WINGSForum Interview: Atallah Kuttab

Each week, in the run up to WINGSForum 2017, we will publish a new interview with one of our esteemed speakers. For the first in our series of WINGSForum interviews we spoke to Atallah Kuttab, Founder of SAANED for Philanthropy Advisory.

WINGS: Tell us a little about yourself, your work in philanthropy infrastructure and your interest in attending WINGSForum 2017?

ataA.K.: I have been involved in the philanthropy sector for more than 25 years in the Arab region and with international exposure . I have been the CEO of a Foundation, Taawon which is based in Switzerland and Palestine and implements programs for Palestinians. During that tenure and in 2006 I founded the network of Arab Foundations and have been involved since 2006 as well with WINGS chairing its board of directors in the period 2012-2014. My interest has always been building the infrastructure of philanthropy in the Arab region and supporting that internationally, and that’s how I have been involved with WINGS and never missed the WINGS Forum!  

WINGS: What might ‘Critical Philanthropy: Addressing Complexity, Challenging Ourselves’ mean to you and to your organization?

A.K.: For Philanthropy to be effective in dealing with the complex problems facing our communities locally and globally, it needs to go beyond its traditional comfort zone working alone and in isolation. It needs to work with others: civil society organizations, the private sector and government. It is only through such cooperation we will be able to build synergy in efforts and make the best of our various strengths. Not easy, nut also it is not just a dream. We are seeing it happening in areas where the blend between the profit and the not for profit sectors (whether called social investment, social business etc.) is producing very positive results. New forms of philanthropy are evolving and not only for the rich.  That’s why the title of this meeting is very apt as we are looking at critical ways to adjust and evolve in the future to address the complex issues out there and along the way challenge ourselves.

WINGS: What is your involvement in the session you will be speaking at WINGSForum and what issue(s) are you most looking forward to addressing at WINGSForum2017?

A.K.: I am involved in three sessions that are very related.

The first session highlights the richness and diversity of the local cultures of giving around the world. This is part of an important WINGS project in which it will seek to understand the diversity of cultures of giving and local discourses including evolving patterns of philanthropy, its role in society and its relationship to governments. It is hoped that better understanding of characteristics of global philanthropy will pave the way to better ability to aggregate meaningful data about the sector.  

The second session highlights the importance and various modalities of building networks in various regions, there are both similarities and differences on the growing of networks, and in how learning has been facilitated within networks and across regions. In particular, reflections on what philanthropy means, providing leadership in being the nexus for various forms of philanthropy that are evolving; the challenges and obstacles we face and the roles of WINGS to help facilitate network building in our regions.

Finally and coming from a region where many of its citizens became refugees, the third session highlights emphasis the critical role that philanthropy plays in supporting people most affected by conflict and restoring lasting peace. This session will explore how philanthropic organizations in various regions are supporting refugees impacted by the conflict in Syria, and working to build sustainable peace in post-conflict Colombia.

WINGS: Why do you think infrastructure and this global gathering are important for the development of the sector?

A.K.: It helps us to learn from each other. We do not need to go through the learning curve each time we venture into a new path. Infrastructure organizations are curators of knowledge that can be made available to any of us. It makes our journey easier, more pleasant and more efficient. Therefore, the need for supporting and investing in philanthropy infrastructure.

WINGS: Anything else to add?

A.K. This will be my fourth WINGS meeting: 2007 in Bangkok, 2011 in Lake Como, 2014 Istanbul and in February 2017 in Mexico city. These meetings and their settings are very enriching. Each time the WINGS meeting was better than the one before and keeps improving… So, I am looking forward to a very exciting meeting in Mexico and looking forward to seeing my friends and colleagues from various parts of our globe to learn together and from each other and have good time.


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