What We’re Reading: The Philanthropy Transformation Initiative Report

This latest report from WINGS, a global network of philanthropy support and development organisations, focuses on enabling change, walking the talk and creating the future.


While APC members support a variety of social impact areas, our shared value in building inclusive and sustainable communities binds us together and drives forward the work of collaborative philanthropy to address Asia’s challenges. A June 2023 report from WINGS makes the case that not only a strategic, but a transformational approach is needed to tackle the polycrisis facing society—multiple, interconnected global threats, from the climate emergency and global pandemics to geopolitical instability and unchecked technological disruptions.

The report challenges philanthropists to commit to three mindset shifts to leverage philanthropy’s unique potential:

  • Be an enabler: Shift from an achieving mindset to one that enables other actors, peers, community organisations, and governments to contribute to social change at greater scale
  • Walk the talk: Align all parts of an organsation along its philanthropic vision, mission and values, including operations, endowments and programmes, as well as the way the wealth is generated
  • Think about and create the future: The depth of need places greater urgency on taking action today in line with the needs of tomorrow

As a network we often reflect on the role of philanthropy in addressing issues; this report contends that philanthropy serves as society’s ‘risk capital’ by providing resources which are not entangled in risk-averse bureaucracies and enable testing new approaches and innovations that can be scaled. Given the ongoing polycrisis, it urges bolder and radically new approaches from philanthropists and puts forward 10 principles that offer a comprehensive approach to guide transformation:

  1. Act with transparency, openness and accountability—with partners, grantees, communities, as well as internal stakeholders;
  2. View philanthropy as risk capital—taking a ‘portfolio view’ of funded initiatives;
  3. Practice trust, distribute power and support local agency—enabling more equitable power dynamics and creating conditions for long-term thinking, innovation and strengthened capacity;
  4. Engage with relevant actors and sector through multi-stakeholder partnerships and joint action—to tackle complex societal challenges through collective action;
  5. Invest in strengthening giving ecosystems, and grow philanthropic societies—building the infrastructure and environment to unlock the full potential of philanthropy;
  6. Align governance, leadership, management and organisational culture with philanthropic values—ensuring priorities and decision-making processes and actions reflect them;
  7. Embrace a systems-change mindset and address the root causes of challenges—enabling efforts to multiply the impact beyond initial scope creating a ripple effect
  8. Leverage all assets: investments, connections, influence and expertise—going beyond traditional grantmaking to rapidly transform the sector;
  9. Leverage the power of data—embrace evidence-based approaches combined with lived experience for decision-making and impact measurement;
  10. Keep humanity’s future in sight and integrate the polycrisis lens—acknowledging this fundamentally new situation for humankind where ‘business as usual’ is not enough

Addressing systems change and tackling the global polycrisis is a daunting task. What may be most helpful in this report are recommendations for implementation that break down actionable steps and practices. Each principle is accompanied by a list of starting point steps and a second list to go beyond—so that no matter where you are in your philanthropy practice, there are relevant and realistic options to consider. Potential obstacles are also highlighted along with suggested solutions and approaches.

At APC, we recognise that transformation is not an end goal, but a journey, and we are committed to supporting this journey for our members through continued efforts to build capacity, share knowledge resources, facilitate collaborative projects, advance philanthropy’s role in society and strengthen the voice of Asian philanthropy.

You can read the full report here: