Introduction to the political philanthropy series

10 July 2024
SERIES Political philanthropy 7 items

Do you want evidence informed systemic change?

Then you have to work with political actors, including governments.

But you must do this right – being careful about the potential of doing more harm than good.

This series explore some of the questions and options that political philanthropists should consider in their efforts.

Welcome to our series on political philanthropy, a field where philanthropic organisations engage with political actors such as governments to drive systemic change and address complex societal challenges. Arguably, as global issues like pandemic recovery, social justice, and climate crises intensify, the role of political philanthropy becomes ever more crucial.

However, doing it right demands careful consideration of the potential challenges and opportunities for undue and unexpected and undesirable effects. 

This series explores the intricacies, challenges, and opportunities in this evolving landscape, offering insights from research and case studies.

This series shares perspectives on engaging with governments in the Global South, focusing on economic advisory work. It offers learning and insights for philanthropic organisations considering such engagements. The articles draw on desk reviews, key informal interviews, consultations with a global advisory group, and the project team’s experience.

It presents perspectives on how political philanthropy is definedwhat good economic advisory work looks like, and what and whose knowledge counts. It also looks at more operational considerations around thinking and acting politically and recommendations on how to embed learning and communications into these partnerships.

It was produced as part of a learning partnership between the Open Society Foundations, OTT and INASP to jointly explore effective models for supporting progressive government reformers in the Global South.

Read research briefings: “How do philanthropic donors engage with governments?” and “A narrowed perspective: knowledge (in)equities in economic advisory work in Global South“.

Article 1: Exploring Political Philanthropy
Marcela Morales examines how philanthropies support governments, from direct collaboration to nuanced influence, providing technical assistance and piloting innovative solutions. Despite the complexities, effective engagements can drive significant reforms and strengthen public sector initiatives.

Article 2: Economic Advisory Support to Governments
Emily Hayter discusses the role of economic advisory work funded by philanthropies, highlighting the importance of trust-based, quiet advisory roles that respect government ownership and navigate the closed, homogenous advisory landscape.

Article 3: Knowledge Inequities in the Global South
Jon Harle and Leandro Echt delve into the barriers faced by southern researchers and consultants, emphasising the need to address knowledge inequities to ensure diverse, locally-owned development and equitable partnerships.

Article 4: Shifts in Political Economy Analysis (PEA)
Emily Hayter outlines the evolution of PEA approaches, focusing on the importance of ongoing, gender-responsive, and locally-led analysis to inform adaptive and effective government engagements.

Article 5: Tailoring MEL for Government Engagement
Simon Hearn presents six strategies for adapting monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) to the complexities of government advisory work, emphasising actor-centred theories of change and qualitative, context-sensitive methods.

Article 6: Careful Communications and Government Engagement
Jojoh Faal Sy highlights the challenges of communicating philanthropic engagements with governments, advocating for transparency, contextual understanding, and ethical, clear messaging to foster trust and maximise impact.

Join us as we navigate the dynamic world of political philanthropy, uncovering best practices and lessons learned to enhance the effectiveness of philanthropic efforts in fostering meaningful, lasting change through government partnerships.


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Read the research briefings: “How do philanthropic donors engage with governments?” and “A narrowed perspective: knowledge (in)equities in economic advisory work in Global South“.