Our Perspectives

Stronger partnerships with foundations to take sustainable development further


HC in IndonesiaA farmer in Kenya, one of four countries where UNDP is partnering with philanthropic foundations for the implementation of the sustainable development agenda. Photo: UNDP Africa.

“If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

This old African proverb underpins UNDP’s engagement with philanthropic foundations for the implementation of the new sustainable development agenda.

Ghana is the fourth country – following Kenya, Colombia and Indonesia – where we are connecting local foundations with the UN, government, private sector and civil society-led policy discussions and development initiatives. The project is in collaboration with our partners the Foundation Center and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and aims to localize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Philanthropy has played a significant role in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) progress. Although foundations do not typically use the entire MDG framework to report or communicate their work, their contributions to health, education and other goals have been tremendous.

Limited data on philanthropic giving and activities impedes efforts to accurately measure impact. Outside of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a few other larger foundations, we have little understanding of what the philanthropy sector is investing in and how.

The Ford, MasterCard and Conrad N. Hilton foundations have recognized that philanthropy can be a major force and ally in implementing the post-2015 agenda. As leading global philanthropic organizations involved in international development, they are supporting our efforts through the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy. Our interventions emphasize benefits closer collaboration could deliver, which is essential in implementing sustainable development.

We have discovered thriving and diverse local philanthropy in the four countries where we are working. Economic growth there has resulted in wealth creation, of which some resources are now being directed to support social change. In Kenya and Colombia we mapped over 400 local philanthropic organizations including corporate foundations, community foundations, family and individual business leaders’ foundations and educational trusts.

It is not just the financial resources of philanthropy that makes the difference but also their unique way of approaching the challenges. They bring a determined focus on outcomes and a commitment to innovation through experimentation and testing. Moreover, local foundations promote additional knowledge and generate insights on local contexts and ideas regarding how to overcome barriers.

Thanks to our efforts, Kenyan foundations and trusts contribute to supporting the national education sector plans driven by the Ministry of Education aiming to improve and measure the quality of education beyond merely universal enrolment. In Colombia, the Platform connects local philanthropy with the government led Commission for Sustainable Development responsible for integrating the SDGs into national development plans.

We have also learned that creating an enabling institutional environment for philanthropy is key for the field to advance and flourish. That’s why in Kenya, we have helped to establish the Kenya Philanthropy Forum, which is a vehicle for Kenyan foundations to voice their perspectives in policy discussions with government and other development actors. One key task is to develop mechanisms for philanthropic data collection that would enable the sector to become more transparent, accountable and credible to other partners.

Southern philanthropy has become a powerful force for good. At UNDP, we see a huge opportunity to reach out and develop productive relationships with these foundations. In this way, together we can champion innovative ideas and challenge conventional thinking, which are essential preconditions for achieving the SDGs.

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