The following is an overview of a special roundtable ISTR is hosting at this year’s conference.
Philanthropy’s role in advancing sustainable development attracts a lot of attention. However, very few figures are available to date on the volumes and sectors of philanthropic flows supporting development. To address this lack of reliable and comparable data, the OECD produced the report on Private Philanthropy for Development. The report calls into question long-held assumptions about the volume, nature and potential of foundations’ engagement in developing countries, and the role they can play to support the SDGs.
The report examines philanthropic resource flows for development purposes, as well as foundations’ priorities, practices and partnering behaviors. It presents fresh perspectives and action-oriented recommendations to optimize philanthropy’s role in support of sustainable development.
This report offers practical insights for government policy makers and decision makers in civil society organisations, social enterprises and foundations. It results from close co-operation between the OECD Development Centre’s Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD) and the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate.
The ISTR Conference will host a round table introducing and presenting the 2018 OECD Report on Private Philanthropy for Development. Lorenzo Pavone, Head (Acting), Partnerships and Network Unit, OECD Development Centre, will present the report’s ground-breaking data and fresh perspectives on how to optimise philanthropy’s role in support of sustainable development.
Following this, the panel will discuss the report’s findings and its implications. Panel participants include:
Whenever I go to a conference, the thing I dread most is panels.A typical panel is a show about nothing. Sure, it worked on Seinfeld—but they had comedic geniuses obsessing over the perfect script and a whole cast of skilled actors and producers making it sing. (Though panels do have some recurring characters: I’m sure you’ve met The Rambler, The Spotlight Hog, and The Mansplainer.)
Panels aren’t going away any time soon. Since I end up sitting on them and moderating them on a regular basis, I decided to see if I could fix them.
And by fix them, I mean run a panel that doesn’t ruin your day. Here are my guidelines:
CHOOSING THE CAST
1. Keep it small. In my experience, the best panels have a moderator and no more than two or three guests. Just like in teams, less is more. Larger panels create more communication and coordination difficulties. It’s impossible to find a rhythm with six people on stage. People just sit there waiting to make their point.
2. Invite people who complement each other. I’ve suffered through panels that flop because the participants have nothing in common and because they have totally redundant perspectives. You need a mix of similarities and differences. In psychology it’s called optimal distinctiveness. Every panelist should fit into a common topic but stand out based on having unique insights or experiences.
3. Design for relationships between the panelists. A group of strangers sitting on stage together is a recipe for disaster. A great panel feels like being a fly on the wall for an actual conversation between friends or sparring partners.
Don’t just think about the qualities that you want in individual panelists or moderators; invite people who actually know each other. They’re used to having conversations together, they’re familiar with each other’s views, and they’re more likely to be comfortable debating and disagreeing respectfully.
If they haven’t connected before, have them spend some time getting to know each other. Even a quick email exchange followed by five minutes face-to-face backstage can help build rapport and give time to compare notes on what to cover (and avoid).
SETTING THE STAGE
4. Encourage the panelists to talk to each other. A rookie mistake is when panelists are all having individual conversations with the moderator. That’s just a bunch of one-on-one interviews slapped together—you would never do that in a meeting or at a party.
Maryellen Reilly introduced me to a creative way of nudging authentic discussion: invite each participant to ask a question of one other panelist. Along with catapulting them into a natural back-and-forth, it’s fascinating to see what they most want to learn from one another.
5. Ask them to keep their comments short. The most compelling responses are usually no more than 60 seconds. That’s where you start pushing the limits of conversational attention span and violating the natural flow of back-and-forth. Go longer and you’re just doing sequential monologues. Short answers open the door for burstiness, where it sounds like the panel is literally bursting with ideas. The energy picks up, people veer off script and actually build on one another, and there’s more room for unexpected wisdom and spontaneous humor.
6. Don’t let every panelist answer every question. That immediately devolves into mind-numbing turn-taking. No one has something interesting or informative to say on all the topics.
7. Tell them you might interrupt them. The moderator’s job is to guide the conversation to make it worthwhile for the audience. So if panelists start rambling, you need to jump in with a comment, a fresh question, or a redirect. At first I struggled to do that—I was afraid of being disagreeable. But I found that when I told panelists in advance that I might interrupt them, the awkwardness melted away. It’s not rude to interrupt them once you have their permission.
PREPARING THE SCRIPT
8. Start by asking for a story. Panels fall flat when participants never get to share their knowledge—and the audience has no context for why they’re there. Sometimes moderators try to solve that by reading lengthy bios for each panelist, which is a huge waste of time. Just introduce them with a few highlights that explain why they’re on stage, and invite them each to tell a story on the topic.
9. Pose questions that make the audience—and the panelists—think. The richest questions often start with why (to get at motivation/purpose) and how (to get at strategy/tactics). It can also help to surface tension, which doesn’t have to be with other panelists; you can prompt them to challenge conventional wisdom or their own past experiences.
