Community philanthropy and a new model of development

The following is an excerpt from an article published by Alliance on 16 December 2014. The original article can be found here. For more information about Alliance magazine, please visit

By Jenny Hodgson and Barry Knight

What role can community philanthropy play in development post-2015? Comments on Jenny Hodgson and Barry Knight’s article come from Canada, Germany, Slovakia, Romania, the UK and the US.

As discussion hots up around the United Nations’ new set of Sustainable Development Goals, set to replace the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is a good time to reflect on the architecture of the international development sector and the role community philanthropy might play in development. The post-2015 goals will apply universally, not just to developing countries, so this discussion is relevant everywhere.

On 4 December UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released his Synthesis Report for the post-2015 development agenda. This report will be the basis for discussion among governments and other actors in the run-up to the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

A global development industry

The good news is that the MDGs have reduced extreme poverty by half (though the benefits have not always been evenly spread geographically and there has been less success on key goals relating to women and children).

However, the global development ‘industry’ that the donor community has helped to create over the last few decades in the pursuit of poverty alleviation and other global development objectives may not be fit for purpose. Many NGOs have become highly skilled proposal writers, budget jugglers and masters of development jargon, who compete with each other to serve the needs of external funders.

The impact of international funding has also distorted our sense of time (a five-year development project can be considered long-term) and created lines of ‘accountability’ (a slippery, multi-directional word much bandied about in development discourse) which drive upwards and outwards. The result is hefty reports landing on desks in London or Washington, far from the people that development is meant to serve. Continue Reading.

Jenny Hodgson is executive director and Barry Knight is adviser to the Global Fund for Community Foundations. Hodgson participated in a recent WINGS webinar on diaspora philanthropy. The WINGS report, Infrastructure in Focus: A Special Look at Organizations Serving Community Philanthropy, shares new data on CP infrastructure organizations, suggesting how our practice and knowledge about them can improve.

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