Philanthropic ecosystems in emerging markets

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published in the March 2012 issue of Alliance magazine. The original article can be found here. For more information about subscribing to Alliance, please visit

By Filiz Bikmen

The economic boom of BRICS and MINT countries coupled with the unequal distribution of this growth presents new opportunities and challenges for philanthropy in emerging markets. Among them are different approaches to giving, lukewarm relationships with civil society organizations (CSOs), hesitation about funding ‘unpopular’ issues and the arduous task of building the field of philanthropy. In light of the observations of contributors to this issue, which trends appear to be affecting philanthropic ecosystems in emerging market countries, and what lies ahead?

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China and South Africa) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) countries have averaged 3 to 9 per cent per year economic growth over the last few years.

By 2025, many of these countries are expected to account for more than half of all global economic growth.

Their geopolitical power is also increasing as they shift from aid recipient to emerging donor and begin to assume new leadership roles in multilateral aid initiatives such as the UN Democracy Fund (India), the Bali Democracy Forum (Indonesia), the peacekeeping initiative in Haiti (Brazil) and relief efforts in Somalia (Turkey).

However, many of these countries also continue to struggle with high levels of unemployment and inequality, coupled with massive increases in urban migration—among the key factors that led to uprisings such as the Arab Spring. According to The Economist, by 2025 58 per cent of the world’s population is expected to be living in emerging market cities, mainly in Asia. Taken together, there are many threats to the sustainability and well-being of these societies.

While their geographic, cultural and demographic features are quite diverse, the BRICS and MINT countries share the same fate of economic growth coupled with increasing inequality. Looking through the lens of philanthropic development also reveals some similar trends in terms of opportunities and challenges. While economic growth is creating new wealth resulting in new donors and philanthropic activity, the ecosystem of philanthropy is still rather weak. Without a strong and resilient system—capable CSOs, good data, networks, best practices, professional staff and so on—the ability to harness philanthropic resources for sustainable social change remains limited. Contributors to this issue point to common areas of growth and common limitations, which fall under four main areas: new actors and models, giving voice and agency to civil society, funding for social justice, and building the field. more

Filiz Bikmen is a philanthropic consultant and vice chair of the International Center for Not for Profit Law.

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