I just returned from an extraordinary trip hosted by the Liberian government’s new Secretariat of Philanthropy. The Secretariat did a great job connecting donors to government officials and Liberian-run social entrepreneurship and development organizations. The Secretariat also helped acculturate visiting donors to the particular challenges and opportunities of funding in a country like Liberia which is transitioning from the “post-conflict” to “recovery” phase.
Should there be an International Center on Transitional Philanthropy?
What if there was an international center acting as a partner, clearing house, hub to debate and create best practices for those engaged in all parts of the philanthropic continuum in transitional countries and communities?
I’ve hosted meetings for many years for the International Center for Transitional Justice, which works with fragile and post-conflict states to help them transition into more peaceful, stable democracies. They define transitional justice as,
“a response to systematic or widespread violations of human rights. It seeks recognition for victims and to promote possibilities for peace, reconciliation and democracy. Transitional justice is not a special form of justice but justice adapted to societies transforming themselves after a period of pervasive human rights abuse.”
The TJ field uses a number of different processes which are adapted and implemented to different degrees depending on the needs of the countries and communities. Approaches might include some combination of criminal prosecutions, truth and reconciliation commissions, reparations programs, gender justice, security system reforms, memorialization initatives, traditional rituals, etc. (For a more in depth description of the evolution of the TJ sector, see Dr. Louis Bickford’s entry in the Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
What would an International Center on Transitional Philanthropy look like?
Who would it serve? What kinds of initiatives and best practices might it establish? In what ways might it educate and sensitize “grantors” and also give a new platform for “grantee” populations to have more say over their experience of philanthropy? As in the ICTJ model, could an “ICTP” provide capacity in terms of experts and information on legal and policy frameworks client countries might want to consider? Could it provide support for respecting and incorporating traditional or diaspora philanthropic traditions?
What are the downsides to an ICTP?
Would it focus too much energy on conflict and post-conflict funding, and de-prioritize or compete with the complex and more complete life-cycle funding needed in countries and communities lifting themselves into recovery and normative status?
And above all — does the world need another international philanthropy center? Are the issues and best practices of what could be considered “transitional philanthropy” already addressed adequately for international and in-country funders by entities like the Global Philanthropy Forum, International Human Rights Funders Group or Grantmakers Without Borders?
Food for thought…