A new organization sits at the intersection of three moving forces in philanthropy, all converging on the world’s fastest-growing economies: a mounting deficit in meeting the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a looming wealth transfer to the next generation, and a pandemic that’s upending giving paradigms.
The Centre for Strategic Philanthropy launched on June 24 at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. Funded by entrepreneur and founding patron Badr Jafar, its mission is to examine philanthropy’s role in the world’s highest growth markets at a time when the sector’s impact on social and environmental resilience may be more profound than ever.
By convening diverse stakeholders, conducting research, and advancing executive education, it hopes to become “the leading hub of actionable knowledge” in emerging markets, spurring collaboration among institutions and practitioners.
The center’s work is getting underway at a time when the top 30 fastest-growing economies in the world are all in emerging markets, including parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Supporting their long-term sustainability belongs largely to the future. The center is laying bricks for the transformation to the fourth wave of globalization, which is expected to shift economic power southward and eastward, and squarely into the hands of millennials, who champion the values of equity and inclusivity. Within the next decade, a wealth transfer of more than $15 trillion is expected to pass to the next generation—nearly $2 trillion in Asia alone.
Before the pandemic hit, the U.N. was reporting a yawning annual funding gap of $2.5 trillion to meet the SDGs, the 17 ambitious goals adopted by 193 countries in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people live in peace and prosperity by 2030.
In recent months, governments and philanthropies have had little choice but to divert resources to solving the pandemic fallout, straining resources and shifting priorities. For example, of the $11 billion tracked in a compilation of COVID-19 funding, more than $8 billion was classified as communicable disease control. That funding is headed far afield from SDG goals like infrastructure and affordable energy, although it may provide an unexpected boost to goals like ending poverty as the pandemic pushes 71 million people into that category.
Badr Jafar, the center’s founding donor and a signatory of the Giving Pledge, is a businessman and social entrepreneur from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who holds two degrees from Cambridge: a master’s in engineering and a business degree from the Cambridge Judge Business School, the center’s host.
As CEO of Crescent Enterprises, a multinational corporation involved in everything from ports and logistics to food and beverage, Jafar’s wealth comes from a range of global business interests. Within the petroleum and natural gas industries, he’s president of Crescent Petroleum, one of the region’s largest private oil and gas firms, and chairman of Pearl Petroleum, a five-member consortium developing natural gas fields in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Jafar is also engaged in humanitarian work with the U.N. and philanthropic initiatives ranging from international development to education and the arts. In 2010, he founded the Pearl Initiative, a business-led nonprofit that works to promote private sector accountability and transparency standards in the Gulf.
Jafar’s founding financial commitment launches and operates the center to meet an agreed-upon set of goals and objectives on research, executive education and events for at least the next five years. Beyond that, the center expects to become self-sustaining by engaging partners in activities designed to foster collaboration between international and local organizations, and educational programming for current and prospective philanthropists working to maximize the impact of their giving.
The center’s first piece of research will gauge initial responses to the pandemic by foundations and philanthropists in high-growth markets through metrics like geography, sectors, size and conditionality. It’s expected to be completed by autumn. Also green-lighted is a project analyzing existing research on philanthropy in high-growth markets, and a practical needs assessment.
Badr Jafar hopes that the center will help funders succeed in a concerted way, saying, “Transparency, technology and evolving attitudes toward wealth are reshaping donors’ approached to giving worldwide. We will likely fail to address the myriad of challenges on the global agenda over the next decade without making a much greater effort to connect, exchange ideas and partner with strategic philanthropists from the world’s fastest -growing regions.”