Delta, go to http://www.inyathelo.org.za/philanthropy-awardees/item/mark-solms-and-richard-astor.html .

A dash of philanthropy with your glass of wine, then?  Of course! Award-winning wines are best accompanied by award-winning philanthropy.

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.