RPA Hosts Workshop in Bogota, Colombia

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- Lily Papakhian, Global Philanthropy Fellow

Sixty participants representing corporate, family, and operating foundations in Colombia recently attended a 2-day intensive workshop in Bogotá hosted by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) in collaboration with the Asociación de Fundaciones Familiares y Empresariales (AFE). Conversations centered on the Sustainable Development Goals Philanthropy Platform (SDG PP), Theory of the Foundation (ToF), Scaling Solutions and time-horizon philanthropy.

The workshop opened with a session on ToF, with presenters Lily Papakhian and Donzelina Barroso from RPA explaining the conceptual framework and giving the participants a chance to analyze and evaluate how ToF applies to their respective foundations. After working through RPA’s Philanthropy Canvas, the attendees assessed the applicability of the proposed characterization of operating model types: campaign manager, catalyst, field builder, talent agency, think tank and real estate developer. Similar to what we have found within the United States and with European foundations, most organizations find themselves reflected in one or more of the types.

RPA then presented research and recommendations on time-horizon philanthropy. While limiting program and organizational lifespans is increasingly recognized as a useful tool for enhancing impact in the United States and some quarters of Europe, the concept seemed virtually unrecognized in Colombia, where it is standard practice for foundations to be set up in perpetuity.

The convening continued with a dynamic session on Scaling Solutions led by Heather Grady, Vice President of RPA. She presented findings gleaned from interviews of grantees and well over 100 funders on how to improve learning and success in scaling solutions that shift systems. The findings (also explored in RPA’s publication on Scaling Solutions Toward Shifting Systems) are that funders should:

  • Empower grantees, by consciously shifting power dynamics toward their grantees.
  • Accelerate results by proactively discussing strategic non-monetary support with grantees.
  • Learn and develop more knowledge on shifting systems, and when and how to support grantees in that effort.
  • Collaborate more purposefully by sharing intelligence and learnings with other funders.
  • Streamline efforts by redesigning the grantmaking process.

For this Colombian audience, the themes of empowerment and collaboration resonated the most significantly, followed by acceleration and learning. As RPA and Skoll’s research in this area is an ongoing initiative, the insights gained from their perspective are a welcome contribution to our Scaling Solutions work going forward.

The next session brought together the Scaling Solutions work with the SDG initiative, in a workshop entitled Scaling Impact through the Sustainable Development Goals. Felipe Castro, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation in Colombia’s National Planning Department, opened the session with a review of Colombian SDG achievements and goals for 2030. He explained that Colombia views the SDGs as an opportunity to extend the achievements–and fill in the gaps—from the 2000-2015 UN Millennium Development Goals. Areas of focus include the reduction of poverty and income disparity, gender equity, and women’s empowerment. Of particular note was the clear desire among attendees for the Colombian government to ensure transparency in how they will calculate and evaluate accomplishments relating to the SDGs.

The final session built on the SDG discussion, with Heather Grady and Karolina Mzyk, Policy Specialist at the UNDP, highlighting the SDG PP as a platform that activates, catalyzes, and connects philanthropy with the government in order to help achieve policy change. Heather and Karolina emphasized the importance of donor collaboration in Colombia and beyond, explaining that there is no way to achieve the SDGs if the work is solely left to the government. All stakeholders in society need to be involved—and when philanthropy has a seat at the table, more systems interventions can be accomplished to sustain impact and achieve the SDGs.

This 2-day workshop was a very interactive, engaging opportunity for RPA, AFE, and the various foundation participants. We look forward to seeing commonalities and differences in the coming weeks during our workshops in Ghana and Zambia. Stay tuned!

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