Strategic philanthropy can be central to giving young people a better life

Successful businesses have more in common with philanthropy than one might think

Gerald Du/ Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

In the current global context, we find ourselves confronting profound challenges, some of which are particularly affecting the Arab youth. They face a range of difficulties, from economic instability to the effects of climate change, that for many can result in a sense of marginalisation and uncertainty.

In response, professionals and experts across various fields are collaborating to address these interconnected issues. Amid these challenges, the role of philanthropy, especially strategic philanthropy, has become increasingly crucial. This involves thoughtful and impactful giving that is focused on long-term solutions rather than temporary relief.

The impact of philanthropy can seem limited in the face of monumental challenges such as climate change, mass displacement and water scarcity. Its effects, however, can go beyond traditional acts of generosity and offer a comprehensive road map for sustainable change.

Traditional philanthropy is commendable and focuses on immediate aid needed to alleviate the suffering of people and responding to emergencies and gaps worldwide. It is a reaction that comes from the best part of humanity – our sense of empathy for others. It is the kind of giving that we witnessed after the devastating earthquakes in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria, when over 54,000 people died. With buildings having collapsed, families were living in tents and flimsy shelters.

This kind of impact is the difference between sending blankets and food to Haitian earthquake survivors and investing in structural resilience and safety in communities

Charity plays a critical and compassionate role, especially in dire times. These days, the Middle East and North Africa region, where over 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 30, confronts a significant challenge: youth unemployment.

This reality risks leading to a bleak future in many parts of the region. Reports from the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation indicate the region has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, exceeding 26 per cent. Charity will not alleviate the potential crisis ahead, but strategic philanthropy can help.

Strategic philanthropy delves deeper, beyond a temporary balm, to heal the wound at its core. It addresses the underlying causes of issues and employs careful planning and flexibility to maximum affect. Strategic philanthropy starts with a clear vision of the desired state and what is needed to reach it. In doing so it aligns itself with business approaches.

Business and philanthropy may appear distinct at first glance, but they share more common ground than one might think. Both require the cultivation of robust relationships, a well-defined vision and a steadfast commitment to effecting meaningful change in the world.

While at the surface level these paradigms might seem at odds – one often perceived as a pursuit of greater wealth for the already affluent, and the other as an altruistic endeavour aimed at aiding the less fortunate – there is a point where corporate acumen and social good intersect.

From this intersection arises strategic philanthropy that involves setting specific, measurable objectives aligned with the broader mission of the philanthropic endeavour. It involves collaborating with other organisations, governments or communities. These partnerships can leverage additional resources, expertise and local knowledge to increase the impact of philanthropic efforts.

Beyond short-term fixes, strategic philanthropy is flexible and responsive to changing conditions and new information. This means adjusting strategies and approaches based on continuous valuation and feedback. There is an emphasis on being open about goals, strategies, outcomes and challenges. This transparency helps build trust with stakeholders and the broader community.

Instead of just addressing the symptoms of social issues, strategic philanthropy often aims to address the underlying systemic causes. This may involve policy advocacy, public awareness campaigns or other efforts to drive broader societal changes. These principles guide philanthropists in using their resources effectively to create significant, lasting impact.

This kind of impact is the difference between sending blankets and food to Haitian earthquake survivors and the work of Habitat for Humanity, which invested efforts in Haiti to cultivate structural resilience and safety in communities. The homes that they built in the earthquake-prone region were built for a purpose – to withstand the elements in the worst cases.

These include new homes designed for elderly residents and homes built in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration. After the ultimate test, these homes have proven to be more long-lasting and able to withstand catastrophic events, providing a sense of security for the families they serve. This is looking at the root problem and contributing to resolving the issues of safe housing for the long term – that is strategic philanthropy.

The UAE exemplifies a proactive approach to philanthropy, effectively bridging the gap between intentions and concrete actions. In the realm of strategic philanthropy, which promotes innovation and collaboration among diverse stakeholders such as non-profits, government entities and the private sector, the UAE's collaborative methodology is particularly effective. This approach aligns well with the country's dynamics, fostering more innovative and practical solutions to complex social challenges.

The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation’s Nomu initiative is an example of such collaboration. It brings together various sectors to tackle youth unemployment within the framework of the Global Council on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) led by the Office of the Prime Minister. Since its inception in 2021, Nomu has significantly impacted over 21,000 youths across the UAE and is now expanding to other countries in the region, starting with Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia.

Strategic philanthropy is increasingly engaging directly with beneficiaries, ensuring interventions meet community needs for more effective results. In the Mena region, this model is growing, focusing on youth empowerment in line with the SDG nexus model. It emphasises innovation, sustainability and regional solutions, particularly in equipping youth with 21st-century skills.

This approach demonstrates how strategic partnerships and efficient resource utilisation can lead to sustainable community improvements. By aligning with global standards and addressing local needs, it facilitates practical plans for preparing the next generation with relevant skills and opportunities in today's world.

Fondation Tunisie Pour Le Développement focuses on social and economic development, particularly aimed at enhancing the employability of young Tunisians and addressing regional disparities. Their programmes, such as “Elife” and “Smart Tunisia”, are strategically crafted to tackle distinct challenges in local contexts.

This approach is crucial, especially considering the data from the past two years highlighting a dire situation. In 2022 alone, over 15,000 young Tunisians risked their lives attempting to reach the Italian coast as migrants in search of hope for a decent life, with most being sent back – excluding those who died at sea. By offering targeted solutions for decent employment, the foundation aims to address the underlying crisis that provokes these youths to undertake such perilous journeys, thereby contributing significantly to mitigating this life-threatening trend.

Strategic philanthropy is gaining momentum due to its focus on impact, sustainability, accountability and innovation. It is attracting donors and organisations interested in tangible results and understanding the difference their contributions make as a long-term investment. This shift towards measurable outcomes is encouraging more strategic allocation of philanthropic funds.

Moreover, with a growing demand for transparency and accountability, especially in philanthropy, donors want to know that their money is being used effectively. This is where strategic philanthropy comes in, providing a framework for accountability and efficient use of funds.

Published: December 22, 2023, 6:00 PM