It isn’t everyday one receives an invitation to hang out with a group of influential philanthropists. So when one does, one jumps at the opportunity – elegantly and eloquently, of course.
Such was the case when the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation extended an invitation to Candidate Fellows and Fellows to introduce ourselves and our experience of the Allan Gray Fellowship to ERFIP (Empowering Families For Innovative Philanthropy) – a group of families from emerging market countries exploring more effective methods of philanthropy and inspiring other influential families to do similarly.
Not one to indulge in cult-fiction, I could only imagine a group of impeccably, if not royally, dressed European families with the most discerning evaluations of South Africa, its issues and its youth’s potential to address us. With little information about the group to be found online, this mental image was not too unrealistic.
However, the ERFIP members proved to be nothing like that high-brow stereotype. They were a group who seemed excited to be in South Africa, and curious to meet us young ones who are direct beneficiaries of Allan Gray’s philanthropy. I, for one, was very curious about their philosophies around philanthropy and why they saw it necessary to seek “more effective” models for it.
I soon learned that there is a concerted effort being made to reduce dependency relationships that too often form with big-brand philanthropy projects, an effort being led by families such as ERFIP members who are investing in longer-term development efforts that address deficits in human capital rather than its symptoms.
Through our breakaway discussions with smaller groups of ERFIP members, the learnings and insights were mutually beneficial. We Fellows and Candidate Fellows got an opportunity to share our journeys leading up to joining the Foundation, our experience of the Fellowship and our aspirations in the Association.
In isolation, this was an excellent personal exercise and I’m confident each Fellow walked away with a renewed sense of gratitude, humility and resolve. In context, to have our journeys with the Foundation probed by ERFIP was both refreshing and enlightening.
Refreshing, because rarely do we have the opportunity to critically discuss the mechanics of the Foundation as an organisation fulfilling a philanthropic mission. The ERFIP members were very interested in the real experiences of Fellows in the programme for the purposes of designing their own successful programmes. This authentic interest created an ideal environment for the sharing of ideas and opinions about how philanthropic programmes can and should run. Enlightening, because we Fellows got to learn of numerous efforts underway around the world to address local issues not unlike South Africa’s issues. Such glimpses into the struggles of other people in other parts of the world are critical to local effectiveness with a sense of global perspective.
Given more time, we might have even chartered an interconnected strategy in aid of global socioeconomic development. But we’ll save that for next time and get on with our ground-work in the interim.