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Powered by the People: Community-Driven Change in Urban Informal Settlements

June 1, 2022

A decade ago, a Muslim religious scholar named Hussain Khan was a vocal critic of the Mahila Mandal Federation (MMF), a Mumbai-based grassroots women's group, which has been nurtured by an NGO called CORO for the past 20 years. He questioned MMF's efforts to help women take on leadership roles in their communities in urban informal settlements. But instead of viewing Khan as an adversary, MMF believed he might one day become an ally.Today, Khan hosts MMF meetings at his madrassa (school), which traditionally excludes women. And he has developed a course, "Quran and the Constitution," which builds community members' awareness of their constitutional rights and their moral responsibility to help neighbours in need.What prompted Khan's change of heart?Along with MMF, CORO spent three years conversing with Khan about the challenges women living in urban informal settlements encounter, including domestic violence and low access to education. CORO was well-positioned to engage in those meetings, since it is largely led by Dalit and Muslim people who live in the communities in which they work. Khan was later selected into CORO's Samta Fellowship, where he spent a full year reflecting on the values enshrined in the Indian constitution and acquiring leadership and movement-building skills that he took back to his community.It is not an accident that Khan now champions the work of a grassroots group that he formerly opposed. It is an outgrowth of CORO's core approach to supporting community-driven change: to meet people where they are and earn their trust. The idea is to unlock their "power within" to advocate for the rights of Dalits, Muslims, and other historically marginalised communities to have an equal opportunity to advance their lives.To learn more about how this kind of ground up, community-driven change comes to life, a Bridgespan Group team spent several months researching and interviewing CORO as well as three other NGOs in the Global South: Mumbai-based Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA); Kenya's Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO); and Ubuntu Pathways (UP), which works in South Africa's Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) townships.Our research reaffirmed that community-driven change is challenging to execute. Multifaceted power dynamics related to gender, caste, class, and religion often pose significant barriers to change. However, we also learned that, despite all of this, the four NGOs pushed past those challenges to build long track records of success by playing a supporting role as community groups built their own solutions. Tightly focusing on a few NGOs, rather than on many, gave us a close-up look at on-the-ground approaches to working with community members as they take steps towards leading their own change. One of our main insights was the similarities in how community-driven organisations think. Specifically, we identified five mutually reinforcing mindsets that help orient these NGOs around community members' priorities and lived experience. 

Lighting the Way: A Report for Philanthropy on the Power and Promise of Feminist Movements

May 5, 2022

Feminist movements are powerhouses for social change, but they are under-resourced, undervalued, and grossly underestimated. New Bridgespan research with Shake the Table shares five recommendations for funders on how to find and fund feminist movements, and calls on philanthropy to invest an additional $6 billion in them by 2026.

Making the Case: Philanthropy’s Role in the Movement to Reimagine Criminal Justice

March 31, 2022

Bridgespan's experience and relationships working with institutional foundations and philanthropists created an opportunity to dive into the common challenges we've heard funders navigate: What role could philanthropy play in movement building in criminal justice reform? How might mindset and practice need to shift to enable effective giving to movement?The purpose of this report is to provide guidance for some of those common challenges by offering the perspectives and wisdom of those doing the work. Our research included interviews with more than 40 movement leaders, funders, and others across the ecosystem seeking transformative change of our criminal legal system, as well as a review of literature to understand how social movements can achieve equitable change.Bridgespan recognizes that this research is indebted to the work of many others who have long been thinking about these issues deeply. We hope to contribute to that ongoing conversation and the fight for equity and justice. 

Disparities in Funding for African NGOs: Unlocking philanthropy for African NGOs as a pathway to greater impact

July 30, 2021

This research is a partnership between the African Philanthropy Forum (APF) and The Bridgespan Group to provide data and essential insights for the many donors in Africa and around the world looking to make a difference on the African continent. Bridgespan was prompted to examine the paucity of funding going to African NGOs in part because of research conducted by its Johannesburg office in 2020 and 2021 on large-scale African philanthropy. One of the stand-out findings of the 2020 report was that African NGOs received a relatively modest share of large gifts between 2010 and 2019: 14 percent of grants (by value) from non-African donors and just 9 percent from African donors (with large gifts defined as $10 million for non-African funders and $1 million for African funders). Bridgespan updated the research in 2021 to highlight a massive response by African philanthropists to the COVID-19 pandemic: the number of gifts in 2020 was seven times the annual average for the previous decade. Yet African organisations still only received 9 percent of grants (by value) from African donors.

