Sizing the Field - New narratives for African philanthropy
By:AGN WebAdmin     Date Published:18-May-2014    
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Summary/Abstract:
The framework for a new narrative of African philanthropy recognises the centrality of the Many to One categories of social giving in Africa, which looks at situation where multiple givers are mobilized in support of a cause or individual that directly affects or is linked to them. This is a distinct feature of community based philanthropy, where a community of whatever description raises funds to meet a need facing some subset of its members. It is worth noting that very often, specific examples of giving will have a few features that do not fully sit within one category or another. However, the categories provide some means of drawing distinctions that can guide thinking on how to assess and engage with different forms of philanthropy. 

Community-based philanthropy maps to the “Many to One” segment of our initial framework and is likely the most predominant form of philanthropy across Africa today. We interpret “Many to One” to refer to the fact that Community Philanthropy is about mobilizing the resources of a group to respond to a specific need within the community. There is a strong element of self-help in this category that distinguishes it from the Mobilized philanthropy model where resources are pooled to target needs outside a given group. 

There is currently a limited but growing body of literature on this form of philanthropy that recognizes its central importance in societies across the continent. Per our definition for this research initiative, community foundations and faith-based community organizations account for the bulk of the observed examples. In addition to these standing organizations, there are traditional models for mobilization such as the Harambee tradition in East Africa and the Isusu in West Africa that form a basis for quickly pulling together resources of a community for a specific purpose. 

It is worth noting that structures like Harambee often straddle the line between Community and Mobilized models. When those instruments move from being mechanisms for self-help, to gathering resources from a much wider cross section of society towards a common cause, they transition into the mobilized category. This shift has brought with it some concern that such mechanisms when removed from the community context lend themselves to abuse, as they lack the level of formal transparency that is necessary at large scale. 

As Africa urbanizes and some of the established cultural norms of tightly knit communities are eroded, we might see a transition from the predominance of Community based philanthropy to an environment where Mobilized Philanthropy structures are more the norm, as the primary outlet for philanthropy among the general population. 

Religious structures often function as channels for philanthropic giving, acting as mediators for people’s donations for community causes. However these are tricky to accurately capture and categorize for a number of reasons including: 
Difficulties tracking formal religious tithing in larger organizations from donors through to beneficiaries since funds go towards a mix of local needs (Community-based), other charitable purposes (mobilized) and operations of religious organizations themselves. 

A lot of giving tends to be religiously motivated as opposed to being explicitly channeled through religious structures. Thus the Islamic obligation to zakat, for example, lies at the heart of a lot of charitable giving in various categories but may not always be visible as a formal driver of philanthropy

The framework for a new narrative of African philanthropy recognises the centrality of the Many to One categories of social giving in Africa, which looks at situation where multiple givers are mobilized in support of a cause or individual that directly affects or is linked to them. This is a distinct feature of community based philanthropy, where a community of whatever description raises funds to meet a need facing some subset of its members. It is worth noting that very often, specific examples of giving will have a few features that do not fully sit within one category or another. However, the categories provide some means of drawing distinctions that can guide thinking on how to assess and engage with different forms of philanthropy. 

Community-based philanthropy maps to the “Many to One” segment of our initial framework and is likely the most predominant form of philanthropy across Africa today. We interpret “Many to One” to refer to the fact that Community Philanthropy is about mobilizing the resources of a group to respond to a specific need within the community. There is a strong element of self-help in this category that distinguishes it from the Mobilized philanthropy model where resources are pooled to target needs outside a given group. 

There is currently a limited but growing body of literature on this form of philanthropy that recognizes its central importance in societies across the continent. Per our definition for this research initiative, community foundations and faith-based community organizations account for the bulk of the observed examples. In addition to these standing organizations, there are traditional models for mobilization such as the Harambee tradition in East Africa and the Isusu in West Africa that form a basis for quickly pulling together resources of a community for a specific purpose. 

It is worth noting that structures like Harambee often straddle the line between Community and Mobilized models. When those instruments move from being mechanisms for self-help, to gathering resources from a much wider cross section of society towards a common cause, they transition into the mobilized category. This shift has brought with it some concern that such mechanisms when removed from the community context lend themselves to abuse, as they lack the level of formal transparency that is necessary at large scale. As Africa urbanizes and some of the established cultural norms of tightly knit communities are eroded, we might see a transition from the predominance of Community based philanthropy to an environment where Mobilized Philanthropy structures are more the norm, as the primary outlet for philanthropy among the general population. 

Religious structures often function as channels for philanthropic giving, acting as mediators for people’s donations for community causes. However these are tricky to accurately capture and categorize for a number of reasons including: 
  • Difficulties tracking formal religious tithing in larger organizations from donors through to beneficiaries since funds go towards a mix of local needs (Community-based), other charitable purposes (mobilized) and operations of religious organizations themselves. 
  • A lot of giving tends to be religiously motivated as opposed to being explicitly channeled through religious structures. Thus the Islamic obligation to zakat, for example, lies at the heart of a lot of charitable giving in various categories but may not always be visible as a formal driver of philanthropy.
  • Recognizing these challenges, our scan of examples notes instances with a strong religious motivation across the various categories, with the bulk appearing under the Community and Mobilized categories depending on the extent to which activities are focused on the local community versus supporting causes in the broader society.


By: AGN WebAdmin
Secretariat

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