By Pete Brach
I share with many a passion to achieve the greatest impact possible. To better understand my decision as a Trustee of the Brach Family Charitable Foundation to support the SDG Philanthropy Platform, it might be helpful if I share a bit about my journey. Very early on in my involvement with philanthropy I was very keen on investing in bigger solutions to some of the key problems that greatly obstruct progress for philanthropy, particularly in African countries. Like many, I pursued answers by doing a lot of reading, traveling, attending conferences and learning about what others were doing.
Very high on my list of issues was the incredible shortage of information available to foundations and non-profits working so hard at bringing about change. Foundations need fast access to reliable information if they wish to improve their capacity to achieve greater impact with their grant writing. We can only imagine what we could achieve if participants in value chains could find the resources they needed, if ICT could reach a far wider audience, if there were e-harmony platforms to foster collaboration, if we all could better understand the ecosystems we are hoping to impact, and very importantly, if there was real collaboration between sectors working to bring about change, with government participation as an essential ingredient. One person in a top position in a large foundation told me that without government, significant scaling is impossible.
Now I’d like to fast forward to the present and discuss why our foundation supports the Platform’s work, using our work in Kenya as an example. We were able to help with early stage data collection in the country, which I hope other funders are using and finding helpful. We are now working with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation on their early childhood development initiative (ECD), involving a multitude of partners, with civil society and government very much involved. Our foundation will support ECD training for women in remote villages via mobile phones. The Platform’s Country Coordinator in Kenya, Arif Neky works hard to improve relevant information access, including helping funders know who is working in their space to better form collaboration and partnerships. All-in-all, the Platform has achieved many partnerships involving all sectors and works in alignment with objectives agreed upon at the country level and on the ground.
I have wondered about what is preventing more funders from getting involved. I see two possible roadblocks. The first is in the camp of not being fully on board with the SDGs or with working with large institutions. Personally, I believe that since the SDGs cover most of the goals funders pursue, one of the best ways to achieve the SDGs is by providing grantmakers with what they need to achieve greater impact with the grants they write, and hopefully in much less time. That perspective provides a frame that allows space for much disagreement about specifics while providing common ground that we can all stand on. In respect to working with larger institutions, I can say that my experience so far has been positive – I have been invited into many discussions and feel that I have had a fair voice at the table.
The other roadblock is that many agree that we need a bridge, but few are willing to contribute so that it gets built. To be transparent, my passion to achieve real impact through our foundation will only be realized if our family’s contributions become catalytic in inspiring others to participate in building the bridges that we all need to cross – if we are able to encourage others to support our sector by creating better ways for all of us to collaborate, work across sectors, share needed information and collectively build something we can all be very proud about creating.
Pete Brach is a Trustee for the Brach Family Charitable Foundation