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Philanthropy as a Partner in Implementing Post-2015 Development Goals

October 29, 2014

UNDP_in_PakistanPhilanthropy is evolving rapidly as a sector, taking new shapes and forms. Although philanthropic contributions are poorly measured because difficult to estimate, total philanthropy from Northern countries (DAC donors) was reported to be $59 billion in 2011.

Traditional philanthropic giving has been complemented by innovative new approaches such as impact investing and advocacy, and more voices are calling for strategic philanthropy to engage in the conversation around the post-2015 development agenda, another new development within the sector.

When we first reached out to foundations asking their views on future development goals, our conversation was mostly about explaining the MDGs. The language and the measuring mechanisms of the MDG framework have not been well known or used by foundations, despite enormous philanthropic resources committed to global issues such as education and health. Indeed, the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF), which is dedicated to global development, did not mention MDGs during its 2014 annual gathering.

But the conversation has shifted dramatically. Committed foundations and associations have stepped up their efforts to mobilize and educate peers about the importance of the conversation around future global development goals as well as the implications of that conversation for philanthropic strategies.

"Collaborative philanthropy" was the buzzword at the GPF meeting and at a conference hosted by the Ford Foundation (and co-organized by UNDP and other foundations) that brought together a hundred and fifty foundations and associations last September to discuss and explore philanthropic contributions to the post-2015 development agenda. (For more on the conference, check out this Storify presentation, which captures many thought-provoking comments by philanthropic leaders on the topic.)

Philanthropy has much to offer with respect to the post-2015 development landscape. Because foundations are strongly rooted in civil society, their networks can facilitate UNDP access to new audiences, and their commitment to experimentation and funding new initiatives is critical. But we also need reliable data. A big challenge for everyone in development is the lack of information about who is doing what. This issue is beginning to be addressed by practitioners and data partners like Foundation Center, with whom we are teaming to better track philanthropic contributions to development work.

Yes, the global development sector is diverse and boasts a huge variety of actors, perspectives, and models of operating. But the goal that unites the field and serves as a rallying cry for those who want to drive it forward is the creation of impact on the ground.

Karolina Mzyk (@karolinamzyk) is a policy specialist for foundations at the United Nations Development Program. This post originally appeared on UNDP's Our Perspective blog.

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