Moving from Intention to Impact: Funding Racial Equity to Win

July 15, 2021

This joint PolicyLink-Bridgespan analysis says funders are a key part of the racial equity ecosystem: to benefit the entire nation they should both be transparent in reporting where grants go and fund what movement leaders say is needed to achieve enduring change.

Funding Performance: How Great Donors Invest in Grantee Success

June 1, 2021

The Funding Performance campaign encourages funders to rise to the urgency of this moment. You'll find no pie-in-the-sky theory in the resources on this page. Instead, you'll find practical advice about the specific practices that produce outsized progress on urgent issues of our time.The centerpiece of this campaign is Funding Performance: How Great Donors Invest in Grantee Success (2021), a Jim Collins–style monograph intended to generate positive peer pressure among foundations and individual donors.The monograph features insightful essays by eight highly respected thinkers and doers: Hilary Pennington, Ford Foundation; Daniel Stid, Hewlett Foundation; Sam Cobbs, Tipping Point Community; Jeff Bradach and Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Bridgespan; Lowell Weiss, Leap Ambassadors support team; Hilda Polanco and Deborah Linnell, FMA. All of these essayists have vantage points that have given them a close-up look at the best and worst practices in our sector. In Funding Performance, they share both—in the hope of turning this moment of crisis into a moment of truth and then a moment of productive pivot.

Building Strong, Resilient NGOs in India: Time for New Funding Practices

March 17, 2021

This report is the product of a newly launched, multiyear Pay‑What-It-Takes (PWIT) India Initiative committed to building stronger, more financially resilient NGOs. The initiative is led by The Bridgespan Group and the five anchor partners: A.T.E. Chandra Foundation (ATECF), Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), EdelGive Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Omidyar Network India. Each partner believes strongly in the importance of better understanding true costs and approached the initiative from a different perspective.

Guiding a Giving Response to Anti-Black Injustice

August 25, 2020

This memo offers funders potential paths to invest in organizations and movements within the Black-led racial justice ecosystem. It provides principles for giving and highlights priority investment areas and example organizations within those areas.

Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table

May 1, 2020

Echoing Green and Bridgespan collaborated to research the depth of racial inequities in philanthropic funding. Based on what we see in our work as intermediaries in the sector, two of the biggest factors holding back philanthropy's efforts to help advance social change are rooted in race:Understanding the role of race in the problems philanthropists are trying to solve;The significance of race when it comes to how philanthropists identify leaders and find solutions.Color-blind grantmaking, even when grounded in a well-meaning attempt at equity, is the crux of the problem. Philanthropist Jeff Raikes shares: "Tricia and I recognize that we come into this work with blind spots, as did many of our staff. Over the past few years we have challenged ourselves to better understand the ways a race-conscious approach leads to better results for the communities we want to support."Race is one of the most reliable predictors of life outcomes across several areas, including life expectancy, academic achievement, income, wealth, physical and mental health, and maternal mortality. If socioeconomic difference explained these inequities, then controlling for socioeconomic status would eliminate them. But it does not. This means that donors who care about supporting social change must think more intentionally and proactively about race and racial equity.

Memo: Opportunities for Philanthropic Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis

April 8, 2020

Funders reached out to The Bridgespan Group to better understand how they might respond quickly and effectively to COVID-19. In response, The Bridgespan Group drafted this memo to provide initial perspectives on where resources might be productively channeled. It is based on their experience supporting nonprofits and NGOs working in public health and funders active in global health and disaster recovery, and on conversations with experts working on the COVID-19 response. Their perspectives have been further shaped by their research on inequity in funding for organizations led by people of color. This is a rapidly changing environment, and they anticipate that these perspectives on philanthropic opportunities will evolve as the pandemic unfolds.

