Community philanthropy?

    There is a need for the development community to see local people as actors and donors rather than as beneficiaries, says a new report on community philanthropy.

    Community philanthropy is not often heard of in international development. And in the report, ”The Value of Community Philanthropy: Results of a Consultation,” a joint effort by the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, people wonder how different it is from the work of nongovernmental organizations.

    Barry Knight, CENTRIS consultant and facilitator, and author of the report, wrote community philanthropy has the same characteristics as NGOs: organized and structured, self-directed, an open architecture and part of civil society. But what differentiates community philanthropy from NGOs is that the former makes use of its own money to develop long-term assets for a community.

    The report notes that a weakness of NGOs is that their donors own them. This is not the case for community philanthropy, where local people transform communities away from aid dependency and forego established hierarchies. It can also boost aid effectiveness and accountability, with local actors having the power to withdraw their support if they see the institution they are supporting is not well-managed.

    But like any development approach, community philanthropy also shares the same challenges others experience. These include corruption and dishonesty, poverty and inequities in society, and the promotion of political and commercial interests.

    Both top-down and bottom-up approaches in the development community are important, and some development agencies are already experimenting with foundations to create local sustainability, the report said. But there is still a lot of work involved to take community philanthropy forward and develop its capacity.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.