Global Philanthropy - The Big Picture
27 October 2005 at 1:10 pm
Philanthropy Australia hosted the ground breaking international conference in Melbourne at a time of historically unprecedented growth in ‘giving’ in Australia and around the world according to departing Chief Executive Elizabeth Cham.
Experts in the world of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility came together to explore the role of ‘giving’ in a modern democracy and how to create the best possible future.
Speakers from the USA, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the Philippines joined Australian experts for the four-day event from Sunday October 9 to Wednesday October 12, 2005.
The conference offered two programs. The Sunday program was an opportunity for Not for Profit organisations and charities to interact with and better understand the world of Australian philanthropy. The Monday to Wednesday program provided professional development and networking opportunities for existing and potential philanthropists, their advisers, foundation staff and trustees.
Founding executive Elizabeth Cham who has held the position for ten years says one of the key reasons for bringing so many Australian and international practitioners together was to enable the people who have established some of the 320 new foundations over the past few years, and those who intend to join them, to meet their colleagues who have been practicing philanthropy for years.
Cham says that instead of reinventing the wheel, participants learnt from the new wave of understanding – partnerships, the “soft power” of philanthropy to effect change, and an awareness of the immense size and significance of the Not for Profit sector.
She says this conference has been a vehicle for the philanthropic sector to use its vast resources of knowledge as effectively and creatively as it use its financial resources.
She says there were a number of extraordinary international speakers to add to these discussions about the new directions in ‘giving’.
Rien van Gendt, executive director of the Van Leer Group Foundation in the Netherlands discusses philanthropy in a modern democracy and the European experience. Acknowledged internationally as one of the most innovative thinkers in philanthropy today.
Steven Burkeman is from the UK and is a former Trust Secretary of the Rowntree Foundation. Burkeman’s focus is on peace and justice issues. He is an independent consultant to a number of “blue chip” UK foundations. He has undertaken mapping and scoping studies, organisational reviews and customer satisfaction studies.
Peter Goldmark is the director of the American based Global and Air Program for Environmental Defence. Previously he served as President of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and was editor of the International Tribune in Paris. He is acknowledged as having convinced Russia to sign onto Kyoto.
Stephen Veiderman is from the US and is a former president of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation. He discusses global philanthropy and the big issues for humanity.
Canadian Tim Brodhead is acknowledged for building philanthropic infrastructure. In 1977 he co-founded Inter Pares an NGO based in Ottawa and is a past chair of the Philanthropic Foundations Canada. In 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Philanthropy Australia President Lady Marigold Southey told the conference that philanthropy was facing a critical stage in Australia describing it as ‘porous’ with a new shape emerging.
Lady Southey says globally there is an accountability ‘squeeze’; but this should be weighed up with the view that there should be transparency but not in a way that adopts the language and practices to cripple NGOs.
Rein van Gendt spoke about professionalising philanthropic work and urged foundations in Australia to take an international or global approach to their work.
He said Foundations become successful locally if they take on a global attitude.
Tim Brodhead from Montreal told the conference that a robust philanthropic sector strengthens democracy itself by making sure that the voice of the marginalised are heard within the system.
He says philanthropists and their foundations must use their resources intelligently to inspire and motivate and the channel private money into public good.
Steven Burkeman from the UK says that as ‘philanthropoids’ we delude ourselves that we can make a difference but we can’t if we spread ourselves too thinly. The sector needs ‘singlemindedness’ to succeed.
Burkeman says that in this current world climate, the ‘tolerance’ issue should be the ‘hottest potato on the BBQ. Corporates are not interested yet, but philanthropists should show they are interested firstly and campaign for change.
Unfortunately he says there is a lack of common language of philanthropy with much confusion around the world about terms such as charity, foundation and grant!
He says that in Africa there is no direct translation of the word philanthropy; the closet they come is their word for ‘help’.
Burkeman suggests setting up a “Global Philanthropic Lexicon” – a virtual space where key terms are explained, providing an international point of reference where critical usage is explained. This would be a work in progress and he urged any Australian philanthropic groups who would pay to make it happen to contact him!!!!