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Challenges for philanthropic organizations in the digital era

During the International Fellows Program at the Centre of Philanthropy and Civil Society, I had an unique opportunity to have a deeper look at how the digital era could potentially affect the society and the development of philanthropic organizations.

At the digital era, new technologies can be described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines, including robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, The Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles. All of these, could lead to 21st century challenges associated with rapid technological developments, which can bring great risks to the society. As potential problems experts mentioned massive destruction of medium skilled jobs, exacerbation of inequalities, wider gender gaps, emergence of superpower oligopolies, inadequate protections of personal data, “algorithmization” of individual behaviour.  As an example, one of the biggest concerns is the increase of social inequality between the “winners” and “losers” of digital economy.

Philanthropic organizations will face questions they have not had to answer before, and in response, it is clear that innovations are critical. Yesterday’s solutions may be not applicable to address future challenges.

I’m looking for best practices and tools that address challenges mentioned, and that lead to innovation. I’m also interested to discuss about major challenges in innovation. What experiences have other civil society and philanthropy organizations have faced in the process of innovating?

Thank you! Ruta

Trends in Civic Tech: new opportunities to enhance community engagement?

Though the terminology may vary, more and more funders, investors and practitioners have joined this emerging “civic tech” field.

The purpose of my research is to enhance civic engagement within the community thanks in part to the use of many open-sources tools that can be easily adopted by citizens and NPOs.

Have you used open source community tools like Fix My Street? What was your experience with it? Any best practices or pitfalls to avoid? Thank you, Federica (Fellow 2017)

Challenges in Starting up Giving Circles

I intend to set-up a giving circle specifically for my Filipino American community here in New York. My target groups are marginalized elderly women who had migrated to the United States and found themselves facing several issues – responsibility to their immediate families back home, their own welfare here, a competitive environment in the service/domestic sector and assimilation to their newly adopted country.  I see the giving circle as an arena of empowerment for these elderly women, who are marginalized in terms of economic opportunities within their own minority group, but who can potentially be drawn to be engaged in productive activities that will benefit themselves and their community at large.  Thus, the giving circle can be a platform for these elderly women to think outwardly – the “other” person instead of just self; yet inwardly think of “self” in relation to the “other”.

Please share whatever experiences you had in starting up with your own giving circles, the challenges you faced and how in your own creative ways you found the solutions.  Thanks a million.


Video: Kevin Murphy – The Freedom to Irritate and Agitate

“Philanthropy enjoys a privileged place in society. A growing number of practitioners, including Kevin Murphy, have wrestled with the question: is our role to make grants or make a difference?

Kevin Murphy has come down on the side of make a difference. During the presentation, he’ll discuss his view that our unique position in society, and particularly the endowments that we hold, demand that philanthropy be on the forefront of challenging established norms, established structures and conventional wisdom on behalf of our communities.” [Published on Apr 19, 2013]

TED Talk by Dan Pallotta: “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”

“Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls  out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend ‐ not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses).” [From:  This Week on Ted.Com, E‐news, March 16, 2013]

Webinar: Racism in Philanthropy: Effective Practices for Grantmakers

Webinar: Racism in Philanthropy: Effective Practices for Grantmakers

Philanthropy has a long history of providing much-needed resources for historically marginalized communities of color. Many foundations and donors view their investments as the solution to social problems that are rooted in poverty.

Powerful sharing @ Center on Philantropy and Civil Society

(from sx: Shani Horowitz-Rosen, Mariane Maier Nunes, Federica Corda, Barbara Leopold, Ruta Dimanta, Robert Edgar, Myrna Gimena Cacho)

It has already been 2 weeks since our program at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society started and  the emotion to be part of this group is so special, it is not easy to describe in words!

I am Federica, from Italy, I have been working for 8 years at the Verbano Cusio Ossola Community Foundation as an Executive Director.

Thanks to the Fellowship provided by the Center, I met four colleagues (now also friends!) with whom I have been sharing professional experiences, ideas, best practices and goals. I have to say the best interaction comes when we try to find out solutions for incoming challenges that our communities might face in the next future.

I really like the way we have been discovering innovative approaches to our daily practices.
We all come from different countries where we manage diverse activities, such as raising funds, seeking donors, making grants, promoting more efficient communication’s strategy for NPOs …but for all of us the most relevant purpose is how to support civil societies and, more in general, communities, in providing help to solve local issues.
I think that experiences such as this are extremely valuable  to students, not only academically but also and above all, on a personal, emotional human and social level. I am really glad to be here and be part of this unique experience!
(Federica Corda, 2017 Fellow, Italy)

The 2017 International Fellows are here! 

The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (New York City) is pleased to welcome five International Fellows to our professional development program. The Fellows bring a depth of practical and theoretical knowledge on philanthropy and a variety of perspectives to the program. In addition to research and writing, Fellows will participate in seminars on US and international civil society and voluntary-sector activities; learn about the work of key agencies; and meet with leading nonprofit representatives and scholars.

The 2017 Fellows join an alumni network of scholar-practitioners in from the globe. They bring the number of program participants to 202 from 64 countries.



IFP Alumna Rita Thapa (SIFP 2015) has been appointed as the new Chair of the GFCF

Rita Thapa is an IFP Alumna (SIFP 2015), and she has been appointed as the new Chair of the Global Fund for Community Foundations! Congratulations!



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