Activists Malala Yousafzi, Theo Sowa, Kumi Naidoo Challenge Donors to Reinvent Philanthropy in Humanity’s Most Consequential Decade
“This is not a moment for sanitizing truth.” Kumi Naidoo
Boston, MA (September 16, 2021) – Philanthropy leaders and global activists delivered urgent messages to more than 400 international funders, NGOs, and others to rethink how they conduct philanthropy to meet today’s greatest challenges. The Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium, hosted last week by New England International Donors (NEID) and The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI)’s Center for Global Philanthropy, featured 93 speakers who addressed how to move from ideas to action, stressing that philanthropists need to evolve norms to achieve impact and create solutions to intractable challenges.
Three major opportunities for change referenced were:
- Proximity: Donors make better investments when they establish the people most impacted by the issue as experts, empowering those with lived experience and supporting processes already at work locally. “If as a philanthropist you are hearing victimhood as opposed to opportunity, leadership, and sustainability, your giving is likely to undermine the very things you are working in philanthropy for.” – Theo Sowa, The Equality Fund
- Inclusion: Inclusion was given a more potent definition than usual, extended to reaching across political and cultural lines by listening with respect and communicating effectively to create connection and bring whole publics along. “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things, given knowledge, information, and skills. If we don’t carry people with us, investments could be failures. Eighty percent of activism is about changing people’s understanding and helping them develop the confidence to build and co-create.” – Kumi Naidoo, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace, and Dignity
- Interconnectedness: Philanthropy is more likely to effect change if strategies are grounded in an understanding of the intersectionality and holistic nature of issues like gender, health, education, climate change, democracy, food, water, racial equity, etc. Climate change, for example, has decreased the number of children, mostly girls, receiving a 12-year education. Yet when girls are educated, family and community economic prospects improve, as do their health and local environment. “When you invest in girls’ education, it adds up to $30 trillion to the world economy, the likelihood of war decreases, and you can reduce poverty. Aside from that, it’s a human right.” – Malala Yousafzi, Malala Fund
“Philanthropists are learning to better understand their role, to collaborate effectively, to take on not only the immediate but also the supporting structures. Working together limits risk and allows for faster priority shifts. It’s about learning through informed action,” said Ina Breuer, Executive Director at NEID.
“This is the decade in which we all must act with courage – it cannot be business as usual. Philanthropy must operate differently. The survival of future generations depends on what we achieve,” said Maggi Alexander, Senior Partner at TPI and Director of TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy. “That younger generations are already changemakers, pushing our institutions for innovative solutions to happen faster, is what may save us all. Working together, there is hope.”
New England International Donors (NEID) is a peer-to-peer learning community that serves passionate and dedicated international philanthropists across the world. Through strategic networking, educational opportunities, and information sharing, NEID strives to facilitate transformational social change.
The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) is a global philanthropic consulting practice with 32 years of experience helping funders develop and execute customized strategies to increase the impact of their giving. TPI advances strategic philanthropy through research, funder education, and thought leadership. TPI is a distinct operating unit of the Boston Foundation.