Community Philanthropy: Money is Power, But Knowledge Is Power Too

An interview about community philanthropy with the leaders of Rede Comuá

June 2024
May 2024
June 17, 2024
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This blog was first published by Shift the Power.

In this interview, Tarisai Jangara of the Global Fund for Community Foundations spoke with two leaders from the Rede Comuá: Executive Coordinator Graciela Hopstein and Programmes Manager Betina Sarue.

The network focuses on strengthening Brazilian civil society organizations working on human, racial, gender, socio-environmental, and community development rights through actions aimed at expanding philanthropy for social justice.

ShiftThePower

What does community philanthropy currently look like in Brazil?

Graciela

Community philanthropy is an approach that allows for identifying other ways of doing philanthropy. In Brazil we talk about the tropicalization of the model, as a way of recognizing its materiality, including the recognition of diverse experiences and actors who have been acting in the philanthropy field before, during and after the colonization process. The idea is to start from the recognition of historical trajectories and initiatives that already exist in the field.

This paradigmatic change has allowed us to acknowledge the potential of communities and political minorities to organize themselves based on their own resources, assets, and recognizing their power and capacity to solve their problems and acting according to their demands and needs.

ShiftThePower

What does #ShiftThePower mean to your organization?

Betina

#ShiftThePower has been organically integrated in the work that we do with the Network. We look at how communities are organized with an intersectional approach to human rights and social justice.

We also have a programme that advocates for change in the Brazilian philanthropic ecosystem, with the specific goal of boosting the agenda of social justice and community philanthropy, driving support to NGOs and civil society working with political minorities. It is also about accessing the main power in a very strategic way.

Graciela

#ShiftThePower is very strategic in philanthropy as we do not often discuss issues to do with power. We need to shift the idea that whoever has money has power because money is not the only important asset. We need to acknowledge that communities have power – power to self-organize and respond to their own challenges.

When we are talking about power we need to talk about it in a broader sense – money is power but knowledge is power too. Communities are endowed with the knowledge to solve their own problems. We need to shift the idea of top-down approaches to development and focus on solutions that come from the bottom to the top. Let us holistically look at the role of civil society in transforming realities and territories.

ShiftThePower

How will the Giving for Change programme help to advance the community philanthropy field or #ShiftThePower in Brazil?

Graciela

The Giving for Change programme will help to strengthen our way of action and our programmatic area. It will support the work we are already doing in a more structured way in the philanthropic ecosystem. Although the philanthropic field in Brazil mobilizes lots of money – mainly through corporate and family foundations – little money is given to civil society or grassroot organizations.

Our role is to advocate and influence donors in the Brazilian ecosystem to look at the importance of funding civil society and grassroots organizations in addressing social justice and human rights issues.

The Network has held several Symposiums, engaging a range of stakeholders to explore community philanthropy and its many forms in Brazil
ShiftThePower

How has aid undermined local giving practices in Brazil and what can the Giving for Change programme do about that?

Graciela

We need to strengthen the culture of giving here in Brazil. Donations always come in times of a catastrophe but we need to promote sustainable giving so that it becomes a permanent feature of our culture.

Despite the existence of a good philanthropic ecosystem, resources for human rights and social justice issues come from international players. We need to push the narrative on the importance of giving to civil society organisations.Tarisai Jangara,

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