Ms. Audette Exel begins the summit with a keynote about her personal motivations in pursuing philanthropy, as well as exploration of business models in philanthropy.
Ms. Audette Exel begins the keynote dialogue by talking about the three forces that have shaped her life.
The first influence is skydiving, which teaches her to take calculated risks, and to have respect for other people. When one is falling at 120 mph, titles and materialism will not matter, because safety is most important.
Secondly, her involvement in political activism has taught her to stand up for what one believes in and to have the strength to endure criticism.
The third significant force is the work as a commercial cleaner she took up to pay for her university studies. This work introduced her to a variety of people who go unseen in society, pushing her to gain a deeper respect for everyone.
Ms. Exel also discusses business models in philanthropy. She speaks about how the traditional business model for philanthropy generates high overhead, such that every donor dollar is significant. With NGOs competing for every dollar, mistakes are not shared amongst others, and therefore not learnt.
Another business model is that of the union between private business and development organisations, such as the ISIS Group Audette founded. With the support of private business, the ISIS Group is set up solely to generate revenue to fund social impact efforts, based on focused research and service delivery for those on the ground.
Business should be operated with purpose, and a transformation in thinking is needed with businesses leading the way in this age. With our interconnected social media world, businesses cannot hide, and must instead change and evolve to meet increasing needs and demands of stakeholders.
In concluding, Ms. Exel recites a quote from the Dao that guides her work: “If you fill your cup to the brim, it will spill; if you make your knife too sharp, it will become blunt; if you chase money, your heart will never unclench; just do the work and step back.”
Levers for Change: Philanthropy in Select Southeast Asian Countries
Speakers present research findings on the ecosystem and regulatory landscape of regional philanthropy, researched by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, in 4 Southeast Asian countries.
Ms. Crystal Hayling and Ms. Prapti Upadhyay from the Lien Centre for Social Innovation present their research findings on philanthropy in Asia.
Despite the unparalleled growth that Asia has experienced in the last three decades, the benefits of economic growth have been uneven. In fact, many people are falling behind.
Their research has also shown that the origins of philanthropy are shifting from large companies to wealthy individuals. This is a potent force, with 444 billionaires in Asia.
With rising wealth, there will be higher incidences of philanthropy. Asians are generous and view giving as growing, especially because generosity and giving for religious belief is universally rooted in our culture. Yet, this charity to provide an immediate need is not the same as philanthropy, which is giving to solve social problems. While many have the capacity for deeper giving built on charitable impulses, the drive to create strategic change in society is not prevalent yet.
The main issue of philanthropy in the Asian landscape is the lack of structure and infrastructure. Infrastructure is important for stakeholders to invest, learn, improve and better understand philanthropy, so that we can share our information instead of doing our own research.
The various infrastructure that require building include legal structures that clearly define foundations, greater transparency, donor networks, support NGO capacity, an explicit tax policy that encourages philanthropy as well as data collection mechanisms.
The lack of infrastructure is compounded by Asia’s general public mistrust of government agencies and social programmes. Majority of corporate giving is also sporadic. While there is focus on high net-worth individuals, there is insufficient focus on community giving.
Windows to the Future: A Networked Philanthropy
The four panelists discussed the importance, pathways, and challenges associated with meeting transparency, collaboration, and innovation goals in the field.
During the panel discussion, three key points were salient and explored at length by our panelists:
- Importance of transparency both of operations and impact reached.
- Importance not only in terms of cross-sectorial, cross-expertise collaboration, but also genuine collaboration towards a common goal rather than only working towards the aims of the biggest donor.
- Urgency in identifying the common goals and potential collaborations among philanthropists, CSR in corporations, and social entrepreneurs, despite their differences.
Individually, each panelist contributed their thoughts based on their different backgrounds and work.
