Disrupting and democratising development: community philanthropy as theory and practice

Publication date

18 Mar 2020

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Systems of community giving and self-help have always existed within different cultures and traditions around the world. But it is only recently that community philanthropy has started to gain visibility as a specific practice that has relevance to the broader field of international development. In this article, we focus on what community philanthropy looks like as development practice, drawing on examples from a global cohort of 16 organisations that identify with the community philanthropy concept. We define community philanthropy as a value-driven development practice that builds assets, capacities, and trust. In particular, it focuses on the role that local resources can play in community development, and how their presence can help influence power dynamics associated with international development. Ultimately, we show that community philanthropy is not merely emerging as a useful support structure on which mainstream development can build, but that it is far more radical than this. Community philanthropy practised by organisations with their roots in civil society and social justice movements can disrupt and democratise the system and create an alternative to ‘development’ as we know it.