A new Centre for Strategic Philanthropy has been established at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School dedicated to examining strategic philanthropy in South Africa.

It will examine the role of philanthropy in helping to bridge the annual funding gap of $2,5-trillion to meet the SDGs by 2030.

South Africa has a tradition of giving. According to Nedbank Private Wealth’s Giving Report, 83% of South Africa’s high-net-worth individuals donated time, money or goods in 2018.

Through a combination of rigorous research, executive education and the convening of diverse stakeholders, the centre aims to become the leading hub of actionable knowledge to catalyse and measure the impact of philanthropy in South Africa.

It will also work with relevant institutions and practitioners in South Africa and the region in order to encourage collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and insights.

The growth in emerging market philanthropy could not be occurring at a more critical time. Government budgets are coming under ever increasing pressure from the pandemic and the global downturn.

S&P Global Ratings forecasts South Africa’s economy will shrink by 4,5% this year, while the World Bank warns coronavirus will push more than 1-million South Africans into extreme poverty.

The UN’s trade and development agency, UNCTAD, predicts that a $2,5-trillion rescue package is needed for the world’s emerging economies as a result of the pandemic.

Philanthropic capital can play an important role in addressing this need, both on its own and in combination with other sources of funding.

Badr Jafar, founding patron of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, comments: “Today, well over $1-trillion of private philanthropic capital, more than triple the annual global development and humanitarian aid budgets combined, is deployed every single year.

“The evidence is also overwhelming that South Africa and the world’s other emerging economies are becoming an increasingly powerful source of philanthropic capital and social innovation.

“With the impending generational transition taking place around the world, it is crucial to properly understand the diverse approaches to philanthropy that exist in these markets, and the local and regional factors that have shaped them.

“Transparency, technology and evolving attitudes toward wealth are reshaping donors’ approaches to giving worldwide,” he adds. “We will likely fail to address the myriad of challenges on the global agenda over the next decade without making a much greater effort to connect, exchange ideas and partner with strategic philanthropists from South Africa and the world’s fastest growing regions.”

Professor Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, says: “Our planet faces growing challenges. Climate change – threats to water and food supplies, threats to our ecology and biodiversity – growing political division, war and infectious disease.

“Global philanthropic capital must be used effectively and for maximum impact to improve our society, and the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy is very well-positioned to champion these efforts.”

Professor Christoph Loch, director of the Cambridge Judge Business School, adds: “We are seeing an explosion of wealth generation that is creating philanthropists who can, and will, reject the norms of the past.

“Through the work of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy at Cambridge Judge Business School, we will be examining how we capture this diversity while also engaging with philanthropists from the target regions to support them in maximising their impact.”

The activities of the new Centre for Strategic Philanthropy will include research, education and training, and convening diverse voices.

One of its first research projects, expected to be completed in autumn 2020, is examining responses to the Covid-19 pandemic by philanthropists and foundations in South Africa and other high-growth markets.

Specifically, the study will consider whether there has been a measurable shift in focus and investment towards specific geographies (for example, low-income countries) and towards specific sectors (such as health care) in response to the pandemic.

It will also consider the extent to which donors have increased or decreased the size of their donations, or made changes to the typical length and conditionality of their grants – including moving to unrestricted funding – over the same period.

Ultimately, it will seek to determine the extent to which changes precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on how philanthropy is practiced in and from these markets in the future.

Dr Kamal Munir, the centre’s academic director, explains: “The centre will aim to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners in philanthropy. We hope to be able to offset the significant dearth of research in this field and help improve the transformational impact that philanthropy can achieve, when at its most creative.”