African Philanthropy Conference: Philanthropy at an Inflection Point
In economics, an inflection point can be considered as a dramatic, drastic, and systemic event leading to synchronised economic decline. Typically, a real-life inflection point requires ingenuity and innovative thinking to cope, transform, or respond. The diverse responses to the global and regional crises, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated several inflection points with real and long-lasting impacts on society. Considering the strides that philanthropy has made in providing and enabling solutions to crises, the sector is at an inflection point with a real task to respond, cope and shape or influence the future.
Philanthropy at an inflection point can also refer to the sector’s potential to shape what is next; an ecosystem that needs to respond to the changing world, and a sector forging new frontiers in the quest to make the world a better place for all. While each trigger for an inflection point may be different, the need for change is universal and inevitable. This has seen philanthropy undergo a transformation and pivot in a manner that can be detrimental to the established order of the ecosystem. In the case of COVID-19, the inflection points for the philanthropic ecosystem occurred when all of a sudden authorities instituted lockdowns and limited movements which meant that in-contact activities suffered a dramatic halt. This dramatic halt exposed the disparities existing within the ecosystem itself, including the fact that while other organisations could shift operations overnight to virtual offices, a great number were left in limbo, almost subjected to instant extinction.
In Africa, these shifts coupled with the myriad of other issues have led to African philanthropy to grapple with developments such as localisation, developing a south-south approach, and harnessing the local capacity for resource mobilisation. This requires the sector to be strategic, agile, and innovative. While the events following the outbreak of the pandemic witnessed unprecedented responses by African philanthropy, they also created legacy issues that need firm and intentional attention.
Other urgent issues that the sector is facing include climate change, climate advocacy, climate change adaption vs climate change mitigation, governance, technology, and many other new challenges. These issues have the potential to
refocus and pivot how philanthropy is practiced, lived, and experienced especially in Africa. They are simply the inflection point for the sector which must be confronted. Philanthropy in Africa and African philanthropy have a choice to influence the shape of the curve.
The Conferences will seek to answer the question: What would the world look like if philanthropy took on bigger issues, influenced large systems and systems change, and cultural narratives like capitalism, equity, democracy, and systemic racism?
This dimension of philanthropy in Africa is experiencing significant inflection points, with a growing recognition of
the importance of diversity and inclusion including the ways in which philanthropic actors are engaging a wider range of actors to drive change in their communities; the emergence of new actors such as impact investors, social
entrepreneurs, corporate social responsibility programmes, sports personalities and artists, and a shift towards local ownership and knowledge. Women and youth are also playing an increasingly important role in shaping philanthropy in Africa.
Emerging Actors focuses on the emergence of new actors in philanthropy in Africa, including impact investors, social entrepreneurs, corporate social responsibility programmes, sports personalities, artists, diaspora and High Net-worth Individuals and how these bring new resources and approaches to philanthropy in the continent.
Pan-African and Feminist Philanthropies focuses on the important role of feminism in the history of philanthropy in Africa as well as its achievements, including its unique perspectives and experiences, and the ways in which feminism is driving change in their communities.
Youth and the Next Generation of Philanthropy looks at the involvement of young people in philanthropic initiatives widely witnessed through diverse avenues, their experiences and how the philanthropic horizons impact their own growth and what they seek to accomplish.
This dimension relates to the distribution and exercise of power within the sector, including the role of external actors like international donors, governments, and civil society organisations. An inflection point in this dimension is the growing emphasis on localisation and community ownership in philanthropy, challenging traditional power dynamics within the sector.
Power dynamics and local ownership examines the balance of power between donors and beneficiaries of philanthropy in Africa, and the ways in which this power dynamic is shifting with the rise of community philanthropy and other forms of locally driven giving. The sub-theme also explores the importance of local ownership and participation in practice, including the potential for greater community involvement in programme design, implementation, and evaluation, the emergence of Community Philanthropy and the role of local organisations in driving change and impact.
Philanthropy and systems change explores the special feature of growing aspiration in philanthropy to achieve system change. It will study the emergence of new forms of philanthropic governance and accountability mechanisms, including the rise of participatory grant-making and other forms of more democratic decision-making. It will also explore the potential for collaboration and partnerships between philanthropic organisations and other actors, including governments and civil society, to drive policy and regulatory reforms to support effective programme design, implementation, and evaluation, to support the growth and sustainability of the philanthropic sector.
Philanthropy, International Cooperation and Finance for Development examines the potential place, roles and perspectives for cooperation between African Philanthropies and International initiatives on the international philanthropic landscape as stakeholders.
This dimension encompasses the narratives of what currently define African philanthropies. An inflection point in this dimension is the shift in strategies, methods, and tools used by philanthropic organisations to achieve their goals towards more participatory and collaborative forms of philanthropy. Collaborative and participatory approaches to philanthropy empower local communities to drive change and can lead to more sustainable and impactful outcomes. This shift was intensively caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted the urgent need for systemic and long-term solutions to social and economic challenges.
Innovative technology for resource mobilisation focuses on the potential for innovation and technology to drive change and impact in philanthropy in Africa, including the use of digital technologies to reach new audiences and improve the effectiveness of philanthropic interventions. It focuses on the strategies and approaches to mobilise resources using technology including crowdfunding platforms and other innovative funding mechanisms.
Faith-based philanthropy, traditional philanthropy and emerging models of vertical philanthropy will explore the evolution of traditional horizontal and faith-based practice, in an ecosystem dominated by the institutionalization of vertical philanthropy in Africa as well as the potential of combining both sides. It will also explore the impact of these types of practices in promoting local development.
Community philanthropy will explore the strength of community practices in the philanthropic sector and the need for harnessing its potential to decolonize the source of funding.
This dimension refers to the regulatory and institutional frameworks that shape the sector, including laws, regulations, and governance structures. An inflection point in this dimension is the increasing recognition of the importance of transparency and accountability in philanthropy. Philanthropic organisations are increasingly expected to be transparent about their activities and impact, and to be accountable to their stakeholders.
Regulatory frameworks looks at the role of regulatory frameworks in shaping the philanthropic sector in Africa, including the potential for more enabling legal and policy environments to support the growth and sustainability of organisations. It will also focus on the role of governments in shaping philanthropic activity and the ways in which regulations can either support or hinder philanthropic efforts.
Exploring new financing models examines the role of financing models in shaping the philanthropic sector in Africa, including the potential for innovative financing models to increase the availability of resources for philanthropic organisations and support their sustainability.
Governance and leadership focuses on the role of governance and leadership in shaping the philanthropic sector, including the potential for more effective governance structures and leadership practices to support the growth and impact of philanthropic organisations. This sub-theme will also explore the importance of transparency and accountability in the philanthropic sector, including the potential for greater transparency and accountability to build trust and legitimacy with key stakeholders such as donors, beneficiaries, and the public.