Working Toward Sustainable Solutions

Family at Ikamva Labantu community center

Each year the Grantmakers without Borders (Gw/oB) conference brings together progressive leaders, public and private foundations, individual donors and a wide array of other thoughtful people working to bring about meaningful and lasting change in communities throughout the Global South. Participants at this year’s conference included representatives from Other Worlds, Grassroots International, Global Fund for ChildrenAJWS, among many others.  Entitled Just Giving: Global Social Change Philanthropy, this year’s conference focused on bulding sustainable solutions to often seemingly intractable issues related to global poverty. The opening session, Anatomy of a Global Donor, set the tone for the next two days of break-out sessions that covered topics from Green at the Grassroots: Supporting Organic Production and Sustainable Consumption to A Grantmaker’s Approach to Financial Assessment of Community-Based Organizations.

“What does it take to be an effective global grantmaker?”  This was the first question posed by John Harvey, the Executive Director of GW/oB.  His answer: you need to dig deep.  It’s not just following the proverb, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”  What if the body of water where you’re fishing gets polluted by an oil or mining company and all the fish die?  What if his community falls apart?  Social change philanthropy is about digging deeper in your analysis so that your support leads to sustainable change.  Global Goods Partners takes this approach with our CBO (community based organization) partners.  GGP doesn’t just choose CBO partners because they produce beautiful, fair trade products.  GGP looks for local leadership within an organized community that collectively is working towards changing the social, political and economic inequities that exist in their communities and countries.  GGP builds trusting relationships based on our experience as global grantmakers and development professionals.

The following general session addressed the topic, “What is Justice?”  Panelists spoke of creating “another world” where there is greater respect in the relationship between humans and our planet; where everyone is someone; where control of local resources should be with local communities.  Annie Leonard, author of the Story of Stuff, spoke about being attacked and threatened by the right-wing media and their viewers, for using the words “social justice.”  What is this country coming to???  Please view Annie’s brilliant video the Story of Stuff  which has been seen by over 10 million viewers globally.

I also had the pleasure of meeting two Brazilian women who started a network to support women’s groups making handcrafted products in the impoverished and dangerous favellas of Rio.  One is an Ashoka fellow and the group, Asta Network, is partially funded by the Inter-American Foundation.  They have engaged a direct sales program, similar to the Avon model, to market products from 30 different women’s groups.   Over 250 women are marketing the products using a catalog and order forms.  GGP is now talking to Asta about a potential partnership, including working directly with the women’s groups in the favellas to bring their fair trade products to the GGP marketplace.

At the end of the conference, I participated in the most effective networking session of my career.  It was called The Reciprocity Web.  Basically, it brings together a group of people, face to face, and each one writes down a “need” for their organization.  In my case, I asked for ideas to market the GGP school fundraising program.  Then, people around the circle offered up their ideas, contacts and suggestions for my need.  Everyone walked away from the session with some very helpful contacts and guidance.

I look forward to GGP’s continued participating in the Grantmakers without Borders network where we are part of a growing movement to create a world of fairness, solidarity, freedom, democratic principles, respect for the planet and social justice.

Catherine Shimony is co-founder of Global Goods Partners

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