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Localization of Development: The Funder-Local Civil Society Relationship

July 6, 2023 @ 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

How deeply should philanthropists understand local social issues before they try to solve them? We know that philanthropy initiatives can have long-lasting impacts on the way communities live and operate, but often funding priorities focus on what the donor or founder wants to achieve, rather than what the community needs. Without enough knowledge of local practices and social structure, programs can hit obstacles, fail, or even create new challenges for the people they were trying to empower.

Working in an environment of persistent conflict and restrictive legislation, the Arab philanthropy sector has grown against the backdrop of donor-led institutionalized humanitarian aid that avoids risk and innovation and sidelines communities, citizens, and sometimes even governments in decision-making.

Corporations and individual donors feel their money is safer if given to a big-name international aid agency, while private philanthropic organizations and government development funds often prefer to replicate programs used by global non-profits than invest in grassroots models that could actually be more effective and less costly. As donors go for the easier option, they also perpetuate the power imbalance that has long overshadowed the sector, where the person or group with the money is making decisions for — but without the input of — local communities they may know little or nothing about.

It doesn’t help that there is little high quality, publicly available reporting or data on Arab philanthropy, making it difficult to know which programs the billions of dollars spent in the region so far have funded, who they have benefited, and where they have been wrongly spent.

How do we shift the sector away from its top-down thinking and toward localized philanthropy? And what does the most effective relationship between funder (whether local or international) and local civil society look like?

The panel will discuss the importance of localizing development in the Arab region and how achieving that goal could turn the region into an example of community-centered giving that could transform how we do philanthropy and humanitarian work around the world.

Moderator: Noha El-Mikawy, Dean, AUC School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Host: Naila Farouky, CEO, Arab Foundations Forum


Muna Abbas, CEO, The Asfari Foundation

Nicolas Dawaliby, Deputy Director, Swisscontact Lebanon

Amira Fekry, Business Development Manager, Enroot Development

Nelson Amaya, Policy Analyst, OECD Centre on Philanthropy

Book your space HERE.


July 6, 2023
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm




Arab Foundations Forum
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