Grantmakers Without Borders Conference

Global Philanthropy
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An inspiring international grantmaking conference, but…

 At their best, philanthropy conferences are excellent opportunities for great networking, hearing thoughtful speakers and being inspired by exciting practitioners. The Grantmakers Without Borders conference in San Francisco June 7 – 9 was an outstanding example. The variety of perspectives on international grantmaking with a social justice perspective was an inspiring education for this participant, new to the field.

One caveat, however, concerns what seemed to be a tendency to set up conversations that set up what I perceived as false dichotomies: Is it better to support “social entrepreneurs” or to focus on communities and their work together? For capacity building, should one offer the best expertise, or should one work exclusively with the talent within the community? This kind of set-up may create a debate with fixed positions, but they don’t shed enough light on the subjects and create lines past which few are willing to cross.

It might be more interesting to frame the conversation as “How do we think about the relationship of social entrepreneurs to their communities?” or “How do we reframe the language around social entrepreneurs in order to communicate the importance of community?” Or on the subject of capacity building, “If capacity building is needed for a community, how can the external experts best work within the communities that need their knowledge?”

These kinds of conversations may create fewer fireworks, but they might help those in the field trying to understand and navigate the changing perspectives and intersecting cultural values involved in working internationally.

What kinds of conversations that bridge opposing views can you imagine creating?