First, I have to acknowledge the effort that went into planning and executing the Symposium. The talented people at the New England International Donors (NEID) and The Philanthropy Initiative (TPI) were incredibly thoughtful and intentional in putting together topics and speakers on the most important issues facing international philanthropy.

This brings me to the question for this post: what are the most important takeaways from the Symposium? For me, the Symposium offered three lessons: confirmation of my long held belief about the globalisation of philanthropy, reassurance that donors are acting with greater humility, and hope for fundamental change in the orientation of foundation practice moving forward.

Globalisation of philanthropy
The presentations and discussions in which I participated confirmed the most important lesson I have learned about international philanthropy during my 20 years in the field: international philanthropy no longer entails the United States exporting its philanthropic capital, practices, and concepts to the rest of the world, as if there were no extant infrastructure, traditions, and practices outside of its borders. Rather, we in the US are engaged in a global exchange of resources – financial, conceptual, and institutional – and an important dialogue about how those resources can best advance human flourishing in an inclusive and equitable manner around the world. This rich dialogue was epitomised during the Symposium by the selection of proximate leaders as keynote speakers and moderators.

More humble, more effective
In the closing session, Karen Keating Ansara articulated the moral conundrum of international philanthropy: ‘How do we balance our capacity to change other people’s lives overseas? What is our role in intervening in another country’s culture? Is it our place as philanthropists to do that?’ The solution to that conundrum was offered in Malala’s example, trusting in local leadership to advance a universal value of gender equity within a local context where aspects of the culture and religious practice stand in the way. That self-questioning, born of humility, has been a hallmark of recent debates and a welcome and accelerating evolution in foundation and donor practices.

Read the full article about improving donor practices by Michael D. Layton at The Philanthropic Initiative.