Three years ago, when our 2020 Forecast was published, it felt as though the world had changed forever, and that philanthropy had taken a dramatic step forward, positioning itself as a flexible and responsive source of support for the many new and emerging activities civil society took on during the early days of the pandemic. Although it was an unsettling and stressful time, that moment also contained a certain hope for positive, systemic change, in the world and in philanthropy. As we start 2023, some of those hopes have now been tempered. Now we talk of ‘poly-crises’ as we grapple with the acceleration of the climate crisis, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the ongoing impacts of the Covid pandemic. The sense of fatigue among activists and funders alike is palpable. And many foundations have reverted to business as usual, reimposing requirements that had been lifted during a time of emergency.
Nonetheless, there are reasons to be hopeful. In this year’s Forecast, funders speak of a desire to be prepared for future events and a need to take a long-term view towards social change. They are struggling to balance the demands for rapid response to emerging crises with the pursuit of a vision for systemic change, but they are actively seeking ways to do both and not lose sight of the society they are trying to build. There is also a growing recognition that truly addressing the crises we face will require more radical change than most funders have been willing to support to date. While that recognition may be slow to transform into action, funders are having more open discussions about systems change and a just transition, and this came across in many of our interviews and roundtables for the Forecast.
Furthermore, acknowledgement of the value of core support and the need to break the non-profit starvation cycle is more widespread. Some organisations and funders alike have expressed frustration with the slow pace of the implementation of practices around multiyear, flexible funding, but more foundations are recognising that civil society organisations need a certain level of flexibility in order to respond to the challenges that today’s dynamic external environment puts to them. Following our discussions with funders in preparation of this year’s Forecast, we hope to see more foundations becoming more flexible in their funding, and the Funding for Real Change website, developed by Ariadne and EDGE Funders Alliance, offers resources to help funders moving in this direction.
2023 promises to be another year of transition, as everyone tries to find the balance between in-person and virtual working as part of this new phase of not-quite-post-pandemic life. As we find our way as a sector through this period, I look forward to working with each of you to support your efforts to contribute to positive change. There is a long road ahead, but we are likely to go farther if we travel together.