As the Managing Director of Twitter Asia Pacific, Mr. Parminder Singh spoke about how new businesses leverage the power of community using digital technology. He raised the example of India Jammu and Kashmir’s flood in September 2014. Immediately after the disaster, Twitter coordinated online, and gathered donations and partners across the globe within 10 days. 195,784 tweets were posted on the flood in 4 days, demonstrating how Twitter is not only an information highway, but also a platform for philanthropy to connect netizens, NPOs, and citizens.
Mr. Singh’s key takeaways from this incident are that clear communication, quick responses and transparency in following up were essential elements to the process. Speed trumps perfection, especially in the area of disaster relief.
Head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Microsoft, Ms. Clair Deevy discussed the differences between philanthropy, CSR in corporations and social entrepreneurship. As she discussed, philanthropy is not equal to CSR but has its own place; CSR involves a set of business management skills, innovation and technology, but not knowledge about issues on the ground. CSR therefore requires partnership with NPOs to build capacity. To engage with corporations better, Ms. Deevy suggests not simply asking companies such as Microsoft to donate their technologies, but to have a dialogue about the issues so that software engineers can find solutions that better suit needs.
For social entrepreneurship, there are currently gaps in definition and understanding. Corporations would like for the government to provide better understanding of this field in order to better support them.
Building on the theme of transparency, Mrs Watanan Petersik, Board member of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, raised two issues in Southeast Asia: the lack of trust in NPOs because of lack of information on operations and how impact is measured, as well as transparency of social issues.
Lastly, Senior Programme Officer at Gates Foundation Ms. Jennifer Alcorn discussed how the Foundation relies heavily on collaboration and external expertise. They invest and rely on partners on the ground such as local communities to do the work, requiring trust and collaboration. The Foundation also wishes to learn from external expertise and is willing to share their learning with others, so as to communicate salient needs.
Barrier Room 1: Transparency
The breakout session explored the topic of transparency – its demands, perceptions and limits.
During the breakout session, three questions were explored by our speakers:
- What should be the transparency demands for the funder and the funded? The session observed that more demands were currently placed on the funded, but the funder should also look towards greater disclosure so as to strengthen trust.
- What are the perceptions and limits of transparency? On the perceptions of transparency, there was a discussion on how other societies and governments do not value transparency the same way. On the limits of transparency, there was a discussion on the tension points between transparency and accountability. Recognising this tension, the speakers put forth that transparency was simply the start of a conversation between the funder and the funded.
- What can be done to encourage capability-building that promotes transparency? It was raised that more funders were presently interested in programme-based funding. However, there was less support for overheads that were necessary for raising the standards of the philanthropy ecosystem.
Transparency demands for the funder and funded
The session concluded that transparency of a funder’s expectations, motivations and other vested interests was important. One example raised was the conflict of interest that arose when a person sits on multiple boards, including those of the funder and the funded. China was cited in another example. In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, China raised US$20 billion, but a study by Tsing Hua University discovered that only 5% of the funding was expended on projects that had public accountability. Because of this, the China Foundation Centre was established. It was also noted that a funder had public obligations, because it received tax benefits. More could be done to understand how and why funders give.
The Foundation Centre (USA) and China Foundation Centre shared about their work. The Foundation Centre said that it was funded by around 5 foundations. On the surface, this appeared to be counter-intuitive; the transparency promotion work (e.g. checking IRS returns by a foundation) would plausibly not be well-received by a foundation. Nonetheless, The Foundation Centre managed to design win-win arrangements (e.g. WASH to unite foundations interested in water, sanitation and hygiene causes). China Foundation Centre collected indicators from foundations, and the information would be refreshed each Monday. In China, this initiative was part of the bigger canvas of efforts to strengthen the trust in non-profit work. On the issue of trust on a regional level, philanthropy dollars in Asia were occasionally perceived as money laundering.
The session agreed that a transparent conversation between the funder and the funded was vital. For instance, when a corporate funded a non-profit to mitigate some harms created in its business processes (petroleum companies and environmental groups), it was preferable for an extensive conversation to take place so that each party would be aware of each other’s interest, and work out a partnership to withstand public scrutiny.
