Towards a Greater Government Philanthropy Collaboration

Aug 31, 2018

Robert Skinner, Executive Director of UN Office of Partnerships moderating the panel discussions

The increasing need for innovative and complementary approaches to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at scale calls for a greater government-philanthropy collaboration. This approach is particularly useful in low and middle-income countries where a dearth of resources has created a considerable void in the provision of social services. Filling such a void requires synergies in the joint use of financial and human resources. To the extent that Philanthropy and government (local and national) work towards a common social good, the objectives could not altogether be dissimilar. Working together could in the medium to long-term break the silo-like implementation of social programmes, especially in situations where government is seldom aware of programmes foundations are supporting at the local and national levels.

In Ghana, the recognition of the developmental value of philanthropy by the government has led to a renewed sense of optimism towards new frontiers of collaboration. This translated into the co-hosting of an event on the side-lines of the 2018 UN High-Level Political Forum in New York. The event was held on Monday 16 July 2018 at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium, Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations.

In a panel discussion moderated by Robert Skinner, Executive Director of UN Partnerships Office in New York, the Panel explored important recurrent topics such as innovative government policies and approaches that can enable a “whole of society” approach towards the SDGs implementation. The discussions also focused on how to break siloes and encourage cross-sectoral collaboration to create positive systems change; as well as transformative strategies by foundations’ that could help create impact at scale.

The panel members were Ms. Georgia Pessoa, Executive Director, Humanize Institute, Brazil, Mr. Isaac Kamande, Director of Planning and Statistics at the Ministry of Planning, Government of Kenya, Ms. Heather Grady, Vice President of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, USA, and Mr. Isaac Ofosu Debrah, SDG Philanthropy Platform Coordinator, UNDP Ghana. 

Delivering the keynote remarks, Prof George Gyan-Baffour, Minister of Planning, Government of Ghana, noted that “as Government, we must not view philanthropy as an additional source of funding for development activities but as a partnership. We must see grant makers as potential partners who have over the decades garnered experience with lots of strong ties to people who know how to create the change that is desired.” Professor Gyan-Baffour further stressed Government of Ghana’s recognition of the “strategic and development value of philanthropy as a veritable partner, rather than only a source of funding.” He indicated that, SDG Philanthropy Platform (SDG PP) and Philanthropy and Impact Investors Network Ghana (PHIING) have been included in Ghana’s SDG Implementation Coordination Committee and the Technical Committee—the two committees are part of Ghana’s SDG implementation and monitoring architecture.

In addition, Professor Gyan-Baffour mentioned the inclusion of philanthropy in the Ghana Development Cooperation Policy, which is being developed.  He added that, in addressing the recurrent paucity of development cooperation data, Ghana’s Ministry of Finance has procured and deployed a Development Cooperation Information Management System, which enables government to manage its relationships with foundations, civil society and other actors within the development space.

On her part, Ms. Heather Grady, Vice President of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, emphasized the urgency for governments to make their development priorities available to foundations in an easily comprehensible format. She said, development priorities should come in accessible forms as foundations are not receptive to the drudgery of ploughing through bulky documents. In essence, governments must identify relevant project pipelines with strong social objectives, with clear stipulations on the form of support required and how these would be achieved.

Drawing from the panel discussions and the subsequent Q&A session, it was clear that governments cannot achieve the SDGs without actively engaging actors such as philanthropy, which is an important development actor. Of course, the quantum of support from traditional development partners cannot be compared to that of Foundations in the broader scheme of things; nonetheless, foundations have peculiar strengths as they are agile, much nimbler and have garnered extensive years of on-the-ground experience through direct implementation of projects with NGOs and community-based organizations. Again, Ghana Government remains committed to working with Foundations, which calls for a national policy on philanthropy.

Contact information

Isaac Debrah

National Coordinator

SDG Philanthropy Platform


UNDP_GH_SDGP_HPF_Panel_2018_2Prof.George Gyan-Baffour, Minister of Planning Ghana (middle) giving his keynote address

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