August 25, 2014

Partnership Platform for Philanthropy

Helping philanthropy better understand the opportunities
for engaging in global development goal processes

Over the past decade, the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, have been critical in mobilizing resources and driving real progress on some of the world’s most pressing problems. With the MDGs’ deadline of 2015 fast approaching, discussion over what should succeed these goals — known as the “Post-2015 development agenda”— is an important collective undertaking for those concerned with international cooperation. As this agenda, often referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is being negotiated, there has been a push to use international funding for development more effectively through enabling innovative models of collaboration by a wider group of partners and stakeholders.

The project for the Post-2015 Partnership Platform for Philanthropy (the Platform) focuses on philanthropy’s input into this developmental landscape by helping grantmakers to better understand the opportunities for engaging in global development goals processes. It will help to build a collective voice for philanthropy in the global discussions on the Post-2015 agenda, something welcomed by many governments and others. The project will, at the same time, assist governments and the UN system in comprehending the added value of philanthropy’s direct engagement. It will also, crucially, help amplify the voice and action of grantees in determining and achieving international targets and strategies. The project is implemented jointly by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Foundation Centre (FC), and a Collaboration Committee guided and supported by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA).

Why Now?

Historically, official and private aid has been only partially successful at tackling both the root causes and symptoms of the goals addressed by the MDGs. While there have been wide gains in poverty reduction, many challenges are increasing – not the least growing inequality, the degradation of natural resources, and the predicament of unemployed youth. The international system must work differently to tackle these and other crucial issues. Currently, a global planning process is underway on the SDGs, with a dual focus of finishing the job of the MDGs and addressing new development challenges that have come to the forefront. Philanthropy can play a greater role in determining these priorities by leveraging its “neutral” position to bring other non-governmental stakeholders into the process – a task with which development aid agencies, such as UN Development Program (UNDP), have historically struggled.

To catalyze different ways of addressing these challenges, the organizations listed above began to converge their efforts in early 2014 in a participatory and consultative process. A March 2014 convening organized by the Hilton Foundation and UNDP brought together foundations and networks interested in the greater engagement of philanthropy around the SDGs. The forum on “Fostering Commitment and Leadership for the Post-2015 Agenda” was opened by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and built upon earlier convenings held by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Participating foundations continued their deliberations at the Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) Forum 2014 in Istanbul, the Salzburg Global Seminar on Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Social and Financial Transformation, the 2014 annual Council on Foundations meeting, the Development Cooperation Forum in Istanbul in June 2014, and other events.

The response has been very encouraging. At the Council on Foundations conference over 100 participants joined the session. A panel entitled “Enhancing Philanthropy’s Role in Sustainable Development” at the Global Philanthropy Forum in April 2014 drew many newcomers to philanthropy and generated great interest. There was widespread acknowledgment among the attendees of the timeliness and importance of philanthropy becoming more engaged with the post-2015 goal process. In the closing plenary session of the Forum, Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and widely respected world leader and acknowledged author of the “sustainable development” paradigm, challenged the philanthropic gathering to be a better collaborator:

“What we need is everyone stepping up to the challenge. Because it’s the sum of what all of us are able to do – from the government, from the local community . . . to the private sector – totally – that’s what will help us, as quickly as possible, get to sustainable development.”

Responding to this imperative and building on the outcomes of the various meetings are three strong organizations committed to the implementation of the Platform, and incorporating a deeply collaborative approach. UNDP, the Foundation Center (FC) and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) each bring a unique set of assets that are critical to this project’s success. UNDP is responsible for coordinating the UN system’s role in the post-2015 goal identification process. The FC has the capacity and institutional expertise necessary to deliver on its web product, as seen in its prototype RPA has many years of experience in working with philanthropists to achieve thoughtful, effective philanthropy, and enabling funding collaboratives to achieve their members’ shared aims.

Several foundations have been engaged in the planning process, not only the Hilton, Ford and MasterCard Foundations, but also the Oak Foundation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Humanity United, the Global Fund for Women, and networks such as the African Grantmakers Network, European Foundation Center, Council on Foundations, Global Philanthropy Forum, and WINGS.

Project Description

The four overarching objectives of this project are to:

  1. Create a collective voice for philanthropy willing to engage as a partner in the global discussions on the Post-2015 development agenda.
  2. Develop country-level platforms that help inform and identify opportunities for philanthropy and grantees to collaborate with multilateral, government, and other development partners.
  3. Create new methods of outreach and engagement at global level that support dialogue and collaboration among the UN, philanthropy, governments and civil society organizations during and after the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs.
  4. Build a web portal that makes data on philanthropic investments more accessible for philanthropy to track progress, find partners, and tell their stories on the road to the completion of the MDGs and the beginning of the SDGs.

These objectives will be met by the three implementing partners – UNDP, FC, and RPA through its guidance of a multi-stakeholder Collaboration Committee. Each organization will have fiduciary and management responsibilities for the activities within its respective component. UNDP and the FC will communicate about and promote relevant good practice guidelines through their websites and to foundations who attend meetings, such as the Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement (GEPEs), Disaster Philanthropy Protocol, and the Global Philanthropy Data Charter.

The overarching assumption behind this initiative is that a deeper understanding by foundations around the world of the MDGs and SDGs transition process, and how they can engage and contribute their work to the global agenda, will be enormously important to achieving global goals. This, together with a more in-depth understanding by the UN and governments on the role of foundations, will foster more and better national and global partnerships, which will in the long term enhance the impact of each stakeholder’s interventions.

 For more information please contact Heather Grady, Senior Fellow, Global Philanthropy, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors at or +1 415 343 0838.