Localization of Development: The Funder-Local Civil Society Relationship

July 6, 2023

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.

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. 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 and local civil society look like? 

Missed this panel? You can catch up here.

Members-only webinar: All about the Principles of Social Value

June 20, 2023

You might know that your AFF membership includes membership to  a global network focused on social impact and social value.

This exclusive webinar run by Social Value International (SVI) offered an introduction to the fundamental building blocks that the Principles of Social Value provide for all organizations to manage their impacts.

By the end of the webinar, attendees had learned more about the principles and their meaning, and better understood how they can be applied in practice to measure and manage the impact of activities, projects, and programs. They also gained a better understanding of SVI’s work to develop the standards for applying the Principles and embedding them in day-to-day management of an organization’s activities.

You can catch up on the webinar and supporting materials, please go to the Members Home Page.

The Arab Philanthropic & Civic Sector Response to the Syria-Turkey Earthquakes

June 13, 2023

In partnership with the International Medical Corps, the Arab Foundations Forum hosted this virtual panel discussion on the Arab philanthropic and civic sector response to the Syria-Turkey earthquakes.

The devastating earthquakes that hit the two countries in February 2023 left more than 50,000 dead, including more than 5,900 in Syria’s northwestern region. In the immediate aftermath, the Arab philanthropy and civic sector served as a frontline responder, providing humanitarian relief and life-saving support through search-and-rescue efforts, medical aid, food assistance, the organization of crowd-sourcing campaigns, and other critical contributions.

As the country slowly transitions to its recovery and reconstruction phase, the World Bank estimates the costs of physical damages and losses may be up to $5.2 billion, while recovery and reconstruction needs could reach nearly $8 billion over the next three years. Again, Arab philanthropy and non-profits can play an important role, by helping to bridge the pervasive gaps in Syria’s journey toward healing.

The panel addressed key questions regarding the consequences of the earthquakes on Syria’s most vulnerable populations with the aim of informing the philanthropic response both in the emergency and early recovery phases.

Missed this panel? You can catch up here.

Adopting an Impact Strategy with Reem Khouri

Part of the AFF Speaker Series “Leading Philanthropy and Non-Profit Voices”

May 30, 2023

AFF CEO Naila Farouky spoke with entrepreneur Reem Khouri on the importance of impact strategy, shifting trends in monitoring and evaluation (M&E), the first steps to building your own impact plan, and more.

Reem Khouri is the co-founder and chairwoman of Whyise, an impact data analytics software solution that enables organizations to aggregate data and analyze it for better decision making. She is also the founding partner of Kaamen, an impact design company that has worked with governments, companies, and NGOs in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to design models for exponential economic and social returns.

About our Speaker Series:
The Arab region’s diverse and burgeoning philanthropic and civic landscape is a hotbed of innovative models of giving. The idea behind the “Leading Philanthropy and Non-Profit Voices” series is to create a space where we can exchange ideas and share promising developments on the inspiring models being advanced by the region’s philanthropic and non-profit sector. By spotlighting leading voices and sector champions, our ultimate goal is to spread good practices and also understand what we can do better in our own organizations and as a community to make greater impact.

Missed this session? You can catch up here.

Capacity Development Workshop: Social Impact Assessment by Foundations and Non-profits

 March 13, 2023

In partnership with Integrated International, AFF held a half-day capacity development module on the underlying frameworks, processes, and tools for social impact assessment (SIA). The purpose of the workshop was to advance understanding of the role of SIA in driving effective programmatic interventions and to build tactical knowledge on how to advance organizational M&E systems to become impact-driven, as well as promote peer-to-peer learning on the challenges and solutions for advancing impact measurement.

To watch a recording and see materials from the session, please go to the Members Home Page.

Capacity Development Workshop: Foundations & Civil Society Advocacy in Uncertain Contexts

February  27 & 28, 2023

Held over two days (3 ½ hrs each) on February 27 and 28, 2023, this module looked at the diverse tools and approaches that civic actors can use to strengthen their advocacy work in political and social contexts where paucity of data, underdeveloped institutions, and uncertain policy contexts can make it challenging to generate evidence to help bridge research with policy and practice.

The workshop focused on the role of strategic advocacy in the work of foundations and non-profits, with the aim of building a deeper understanding of the dynamics of advocacy in uncertain and shifting contexts.

The lead trainer was Nadine Wahab, director of Eco-Dahab – Egypt, with guest speaker Elie Abouaoun, director of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) North Africa Programs and the MENA regional Hub – Tunisia.

