IPASA Virtual Philanthropy Symposium: the future collective role of philanthropy to build back better together

By Sarah Rennie, IPASA Chair

IPASA held its annual philanthropy symposium for the first time virtually this year due to Covid-19. The event followed on from a series of Covid-19 funder response meetings and workshops that IPASA had hosted from April through to November, bringing key role-players together to identify, learn and share the key issues caused by the pandemic and to discuss how to address the impact of these issues on our country. The conference was attended by 125 national and international delegates from private and corporate foundations, banking philanthropy offices, philanthropy advisory organisations, philanthropy consultants and media.

The theme for the symposium of “build back better” is a powerful call to action to build greater resilience as we recover from the Coronavirus crisis, by systematically addressing the root causes of vulnerability and gross inequalities in our country. It is a great responsibility and duty of foundations currently to commit to addressing the issues, and as our symposium theme suggested, success in this great endeavor is only possible if we work together, collaboratively.

The conference opened with a keynote address providing the global context we need in order to think deeply about the future role of philanthropy. Potential scenarios that funders could face both locally and globally were presented, giving attendees the opportunity to debate and discuss what the future role of philanthropy should be in our current, disruptive and fast-changing world.

This was followed by sessions looking at the responses to Covid-19 from key role-players in philanthropy, including NPOs, charitable foundations and international philanthropy networks, and the lessons learnt from funding during the pandemic. Delegates had the opportunity to discuss funding practice, specifically the critical issues of how to collaborate better to solve complex issues, what changes in funding practice we should build into our future and how to respond to the challenge offered to funders to be responsible investors and not just good grant- makers.

The symposium also hosted the virtual launch of the 2020 Annual Review of South African Philanthropy, the second edition of a unique philanthropy publication showcasing stories of philanthropy in South Africa. The main purpose of the Review is to create awareness of the work done by independent philanthropy in the country and encourage others to become involved, whilst providing a platform for those active in the sector to learn from each other. The Review is a way to enhance transparency in the sector so that the general public can see what is being done and the strategies behind philanthropic practice.

The conference closed with a poll asking delegates what they thought would be the best role for IPASA to play in the future. The majority thought that IPASA could provide the platform for those working in the philanthropy space – private and corporate funders, NPOs, government –  to connect, learn, co-ordinate and collaborate. This reinforced the belief that the work IPASA has done this year in bringing together those working in philanthropy is valued and creating impact, and that we should continue this work in IPASA’s future strategy.

For recordings of presentations and panel discussions from the conference please see the following links:

Panel discussion at the launch of the Annual Review of South African Philanthropy: https://youtu.be/S-X2IiLooKU

Successful collaboration in times of crisis presentation by Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Gift of the Givers  https://youtu.be/yqoJFjzcMgM

Is collaboration the Achilles’ heel of institutional philanthropy presentation by Gerry Salool, ex-chair of the European Foundation Centre – https://youtu.be/tT2TnvExKho

Panel discussion: Impact and ESG Investing: https://youtu.be/04Z84S1oy4I



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