“We want to find and publish good stories about philanthropy and social investment from all over the world—this is where WINGS members can help us.”
With informative interviews and a signature special feature lineup, Alliance magazine has become one of the world’s leading voices in philanthropy and social investment. In June it will feature philanthropy in the context of a changing world economy, and this month it began by asking whether the sector is keeping pace with rapid economic growth in BRICS and MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey)—growth that seems to be outpacing the West.
Maria Chertok, Director of Charities Aid Foundation Russia and WINGS Board Member, guest edited the March 2013 issue, along with Filiz Bikmen, Vice Chair of the International Center for Not for Profit Law and former Director of the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV). WINGS Managing Editor Chris de la Torre caught up with Chertok and Alliance’s longtime editor Caroline Hartnell to talk about the magazine and the legacy of Philanthropy Bridge Foundation founder, Olga Alexeeva.
WINGS: Alliance magazine covers philanthropy and social investment worldwide. How long have you been the editor?
Caroline Hartnell: Since 1998. Basically, I’m the founder of Alliance, so quite a long time. It did exist for a couple of years before that, but in a very different form. We first took it on as Charities Aid Foundation and I became editor. Then we expanded the geographic reach and the topics it was covering—originally it had a corporate philanthropy focus in the U.S. and Europe—now it has much more of a global focus and we aim to cover philanthropy much more broadly, including foundations, individual philanthropists and impact investors.
One challenge is being based in London and trying to cover the world. So an absolutely indispensable part of doing that in any credible way is the editorial board. I consult with them several times a year, particularly on new topics, and that gives me a reality check on what’s relevant in different places, particularly the Global South. I’ve been pragmatic as we develop things. I started from a very steep learning curve of not really knowing that much about the subject or knowing many people. Now I’ve got a very wide network of people as well as the editorial board, and of course I read—or at least skim!—lots of other newsletters and magazines.
WINGS: We offer our members the publication at a discount. What are Alliance’sbest, most useful features?
CH: We really aim to provide a complete package. Our mission is to “facilitate the exchange of information and ideas among philanthropists, social investors and others working for social change worldwide…” and that’s what we try to do. It’s very ambitious because the world is a huge place. Nevertheless, everybody is faced with far too much to read, so by skimming through lots of materials and keeping our ears open, we try to provide a one-stop package for people who want to keep up. We pick up news items—new developments and publications from different places—that’s the information side. And we also keep a look out for new ideas and new ways of doing things.
It’s interesting, the way we evolved. We started with a magazine published four times a year, but then we felt that a quarterly magazine was too infrequent, especially as people got more used to having news quickly. So we started the Alliance Bulletin, which we’ve just rebranded as Alliance Extra. This collection of updates and short articles is published each month when the magazine isn’t published. Again, we felt once a month was too far apart and wanted more outlets, so we introduced the blog. So the aim is there to provide a combination of news, updates, new thinking and ideas, so that people will get a really good flavour of what’s happening in philanthropy on a global basis.
One other thing I want to mention is the special features. We go in depth into a particular topic in each issue of the magazine, drawing on contributions from all over the world. This is our own contribution to new thinking. For special features we do a constant scan of what people are interested in, what seem to be the new topics. Each year I put to the editorial board a list of suggestions to choose from, and I ask them for other ideas. In 2012 the topics were resilience investing, philanthropy and risk, what can data do for philanthropy, and networks and philanthropy. We hope that by bringing together a substantial collection of articles and ideas from contributors from around the world, we can make a real contribution to the thinking of the field and help to move it forward a bit.
WINGS: How do you select subjects for your interview series?
CH: This is the opportunistic side. Just looking at this year’s interviews, I got the chance to interview Annie Lennox at the UBS Global Philanthropy Forum in late November last year; I was introduced to Firoz Ladak, director of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, and thought that the work he was doing “realigning a group of foundations nobody knew very much about” would make an interesting interview.
The April interview will be with Christopher Oechsli, president of Atlantic Philanthropies. I read his annual letter a couple of weeks ago and I thought it would be good to talk to him about how Atlantic is gearing up for the last four years. Just recently I met somebody who is in contact with South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, who’s just joined the Giving Pledge, so I’m hoping I may be able to interview him later this year.
WINGS: In June, Alliance will feature philanthropy in the context of a changing world economy. Anthony Tomei, former director of the Nuffield Foundation, is guest editor. How was Tomei selected and what can we look forward to?
CH: For most special features—as with the data and networks features—I look for guest editors who are experts in their field who can bring their ideas, contacts and knowledge of what’s going on. In this case there weren’t any experts to go to—the topic is too new—so I was really looking for someone to help me explore the topic. This will be an exploration—nobody knows how philanthropy is responding to a changing world economy.
Anthony is curious, thoughtful and rigorous in his approach to things. One of the things he did straight away was change the title from “Philanthropy in an age of austerity”, which obviously applies only to the US and Europe and not to the rest of the world. He has just retired as director of the Nuffield Foundation, so he’s still completely in touch with everything but he also has a bit of time—which is important. This will be a time-consuming issue because we are looking at it from scratch.
