Over the last twenty years a quiet revolution has been taking place in communities around the world, outside the machinery and beyond the radar of big development. Community foundations have been part of the fabric of philanthropy in the United States and Canada for the past century and were introduced in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.
But most of this recent development has been taking place in the global south. This new set of organisations – community foundations, women’s funds, environmental funds and other grassroots grantmakers – has emerged in countries as diverse as Romania and Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Mexico.
They have been shaped by local context and culture and by individuals often frustrated by the failures of traditional development aid, anxious about the sense of alienation and disenchantment in their communities, and inspired by the belief that without local resources, local leadership and local buy-in, development projects will continue to land like fireworks – to flash spectacularly and then die.