Maximising the developmental impact of philanthropy: from theory to practice.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies


Private philanthropy and charity is increasingly seen as a major component in the development process, especially in the context of the decline in international aid flows and the increasing numbers of lower middle income countries. Whilst there has been a considerable amount of work concerned with the role of major philanthropic trusts in development little attention has been paid to indigenous forms of charity. The research on which this proposal is based investigated the 'philanthroscape' of Colombo, Sri Lanka, in order to identify the potential role which charity and locally based philanthropic institutions could play in the development process. The present project will operationalise or translate these insights into practical actions through training, dissemination of suitable toolkits and a pilot project which seeks to mobilise charitable funds and organisations in a specific urban situation.
From our earlier research in Colombo it is clear that most philanthropic activity takes place within specific social groupings and tends to reinforce existing social differences such as gender, age and religious identity. Furthermore, it is relatively unplanned and subject to individual idiosyncrasies, and tends towards a rather simplistic form of Social Protection which does little to challenge the underlying causes of poverty.
In presentations and workshops held earlier this year and meetings with the Mayor of Colombo it became clear that there is considerable demand within the charitable sector for assistance in defining more sustainable and effective approaches to charitable and philanthropic activities amongst Sri Lankan charitable organisations, the general public and the corporate sector. This project will utilise the findings from our earlier research to meet this demand and generate a more professional and effective approach amongst Sri Lankan philanthropic institutions which utilise charitable donations.
One strand of activities will involve workshops for relevant personnel to gain experience of best practice in the utilisation of charitable funds in development interventions. This strand will not only deal directly with charity and philanthropy but also with broader issues of how such resources can be harnessed to produce a more dynamic and sustainable approach to poverty elimination. It will combine the lessons learnt from the previous research project with the methods used by development agencies in planning and implementing development projects.
The second strand will consist of a pilot project in one relatively poor area of Colombo. This will bring together a range of charitable organisations to work with the local population. The aim of this strand is to develop experience of inter-agency cooperation, build capacity of these organisations to design and implement initiatives which address the underlying causes of poverty rather than symptoms, and develop 'toolkits' for use in other contexts.
Although focused on Colombo, this project has a much wider significance. In many ways it involves a learning process and the lessons learnt in the Colombo context will be relevant elsewhere in Asia and other parts of the world.

This proposal relates to the ESRC/DFID joint scheme funded grant ref: ES/I033890/1.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?
The ultimate beneficiaries of this intervention will be impoverished and marginalised communities in Colombo, who will benefit from better planned and managed charitable and philanthropic (C&P) interventions.

How will they benefit?
We will seek to ensure poverty reduction outcomes by turning our previous research findings and wider expertise into concrete actions for C&P actors. These actions derive directly from needs expressed by individuals, groups, and organisations we consulted during the previous project, including our Stakeholder Response Group comprising of leading philanthropists, charity directors, CSR managers operating in Sri Lanka, and government representatives including the Mayor of Colombo.
The intervention will consist of two actions aimed at improving C&P in the Colombo context: (1) a set of learning, training, and development (LTD) sessions for C&P leaders and managers and (2) a pilot development programme consisting of a collaboration of different C&P actors working together. These interventions will benefit non-governmental and governmental actors in the following ways.
First, up to 105 C&P leaders and managers will benefit through direct participation in LTD sessions that will aim to embed key messages and skills in their organisations, including the use of individualised Action Plans that will produce legacy outcomes over 12 months. These sessions will address core issues including how to make social protection programmes more effective, how to tackle the causes of social deprivation, how to mainstream gender and other forms of social equity, and how to fundraise more effectively.
Secondly, the GoSL considers CSR a strategic priority for the country's development. By sharing our findings with key ministers and ministries we will be able to facilitate the development of more effective programmes and public-private partnerships while improving the technical skills of CSR managers themselves.
Thirdly, local offices of INGOs and bilateral/multilateral donors will benefit by developing better understandings of how local charities and foundations operate, what their spending priorities and theories of development are, and how partnerships can be created. Meanwhile, local and international civil society organisations seeking to fundraise in Sri Lanka will benefit by developing understandings of local givers' funding priorities. They will also benefit from learning how to 'sell' to local donors from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. This is of key strategic importance for organisations like the Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam, and Plan International (e.g Green 2012).
More broadly, academics and policy makers/practitioners who are interested in research translation will benefit as the project itself will act as a case study in the formation of knowledge sharing partnerships for impact.

Ensuring benefits
Strategies for ensuring impacts including legacy actions are built into the proposed intervention, and take direct and indirect forms.
Direct impacts will be achieved through organisations' attendance at sessions and through their implementation of Action Plans. Indirect impacts will be achieved via participating organisations own networks, through which they will be responsible for cascading key knowledge and skills. For example, leaders/managers of local C&P actors will be asked to transfer knowledge and skills to their own team, while Sri Lankan offices of INGOs and donors will be asked to cascade knowledge and skills upwards to international parent bodies as well as sideways to other national-level bodies.


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Description This project built on an earlier project (ES/1033890/1) which examined the potential of philanthropy and charity to support development initiatives. It was not a research project but aimed to make the findings of the earlier project available to a wider audience and to influence their approach to charitable and philanthropic activities. The project consisted of a series of workshops in Colombo, Sri Lanka, associated workshop materials including a handbook on good philanthropic practices, and a small pilot project. The workshops proved extremely popular amongst philanthropists, commercial companies and development-orientated NGOs. The handbook in both hard and soft versions was widely distributed, whilst the pilot project attracted attention amongst local donors as an example of how charitable resources could usefully be mobilised for development purposes. The workshops also acted as a forum for networking between potential donors and recipients. Each workshop was tailored to meet a specific development challenge in Sri Lanka and brought together donors and development organisations interested in that topic. One objective of these workshops was to produce project proposals which relevant parties could develop. We know that at least one proposed project reached an advanced planning stage, and has been submitted to the relevant donor for approval The major impact of the project has been on CSR Lanka (Corporate Social Responsibility Sri Lanka), the general umbrella body for CSR activities in the country. CSR Lanka, which currently has 40 members from the corporate sector, was launched the year before our training programme, and through partnership with us was able to conduct its first awareness and training activity. Through their participation in the workshops and the use they have made of training materials produced for the workshop they have successfully encouraged their members to move away from a 'school books and spectacles' approach to CSR-giving towards more sustainable, long term, and transformative approaches seeking to address the causes as well as the symptoms of poverty and marginality. Whilst the process is clearly under way it is still too early to judge how far this shift in direction is having an impact amongst the poor. However, the Chairman of CSR Lanka, Mr Chandula Abeywickrema, told us during a meeting that the workshops provided the launch pad and momentum for their own subsequent activities. During the training we emphasised the importance of transformative approaches to poverty reduction and development, a concept CSR Lanka has since adopted as a guide for its core mission. Our training programme provided the first exposure to this idea for many companies in Sri Lanka, and to that extent served as a driver for change in the private sector. Through this we helped to raise the profile of CSR Lanka and position it as an organisation in the CSR and development field. Research efforts were focused on Sri Lanka, but there is some evidence that the project has had some impact, at least in terms of thinking about development, in other parts of the world. Thus project staff have received inquiries from India and Burundi concerning the outputs of the research and how lessons learnt in Sri Lanka can be utilised in other parts of the developing world.
First Year Of Impact 2005
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Other
Impact Types Societal