Philanthropy as Catalysts for Collaboration

Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 11:10 am
Natalie Ross

This post also appeared on SDG Philanthropy Platform's blog on March 14, 2017.

What do Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the U.S. have in common, when it comes to helping implement the Sustainable Development Goals? In all four countries, philanthropy associations are working with local networks of foundations to catalyze local multi-sector collaboration around the SDGs.

In late February 2017, philanthropy associations and conference attendees from over 60 countries shared their experiences engaging philanthropy around the SDGs at the 2017 WINGS Forum in Mexico City. The conversation, co-sponsored by the SDG Philanthropy Platform and OECD Development Program’s netFWD initiative, highlighted a number of shared strategies and challenges for connecting philanthropy with key partners to achieve ambitious SDG targets. Across the panel in Mexico City it was clear that to achieve the SDGs, philanthropy must be at the table, but foundations cannot act alone.

As a pilot country of, we have spent the last two years at the Council on Foundations convening more than 250 foundations in five cities in the U.S. to discuss how to better engage around the SDGs domestically, in partnership with Foundation Center and UN Foundation. Given the size and scale of the philanthropic sector in the U.S., we have focused on engaging philanthropy at a sub-national level, looking at cities and states where philanthropy can galvanize local adoption of the SDGs.

Across the country, our initial goal has been to raise awareness of how this global framework can leverage philanthropy’s investment into issues they are already passionate about. This approach is similar to Pakistan, where the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy (PCP) recently brought together foundations to discuss how they can help achieve SDGs locally. PCP has also worked to highlight the ways philanthropy helped to achieve MDGs in the country, often as partners of the national and state governments, to highlight the potential on the SDGs.

As American foundations grow more aware of the potential for the SDGs in the U.S., we are also exploring how foundations can partner across sectors to achieve the global goals. In Mexico, CEMEFI has worked closely with the government to build awareness of opportunities to partner with philanthropy, especially to expand the potential of foundations to be seen as more than just a checkbook. A recent report from the OECD Development Network highlights this work in Mexico. We’ve faced similar challenges and worked with federal government agencies to articulate the value of partnerships with foundations, beyond just providing funding.

In Indonesia, a focus on engaging in the corporate sector by Filantropi Indonesia also reflects the growing opportunity and need for engagement with companies in the U.S. around the SDGs. UN Global Compact is a strong partner for philanthropy in Indonesia and a growing number of U.S. multi-national companies are now engaging in collaboratives like Impact2030 and Business for 2030. The challenge we face globally is how to connect the important work underway with the private sector around the SDGs to the growing interest from philanthropy to play key roles in catalyzing action on the goals.

From our conversation in Mexico City, it’s clear that certain challenges and opportunities for engaging philanthropy around the SDGs are universal. Here in the U.S., we are committed to continuing these conversations locally and globally and look forward to learning from other countries as we all work with philanthropy catalyze action on the SDGs.

You can see more tweets from the WINGS conference session on the SDGs here:

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Sustainable Development Goals