WINGSForum 2017: An Interview with Jenny Hodgson

 

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We caught up with one of the WINGSForum speakers and Chair of the Planning Committee, Jenny Hodgson. Hodgson is currently the Executive Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, having joined the organisation in January 2007. She has worked in the field of local philanthropy development in the former Soviet Union, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia for the last ten years. From 1998 to 2000 she was Co-Director of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) representative office in Moscow. While based in Nairobi, Kenya, she worked as a consultant to CAF, the Ford Foundation office for Eastern Africa and Allavida. From 2004 to 2006, she worked as a consultant to the Ford Foundation’s International Initiative to Strengthen Philanthropy (IISP), the European Foundation Centre, the Singapore National Centre for Volunteering and Philanthropy, the Barrow Cadbury Trust and WINGS.

  1. WINGSForum brings together leaders in membership associations and support organizations serving philanthropy. What is the benefit in having a niche conference that brings similar organizations together?

The field of organized philanthropy is growing rapidly, with much of that growth happening in countries – such as India, China or Kenya – where the concept and practice is still relatively new. As new foundations continue to emerge, so do the networks and associations that support them. The Russian Donors’ Forum, for example, IPASA (South Africa) the African Philanthropy Network and African Philanthropy Forum, and GIFE in Brazil are all part of this new and fast-evolving landscape.

Although much of this growth philanthropy is associated with corporate, personal and family wealth, we are also seeing the emergence of various different forms of organizations promoting more participatory forms of giving. This is an exciting development too. Community philanthropy represents an important piece of the landscape for philanthropy and development because it provides ways for “ordinary” (rather than just wealthy) people to express their empathy, solidarity and voice through the act of giving. With levels of public trust (in government, in the corporate sector and between people) disturbingly low, the role of local institutions working to connect resources with needs, invite participation and broker relationships, is critical.

So, for philanthropy associations and support organizations there can be a lot to contend with! For emerging networks in contexts where philanthropy itself is also emerging, these organizations can feel pulled in many directions. How to strike the right balance between service provision (capacity building etc.) for example, and more strategic questions of developing and positioning the philanthropic sector?

If, as is often the case, yours is the only philanthropy support organization association in your country or region, then these dilemmas can sometimes seem overwhelming. WINGSForum offers a unique space for networks to come together in a supportive environment to focus specifically on issues that affect them. Having attended three previous WINGSForums (in Istanbul, Como and Bangkok) I can tell you that there is a particular buzz and energy that is unique to this event – like a family reunion perhaps, or a gathering of long-lost friends.

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  1. What issue are you most looking forward to addressing at WINGSForum 2017?

Well, in addition to catching up with old friends and colleagues, I am excited by its title – “Critical Philanthropy” – and the dual meaning it implies. On the one hand, how can philanthropy rise to the challenge and play its part in addressing the most urgent issues of the day? And, at the same time, are we as a field sufficiently reflective or self-critical about our impact, our ways of working and our values?

 

 

  1. You are moderating a session on inequality at The Forum. What are your initial thoughts to the role of philanthropy infrastructure organizations in addressing inequality?

I will be moderating a plenary session on inequality at the Forum. Despite the many gains that have been made human development – science and technology, as well as economic and social – levels of inequality are higher than ever globally. Too many people are still being left behind, excluded from the advances and opportunities that other parts of the population are enjoying. Somewhere our systems our failing – they are failing the most marginalized certainly, and they are weakening the fabric of our communities. Unequal communities are bad for everyone. We need to accept that a lot of philanthropy is itself to some extent a product of our unequal systems and structures, which disproportionately benefit a few and have helped create a new tier of super-wealthy. And so we have a paradox: sizeable, independent, flexible, resources dedicated to the social good which are often themselves the symptom of a global economic system that is failing many. It is important that WINGS and its members – indeed, the philanthropy sector as a whole – engage with these kinds of complex and structural issues collectively and thoughtfully. Because WINGS’ constituency is so global and so diverse – and in particular, because it includes both private and participatory philanthropy institutions – the Forum offers the perfect platform to have this kind of conversation in a dynamic and constructive way, and to benefit from some of the best insights and practice the field has to offer.

To find out more about our speakers, and about WINGSForum 2017, please be sure to visit the site! http://www.wingsforum.org

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