To watch recordings and see materials from the sessions, please go to the Members Home Page.

Arab Foundations Forum 2022 Annual Meeting

December 8, 2022

Arab Foundations Forum held its 2022 Annual Meeting online on 8 December 2022. During the meeting, the AFF team presented a retrospective of 2022, including all the major events and activities throughout the year, and the priority areas and general plan for 2023. The meeting also featured several AFF members presenting their organizations and the work that they have done throughout the year.

Guest speakers included King Khalid Foundation, ARIJ, Red Noses International, The END Fund, SOS Children’s Villages, Gulf Area Office, and Iftiin Foundation.

You can access the recording of the session here.

AFF Report Launch: Building Towards an Enabling Arab Civic Space for Resilience, Growth, and Sustainability

December 1, 2022

Arab Foundations Forum launched the milestone report “An Enabling Arab Civic Space for Resilience, Growth, and Sustainability” during an online panel discussion on 1 December 2022.

The global pandemic and its ensuing economic downturn have placed mounting pressures on organized civil society to respond to critical gaps in healthcare services, escalating hunger, massive unemployment, and the loss of income in already marginalized and impoverished communities. At the same time, bright spots have emerged, apparent in the facilitating role of IT, more recognition of the critical role of civil society in meeting community needs, and a heightened awareness of the necessity of investment in strengthening existing mechanisms and frameworks for resilience and recovery, and creating them where they do not exist.

As such, advocating for an enabling environment for civil society that would empower it to effectually participate in recovery and resilience, as well as deliver on its values of social justice, is front and center this AFF study. Bringing together evidence-based insights and local civil society voices, the study maps the current state of the civil society eco-system in four Arab countries—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—with a focus on changes in policy, law, and infrastructure.

The panel discussion was hosted by AFF CEO Naila Farouky and Heba Abou Shnief, Senior Director of Research and Data, and moderated by Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy, Director of NatCen International.

Guest speakers included Marie-Noelle AbiYaghi, Co-Director of The Centre for Social Sciences Research and Action; Firas Jaber, Co-Founder and Researcher ofAlMarsad;Hend Abdel Meguid, Executive Director of the Terous Foundation for Development;and Ahmed Awad, Director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies.

AFF would like to thank all the contributors to the report.

You can access the recording of the session here.

You can read the full report here. 

Partnerships in Philanthropy: Models for Collaboration in the MENA Region

November 3, 2022

In partnership with the OECD Centre on Philanthropy, AFF held a virtual critical discussion exploring the various models of collaboration in philanthropy to examine the questions around when philanthropy organizations are best positioned to work together, and when they should work individually, and to look at the role of data-sharing in enabling collaboration between philanthropic organizations.

The session included a presentation by the OECD Centre on Philanthropy, “Private Philanthropy for Development: Data for Action and Collaboration”, based on a report launched in April 2022 which focuses on the Arab region. Data collected by the OECD on philanthropy for development can be accessed here.

The panel was co-hosted by Naila Farouky, CEO of AFF, and Nelson Amaya, Policy Analyst with the OECD Centre on Philanthropy, and was moderated by Noha El Mikawy, Dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo.

Guest speakers included the Jordan River Foundation, Pearl Initiative, King Khalid Foundation, and Global Commons Alliance.

How Can Arab Philanthropy Address the Climate Crisis?

October 6, 2022

In partnership with WINGS, the AFF hosted a virtual panel discussion about the important role philanthropy can play in fighting climate change. All organizations with philanthropic resources, whatever their mission and field of expertise, can play a role in addressing the climate emergency. There is a special responsibility on philanthropic organizations to use their resources whether directly or indirectly to tackle this problem.

The session highlighted the activities that AFF members and partners are currently undertaking in the region, especially with COP 27 taking place in Egypt in 2022 and COP 28 in the UAE next year. This panel discussion showcased what philanthropic organizations have done so far to fight the climate crisis and gave insights on activities and reflections by regional and global organizations who do not necessarily include climate in their areas of focus.

During the session, the international climate commitment pledge developed by WINGS was presented, along with a short description of its implementation guide.

The panel was moderated by AFF CEO Naila Farouky and Alice de Moraes Amorim Vogas, WINGS Project Coordinator for Global Philanthropy for Climate Movement.

Guest speakers included the King Khalid Foundation, Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, and the Climate Emergency Collaboration Group (CECG).

