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Frame Our Future: Three Trends to Shape Nonprofits of 2043

Like businesses, nonprofits must discover how to be successful in the wake of new disruptive forces.

February 4, 2013

Like businesses, nonprofits must discover how to be successful in the wake of new disruptive forces.

In the last five years, social media has put a spin on fundraising, big data has made donors keener on evidence-based ROI, and collective impact is becoming an even more established pillar of humanitarian work.

If we look out to the far horizon, how does the nonprofit world look? What new forces have influenced the nonprofits 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 of how future humanitarian work will change in the next thirty years:

Emerging markets bring money to the table

As economies in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere increasingly improve and their economic conditions and have more money to invest in foreign aid, nonprofits 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 $1 billion per year that Brazil currently delivers in aid comes from a cultural footing that might prove to be more successful than European direction with certain countries. As said in an Overseas Development Institute paper, Brazil can capitalize on its linguistic and culture affinities with Lusophone countries like Mozambique, Timor-Leste, Guinea Bissua to be more successful in its already notable aid policies around 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 nonprofit organizations are by no means new, but the rigorous discipline around 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 thirty years.

There's a huge opportunity here for nonprofits 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 in their future. 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 – which are all huge gains for the public and private sector.

The New Collaborators

The call for collaboration is not new, especially in an organization like NetHope, which was launched more than ten years ago as a catalyst for NGO collaboration. We've built a stable, successful model of "trust and collaboration" between 38 of the largest international non-governmental organizations, high tech corporations, foundations and government agencies. NetHope and its members will continue to share stories illustrating the power of many versus the limits of one. But, what is the future of humanitarian collaboration? It is integrating fresh perspectives from untapped partners: our current beneficiaries.

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 than later. As nonprofit 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.

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