Global Philanthropy and its New Focus on “Collective Impact”

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April 24, 2012; Source: Huffington Post

According to William Brindly, CEO and executive director of NetHope, a new philanthropic focus on “collective impact” is worth noting – not just by philanthropy but by networks of nonprofits working on a common issue.

Brindley, who evidently was invited to the Forum, speaks from his own experience at NetHope which brings together leading humanitarian organizations to collaborate and implement IT solutions in the developing world. Instead of competing, he asserts, the organizations develop common projects that can be scaled or merged and where activities are based on “best practices and emerging trends”.

The call for greater collaboration and less competition in the sector is not new. What is new, according to Brindley, is that philanthropists and foundations seem poised to change the funding model. To do so, they will need to commit to higher rates of unrestricted funds and gifts with longer terms.

Says Brindley, “Some new philanthropists take it upon themselves to play a coordinating role; connecting organizations with each other to tackle a shared goal. In this type of problem solving philanthropy, the philanthropist orchestrates from a high-level perspective to assess and match players that, together, can make the largest impact.” But, as Brindley goes on to say this type of coordination does not necessarily have to come from philanthropy but can be pushed up by the networks of organizations doing the work.

Brindley notes the connection of this concept to a number of other recent trends in philanthropy that we will not go into here. 

This trend definitely deserves a more complete analysis from NPQ but first we’d like to ask you – will a philanthropic focus on collective impact indeed transform the rhetoric of collaboration into networks of action with clear and powerful outcomes or might this trend have troublesome assumptions and unanticipated consequences? Let us know what you think. –Michelle Shumate

  • John Godfrey

    My reaction is that surely this is neither new nor startling. Nonprofits have collaborated in disaster relief, in research, in community activities for ever. The inevitable controversy will arise when critics become alarmed that “philanthrocapitalists” are imposing their will on philanthropy.