In this discussion paper, based on interviews with 12 innovative foundations based in the global south, CIVICUS examines the question of how philanthropists in the global south could better support the activities of human rights and social justice CSOs. This paper has found that there is a nascent local culture of institutionalised philanthropy for human rights and social justice causes in the global south, but so far it is not sufficiently developed to bridge the gap left by reducing support from foreign donor agencies and increased government restrictions on the receipt of funding.
A shift from charitable philanthropy to transformational philanthropy is needed in order to address the structural causes of poverty and injustice. Although the global south has seen a substantial rise in private, corporate and family foundations in recent years, mainly due to economic growth and a growing middle class, this has not led to increasing local support for social justice and human rights CSOs. A strong preference for charitable philanthropy, with a focus on immediate, tangible results and service delivery type of activities dominates the philanthropic sector in emerging economies.
The paper identifies some key issues such as a disconnection between foundations and CSOs on the one hand, and between CSOs and the local public on the other hand. The creation of local constituencies and local support will be of paramount importance for the future and sustainability of social justice CSOs in the global south, which also includes the need for a cultural shift in the way citizens understand giving, philanthropy and the role of civil society.
The paper highlights some best practices of innovative foundations such as grant making, including for core funding, as an essential part of meaningful partnerships between global south foundations and CSOs, besides other technical support such as capacity building, the creation of networking opportunities, platforms and spaces for dialogue. The proximity to the local realities where change is being sought allows global south foundations to develop closer relationships with CSO partners, to work with smaller, less institutionalised CSOs and to look at impact measurement through a different lens.
The paper further identifies key questions which could form the basis for further research, dialogue and experimental projects.