Philanthropy turn corporates require for lasting impact

M-Pesa Foundation director Les Baillie (left), Airbus Foundation executive director Andrea Debbane (centre) and International director Hania Tabet during the launch of the Airbus Little Engineer Initiative at the M-Pesa Foundation Academy. PHOTO | COURTESY

Governments, companies and individuals have rallied impressively over the past year to mitigate the economic, health and social toll of Covid-19.

Given the scale and complexity of these challenges — even prior to the pandemic — the private sector and corporate philanthropy are vital to development efforts.

The renewed urgency and focus on redressing inequity offer philanthropists an opportunity to leverage this global movement to prioritise strategic interventions that create sustained impact for those who need it most.

This change is already underway; 79 percent of CEOs said they have had to reevaluate their corporate purpose due to the pandemic. As a leader of a corporate philanthropy, I, like my colleagues, am also reflecting on two interlinked questions: how can we realise the full potential of corporate philanthropy to deliver real, lasting outcomes?

For instance, for over a decade, we at the M-Pesa Foundation have been drawing on our deep expertise in mobile technology to empower communities and contribute to the realisation of the UN sustainable development goals through initiatives across health, education, environmental conservation and integrated livelihoods.

Our vision when we started was to shift the focus from investing in several, distinct and smallscale projects, as is typical with CSR projects, to a model that marshalled our different assets, including community partnerships, to deliver greater depth and breadth of impact than a siloed approach.

We have found that we are most effective when we rely on the insight of those who fully understand the communities they serve, create systems to respond flexibly and draw on data to realistic models.

These principles map almost one to one to our core corporate values: trust, speed and simplicity.

Certainly, corporate philanthropy is an essential vehicle for change. We can choose to view the disruption of 2020 as a unique chance to rethink how we execute our missions. Even so, a bias for action is one of the defining features of our institutions.

This is our opportunity to push beyond calls to action to focus on creating tangible, sustained outcomes by acting courageously and with integrity. While our models and focus areas may differ, we share a common vision. This joint vision is crystallised in the root of the word ‘philanthropy’— a love of humankind.

To deliver on the full promise of corporate giving, the M-Pesa Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation have convened the Impact Philanthropy Africa Forum. Building on past convenings, the Forum membership comprises self-funded corporate charitable foundations and private foundations in Kenya.

We envision the Forum as a platform for identifying key advocacy issues to influence policy; sharing innovations for mutual learning; and driving thought leadership to advance more strategic corporate philanthropy. The Forum will formally launch in early 2021.

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