WORDS & IMAGES BY: Cristina Mormorunni, TERRAMAR Founder/Managing Director & shutterstock_161989352; yuris/shutterstock; ozphotoguy/shutterstock
CREATING a New FIELD: The Rise of PROGRESSIVE PHILANTHROPY
THE PROBLEM STATEMENT
Project Goals, Objectives & Expected Outcomes
The Project adopted a phased design—each subsequent phase incorporating data from the previous phase via an iterative learning strategy. The primary objective of the initial Development Phase was to identify issues and questions for discussion and create a safe space for a series of small, topical meetings or gatherings. This Gatherings Series was conceived as a strategy for bringing together funders, conservation organizations (grantees), indigenous people and organizations, and local communities to dig into the challenges alive in the field and focus on inspiring engagement in deep dialogue, shared learning, and collaborative action.
A set of meta-level questions were developed to guide these early exploratory conversations. Questions like:
- How can the effectiveness of philanthropic projects in biologically and culturally rich systems be maximized?
- How can enduring partnerships between philanthropy, conservation and development, and indigenous people be realized?
- How can blind spots be mitigated so unintended consequences, such as the disempowerment of local stewards or the destabilization of community initiatives and/or institutions, are avoided?
Based on the content of these conversations, it was envisioned that the P3 Team would develop and curate several core products: a series of briefing papers or “thinking papers;” best practices and case studies; relational collaborative networks; web-based tools were envisioned.
WHAT’S NEXT?: Project Conclusions
Although our study was limited in scope, it supports the Project’s inceptive hypothesis that the foundation community holds significant interest in exploring the interstitial spaces between conservation and culture, between grantmaking and diversity, equity and inclusivity, between indigenous people’s interests and strategies and those of NGOs. And not only is there interest, but there is a deep desire for honest, open dialogue about these integral issues and recognition of the need to dissect challenges and collaborate on solutions in free from judgement and finger-pointing.
These findings point to significant gaps in the field and illuminate critical next steps. Despite the interest in and support for the Progressive Philanthropy Project and its message, only one foundation—the Oak Foundation—stepped forward with concrete financial support. Our hypotheses are preliminary and a better understanding of the ‘whys’ is warranted. Nonetheless, we firmly believe in the validity of the originally proposed “Gathering” framework. Only through creating a space where funders, NGOs, and indigenous/local communities can explore the nature of their relationship and respectfully share lessons, best practices, and learn from their successes and mistakes can we move the field of conservation philanthropy forward. Catalytic leadership within the philanthropic community is needed to get this type of project successfully off the ground. Without leadership, we do not feel the conversations will advance or more importantly, gain momentum.
For a project like P3 to move to the next phase of its development, foundation leadership and investment is needed to create a gravitational pull strong enough to overcome the realities of overcommitted calendars, competing demands, hazy relevance, hard conversations, and even harder solutions.
For a Summary Paper detailing P3’s initial phase of work, please click here.