To access the recording of the session, please click here.

System Change in Philanthropy for Development: Lessons from the MENA region

September 28, 2022

In partnership with the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy (CSP) at the Cambridge Judge Business School, AFF hosted a virtual panel discussion on system change in philanthropy for development focusing on the MENA region. This regionally focused convening explored and addressed specific philanthropic needs occurring in the core markets of the region and looked to further expand existing dialogues on philanthropic research and key findings from the region.

This panel followed the launch of the CSP report entitled “System Change in Philanthropy for Development: A Research Framework for Global Growth Markets” in May 2022.

The panel was moderated by Naila Farouky, CEO AFF, and Dr. Shonali Banerjee, Research Associate at CSP.

Guest speakers included the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, Alfanar, Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, and, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation  To access the recording of the session, please click here.


F20: Climate Action

September 7, 2022

Our CEO, Naila Farouky, was a panelist at the F20 event on “Renewable Energy and Green Hydrogen” where she discussed the role of Arab philanthropy in addressing the climate crisis and how we can contribute meaningfully in the “Race to Net Zero”. You can see the full panel recording here (AFF appears at 01:47:00 – 01:55:00)

Philanthropy in Climate

September 8, 2022

The AFF Team participated in an invitation-only roundtable event on “Philanthropy in Climate” at the International Cooperation Forum (ICF) in Cairo. Hosted by the Ministry of International Cooperation and H.E. Minister Rania Al-Mashat, AFF joined co-hosts Climate Emergency Collaboration Group (CECG) and a group of global philanthropy representatives, including AFF supporting member, Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, for a 4.5-hour, high-level conversation on the role of philanthropy in addressing the climate crisis.

Aggregating Portfolio Impacts—Challenges and Solutions

December 8 & 9, 2020

On 9 December 2020 AFF and Social Value International co-hosted the third in a series of webinars. The topic for this module focused on “Aggregating Portfolio Impacts – Challenges and Solutions”.


AFF Presented at the F20

September 21,  2020


Our CEO, Naila Farouky, gave one of the Keynote Addresses at the Foundations Platform F20 Climate Week, where she represented the #arabphilanthropy sector on behalf of the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF).

Held from 14 – 17 September, the Foundations Platform F20 Climate Solutions Week 2020 (part of the engagement of Foundations and Civil Society in the G20 Summit) was co-hosted by AFF member King Khalid Foundation and supported by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt and Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt. Featured among an esteemed roster of speakers, Naila gave a Keynote Address on 17 September on “The Voice of Foundations and Philanthropists in the Context of the G20″.

The AFF also facilitated the engagement of our members – particularly the King Khalid Foundation as Co-Chair of the F20 (and Chair of the C20) and Sawiris Foundation for Social Development as a Steering Committee Group member representing the AFF network – at the G20 Summit, giving a strong voice to Arab philanthropy at a global level at a critical time.

Watch the YouTube Video 

AFF at African Society of Assoc Executives

September 25, 2020

AFF CEO Naila Farouky represented the network at this year’s African Society of Association Executives, where she participated in a panel on: “The Role of African Civil Society Organizations in the Post Covid-19 Recovery”

African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE) is an umbrella body of professionals and volunteers working in Associations across Africa. Last year, the inaugural summit was held in Nairobi and we were planning to hold this year’s summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The summit brings together members from the association’s community across Africa as well as other stakeholders from the Association’s field.


October 2018 

Building on the success of the Inspired Leader module in Cairo in November 2017 and the request from members, AFF co-designing this module to become one of our own foundational training exclusively offered to the AFF network.

The module was a three-day program intended to transform leadership through the lenses of values and purpose. This journey enables leaders to:

  • Become highly self-aware – learn how to shift their reactive triggers
  • Understand what it means when we live our values fully – tapping into the wisdom that sits within our values
  • Connect with and align with our purpose, which motivates us to make a difference in our work and life
  • Improve our levels of trust, influence, collaboration, and the ability to have courageous conversations
  • Solve our business challenges through a higher level of consciousness

Ultimately, the course was designed to highlight the fact that change starts with persons and only then affects organizations: “Organizations do not transform … people do … and it starts with us as leaders”

Lead trainers: Karim Ragab, Hesham El Gamal


October 2018

This three-day module, led by Bassem Attar, was a journey to discover your natural leadership style and expand your ability to use other styles in different situations. Develop your “Emotional Intelligence” and your ability to understand, persuade & motivate others. Improve your management skills, and your ability to plan, organize, solve problems and get things done. Create a balanced workplace through the three human values of Power, Achievement, and Relationships. And achieve results by managing your team, delegating effectively, and setting measurable objectives.

