What will nonprofits look like in 2043?

William A. Brindley
Member, World Economic Forum
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Like businesses, non-profit organizations must discover how to be successful in the wake of new disruptive forces.

In the past five years, social media has put a spin on fundraising, Big Data has made donors keener on evidence-based return on investment (ROI), and collective impact is becoming an even more established pillar of humanitarian work.

If we look to the far horizon, how does the non-profit world look? What new forces have influenced the non-profits of 2043? Has the role of implementer and beneficiary shifted, or even flipped? I think by considering the following three trends, we can begin to forecast how future humanitarian work will change in the next 30 years:

Emerging markets bring money to the table

As economies in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere increasingly improve and they have more money to invest in foreign aid, non-profits’ development priorities and investments will evolve. Take Brazil as one example. As both a receiver and provider of aid, Brazil is well positioned to better understand the needs and constraints of development. The estimated US$1 billion a year that Brazil currently delivers in aid comes from a cultural footing that might prove to be more successful than the European direction with certain countries. As pointed out in an Overseas Development Institute paper, Brazil can capitalize on its linguistic and culture affinities with Lusophone countries such as Mozambique, Timor-Leste, Guinea-Bissua to be more successful in its already notable aid policies on agriculture, health and education. The traditional definition of aid architecture will continue to be challenged and changed as Brazil and other countries emerge as donors.

Advancing PPPs and the triple bottom line

Today, corporate citizenship is still a fairly young and emerging area of practice. Partnerships between private corporations and non-profit organizations are by no means new, but the rigorous discipline of companies tying philanthropic investments to business strategies and an increased focus on the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit – is a trend the will soar over the next 30 years.

There’s a huge opportunity for non-profits that understand how to generate mutual value and high return on impact for the communities they serve and their partnering businesses. The MasterCard Foundation’s YouthSave is an excellent example of how a public-private partnership can create shared benefit for low-income youth, financial institutions and the broader humanitarian community. With involvement from Save the Children, the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St Louis, the New America Foundation and CGAP, the project develops savings products to help youth accumulate savings and assets early in life, which leads to positive economic opportunities later. The partnership is also developing the first and largest documented assessment of the financial and developmental impact of savings among low-income youth in developing countries. The project anticipates that it will create saving services for 170,000 low-income youth, uncover how and why youth in developing countries save, and learn better strategies to encourage youth savings –all huge gains for the public and private sector.

The new collaborators

The call for collaboration is not new, especially in an organization such as NetHope, which was launched more than 10 years ago as a catalyst for NGO collaboration.

I’d like to think that today’s beneficiary will be renamed in the future as a “humanitarian innovator”, and, hopefully, that change will come sooner rather than later. As non-profit organizations, we need some “headquarters humility”, a term coined by NetHope Chairman and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Global Chief Information Officer Edward G. Happ. As Happ said: “The best answers may, in fact, come from the poorest countries, from people we least expect. We need to discover and harvest the best of what is happening in the field.”

We need to see the communities, families and individuals we help in a new light – as the “solution creators” instead of the “solution receivers”. This shift in mentality will be the game-changer in the future.

Author: William A. Brindley is Chief Executive Officer, NetHope and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Data-Driven Development

Image: An immigrant walks by a red cross tent in Spain REUTERS/Juan Medina

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