• Collaborative funds are poised for a potential annual distribution of up to $15 billion

UAE: The Pearl Initiative, a non-profit organisation focused on promoting a corporate culture of accountability and transparency in the Gulf region, recently convened members of the ‘Circle’, a peer-to-peer network jointly established and powered by the Pearl Initiative and Philanthropy Age, which comprises regional institutional and individual donors looking to do more with their giving. The main objective of the panel discussion titled ‘The Power of Giving for Systems Change’ was to explore how strategic philanthropic investments can act as a catalyst for meaningful and positive change, and for the implementation of systemic reforms in areas such as education, public health and human rights.

Showcasing the Pearl Initiative's ongoing dedication to fostering meaningful partnerships and discussions that drive tangible change and promote a brighter, more equitable future for the Gulf region and beyond, the session brought together a panel of distinguished experts, including Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund; Ellen Agler, CEO of the End Fund; and Nick Grono, CEO of the Freedom Fund. The session was moderated by Dina Sherif, Executive Director at the Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT, and explored the dynamic realm of strategic philanthropy, highlighting its potential to create impact, address intricate social challenges, and channel resources towards sustainable solutions.

Dina H. Sherif expressed her enthusiasm for the potential impact of the discussion and said: “Applying a systems-thinking lens to philanthropic giving is essential to solving the complexity of the global challenges that we now face. The conversation focused on how collaborative philanthropy and the leveraging of partnerships at the local, national, regional, and global levels are critical for systems transformation.”

Furthermore, recent research conducted by The Bridgespan Group suggests that more than 75% of collaborative funds have been established within the last decade, contributing to a notable increase in annual giving. These funds have successfully directed over $2 billion annually towards various social, economic, and environmental concerns. According to survey respondents, their grant making efforts in 2020 amounted to an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion. Remarkably, with only minor growth in staffing, these collective efforts could potentially disburse up to $15 billion per year.

During the discussion, Caitlin Baron shared insights on how the Luminos Fund, an international educational non-profit dedicated to giving the world’s most vulnerable, out-of-school children a second chance to learn, takes a systems-level approach towards achieving its distinctive mission by leveraging philanthropic resources to address root causes and foster long-term solutions.  The organisation has successfully scaled its education mission across five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, working in partnership with more than 25 community-based organisations to reach over 218,541 out-of-school children.

Ellen Agler of the END Fund enriched the session by shedding a light on the fund’s ongoing efforts to end the suffering caused by five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) which affect more than 1.7 billion people. The END Fund actively supports NTD programs with dozens of partners in more than 25 countries, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. 

Nick Grono detailed the ambitious effort to mobilise knowledge, capital, and will to end modern slavery.  Under his leadership, the Freedom Fund has raised more than $200m to date with long-term support for more than 120 NGOs around the world, and having direct impact on over a million people. The Freedom Fund also supports the non-profit sector by providing resources to grassroot organisations working on the front lines to free and rehabilitate survivors of trafficking.

Anissa Punjani, Programme Manager of the Governance in Philanthropy Programme at the Pearl Initiative, highlighted the organisation's commitment to driving positive change, saying, "Through the Pearl Initiative's Governance in Philanthropy Programme and the Circle, we are actively raising awareness among individual and corporate philanthropic donors who have the capacity to strategically deploy their resources for the betterment of society. Our emphasis on identifying and tackling the root causes of complex issues is pivotal to systems change. This approach involves dismantling the very systems that perpetuate these issues, steering away from temporary solutions, and ultimately driving change to benefit all of society."

As part of its Governance in Philanthropy Programme, the Pearl Initiative set up the Circle, a peer-to-peer network for institutional and individual donors connected to the Middle East to help philanthropists do more with their giving, alongside our collaborative partners Philanthropy Age. Circlemena.org provides specialist resources and content to support this network, inform and inspire better giving, and help deepen relationships and catalyse connections among members of the network.  This year, the Circle has hosted 20 convenings on strategic philanthropy covering topics such as impact investment, and measurement & evaluation, engaging with over 200 donors across the region.


About the Pearl Initiative

The Pearl Initiative is the Gulf region’s leading independent, non-profit organisation working to promote the business case for a corporate culture of accountability and transparency. The organisation was established in 2010 by regional business leaders in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Partnerships. The Pearl Initiative is the only private, non-profit Gulf business network to receive special consultative status from the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The Pearl Initiative runs a series of corporate governance-related programmes, including Anti-Corruption Best Practices, Diversity in Business Leadership, Governance in MSMEs, Governance in Family Firms, Governance in Tech, and Governance in Philanthropy. The organisation also conducts locally relevant research, hosts workshops and executive education training sessions, and convenes business leaders, policymakers, students, and non-profit executives to encourage a proactive approach to implementing best practices in the workplace across the Gulf region.

With a growing network of over 40 regional and international partners, the Pearl Initiative continues to strive to be the leading business-led action-oriented platform to advance corporate governance as a key driver of competitiveness, job creation, and sustainable economic growth across the Gulf region.

For more information, please visit www.pearlinitiative.org and check out our Social Media Channels: @PearlInitiative on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and @ThePearlInitiative on LinkedIn and Instagram.

About the ‘Circle’

Circle is a peer-to-peer network for institutional and individual donors connected to the Middle East looking to do more with their giving. The Circle network was established by and is jointly powered by the Pearl Initiative and Philanthropy Age. www.circlemena.org provides specialist resources and content to support this network, inform and inspire better giving, and help deepen relationships and catalyse connections among members of the network. 

Users can register interest in joining the Circle network and community through the site and subscribe to the Circle newsletter.  Membership to the Circle is free of cost, and benefits include access to exclusive workshops, roundtables, and networking opportunities, for members to share ideas, ask questions, and find new pathways to action. The network is a vibrant community where funders can learn, connect with peers, and explore synergies for collaboration.

This year, the Circle convened workshops on strategic philanthropy, impact investment, and measurement. Expert facilitators hosted these exclusive events from 21/64, the Mulago Foundation, and the Center for Effective Philanthropy, among others. The events featured a range of international keynote speakers, including Hadi Partovi, Founder of Code.org; Sara Ojeh, Ethos Philanthropy Founder and Director; and Shainoor Khoja, impact investment thought leader.