Stories of Philanthropy as An Agent of Social Change
“Giving money away is easy,” writes Christopher Harris in a foreword to Effective Philanthropy: Another Take, “but giving money away to effect real social change can be hard.”
“It is easy to give money for blankets or scholarships,” states Harris, who worked in the Governance and Civil Society unit at Ford from 1999 to 2009, “but while that money helps individuals, it does little to change the social (or economic or political) conditions that created the need in the first place. It doesn’t ‘change the rules’ that support injustice or violence. How does a funder do that?”
“How” is what this new book demonstrates through 11 “stories” of successful efforts that illustrate “a philanthropic intervention against some form of injustice…at a local, national or global scale,” writes Chandrika Sahai, Coordinator of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, a network of practitioners that has published the book.
“These stories,” she writes, “are told through the lens of a grantmaker illuminating the sorts of considerations, dilemmas and uncertainties a grantmaker might wrestle with when making a grant to effect positive social change. They delve deep into the analysis of the problem, the solution, the strategy and tactics used to address it, the risks and challenges involved, and the impact of the philanthropic support.”
The book, which has been edited by Caroline Hartnell and Andrew Milner and was published in April, includes three stories written by former staff members of the Ford Foundation.
Suzanne E. Siskel, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Asia Foundation, and a vice president of LAFF, describes the work of the Ford Foundation “in supporting 27 local education reform programs throughout The Philippines, and the subsequent establishment of Synergeia, in an effort to improve the country’s failing education system.”
Siskel says that she consulted widely with “education specialists, government and private sector leaders, and experts on many different aspects of the education system. I was new to The Philippines, I was not an expert in education.”
While at Ford from 1990 to 2011, she worked in the Jakarta and Manila offices and in the Community and Resource Development, Peace and Social Justice Philanthropy and Gender, Rights and Equality units.
Manuel F. Montes describes how, in the early 2000s, the Foundation’s International Economic Policy portfolio “fostered a number of large networks of analysts and activists to develop an alternative economic narrative that could engage critically with the prevailing liberalization and deregulation policies associated with globalization”.
He says Ford staff spent a year “surveying the field, talking to academics and activists, and attending key events where discussions on development policies would take place” before developing strategies for its portfolio.
Montes, who worked at Ford in Human Rights and Governance and Human Rights and International Cooperation from 1999 to 2005, now is a senior advisor for finance and development with the Switzerland-based South Centre, an intergovernmental organization of developing nations.
Lisa Jordan, who was executive director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation in The Hague, The Netherlands, until 2014, writes of that foundation’s program to “reduce violence in children’s lives, the first step being to shift social norms to make violence less acceptable”.
Baseline studies and research across seven countries, she writes, followed by “further investigation…helped the foundation conclude that of all the factors that determine a child’s potential to learn and grow up healthy there was one that was not effectively addressed through the markets, through governments or by foundations—violence”.
Jordan was deputy director of Ford’s Governance and Civil Society unit before leaving to join van Leer. She left that foundation to become senior director of Strategy and Learning at Porticus Global, which is also in The Hague and is devoted to improving opportunities for children growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage.
The book is shared under a Creative Commons license for affinity groups, associations and networks of grantmakers, and foundations.