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Global Philanthropy

Inspiring Courage and Action in International Philanthropy

This post was co-authored by Maggi Alexander, TPI Senior Partner and Director of TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy, and Ina Breuer, Executive Director of Network of Engaged International Donors (NEID Global).

Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

We are all called to be changemakers. As global citizens, we know there is no such thing as “us” and “them.” There is only “we.” What happens elsewhere affects us all. Faced by challenges like climate change, refugee crises, and vast, systemic inequities, we have a greater sense now than ever that we are all in this together.

In the five years since we hosted the first Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium in 2018, we have been witness not only to a deluge of global crises but also to a surprising and hopeful shapeshifting in the philanthropy ecosystem. The philanthropic sector is engaging in a robust, honest, and critical moment of self-reflection – one we see as actually leading to change. Funders are revisiting both the “what” and “how” of their giving, acknowledging the inherent power imbalances in conducting philanthropy and the times when philanthropy can do more harm than good. International activist Kumi Naidoo closed the 2021 Symposium by exhorting us to stop suffering from “foolanthropy” – when funders earn their power and money in actions that “harm us on one hand and extend band-aid solutions on the other.” Funders who seek to address structural inequities and maximize their impact have begun to heed this advice. All of us seeking to make philanthropy a more effective and just tool are listening more, viewing those who live in the communities we aim to support no longer as victims but as experts and partners with the greatest stake in solutions and a more effective vision of the paths to achieve them. We are recognizing that lessons learned on the frontlines have applications around the globe. And we are taking to heart that politics does not drive culture – culture drives politics – which is critical to shifting norms and beliefs so that more will invest in turning the tide on deep inequities that impact our most pressing global challenges.

So, what incremental or significant changes can we make now, together, as collaborative changemakers, to push further into this new and powerful momentum underway?

As we gather again this September for the 2023 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium, we must look more closely still at the complex, interconnected, and yes, existential crisis we face and what is possible both short-term and long-term. This year’s Symposium, open to funders and investors of every size with an interest in how best to support local leaders and organizations across the globe, is designed to expand opportunities and possibilities for attendees, to open minds and dialogue, to help us all move from thought to action. Each of the four workshop tracks across the two days offer skills lessons and interactive discussions with leaders and peers on:

  • Taking Action Now, from effectively engaging in societies in prolonged complex crises, to best supporting refugees as well as indigenous solutions to climate change.
  • Practicing Impact Investing, with lessons on leveraging your full capital toolkit through socially minded investing in ways that strategically tackle Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Advancing Equity, moving from a mindset of “us and them” around all marginalized people to the potent answer- and action-driven mindset that “we are in this together, and this is our problem to solve.”
  • Shaping the Future, looking at the ethical use of AI, the future of democracy, and what happens beyond the global 2030 goal for the Agenda for Sustainable Development.

With a focus on action – what can be done today, tomorrow, and in the foreseeable future on a practical level and not simply a philosophical one – we hope to also provide attendees with the courage to make that leap. Starting with the opening keynote, The Courage to Take Extraordinary Action, we begin with two speakers who acted in the direst of circumstances and who capture precisely what we want next for philanthropy, and what we want participants to carry forward. The second keynote will be a discussion on Changing the Global South Narrative, emphasizing the vibrant societies in Africa, Haiti, and elsewhere with whom we share a fragile earth. And the closing keynote will be on Mobilizing the Next Level of Climate Action, with a not-to-be-missed pairing of speakers tackling this crisis on local and global fronts.

We hope you will join us in coming alongside others with a desire to mobilize philanthropy. Together, let’s take courageous steps forward, whether small or large, working with partners in philanthropy, the social sector, business, and government to change our world for the better. We know we cannot act alone. We need each other, every partner with whatever experiences, skills, and resources to make a difference. Together, we indeed are the changemakers.

Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash