The Globalisation of Private Social Investment—Interview with Helena Monteiro

“I think one of the changes is precisely the economic growth of emerging countries, which leads to increased social investment in these locations.”

This article was originally published by Instituto C&A on 28 December 2012 as “A globalização do investimento social privado”.

São Paulo (SP)—The trajectory of social investment in Brazil has much to do with the history of WINGS (English acronym for Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support), an organisation that brings together 145 associations of private social investors and support organisations serving the sector in 54 countries. Founded in late 1990, WINGS was born as an offshoot of lively discussions on the place and future of social investment in the world, which took place in international meetings in which the Group of Institutes, Foundations and Enterprises (GIFE), an association of private social investors in Brazil, played a leading role. Headquartered in São Paulo since 2011, WINGS is in a privileged position to speak about the state of the art of their field of action. That’s what the following interview is about, conducted by the Institute C&A’s website with the executive director of WINGS, Helena Monteiro.

Instituto C&A: What is WINGS’ purpose?

Helena Monteiro: We are a global network of organisations supporting private social investors that aims to strengthen global philanthropy. The idea is to consolidate a culture of philanthropy and giving through mutual learning and sharing of knowledge among network participants.

Instituto C&A: When was WINGS founded and when did it come to Brazil?

HM: WINGS was founded in 1999 and functioned as an informal network until the end of 2010. In January 2011, the institution was incoporated as a nonprofit organisation and chose Brazil as permanent headquarters, where it has been for two years. Previously, WINGS office had been in Washington (United States), Brussels (Belgium) and Manila (Philippines).

Instituto C&A: What are the main achievements of WINGS in the last two years and what are the next challenges?

HM: We are currently emphasising data research on social investment in the world. The first phase of the study, about the profile of the institutions, will be released soon on WINGS website. This year we also worked on capacity building to social investors and conducted two network meetings in Africa and the Arab world, where we discussed accountability and transparency in social investment. For 2013, the idea is to continue collecting data for a global survey, which will be released in full at the WINGS Forum, to be held between March and April 2014, in Istanbul (Turkey). Other meetings on transparency and accountability in Asia and Latin America are also planned. Besides, of course, continuing building the capacity of private social investors.

Instituto C&A: How has Brazil entered the debate on private social investment in the world?

HM: Brazil draws attention and interest worldwide by the growth of its economy and the consequent growth of private social investment in the country. Brazil is becoming a potential global actor in private social investment, because it already participates and is recognized in international congresses and events in the area. What is missing, however, is consolidating its operations this not only here but also in other countries.

Instituto C&A: In events and debates on social investment, there is much talk about a process of growth and change in global philanthropy. What changes emerge in the field—new players, new ways of acting?

HM: I think one of the changes is precisely the economic growth of emerging countries, which leads to increased social investment in these locations. Another change relates to the donors’ profile, which today are much younger than ten or 20 years. Another change is the perception of the interdependence of social challenges in the world, that is, the view that social investment must be global – spreading the idea that the challenges of education, health, environment and others go beyond national boundaries. In this context, social investors also realised that there is no way to generate large impact alone and, therefore, alliances and collaborations with civil society, with the government and other social investors are critical.

Instituto C&A: Do you believe social investment in Brazil is following these changes? In other words, how is local philanthropy doing vis-à-vis what happens out there?

HM: I believe that social investment in Brazil is indeed following global changes. There is a greater professionalisation of the sector.

Instituto C&A: Could point the main advances and challenges of social investment in Brazil?

HM: As an advance, I’d highlight the existence of a community of social investors in Brazil, which did not exist before. People show up at events and conferences on the topic, they want to discuss and exchange experiences. As challenges, there is the difficulty in creating a legal and regulatory framework that would facilitate the Brazilian private social investment in the country and internationally. Another point relates to the difficulty of measuring and collecting data on the subject. We have to agree on a taxonomy and standardise data for an overview of the sector. Finally, there is still a lack of transparency of the investor in regard to the release of investment data—when, how, and in what way money is being used.

Instituto C&A: The last GIFE census shows that the percentage of viable social investors engaged in their own projects in Brazil is 69%. How do you evaluate this data in relation to what happens in countries with a longer tradition in social investment?

HM: Indeed, it is noted that in Brazil there is a particular characteristic or tendency of private social investors to invest more in their own projects than in third-party projects. But I cannot give an opinion on why this happens.

Instituto C&A: What role should social investment play in Brazilian society?

HM: The private social investor is very important for the development of society, to address needs that other sectors, including the public sector, cannot meet. Private social investment has more flexibility, allowing you to, for example, work with very specific audiences, which is more difficult for the government, which has to have the entire population in mind. In this sense, social private investment can take more risks, support new ideas and social innovations.

The Global Philanthropy Data Charter initiative is supported by Instituto C&A.


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