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Philanthropy has come a long way since John D Rockefeller handed out dimes to tots. There has a been a progressive move from traditional forms of charity, to a contemporary focus on addressing the root causes of issues such as intergenerational poverty, family violence, and homelessness. 

That is inspiring continuing innovation in philanthropic practice around the world. The JR McKenzie Trust aims to harvest emerging ideas and practices relevant to New Zealand’s bi-cultural context that might be relevant to its work as a family foundation and innovative philanthropic leader. It commissioned a review from CSI of key trends and contemporary practices from philanthropic literature.

CSI Associate Kat Dawnier said the review found that contemporary philanthropic thinking is developing around five key themes: a focus on equity; power sharing; systems change; decolonising practice; adaptability and learning.

“Globally, we are really seeing a move from old fashioned charity to intentional investment in systems change to shift the underlying issues, and ways of working that hold complex problems in place.”
— Kat Dawnier

“Investing in systems change requires funders to think differently about the way they work. Globally, we are seeing a real shift towards more relational grantmaking as funders begin to recognise themselves as a part of the systems they are trying to change. There is no one-size-fits all approach to systems change – grantmakers need a whole range of tools and a willingness to use them flexibly.”

“Perhaps the biggest emerging trend is the conversations that are building around the issues of power-sharing in philanthropy. We see funders around the world exploring how those most affected by an issue can have a stronger say, and bigger role, in how resources are used to address it. This means thinking about how to take down some of the walls that have been built up around philanthropic institutions, to work more openly in partnership with communities. In New Zealand, the philanthropic sector is recognising that it has some big questions to ask of itself in terms of how it shares power more effectively with Māori in particular.”

“The J R McKenzie Trust has been a leader and innovator in our sector and, through this research, continues to invest in its own learning and development to increase impact.”