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Philanthropy Right Now:
‘Philanthropy Right Now’ is a monthly column for Beacon Collaborative by Marie-Louise Gourlay, Managing Director of Europe for The Philanthropy Workshop. In this month’s column, Marie-Louise Gourlay considers the importance of clear frameworks for donors on their philanthropic journey.
Many sector leaders, thinkers and activists are generous enough to give up their time to come and share with the TPW community. Individuals or teams whose ideas, perspectives and learnings warrant deeper thought, catalyse collaboration and often drive implementation of new best practices for social change.
In sharing, people are clear on the value – believing that their experiences and learnings could benefit the communities they are working alongside.
“We found ourselves mulling over what we were actually trying to do by coming together.”
Last month we held our Global Summit in Toronto; it was the first in-person event in two years. The wider philanthropic community came together to tackle topics focused on the concepts of justice and transformation.
In conversation with a speaker, we found ourselves mulling over what we were actually trying to do by coming together in a community. We wondered whether a more accurate assessment would be to consider how we strive for an ethical coalition.
Typically, the individuals and groups that come together in coalition have diverse backgrounds and experiences, but come together due to a shared goal. And those are the people that we invite in. A coalition – a growing together of parts.
“To paraphrase one of our Summit speakers, “bruising is a necessary part of transformation”.”
A coalition therefore perhaps offers an opportunity to pursue a shared goal, whilst simultaneously allowing space for differences. We’ve also been looking at how we move forward discussions that started at the Summit, on the concepts of justice and transformation.
And to paraphrase one of our Summit speakers, “bruising is a necessary part of transformation”. This can come as we recognise our blindspots, the historic systems we’re each a part of. Some of us may react with discomfort; others with shame. This is all part of the process that we’re in; and it’s one that takes time.
One TPW speaker suggested that to avoid only working with people we already have relationships with (thus entrenching existing networks and echo chambers), we should consider the idea of starting out with trust. That is, allowing trust to come before partnership.
“There isn’t always the opportunity for building trusted relationships before work begins.”
A natural degree of scepticism ensued, including questions around due diligence process, and the obvious need to avoid potential harms. The conversation was, however, a firestarter: if we start with trust, how much wider can our horizons be?
With time being an increasingly valuable currency for success, there isn’t always the opportunity for building trusted relationships before work begins. Crises on many fronts are deepening rapidly across the world, and urgency doesn’t feel like a strong enough word for the response it demands.
At the same time as embracing new relationships and considering new spheres of influence, a wider community will always have a role of support. Community represents a place of belonging, of collective potential, of greater strength, as a forum for learning and for influence.
“It’s critical that we invite others into our space.”
Whilst the core community at TPW focusses on philanthropists and social investors as agents and levers for change, it would be myopic (and counter to our frameworks & values) not to take a systemic approach, assessing what the role of philanthropy is in relation to the other points of leverage, leadership and implementation tackling those same societal issues.
For that reason, it’s critical that we invite others into our space, to bring myriad voices & perspectives that enable us to apply a more systemic lens to giving.
I wonder how the sector might view itself as an ethical coalition, joined in shared goals, simultaneously cognizant of the differences that mean that together, we recognise our collective potential as a non-homogenous group. We each have our role to play, and without one another, we cannot hope to progress.
Marie-Louise Gourlay is the Managing Director of Europe for The Philanthropy Workshop. Find out more about The Philanthropy Workshop’s activity here.