Building the Bench at Indian NGOs: Investing to Fill the Leadership Development Gap

September 5, 2017

Exceptional NGOs rely on exceptional leaders. In the Indian social sector, a senior team's competence is often the make-or-break factor in an organization's ability to make strides toward such ambitious goals as providing equitable healthcare, ensuring high-quality education for children, or providing access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Yet widespread doubts persist about whether there is sufficient investment in NGO leadership teams to achieve these important outcomes.Against this backdrop, The Bridgespan Group, with support from Omidyar Network, undertook what we believe is the first data-driven study of NGO leadership development in India. We looked into NGOs' efforts to strengthen their leaders' skill sets and build their leadership bench.Our findings were sobering. Drawing on a survey of approximately 250 leaders from Indian NGOs and the Indian offices of international NGOs—supplemented with more than 50 interviews with funders, intermediaries, and NGO executives, as well as secondary research—we found a systemic gap between the sector's leadership development aspirations, and the reality of its investments and efforts.The consequences of this underinvestment are threefold:Overdependence on individual leaders, often foundersLack of a second line of leadershipLimited organizational leadership skills such as change management and strategic thinkingReflecting this, 53 percent of surveyed NGOs do not feel confident that anyone internally can effectively lead their organizations in the absence of their senior-most leaders.Yet we also found cause for optimism. Even as NGOs struggle to attract and sustain strong leadership teams, some NGOs and funders are taking replicable steps to close the gap. Their approaches and ideas—detailed in Sections IV and V—hold promise for both bolstering leadership teams and nurturing the next generation of senior talent.The implications represent a threat to these organizations' ability to sustain and scale impact. A full 97 percent of survey respondents say leadership development is vital to their organizations' success, a belief echoed by funders. But practitioners and funders also say they invest little time and resources in cultivating leaders. Indeed, more than half the NGOs polled do not believe they are capable of recruiting, developing, and transitioning leaders. And more than 50 percent report their organizations have not received any funding to develop leaders in the past two years.

What Ambitious Donors Can Learn From The Atlantic Philanthropies' Experience Making Big Bets

October 18, 2016

By the time The Atlantic Philanthropies closes its doors in 2020, it will have distributed more than $8 billion—its entire endowment—to advance opportunity and lasting change for disadvantaged and vulnerable people worldwide. Founded in 1982, it was Founder Chuck Feeney's intention to champion "giving while living" and when the foundation closes, Atlantic will make history by becoming the largest foundation to complete its giving in the donor's lifetime.In its grant making, over 60 percent of Atlantic's overall giving ranks as big bets, investments of $10 million or more. Thirty percent of those bets went to social change causes, including gifts to human services, the environment, and international development. Such big bets have the potential to have big impacts on advancing social change goals. Yet as Bridgespan reported in the December 2015 Stanford Social Innovation Review article, "Making Big Bets for Social Change," investments of this size for social change are rare. Just 20 percent of philanthropic big bets went to social change causes between 2000 and 2012.Why? A number of barriers exist: it's hard to find and structure big bets, "shovel-ready" opportunities are few and far between, personal relationships between donors and nonprofit leaders can take years to nurture, and the long time horizons required for change and often-murky results make it difficult to measure success. In short, big bets on social change can feel risky.The story of Atlantic, however, illustrates what can happen when donors take that risk. This report, What Ambitious Donors Can Learn From The Atlantic Philanthropies' Experience Making Big Bets, looks at a number of big bets Atlantic made and how those achieved significant results. It identified four themes that ran through Atlantic's work and that were particularly evident in its most influential big bets:Pick distinctive investment spots and funding gaps in the landscape.Support organizations and strong leaders, often with unrestricted or capacity-building funding.Pursue advocacy in a complex social, policy and legal environment, and use both traditional grant funding and 501(c)(4) funding as tools.Give with the foundation's end in sight and sustainability in mind.The report also highlights the challenges and failures Atlantic faced along the way. Despite the inherent risk in big bets, Atlantic held the belief that a big bets strategy would be the best way to achieve lasting impact. It is a promising path that is yielding strong results, and Atlantic's experience offers potential strategies for other donors seeking similar goals.