Two of my favorite questions are “What’s the worst career advice you’ve gotten?” and “What’s something you believed early in your career that you now think is wrong?” Sometimes it helps to give them the questions in advance, both for peace of mind and for reflection time.
Another trick is to have the audience ask their questions at the beginning of the panel instead of the end. As Kumar Gargpoints out, it helps the panelists get more specific and more practical.
10. Run a lightning round. Come ready with a few questions that panelists can answer in a word or a sentence. Other than an opening story, that’s the only time you want everyone to chime in: it’s a great way to get diverse ideas on the table swiftly and represent everyone’s voice. It can be a fun appetizer early on if there’s a burning question where you want to surface a range of views, a nice interjection to keep the conversation moving if it’s dragging in the middle, or a strong closing if you want to wrap up with a light, memorable Q&A.
It’s always reassuring to hear successful people open up about their vices. What was your worst idea ever? What task do you procrastinate on? When do you feel the most self-doubt?
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, a #1 New York Timesbestselling author, and the host of the TED podcast WorkLife. He shares insights in his free monthly newsletter, GRANTED.
The following is a guest post reflecting on one of the roundtable sessions at the upcoming ISTR Conference organized byAlan Fowler, Honorary Professor Chair in African Philanthropy, Wits Business School and Professor Emeritus, International Institute of Social Studies andKees Biekart, Associate Professor International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.
The problem of trust. Can non-governmental organisations dedicated to development and humanitarian relief (NGOs) be trusted? Does their legitimacy matter! NGOs will surely answer that their credibility is essential. Without it, fundraising becomes more difficult, supporters retreat, governments become (more) suspicious and media thrive on adding to the negativity. A recent highly publicized flurry about the behaviour of a few NGO staff and remedial actions taken are a bit of a distraction from the systematic forces that appear to be eroding the legitimacy and credibility that these organisations have built up over many decades. What is going on and why now?
Ending of a golden era? A golden decade of NGO legitimacy, public standing and support from official aid agencies started to ebb away as one millennium gave way to another. Four erosion processes appear to weave together.
Comparative advantages. Really? One is a challenge to NGO efficacy. Doubts about NGOs being more effective than other development actors in reaching and working with the billion poor at the base of the pyramid are growing. Compelling evidence to the contrary is difficult to find. Faith in NGOs’ comparative advantages in relief and development faded and gave way to many demands to demonstrate results. Despite the significant investments in monitoring and evaluation, technical difficulties hamper convincing responses.
The accountability challenge. Legitimacy is also challenged by issues of inadequate accountability to the complex mix of stakeholders involved in who NGOs are and what they do for who. Participation principles notwithstanding, feedback mechanisms from intended beneficiaries on the relevance and quality of NGO work remained overshadowed by accountability to those providing resources. The Accountability Commitments set up by leading international NGOs with its twelve commitments shows the range of demands to be met and promises to be kept. The seriousness of accountability for reputation and negative consequences when perceptions of inadequacy arise should not be underestimated.
Political suspicion. A further source of erosion for NGO legitimacy is coming from many governments, particularly those whose own legitimacy is open to question. The ‘shrinking of civic space’ – that is the freedom for citizen action – is tracked by the Civicus Monitor project. Far more countries limit such freedoms than enable them, while the list and range of restrictive repertoires is growing. One government strategy delegitimizing NGOs is to declare them as being unelected as well as acting as ‘foreign agents’, beholden to external funders. Another is to call into question NGO credibility to represent the interest, if not the voice, of those in whose name they operate. Countering these politically inspired messages to shape public opinion is made difficult by the fact that NGOs are often ‘disassociated’ from the population at large. In other words, there is often a lack of a strong bonding with the people from which legitimizing support and action should come.
A vulnerable moral high ground. A fourth force working against NGO legitimacy is associated with organisational morality. For the past decade or more, a zeitgeist has taken hold that the private sector and market principles may be a better solution to poverty reduction. The moral underpinnings of the logic of non-profit organisations working for the public good rather than private gain bring an uneven vulnerability to charges of immoral behaviour than is the case when, for example, corporate corruption is exposed. This might also hold true for #metoo within NGOs. Their reputations can suffer more from a bad press because business behaviour is not strongly associated with an ethic of fairness or justice.
The knock on effects of reputational set-backs for the NGO community as a whole should not be underestimated, nor should the degree of collective solidarity be over-estimated. It seems that many NGOs choose for an individual solution to a problem that can better be viewed as collectively shared.
The roundtable will take place Wednesday 11th July, 09:00 – 10:30 in Room 12A 33 and will feature an interactive discussion with Prof. Thea Hilhorst, of ISS, Dr. Irene Guijt of Oxfam UK, Anabel Cruz of Civicus (Uruguay) and Dr. Patricia Mendoça from the Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil). Kees Biekart of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) will facilitate. Clickhere to see the full ISTR Conference Schedule.