Notes from the Field: Exploring New Models for Cross-Sector Collaboration

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Heather Grady, Senior Fellow, Global Philanthropy, shares observations from her work with the Post-2015 Platform for Philanthropy.

I recently returned from a workshop in Kenya, where I, along with leaders from philanthropy, NGOs, the government, United Nations and business, launched a pathway for Kenya to be a model globally for high-impact collaboration between different sectors supporting sustainable development and poverty reduction.

This workshop was Kenya’s pilot-country launch of the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy – a collaboration between foundations that make international grants, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Foundation Center and RPA – whose goal is to enable philanthropy to engage more effectively in global development goal processes, and help the UN and governments understand the added value of philanthropy’s engagement. Over the coming 2 ½ years, in at least five pilot countries (including Colombia, Indonesia and Ghana), we aim to catalyze meaningful collaboration on themes of greatest mutual interest locally.

In Kenya we focused on financial inclusion and youth employment, education, and women’s rights and empowerment. Dozens of donors and foundations support discrete projects in these areas in Kenya, but there is precious little coordination within each sector, so opportunities for reaching scale and deeper impact are missed. And while we relied on those in Kenya to understand the local context, we were recognized in the workshop as bringing new approaches to philanthropic collaboration. With so much to be done to tackle the challenges of poverty, poor education and discrimination, there is a role for everyone, as well as an imperative to communicate and exchange amongst organizations far more effectively.

The Platform arose out of the realization by some senior US foundation leaders that there were missed opportunities because international grantmakers did not engage much in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Many of us critiqued the MDGs framework for a range of reasons, not least an insufficient focus on governance and human rights; the use of relative rather than absolute targets for the goals; and a North-South/giver-recipient structure that doesn’t match the reality of today’s world. The Post-2015 Agenda and the successor goals – the Sustainable Development Goals – provide a much more compelling approach. They are broader and they incorporate, at least in the current draft, goals on crucial contemporary issues like climate change, sustainable cities, and peace and conflict.

Moreover, the SDGs are universal – so the US will have to report on them just as Cambodia or Kenya must. In fact, some of us believe that US-based foundations can take a leadership role in supporting measurement of the goals across geographies, for example reducing inequalities in achievement within our national population on education and maternal mortality. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently released his synthesis report, which many appreciate for its boldness and high aspirations.

Globally, this agenda is attracting a lot of interest. At the four events where we have promoted this platform since late September, participants were eager to join: the Ford Foundation global Platform launch in New York, the pilot-country Platform launch in Kenya, the Philanthropy in Asia Summit in Singapore and the Brazil Philanthropy Forum. Also, the Platform’s web portal SDGfunders.org, launched last month, is steadily attracting members.

Nonetheless, a reality-check is important and we’ll gauge true support through commitments in at least one of three ways: 1) financing the Platform’s activities, 2) contributing to collaborative development activities with other philanthropic actors at the national or global level, and/or 3) reporting on foundation activities using the MDG/SDG framework. The Conrad N. Hilton, Ford and MasterCard Foundations are our three founding supporters, though we aim to crowd in much more of the philanthropic community throughout the life of the initiative.

We want to generate a movement, not a sideshow, because if it succeeds, this Platform could be the catalyst for a very different way for the philanthropic sector to start tackling the world’s greatest challenges and risks.

For more information on the Platform contact Heather Grady (hgrady@rockpa.org), Donita Volkwijn (dvolkwijn@rockpa.org) or Mariko Tada (mtada@rockpa.org).