Foundations Must Think Globally and Act Locally

In business, "think global, act local" has become a well-known saying, but in nonprofits and foundations, we sometimes forget to do both.

It can be easy to feel that the issues we are trying to tackle only affect us, or that we have a unique solution that could not apply anywhere else.

That is not to say that each country faces different challenges, or that historical and cultural factors have a strong impact on how they have been caused, and how they can effectively be addressed. However, if we look at the number of nonprofits across the world tackling similar problems, it becomes obvious that what we share is more powerful that what divides us.

This is becoming truer each year as the world becomes more connected, and globalization spreads both opportunity but also inequality. So if our young people will grow up in this world that is rapidly converging, it makes sense that we should be sharing solutions for those who get left behind.

Governments recognize that few threats stay contained to just one region, just like the President of Gabon is discussing alongside other heads of state at the Nuclear Security Summit this week. But while conferences bringing together heads of industry and countries are gathering momentum, it seems less is being done on an international scale to bring nonprofits and civil society together to share ideas and resources.

There are many reasons for this, and it is not just the belief that our issues are totally unique, rather than thinking what can be learnt from others working with a similar cause on the other side of the world. Travel and hospitality are also expensive for nonprofits, who are under a period of heightened scrutiny about how much funding goes directly to frontline services. But most often, I believe it is because we are understandably so caught up in the day-to-day battles of fundraising and delivering services that we can be forgiven for not pausing for breath, and considering how our work fits into the bigger picture.

At the Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Foundation for the Family we are privileged to have close partnerships with HRH Princess Lalla Salma Foundation in Morocco and with the GAUFF Foundation specifically for our campaigns around healthcare and fighting cancer. These have been wonderful examples of how we can share knowledge and resources across Central and North Africa, but there is more we can be doing.

This week I will be meeting with US based organizations, some who have links to Africa and some who do not, to share ideas and inspiration for future collaborations, including Women Thrive Worldwide (WTW), and Advancing Girls Education in Africa (AGE).

Our ever connected world means it is easier to discover and communicate with people working in other regions on similar issues. While face to face meetings definitely help, partnerships can now be struck up remotely and ideas shared online. This is how we can make our work truly scalable, and show that the best ideas do not always come from the wealthiest charities or nations.

I hope through these meetings we can show how our work at the Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Foundation for the Family can be a model not just for my home country of Gabon, or Africa, but other developed and developing nations as well. Along with our partners in Governments, business and civil society, this is the only way we can hope to build a more equal, globalized, world.