Different perceptions and limits of transparency
On the perceptions of transparency, there was a discussion on how the places that least valued transparency were also places which probably required the most aid. Some governments would turn away monies for direct implementation project, and would ask the funder to donate to national implementation projects, where there was markedly less visibility on the funds. It was noted that the currency of trust in Asia (i.e. relationships) may be different from the currency in Western developed countries (i.e. disclosures).
To negotiate the lack of transparency in some places, the funder could define where the perimeters of specific monies, and decide whether certain activities would cross the line. It was also mentioned that direct implementation funding might not be a silver bullet for transparency. In fact, administrative costs and overhead funding were critical for strengthening transparency. The conversation about direct implementation versus overhead funding would help both parties see each other’s perspective.
There was a discussion on the tension between transparency and accountability. For instance, disclosing internal audit reports might be in the name of greater transparency, but could reduce accountability when parties were more guarded in their disclosures. Similarly, releasing a flood of data in the name of transparency would not lead to more accountability if ways to make sense of the data were lacking.
The role of the media
The session talked about the double-edged nature of media in relation to transparency. On the positive side, the media provided an important check against dubious actions by charities. On the negative side, charities have spent questionable sums of monies on publicity, beyond just engaging a media partner. Also, when the media support a charity in the background, there are transparency-related questions (e.g. who is paying, what are the behind-the-scenes motives). Additionally, while the media scrutinised charities, they might not present the stories in a fair and balanced way.
Barrier Room 2: Collaboration
This breakout session explores the barriers that stand in the way of philanthropists working together, or philanthropy partnering more constructively with their NPO partners or with other sectors.
These key points summarise the discussions of the breakout session:
The multi-stakeholder approach makes collaboration necessary, which requires good leadership, which people are often reluctant to take up. Overcoming ego is important; humility and leadership are qualities required to work across industries, as partners are usually not from the same sector. It is important to create a community of like-minded givers to fund projects together. Problems should be solved together, and not individually.
In selecting partners, it is important to find those who are aligned to the same vision and ideas on how to move forward, and not simply taking a partner because they are willing to put money on the table. The partners need to be regularly present for meetings as well as good leaders excelling at mobilisation. There needs to exist a sense of urgency so that collectively, all are able and willing to solve problems together.
To have meaningful collaboration with strategic corporate partners, efforts must be made to align values, mandates, visions and ambitions of the NPOs and corporate partners who usually have their own agenda. Adjustments are needed along the way to manage corporate partners’ expectations, tap on the strengths of partners, and at the same time keep true to the organisation’s mission and create greatest impact. NPOs also need to understand what their corporate partners need and how to make them look good.
Community Foundation Singapore is a good example, and a potentially great model. The Foundation brings individuals together to learn from collective wisdom, experience of others and knowledge sharing. Furthermore, such intermediaries have professional staff on the ground working with the beneficiaries to provide feedback and advice on the unmet social needs. This makes giving more strategic, impactful and efficient. Intermediaries help individuals overcome problems that otherwise would be extremely difficult.
Giving circles are the building blocks of Asian philanthropy; its power lies in its group dynamics where bouncing ideas off one another can help people to make better decisions. Giving circles offer the ability for people to discuss with others in a very productive way.
Other important elements to garner collaboration include diversity of models, low barriers to entry (giving made more accessible to ordinary people by pulling resources together), promotion, collaborators (community foundations, grantmakers, companies), sharing best practices and learning, and networking platforms.
Barrier Room 3: Innovation
Ms. Abbie Jung
Ms. Audette Exel
Ms. Lisa Genasci
Ms. Huyen Nguyen
Ms. Elisa Kang
Monday, 20 October 2014, 2.00 p.m.
This breakout session aims to discuss the perfect combination of innovation, scalability and sustainability, and the barriers to philanthropy’s adoption of innovative approaches.
