Analysis, Interviews, and ReviewsArchive
Jun 08, 2009
Do We Need Another Anti-Poverty Philanthropy Meeting?
We know the current economic slump is going to seriously hurt the poor (the World Bank estimates that several hundred million people have been pushed back below the $2/per day threshold), not to mention nonprofit and social finance funding. Financial scarcity demands an unprecedented level of collaboration, resource leveraging and new alliances. With the world economy slowing, the social entrepreneurs, funders, social financiers and nonprofit leaders who have committed themselves to economic justice are called to do more, to do it better and to do it faster. We can’t waste a minute.
On World Poverty Day (October 17, 2009), a group of entrepreneurial anti-poverty leaders are convening in Ixtapa, Mexico, to try to generate exactly that unprecedented collaboration.
In fact, we’re calling the event the Opportunity Collaboration. We hope to attract foundation trustees/executives, social investors, entrepreneurial nonprofit leaders, policy thought leaders and social entrepreneurs. Thus far more than 150 people have committed to spending a week to forge effective collaborations and new approaches to addressing poverty.
The co-conveners are the Ashoka, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, Calvert Social Investment Foundation, Global Philanthropy Forum, Social Venture Network, Stanford Social Innovation Review (Stanford Center for Social Innovation), Women Donors Network, Worldways Social Marketing and myself.
There is the inevitable question of why we need another meeting of high-powered philanthropists, funders and foundation staff to discuss anti-poverty initiatives. In my experience too often the silos of competition block creative, collaborative opportunities. The Opportunity Collaboration is a platform predicated on the idea that out of fragmentation can come collaboration, from diversity can come unity and from cross-fertilization can come innovation. The power of collaboration does not presume a single outcome. Rather, it draws its power from the conviction that people of good will can forge their own solutions, directions and alliances and will uncover new ways to combine and leverage resources.
The goal is for this to be a working business meeting—an event about poverty alleviation unlike any other is this area. There will be no panels, no plenary speeches, no lines of people standing at a microphone waiting to ask a question.
Instead, the aim is strategic networking at an event solely focused on poverty reduction. We won’t have any admonitions against touting your own passion, work, institution or partnership opportunity.
In the book A Man Called Intrepid, the early efforts to develop a spy network among the allied powers are described as: “A comfortable sense of doing something while doing nothing.” As social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders know, well-motivated is not the same as well-run—and well-run is not the same as effective. At the Collaboration, we will hold ourselves to a higher standard.
Exemplary projects, programs, social investments, which have achieved “proof of concept” will be showcased. We don’t care about artificial distinctions between domestic and international poverty alleviation models, for-profit or nonprofit institutions, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship or any of the other barriers that stand in the way of people of good will committed to reducing poverty in the world from talking to each other, much less working together. We do care about leverage and sustainability, thinking outside of traditional policy silos and business models, and getting things done rather than just empty self-congratulatory talk.
A sage once observed that “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” It’s time for the “leaders” fighting poverty to show how much they’re worth. We hope the Opportunity Collaboration will be an important step toward getting things done and fighting poverty through creative ideas and collaboration.
Editor’s Note: Jonathan Lewis is the CEO of MicroCredit Enterprises, and coordinating convener of the Opportunity Collaboration. You can learn more about the Opportunity Collaboration and see a list of confirmed delegates at their website: http://www.opportunitycollaboration.org