Lead trainer: Bassem Attar

Networking: “The Legal Framework for Social Enterprise in Jordan”

April 30, 2018 

In collaboration with INJAZ, AFF will host a Technical Group working session on “The Framework for Social Enterprise in Jordan.” The aim of the meeting is to present a synopsis of the current landscape of social enterprise in Jordan, as well as case studies from the UAE and UK in order to conduct an exercise on drafting a framework for social enterprises in Jordan.

The Agenda of the meeting will address the following topics:

  • The Definition(s) of Social Enterprise
  • The landscape of Social Enterprise in Jordan
  • Social Enterprise Case Studies from UAE, UK, and Jordan
  • Drafting the Outline of the Social Enterprise Framework (Discussion on the current status of the social enterprise sector and recommendations to design the framework and the advocacy process)


April 16, 2018

Arab Foundations Forum is pleased to announce its first capacity-building webinar in 2018 in collaboration with Development Assistance Roadmap Portal in the Middle East (DARPE). We have designed a series of tailored capacity-building modules based on your feedback on the topics you would like us to address.

The webinar’s Agenda will include the following:

    • Showcasing Country-Specific Development Spending Trends including Most Procuring Donors Agencies, Development Aid Priorities, and Allocations
    • A walk-through of DARPE platform demonstrating how its information and data will facilitate building informed partnerships, developing and designing projects more thoughtfully

March 28 & 29, 2018

Arab Foundations Forum held its third capacity-building module in 2018 in collaboration with New York University Abu Dhabi.

This two-day workshop, led by Soushiant Zanganehpour, co-founder of Tribeca Impact Partners,  aimed to help participants build on or improve upon their existing measurement and evaluation framework to be more fit for purpose to the cause on which their philanthropic entity is focused.

The content focused on identifying the right metrics, assessing various measurement periods and methods, understanding how many resources to allocate for measurement, and reviewing case studies and complementary methodologies for making M&E a more useful, high-value, and dynamic management tool for philanthropic organizations, not simply an afterthought.

Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

February 26 & 27, 2018

This course, facilitated by Amin Nehme, training expert and founder of the Lebanese Development Network, was designed to provide a hands-on experience in the preparation and delivery of speeches within a public setting or even a group discussion.

Participants were exposed to essential presentation techniques for how to plan and structure an effective presentation; create an informative and persuasive framework; develop ideas and efficient delivery methods; and finally overcome anxiety, fear, and nervousness when making a presentation. 

It was attended by 15 participants representing AFF members: The American University of Beirut (AUB), SOS  Children’s Villages, Taawon, and Hani Qadumi Scholarship Foundation (HQSF) with representatives from CCT and Taghziah and Skoun.

Social Marketing and Behavior Change Communication

January 22 – 24, 2018

Arab Foundations Forum held its first capacity-building module in 2018 in collaboration with. Oman LNG Development Foundation (ODF)   This module was a three-day program intended to create more effective social marketing campaigns in the Arab region. It provides training on how to deliver effective and sustainable behavior change interventions based on proper planning, strategy, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

Facilitated by Saad Darwazeh, the workshop employed an interactive approach and engage participants. It comprised theory, workgroup discussions, case studies, individual projects and group presentations. Some of the topics that were focused on included:

  • Creating a problem statement for a social marketing plan
  • Explaining the formative audience research process and how it is used to identify, segment, and understand the target audience as well as determine their stage of behavior change
  • Developing a detailed intervention design based on selected strategies and audience research findings
  • Developing an implementation plan for a social marketing program, including creative development and media mix

This program was attended 25 participants including  AFF members:  Oman LNG Development Foundation (ODF), New York University Abu Dhabi and Alqasimi Foundation for Policy Research.

Beyond Year of Giving

September 28, 2017 

On September 28th, we co-hosted an event in Abu Dhabi, in partnership with Innate Motion and INSEAD Abu Dhabi, featuring a panel discussion on the recommendations for how the UAE can sustain the impact of philanthropy beyond the year of giving.

In 2017 the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan declared 2017 as the ”Year of Giving” to promote the culture of giving back to the community and this in a country that is already one of the most generous in the world. We believe that as a community we can do even better and we should continue to build on this great initiative.

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