Influencing the ecosystem
Synergy Social Ventures and ADM Capital Foundation have both worked to influence the philanthropy ecosystem. ADM Capital Foundation found that the most important part in this process of influencing the ecosystem is getting clear on what the goals are, what success looks like, and get on a path directed to creating those results. It uses the approach of: Research, Education and Advocacy, in close partnership with local agencies, to develop effective interventions. At the end of the day, Ms. Lisa Genasci of ADM Capital Foundation said that it is simply long, hard work to get to the desired impact.
Bringing in partners can also assist in the intervention. This results in avoiding duplication of interventions, discovering gaps, accessing resources that do not already exist in that context, and broadly to collaborate so that the collective impact is greater.
The tricky dynamics of donor and NPO partnership
While the dynamics between donors and NPOs can be tricky, the first and most important step is understanding.
Ms. Audette Exel shared that donors often come from a place of good intentions but propose problem-solving approaches similar to how they would apply solutions in their business contexts, which are not always suitable. Other times, donors are impatient about the change they want to see, and do not allocate resources that cost money like manpower and expertise to social solutions. There is room for NPOs to learn to be honest with donors, educate donors on why certain ideas are not effective, and be prepared to say no, while acknowledging donors’ good intentions. Donors can also grow in learning to work closely with partners and move at the pace of their readiness for change.
Funding administrative cost
“You cannot run a car without an engine.” – Ms. Exel from ISIS Foundation
In the commercial world, the results you achieve are limited without a strong corporate HQ. Yet, the not-for-profit world does not have the same mentality. Administrative costs are inevitable, yet administrative costs are subsumed under programme-related costs. The cost of turnover and training involved when organisations scrimp on administrative cost by hiring interns and volunteers is not beneficial to long term impact. There is a need to educate donors on the importance of funding administrative cost.
Sharing our lessons from failures
Ms. Abbie Jung made the point that in the Silicon Valley where she had grown up, failure is a stepping-stone to success, and in fact, some funders will not extend funding in the absence of failure and evidence of having learnt from it. In Asia, on the other hand, funds and social organisations do not want others to know about their failures. Needless to say, it is hard for a social organisation to go to its funder only to report that its funding did not lead to the desired results and that they need more to improve the programme. At the same time, NPOs also often do not have time to share their learning.
Funding arrangements can be built with feedback mechanisms that allow for feedback, failure and learning to be shared. Platforms and events like ‘fail fare’ provide a safe, non-judgmental environment to discuss learning points from failure, such as the assumptions behind projects that failed, and discussing what could have been done differently to get different results.
Diaspora Philanthropy: Across Borders and Generations
The session focused on the nature and definition of diaspora philanthropy, as well as its challenges and changes in today’s modern age.
Trends in diaspora giving
During the discussion, panelists noted a few major trends emerging in diaspora giving. The phenomenon has now received global recognition and become an integral part of the development agenda. The global movement of talent also creates more successful diaspora individuals, who settle in another country but continue to give back to their home country. This results in various ‘flows’ of monies, from developed to developing nations, but also interestingly from developed to developed countries (e.g. Hong Kong to the U.S., because many NGOs that work in China are based in the U.S.).
There is also greater facilitation of diaspora giving such as spreading awareness using social media or using online crowd-funding platforms to raise money.
Challenges to diaspora giving
Participants also raised several pertinent issues with respect to diaspora giving.
Firstly, it is difficult to sustain diaspora giving beyond the first generation, as children become multicultural, often feeling they belong to the country of settlement, rather than their parents’ ‘home’ country. Panelists shared that perhaps one way of overcoming this is to allow diaspora donors to be aware of how their money is being used, and to make projects more sustainable.
There also exists competitors in home countries, as the NGO networks grow, such as in China or India. What edge do diaspora organisations have over NGOs based in home countries? Panelists gave some solutions: credibility of the organisations, partnership with international organisations, and astute local implementation of projects on the ground.
The last challenge panelists discussed was the difficulty of handling cross-border transactions, because of the differing tax regimes in countries where diaspora is based. There also might be little information to tell the diaspora community who or where to give.
