Value(s) for Money?




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Mar 07, 2014
by Louise Hallman
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Value(s) for Money?

Salzburg Global session considers whether philanthropy is capable of being a catalyst for social and financial transformation Michael Edwards's essay "Beauty and the Beast: Can Money Ever Foster Social Transformation?" inspired the sessionPhilanthropy has existed for centuries. Linguistically its roots belong in Ancient Greek, meaning “love for humanity”. As a concept, using money to make the lives of others better, it reaches back to the Age of Enlightenment, in 17th and 18th century Europe. But this does not mean the concept is static, unchanging. The ideas surrounding what money, whose money, for what purpose and how are contentious. The multitude of different actors, acting in a multitude of different ways has created not only a vast landscape of philanthropy, but an ecosystem; all parts existing, living and affecting each other.Just what is this ecosystem, how can and should its composite parts interact and how can the system be better structured are all issues up for discussion at Salzburg Global Seminar this week as 46 philanthropy sector actors, from grant makers to grant seekers, philanthro-capitalists to “traditional” foundations, and academic and activists, arrive at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, for the session “Value(s) for Money? Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Social and Financial Transformation”. Over the next two days, the participants, from 17 different countries, will deconstruct the current funding ecosystem, establishing where within it their organizations function, and consider the financial flows, the enabling environment, and current and potential results. Through dynamic, interactive group work, the participants will build their ideal ecosystem, and envision how best they can share this new found perspective throughout the philanthropy landscape.Inspired by an article by leading philanthropy expert, writer and activist, Michael Edwards entitled: “Beauty and the Beast: Can Money Ever Foster Social Transformation?”, the two and a half day program is being sponsored by Hivos, the Netherlands-based international development organization. Speaking at the opening session, Hivos director of programs and projects, Ben Witjes explained Hivos’ interest in the session: as a funding-seeker, funding-giver and a program implementer, the organization wants to know how the ecosystem is currently working and how it can work better.“Finance has become a lot more complicated,” said Witjes.Over the centuries, philanthropy has expanded from simply wealthy individuals funding “good causes” to now embracing more market-driven principles; risk assessments and expected returns and impact of investments are just as common in the language of philanthropy as they are in business.Innovative funding mechanisms that support social change – like crowd-funding, social impact bonds, payments for eco-system services and prize-backed challenges – have diversified the funding landscape and brought in new resources. The system, however, is arguably out of balance with too much focus placed on revenue-generation, and directing financial resources through the market. At the same time, less funding is available for the deeper, less tangible drivers of social change – change that is driven by the beneficiaries themselves and is inherently more democratic. Money, while a seemingly essential tool in change processes, can be a “curse”, reinforcing or exacerbating the very circumstances and power imbalances at the heart of systemic social challenges. As funding sources shrink and immediate impacts are more commonly expected, are those who take this funding and attempt to enact social change becoming too narrow in scope, favoring individual improvements over long-term systemic change?One example given on the opening day of the session came from women’s rights advocate Angelika Arutyunova. Arutyunova’s work includes research into the funding of women’s rights organizations, “Watering the Leaves, Starving the Roots: The Status of Financing for Women’s Rights Organizing and Gender Equality” and “New Actors, New Money, New Conversations: A Mapping of Recent Initiatives for Women and Girls” for AWID, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development. Her research found that of the 170 new women’s rights initiatives included in the study, of the $14.6bn committed, 35% of this money was allocated for “women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship”, 44% of which was given in technical assistance to individual women. This individual approach, whilst beneficial to the women involved and promising near-instant results, however, often fail to address the systemic issues that inhibit women from entering the workforce, such as enforced gender roles, respect and safety for women in the work place, and lack of education. Her research also concluded that whilst the “leaves” – individual women and girls – are receiving growing attention, there has been a lack of support for “the roots” – the sustained, collective action by feminists and women’s rights activists and organizations that has been at the center of women’s rights advances throughout history. The support for the collective action, she argued, is necessary to ensure more systemic, rather than individual change.However, that is not to say that all organizations now need to start working towards broader systemic change. Change is a matrix, posited Arutyunova: one axis spanning from the individual to the community to the broader system, with the other spanning from informal (cultural and social norms, beliefs, practices) to the formal (laws, policies, resource allocations). Not all actors need to act across all points of the matrix, but all actors need to be aware of their niche and how it fits into the broader action for change. Over the course of the next two days, many of the Fellows will be invited to present their own case studies and experiences, as the group work towards the session’s five goals of not only mapping the current funding landscape to locate gaps and fault lines by issue, sector or region, but also stimulating the exchange of experience and ideas to deepen the knowledge base and identify options for short- and longer-term strategies; prioritizing components of a new funding ecosystem, taking into account current geo-political and -financial environments; targeting achievable yet significant interventions that can create tangible improvements over the next year; and taking account of provider and recipient motivations, scope roles and opportunities for collaboration between different actors, including government and multi-lateral organizations. The session continues Salzburg Global's series of session on the issues surrounding philanthropy, the last of which were held in 2012, "Value vs. Profit: Recalculating ROI in Financial and Social Terms" and "Philanthropy in Times of Crisis and Transition: Catalyzing Forces of Change." 

You can follow all the discussions from the session on Twitter with the hashtag #SGSphil. All session materials, tweets and blog posts can be found on the session page: