IDS researchers working on the Bellagio Initiative welcomed the UK Parliament's International Development Committee (IDC) report into private foundations and called for a new relationship between private foundations and those working to end global poverty.
The IDC inquiry concluded that 'private philanthropy is improving the lives of some of the world's poorest people but the Department for International Development (DFID) must do more to engage private foundations in coordinated global efforts to improve the effectiveness of aid'.
The Bellagio Initiative is a Rockefeller Foundation-funded programme led by IDS and the Resource Alliance which is exploring the future of philanthropy and international development. Dr Noshua Watson, an IDS research fellow on the Initiative, submitted written evidence and gave oral evidence at the inquiry.
She said: “The rapidly growing role of private funding in international development is to be welcomed as governments and international organisations rein in their spending in response to today's difficult economic climate. However, the ways in which the development and philanthropic sectors work together are often unclear, so the potential for innovation and greater effectiveness can be missed. There are great opportunities for creative and productive new forms of collaboration between philanthropy and development based on new combinations of players. The Parliament's IDC report, and in particular the recommendation that DFID takes a more systematic approach in its relations with foundations, is a very encouraging step towards accomplishing this."
In its IDC inquiry submission, IDS said private foundations had an important and growing role to play in international development. However it stressed that private foundations need to:
Improve transparency Better align their intentions with recipients' needs Better align their activities with other key donors’ activities and priorities Introduce inclusive decision-making processes
It also warned of dangers associated with an over-reliance on the use of high-profile development advocates such as Bob Geldof and Bill Clinton. While such individuals may bring issues to a wider audience, tying an issue to a celebrity’s profile can result in difficulties should that profile wane. Issues can also become oversimplified.
The submission concluded: "While these issues need to be addressed it is also important to remember that private foundations and philanthropy can bring exciting new sources of funding and impetus to achieving international development priorities".
In 2011 the Bellagio Initiative held a series of consultations around the world with development practitioners, opinion leaders, social entrepreneurs and donors on some of the key challenges affecting poor people today and trends in philanthropy. It also commissioned a series of thought pieces from outstanding thinkers, and gathered the ideas and opinions of a broad range of people with an interest in philanthropy and development through the use of social media.
All these strands were brought together at a high-level Summit held at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre in Italy last November – after which further evidence was submitted to the IDC inquiry.
Noshua Watson and other development experts at IDS are currently finalising a report containing the findings from the Bellagio Initiative. The report, due to be published at the end of February 2012, will include a clear action agenda for improved philanthropic and development collaboration.