Pandemic has uncovered 'deep sense of dissatisfaction' with global philanthropy, report finds

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed “a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo” in global philanthropy that needs to be addressed, according to new research.

A report, published today by the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy at University of Cambridge Judge Business School, highlights the need to address inequalities in the philanthropic relationship between the global north and south, including more core funding and local network support in the south.

Through interviews conducted with two dozen global south organisations and foundations during the pandemic, and an analysis of secondary data, the report, Philanthropy and Covid-19: Is the North-South Power Balance Finally Shifting?, reveals “a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo” in global philanthropy.

As foundations in the global north have historically exercised considerable control over how resources are allocated to global south grantees, the urgent demands of the pandemic have started to shift some control toward global south organisations, the report says.

With more resources being diverted into public health, the report says the old norms of decision-making have been disrupted in favour of organisations with superior local knowledge.

It says too many restrictions on grants entrench the imbalance of power between grant-makers and grantees.

The report asserts that the positive effects of this show that now is the time for change across the sector, and calls for three lessons to be learned.

These are funding networks to improve infrastructure, capacity and knowledge; improving partnerships between global south governments and philanthropists; and building resilience in the global south by funding core costs rather than only project-specific funding.

Kamal Munir, academic director of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, said: “The shift in the power dynamic that our research revealed is clearly nascent, fragile and patchy.

“However, it shows some early indications of practices that, if nurtured and retained, could potentially transform the relationship between global north and global south philanthropic actors.

“This in turn could lead to positive operational and policy outcomes that can help deliver more sustainable and scalable social impact.”

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