WINGS: In 2013, a panel of judges informed by public vote will select one of seven nominees for the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize. Tell us about the Alexeeva legacy and about your selection process.
CH: Olga Alexeeva was dedicated to promoting local philanthropy. She saw this as a way to tackle social problems and bring about social change, and that was the focus of the Philanthropy Bridge Foundation, which she founded a year before she died, and which I was chair of. The foundation was to be a bridge between people with wealth (potential donors and existing donors) and nonprofits. In many emerging economies, wealthy people (donors) tend not to trust nonprofits, and nonprofits themselves often don’t know how to approach donors. On a personal level Olga was unique. She had the highest expectations of everyone, but she always started a conversation from where people were; she’d never talk down to anyone but she was always aiming to move people along.
She was afraid of no one, not at all intimidated by wealthy, powerful people—which I’m sure is why they trusted her, why she had the respect and confidence of people like Vladimir Potanin in Russia. Had she lived, Philanthropy Bridge Foundation and Olga herself could have served as a rallying and coordinating point for all the different efforts to promote philanthropy all over the world. Without her there are lots of efforts still going on but there’s no one with that ambition to bring it all together. The prize is one way of shining a light on efforts to promote philanthropy in different countries, and perhaps to find the new Olgas.
We had a good shortlisting process and selecting a winner is now the task of the judges. We’ll announce the winner on the 15th of April, Olga’s birthday. The prize is to honor Olga, but we also hope it will make a significant contribution to philanthropy promotion in its own right.
WINGS: Alliance encourages outside participation to keep up to date with what’s happening in Latin America and the Caribbean. How can WINGS members in the Global South contribute?
CH: We would love to hear from WINGS members if they have interesting stories and updates. Initially, I don’t encourage people to write articles and send them; I’d rather they let us know what’s happening. If it seems right for Alliance, then we might turn it into a news item or a blog piece (which we might ask them to write), or maybe an article. If people have issues they’d like to write about in their countries, things they’re working on—new things that are happening with foundations or in impact investing, for instance—we’d love to hear from them. We’re always looking for new contributors to our blog. And we always love write-ups of conferences people have been to.
Sadly, our Latin America Bulletin doesn’t exist anymore, because we didn’t have enough stories to warrant a separate newsletter. We were finding stories about civil society development and corporate social responsibility but not enough about philanthropy and social investment. So we decided it made more sense to include items about Latin America in Alliance Extra and in the magazine. This is in no way to downplay the importance of the region, but other regions of the Global South are just as important. We really want to find and publish good stories about philanthropy and social investment from all over the world—and this is where I hope WINGS members can help us.
“It’s particularly important that more philanthropic resources go towards goals related to social transformation and long-term change rather than traditional causes.” Maria Chertok
WINGS: What did you take away from your work on the March 2013 issue of Alliance?
Maria Chertok: It was not my first experience writing for Alliance but the first as guest editor. It was quite an intensive and interesting process making the magazine happen. Caroline Hartnell, Jenny Hodgson and I were working on the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize—launching the call for nominations, reading all applications submitted and selecting the short list.
I find the picture of emerging markets philanthropy truly fascinating. There are so many leaders paving the way and so many initiatives unfolding at various levels, from grassroots to multimillion dollar programmes and institutions, yet so few know about it, and there is so little communication between these various actors! I am really happy this issue of Alliance uncovers some of these stories and names, and I hope the Olga Prize will also contribute to this.
WINGS: In your editorial you said, “in many emerging market countries, huge economic opportunities coexist with gross inequality”, adding that for many, “philanthropy is not just about giving but about promoting social change.” How much of a challenge does this present for philanthropy in the Global South?
MC: First, coming from Russia I would not identify emerging markets with the Global South only. I do believe that like in other parts of the world with a developed culture of philanthropy, social change giving is just a fraction of overall giving. But with the amount of immediate human problems and the level of poverty in all senses of this word, I believe it is particularly important that more philanthropic resources go towards goals related to social transformation and long-term change rather than traditional causes. This will not happen naturally; we need to make special efforts in donor education and advice space to demonstrate the impact of such efforts and win the case of social change philanthropy.
WINGS: The Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV) will co-host WINGSForum 2014. In February you represented the Charities Aid Foundation in Istanbul at an event* cosponsored by WINGS and TUSEV, to discuss new trends in the sector. Can you tell us about the event?
MC: For me it was one of the highlights of our directors meeting in Istanbul as we see a very big interest from our friends in Turkey to the discussion. I was speaking about how philanthropy developed in Russia, and I believe there are many parallels with the process in Turkey. The response from the audience was very lively. We do need more chances to share experiences and find inspiration in the successes of our peers. I hope the “Emerging Philanthropies – Emerging Societies” in Peterhof, Russia this July, and WINGSForum 2014 will contribute to this process.
*Other speakers at the TUSEV event include WINGS board members Jenny Hodgson (GFCF), Ruth Jones (SVPI), and John Harvey (COF).
Photo of Caroline Hartnell courtesy Alliance magazine. Photo of Maria Chertok via mott.org. WINGS members receive a 20% discount on new subscriptions of Alliance. More than 140 countries are eligible for a free electronic subscription. More about the Olga Alexeeva memorial prize here.