The Need for an International Interconnected Philanthropic Network to Defeat Covid-19
The Need for an International Interconnected Philanthropic Network to Defeat Covid-19

Frank Islam (Washington): In times of crises such as flooding, hurricanes, and earthquakes, there is a substantial need for philanthropic assistance. 

Because of the unprecedented global crisis caused by the COVID19 pandemic – which as of this moment has already resulted in more than 4 million confirmed cases and nearly 300,000 deaths worldwide, there is a need for this form of philanthropy and much more.

The “much more” is an international interconnected philanthropic network (IIPN) dedicated to developing a collaborative and coordinated response to the pandemic globally.  The IIPN’s purpose would be to develop strategies and approaches to addressing the root causes of this pandemic, avoid future pandemics, and to help nations cope with the consequences of the pandemic going forward.

The IIPN would engage in what I call purposeful philanthropy.  As I have written before, there is a distinction between purposeful philanthropy and charity.

Charity is given to respond to immediate needs.  Purposeful philanthropy is directed at eliminating underlying social or economic problems and providing the basis for improving circumstances and conditions over time.  

During this pandemic, numerous philanthropic organizations have stepped up to provide charity and relief in their countries of origin and around the world.  Those that have focused globally include Mars Inc, the Chubb Charitable Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Individuals and organizations are also making charitable contributions to groups who operate globally such as Relief International, UNICEF, International Medical Care, Humanity & Inclusion, and Oxfam America.

The charitable outpouring is significant.  Unfortunately, given the magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the devastating effects around the world on health care, educational and economic systems in nations of all types and sizes, it will be insufficient due to the scope and size of the need.

This is why an entity such as the IIPN is so important and necessary.  It enables an organized response to combat the impact of what the International Monetary Fund has projected will be the greatest downturn since the Great Depression.  Indeed, If the pandemic continues to progress, the downturn could be even worse today than it was back in the thirties.

The IIPN could combat this by developing the framework for connecting three dots to allow stakeholders to maximize their investments in critical pivot point areas – areas that can be leveraged and addressed most effectively to reverse the downward trajectory caused by the pandemic. Those three dots are planning; revitalization models; and financial support.

In my article preceding this one, I recommended that each nation needed a short-term coronavirus recovery plan and a health care and economic system development plan.  The IIPN could create the templates for these plans and provide them to nations around the globe.  They all need this type of assistance because no matter whether a developing nation such as Pakistan or a developed nation such as the United States of America, countries have been stretched to the limit and beyond to just react daily to the pandemic.

The revitalization models to be employed to fuel the coronavirus recovery and health care and economic system development would flow from the two plans created by the IIPN.  Those models should cover an extensive range of initiatives from which a nation could choose to drive renewal in those pivot point areas that are central to its future success.

For example, these could include: A systematic but expeditious approach to working on next-generation vaccines for dangerous infectious diseases. IA method for upgrading online learning platforms to ensure effective distance learning. Telehealth or internet-based concepts to deliver medical treatment and/or counseling/therapy for mental issues.

The final dot to be connected by the IIPN is to provide financial assistance to support a nation in its plan development and model implementation. The IIPN members could provide the initial tranche of financing and create a fundraising plan to be used to get other philanthropic organizations and individuals to invest in the pivot point areas that matter the most to them.

For me, historically those areas have been education, the arts, civic learning and engagement, and world peace.  They continue to be at the top of my list but I would definitely consider other areas as well given this current crisis.

The idea of an IIPN might seem a little far-fetched but the seeds for it already exist.  They include: The Giving Pledge which is currently comprised of more than 200 individuals, couples, and families from 23 countries who have pledged to give at least half of their estimated net worth to philanthropy around the globe.  And, the Co-Impact global collaborative, which includes donors like Bill & Melinda Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation, that is focused on “system change to improve the lives of millions by advancing education, improving people’s health, and providing economic opportunity.”

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt the world and all of its nations a huge setback on the health and economic fronts.   As just one example, consider that in early April, the Pakistan government shared an initial estimate that the Pakistan economy would lose RS 2.5 trillion due to the coronavirus.  Think about the total losses worldwide in dollars and their toll on humanity.  Staggering!

Governments have the lead responsibility to respond to these losses.  They will not be able to it alone, however.  They need purposeful philanthropy to help magnify their actions.  The IIPN can be their ally in providing that assistance.

In closing, let me leave you with this final thought.   At an Iftar event recently, I said, “ During the entire month of Ramadan, we engage in fasting from sunrise to sunset to renew our faith and to redirect our thoughts from focusing only on daily activities in order to reflect upon and do things to benefit society and most importantly to help others who are in need.”

Given these traumatic times, it is incumbent upon each and all of us of faith, regardless of financial status, to renew and redirect ourselves.   Pakistan needs to see that leadership and so does the world.

(Frank F. Islam is an Entrepreneur, Civic leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)