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Can Collaboration Fuel Asia’s Philanthropic Power?

More than half of the world’s economic growth in recent years came from Asia. This eastward shift of the world’s economic center of gravity is fueling the expansion of individual wealth, with the number of high-net-worth individuals in Asia nearly doubling since 2012. According to the Forbes World’s Billionaires list for 2019, one out of five newly minted billionaires from last year came from China, making up the largest number of new billionaires in the world.

With growing wealth comes the potential for a new era of charitable giving laser-focused on solving the world’s most intractable problems—like climate change, inequality, and scarce food supplies. That this can be Asian-led is unprecedented. In fact, according to the Doing Good Index 2018, Asian philanthropists have the capacity to contribute $500 billion in charitable giving, surpassing that of the U.S. China, for example, has already begun to unleash this potential by harnessing the highest number of millionaires engaged in environmental, social and governance-related investing. Across the region, a new generation of globally minded and mission-driven ultra-rich are now taking the helm of the exponential growth in capital. This convergence uniquely positions Asia to fuel a new model of philanthropy that can make the biggest bets in bridging the $2.5 trillion funding gap needed to solve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.

Yet despite a strong heritage of collective action among Asian cultures, philanthropy in the region has also traditionally been a lonely mission. This is beginning to change, with a number of consortiums and alliances taking root. But as development challenges become increasingly globalized and complex, the time has come to accelerate collaboration and the pooling of resources to create outsized impact.

Bolder momentum, bigger bets

As one of the world’s oldest family established philanthropies, we at The Rockefeller Foundation believe we have a clear answer: a partnership among Asia’s diverse and inspired philanthropists who share a like-minded mission to improve the well-being of humanity. Issues such as climate change and halting the spread of HIV go beyond national borders and require information, capital and know-how to be shared, and activities to be coordinated to effect lasting change.

Collaborative philanthropy helps to amplify and structure developmental programs for outsized impact.

Asia’s ultra-rich, old and new, are already well-known for being pillars of their communities, shepherding and contributing to economic and social transformation. This sense of community can and should be elevated to a global level with Asia’s next generation of givers.

Collaborative philanthropy helps to amplify and structure developmental programs for outsized impact. Consider Project ECHO, which re-imagines the way healthcare delivery is made by connecting frontline providers, specialists, public institutions and private sector entities to provide more accessible healthcare around the world. By catalyzing collaboration between several philanthropic organizations, the project seeks to transform India’s healthcare delivery system over the next five years and make healthcare accessible to between 3 and 6 million people. This was made possible by a grant from Co-Impact–a collaborative initiative among various philanthropic organizations including The Rockefeller Foundation–which deployed $80 million in its first round of grant-making to reach 9 million people across Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

Project ECHO demonstrates that strong partnership between philanthropists—those best positioned to contribute risk capital and pool resources—program partners and anchor organizations with local credibility, can make a difference for millions.

Imagine the possibilities of a strategic, collective effort by Asian philanthropists. Imagine a new paradigm, where the sense of community–ingrained in family values and powered by modern capital–can create the building blocks for a new, sustained model of economic growth and opportunity. Take the Asia Philanthropy Circle, where more than 30 philanthropists have pooled their resources under a community impact fund to make greater impact in Indonesia and Myanmar, or the Paradise International Foundation, led by Jack Ma and Pony Ma, who are bringing together the efforts of a range of philanthropic actors to better protect the environment in China. Collaboration not only pools resources, but creates disciplined mechanisms for learning, measurement, and accountability.

Big problems require big partnerships. Globally, most grants award less than $10 million and have short horizons of approximately 1 to 2 years, with many uncoordinated funders each with their own requirements. This encourages social changemakers to think and act small. By banding together around common themes and a commitment to results, philanthropists have the power to dare social innovators to build bigger and bolder, empowering them to create the breakthrough solutions that will help billions of people rise out of poverty and vulnerability.

The region’s growing number of philanthropists care deeply about addressing the greatest social and environmental challenges of our time and want to be a part of a lasting, transformational change. Ultimately, large, widespread challenges are impossible to solve with a single intervention, or one philanthropic actor, no matter how big the investment. Lasting, transformative change takes time, some dimension of partnership across sectors, and a considered, strategic marshaling of resources. From this vantage point, by bringing their resources, social values, networks and deep-rooted culture of collectivism to bear, Asia’s philanthropists are in an enviable position to shape a new era of giving and a legacy of the impact that can transform the world.

This piece originally appeared on Forbes on March 2019 and reposted with permission. 

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