Reimagining philanthropy in the Global South

Arab philanthropy expert Clare Woodcraft on power shifts, next gen strategies, and the importance of trust

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Power shifts in global giving, the importance of trust and investing in capacity, and what comes next for Arab philanthropy. These are some of the topics discussed by Clare Woodcraft in episode two of Shaping Philanthropy.

Clare, who was until recently, the executive director of the centre for Strategic Philanthropy at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, has just edited a new book Reimagining philanthropy in the Global South, from analysis to action in a post-Covid world.

Shaped around three core themes (networks, partnerships, and resilience), the book examines how newer models of philanthropy are using different approaches to tackle development challenges and explores how organisations are coping with structural changes in donor-driven philanthropy and how traditional grantmaking is evolving.

With chapters from leading experts and practitioners - including Naina Subberwal Batra, Olivia Leland, Silvia Bastante de Unverhau, Natasha Matic, Maysa Jalbout, Katy Bullard, and Deval Sanghvi – the book unpacks strengths and weaknesses in emerging market philanthropy and looks at lessons learned from the response to Covid-19 in a number of countries in the Global South.

The aim of the book was, Clare said, was to offset gaps in knowledge about Global South philanthropy, and highlight the innovative working being pioneered by foundations and nonprofits on the ground in countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, South Africa, and Indonesia.

A former CEO of Abu Dhabi's Emirates Foundation and one-time chair of the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF), Clare also shares her thoughts on how Arab philanthropy is evolving and highlights some of the innovative strategies being spearheaded by the region’s next gen donors.

“What I love about this new generation of Arab philanthropists is that they are deploying entrepreneurial thinking, and using different and multiple sources of capital,” she tells our host, Anissa Punjani.

“They are looking at data… they're using technology… and they're very clear: their mission is to change the world and to bring positive social change to the region. It's not about the constructs, it's not about the buildings, it's not about the vehicle, it's about solving problems at scale in a way that can bring positive and permanent benefits.”

Other topics discussed in the interview include: the importance of good impact assessment (to improve programming, not just meet compliance targets); why donors should trust their grantees more than they do; and the need to invest in organisational capacity, not just programming.

Reimagining philanthropy in the Global South: from analysis to action in a post-Covid world, edited by Clare Woodcraft, Kamal Munir, and Nitya Mohan Khemka, was published by Cambridge University Press in February 2024.  You can download a PDF here for no charge.

“We need much less conditionality and much more listening to local beneficiary organisations about what works in their local market,” Clare says. “Without that understanding of local context, capital is simply going to go to waste.”