Tracking diaspora giving and its modalities
Another point was how it is difficult to track diaspora giving, which operates in different modes, ranging from individual to community giving. Participants emphasised the wide variety of modalities – group donors, individual donors, celebrities, and the younger generation moving online.
Mr. Jose Luis Oquiñena mentioned that his organisation Gawad Kalinga depends very much on volunteers to sustain diaspora giving; philanthropy and volunteerism go hand in hand, as volunteers help to de-politicise and de-commercialise the work
Ms. Ramya Nageswaran also mentioned that even in diaspora giving, connecting expatriates with the local community is important (in her case, expats from India who are working in Singapore). She introduced these expats to local problems in Singapore and got them to donate and volunteer.
Gender-based Philanthropy in Asia
The panel discussed a myriad of women’s issues and how their organisations are tackling them. They explored how philanthropy intersects with gender, and what impact philanthropy has in making positive changes for women and girls in Asia.
Women’s issues are important because of how these issues are interlinked with poverty, and can be integrated into other philanthropic work. Majority of women live in absolute poverty, with no access to land, income, employment or any form of assets. However, women’s issues are also highly intractable, involving multiple levels of inequality and interventions.
Empowerment of women
Ms. Christy Abraham discussed at length the empowerment of women to change the status quo. She said that organising and mobilising women at the local levels could unleash their power. These actions include urging them to take leadership positions, giving income to a woman (where it will be used for education or building houses as opposed to giving money to their husbands to spend on alcohol), as well as providing spaces for women to talk about their problems and find solutions. Bringing women together in cooperatives and unionising them is something ActionAid is trying to do in so power can be given to the women to help them engage with the State.
Philanthropy and women’s issues
Multiple philanthropic players have helped to move forward the agendas of communities working on women’s issues. For instance, ActionAid has been able to influence policies of donors to include sub-groups of women who have been overlooked (e.g. women living with HIV). Ultimately, everybody has a role to play in fighting gender inequality, not just philanthropists, but also institutional and individual donors.
It is also important for philanthropy as a field to inculcate gender equality, by looking at new ways of working and whether women are at the helm of affairs, and not simply an add-on at the end. Foundations also need to work to close gender gaps and eliminate violence against women in their operations. Perhaps more long term funding is required t work on different solutions for this problem.
The fight against gender inequality requires much more engagement with people at multiple layers, and with conviction.
Engagement with male funders
The panel also discussed how to engage with male funders and not alienate men on the issue of gender inequality. They stated how it is important to make people understand that tackling women’s issues is about addressing the system, and we need to change the system. The issue is not about pitting men vs. women. Reduction of fear in the climate is important.
There is a need for more organisations to start engaging with men and increase capacity building to address issues of violence against women.
Innovations in Corporate Community Investment
In today’s globalised economy, corporate community investments impact not just their business markets but also communities in which they operate. The breakout session explores what innovations have been demonstrated by businesses in Asia to bring real prosperity to those affected by their business footprints?
For companies to remain responsible to communities, the company and community should grow together such that no one is left behind. With innovation, integrity, teamwork and responsibility as key core group values, companies should allow people and planet to serve as group benchmarks in addition to profits.
Mr. Augusto Ponciano I. Carpio III mentioned how corporate social responsibility must be interlinked with core group businesses to take advantage of their skills and experience. For instance, the Power Group rewires schools’ electricity, and Microsoft Corporation works on a software donation programme TechSoup.
Collaboration with local communities
There should also be impact-driven work rather than simply charity. This is done by ensuring collaboration with local stakeholders as key to the long-term success of projects. With active involvement from the companies, there will be no need to wait for ground reports as they have been actively involved from the beginning. However, collaboration can be difficult when there is competition for funding or credit.
According to panelists, companies should move from engaging implementation partners to innovations in partnerships. They should seek input and challenges from partner organisations, such that there is a process of learning and growing the organisation. Because local partners are needed for sustainability, companies should also support local capacity building. Both sides can evaluate each other to build on their given strengths.