Philanthropic power shifting away from Global North amid pandemic, report finds

Covid-19 has shifted philanthropic influence from developed countries in the Northern hemisphere to developing countries in the South, research has revealed.

Philanthropic organisations in the USA and Europe have historically dominated the allocation of resourced in the developing countries in the Southern hemisphere.

But the pandemic has seen some of that control move towards organisations in developing countries, the research, by the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, has found.

Its report, Philanthropy and COVID-19: Is the North-South Power Balance Finally Shifting?, included interviews with 24 global charities and foundations during the health crisis.

This found “a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo” in global philanthropy.

A diversion of more resources into local public health is a factor in the shift. Another is organisations in developing countries, “with superior local knowledge”, taking decisions around how funding and resources are used.

The report calls for the creation of networks to support Southern hemisphere philanthropic organisations with issues such as collective bargaining with governments, grant makers and communities.

Better partnerships, between Southern hemisphere governments and philanthropists, are also needed.

In addition, funding in the global south needs to be based on core costs rather than project-specific funding. Historically grant makers have been reluctant to focus on funding overheads and salaries “due to a myth that this is less efficient than funding programmes”, said the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy.

The Centre’s executive director Clare Woodcraft said: “The fact that Global South Social Purpose Organisations are finally making their voices heard is a positive step – but it is crucial that global philanthropy does not regress to the status quo once the pandemic is over.

She added: “COVID-19 could thus be a catalyst for positioning philanthropy to respond even more effectively to the next unpredictable but not unforeseeable crisis.”

Kamal Munir, the Centre’s academic director added: “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."

A report released by the think tank Rogare in August called for fundraisers to reinvent themselves by moving away from donor-centred fundraising and towards community centric fundraising.

Donor centred fundraising “perpetuates white saviourism and fuels systematic injustice”, according to Rogare.

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