By Javier García Moritán, Grupo de Fundaciones y Empresas (GDFE) – Argentina
The WINGS meeting in Jamaica, Driving Philanthropy for the Future, will live on in our history as an event that inspired GDFE, along with other chambers and associations, to launch an ambitious initiative to move together “from competition to cooperation”. The creation of a “new social investment ecosystem” derives from the awareness of the need to strengthen philanthropy infrastructure in a time when fragmentation, lack of trust and of systemic change lead to 90% of private social investment being devoted exclusively to projects, instead of being devoted to the bolstering of institutions; the same institutions which are supposed to create change conditions for sustainable development.
We all say there is a need to move towards more cooperative rather than competitive schemes, but we don’t always put this in practice. I am mostly speaking about the spheres of private social investment, corporate social responsibility and sustainability and, in particular, the “second floor” associations through which we represent others through their membership with us.
Of course, all the needs we pursue as organizations to keep ourselves afloat prevent us from reaching the stage of thinking about how to grow as an ecosystem. What do we mean by this? We seek a way to extend our representation for more sustainable development, to facilitate the task to members who participate in different associations with similar goals, and to build an infrastructure of organizations that, at the same time, drive funds strategically.
The initiative we are developing at GDFE, inspired by the WNGS meeting in Kingston, is aimed, as in every collaborative scheme, at every participant compromising so that everyone wins in the long term. Resources are scarce and even more so when we compete for them.
Hence the need to wonder: isn’t common good our ultimate end? Aren’t we all striving for a more inclusive society with strong institutions? One that can give way to an economy that balances business and ethical performance? Aren’t the Sustainable Development Goals the beacon for our actions? If the answer is affirmative, we face a huge opportunity to make our management more efficient.
A new ecosystem
What goals should this new network of organizations pursue in order to achieve sustainability? First, it should look at individual challenges we are not able to tackle nowadays and identify what aspect of them can be resolved collectively. Then, it should gain sufficient institutional representation to make advocacy in public policy and attract international resources for cooperation in a collaborative way.
Additionally, this new social investment ecosystem must acknowledge each institution, taking their own singularity as a strength to be maximized in interaction with others. If I carried out human rights initiatives, for instance, but they were not my priority tasks, why wouldn’t I channel the former through an ally whose interventions revolved mainly around human rights? If education is not the pillar of my mission, why not work side by side with someone who does identify it as fundamental to their purpose? And the same applies to each vertical paradigm, be it local development and support to community foundations, health, environment, volunteering, inclusive business or ethics and compliance issues, just to cite a few.
With this new organizational ecosystem, we set out to become an essential stakeholder for governments at the time they need to agree or negotiate State decisions: we aim for these decisions to be made not only alongside unions, social movements, the Church or some business chamber, but for an important institution of strategic philanthropy to be recognized as well.
Don’t make it so that the solution is worse than the problem
There is a widespread belief in the context of social investment that touts funding a specific project as more effective than taking part in an organization devoted to systemic change. It is true that it is not the same to deploy an initiative in the field than to pay for a membership fee. One seems to have a more direct impact while the other would reach the goal in a mediate way.
If we understand, in self-awareness, that our interventions from chambers, associations and such may not have been effective at times, these organizations are the ones who can create conditions for the most necessary changes to occur, and to hold! Let’s not make it so that the solution is worse than the problem: let’s not abandon second floor organizations but transform them; let’s not give up collective initiatives, no matter how intricate their processes might be sometimes, but let’s make them more efficient. Inflexible as they might seem, institutions are not more than we, their individual people, make of them every day.
Thus the need arises to create a new social investment ecosystem: to act as a true “infrastructure” by overcoming individual approaches in order to achieve the impact we all seek. In other words, to realize that great thing that we ask of others (to compromise) and to leave smaller egos aside, so that what we leave, ultimately, is a footprint that leads towards development.
Javier García Moritán
Executive Director at Grupo de Fundaciones y Empresas (GDFE) – Argentina
Grupo de Fundaciones y Empresas (GDFE) – Argentina promotes private social investment in Argentina and Private Social Investment among peers, civil society, general public and international organisations. More information: https://www.gdfe.org.ar/