BY ANUSHIA KANDASAMY, APC MALAYSIA REPRESENTATIVE
Today’s complex issues require not only strategic and collaborative philanthropy, but also a strong, supportive ecosystem to unlock its full potential.
This year’s venn—APC’s annual member gathering—brought three themes to the forefront: community, capital, and collaboration in philanthropy amidst an ever-changing, complex, and volatile world.
In a content-packed two days bringing together more than 100 members and guests, venn2023 presented the unique opportunity for participants to engage with a cross-section of organisations both in Singapore and the region, exchange ideas and experiences with one another, and learn from inspiring leaders with two stellar keynote sessions with impact investing pioneer Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen, and Singapore’s very own President Tharman Shanmugaratnam!
During the discussions, three lessons in particular stood out on what role philanthropists should play in shaping systems change to build a sustainable future:
Lesson 1: Courageously support communities
Philanthropists have the ability and resources to be entrepreneurial in their perspective and seek to solve problems that other people cannot. This is where their role in supporting social entrepreneurs and innovators is crucial—enabling individuals who are willing to upend systems that are not working and are
creating new ones that put humanity and the earth at the centre. Philanthropy needs to courageously support such individuals and the communities they work with to experiment, to fail, and to learn from their experiences towards scaling their impact.
Growing the capability and capacity of social impact organisations are just as important as funding the causes themselves. Building vibrant learning communities and support systems is vital; philanthropists need to consider talent development among social entrepreneurs, their teams, and their communities in the same way they would invest in talent within their own for-profit businesses in order to strengthen the sector’s ability to create impact.
Lesson 2 – Mobilise patient capital as “Trustees of the Future”
Philanthropists hold great power in mobilising capital to overcome global and local challenges amidst the radical uncertainty of our times. Philanthropy plays an important role in the long term by being catalytic, absorbing risk, and leveraging capital—not just financial capital, but also social, human, and
If philanthropists see themselves as trustees of the future—responsible for safeguarding a prosperous tomorrow for the world—how they view and use their capital will transform; this means aligning philanthropy, business, community, and government to work together differently, and more effectively,
towards public good. Philanthropists have the ability, and the responsibility, to mobilise across classes and generations to stimulate the right pressure points for impact, and to define new directions in giving.
Lesson 3 – Build collaboration based on Trust
One of the aims of APC is to foster collaboration—and successful collaborative efforts have not just been sprouting, but blossoming! Members, sharing their lessons from working together, brought to life the importance of connecting deeply to build trust as the foundation of effective collaboration.
For members working together, building trust members involves being open, and not having pre-defined agendas upfront. This has made space for members to jointly align their diverse approaches to make change happen. While such an approach may take more time to yield results, the creation of such safe spaces for collective learning and sharing has resulted in building a deep network that has the potential to create broader and more sustained impact.
Likewise, breaking down silos across partner organisations, especially in the non-profit space and removing the perception of “competing for scarce resources” have enabled them to truly open up, share their experiences, wisdom, and connections for the greater good of the community, and potentially avoid
reinventing wheels that don’t work.
Trust-based collaboration is built through regular conversations between and among funders, grantees, and communities, plus a flexible mindset of give and take.
Taking if forward: make the 3Cs real!
Asian philanthropists are in a unique position to contribute meaningfully to systems change, with all three Cs in place: access to Capital (in all its forms—from financial to social, human, political, intellectual, and natural), a Community of like-minded individuals with a common goal to build a prosperous future, and a Collaborative spirit to work together. Solving the world’s most pressing challenges will require all 3Cs, combined with partnerships outside the usual circles: subject matter experts, social innovators, climate entrepreneurs, global funders and ecosystem builders, and of course, governments around the world. Together, we can expand trust, rebuild bridges, and change systems for the better.