WINGSForum Interview: Sofia Arroyo

In the run up to WINGSForum 2017, we will be publishing interviews with some of our esteemed speakers. For this interview we spoke to Sofia Arroyo, Executive Director of Sacred Fire Foundation.


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

S.A.: I have been working in this field for approximately 10 years, which is when I joined Sacred Fire Foundation as a volunteer. The organization was very young and they were looking for someone to put together their grant program. I have to confess I had no experience doing anything of the sort as my professional background is in film and communications, but I had a passion for Indigenous Peoples and their perspective so I  took on the challenge. I became their Grant Director, set up and launched our grant program, then moved over to the Communications department and finally to the Executive Director’s seat.  I am interested in attending the WINGS Forum as I see it as a great learning opportunity, especially for those of us who are trying to move into transformational grant-making models and interested in supporting a systems change. I believe the Forum offers the opportunity to hear from other organizations doing similar work, meet interesting people and hopefully have a chance to form alliances and partnerships.

WiNGS: What might ‘Critical Philanthropy: Addressing Complexity, Challenging Ourselves’ mean to you and to Sacred Fire Foundation?

S.A.: For me this concept speaks about the situation that the world is in right now. Inequality and imbalance has never been worse and it is time that we collectively address and explore a systems change. If we are to continue to push philanthropy forward, we need to be able to review the way we are addressing the challenging times ahead and how we are relating to our communities and constituency. We need to find new and more empowering ways to support our communities and shift the power. From Sacred Fire Foundation’s view, we are also hoping that this means being able to challenge ourselves to take on a different view, a different perspective of relating to the world that we see for example within Indigenous Communities. A relationship of reciprocity, respect for the environment, a sense of community and so on.

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?

S.A.: I will be part of the panel at the session entitled “Measuring Philanthropy’s Impact- Development and Quality of Life”. We will be exploring the challenges and learning around how easy or difficult it is to measure impact. I will specifically speak about the Buen Vivir concept that Indigenous Peoples particularly have in South America. This concept has to do with their perspective on life, on what are the things that really matter. Some of these are quite intangible in terms of being able to apply your average data measurement tools. I am looking forward to having a conversation around this subject as I believe that the philanthropic community needs to revisit the way we measure impact, e4specially if we are to focus on a different perspective in terms of what the priorities of our communities are. I am eager to hear from my colleagues at the panel as they will be sharing their experiences in Bhutan and Indonesia.

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

S.A.: Because I am a firm believer in the power of numbers and unity. The more opportunities that the philanthropic community has to get together and look for new solutions to our problems, if we can collectively explore different models and support a systems change, all of our efforts will be amplified and change will be bigger. These gatherings are crucial in order to learn and move together.

WINGS: What will a successful WINGSForum look like in Mexico and what do you hope people take away from the conference in regards to local philanthropy?

S.A.: I would hope that having the opportunity to listen to people and organizations from so many different countries working on a diversity of issues will bring about a desire to broaden our perspective. I hope that gatherings like this help the local philanthropic community to grow and for more people in Mexico to be interested in getting involved.

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