Philanthropy in Transition: A Scan of Philanthropic Practices in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia
PHILANTHROPY IN TRANSITION:
A SCAN OF PHILANTHROPIC PRACTICES IN EGYPT, LIBYA AND TUNISIA
Recent political transitions in the Arab region have led to changes in every aspect of people’s
lives; and as the Region sets on its journey towards democratization, a major restructuring of all
aspects of society is currently underway. This panel discussion will look at whether or not and
how shifts in the sociopolitical environment manifested themselves in the philanthropic realm. It
will also look at how far philanthropic institutions contributed to social movements by
comparatively examining philanthropic practices in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia in transition, and
reflecting on changes in the philanthropic scene during and after events of mass social
mobilization in the Region. The panel will disseminate the findings of a current research project
by the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, a research center based
in the American University in Cairo, Egypt on the three countries in transition. The Gerhart
Center is a leading provider of knowledge and resources to strengthen philanthropic and civic
practice in the Arab region. Through fellowships, seminars, conferences, publications and digital
platforms, it fills important information gaps and provides analysis of trends and critical issues in
the field. The Center also seeks to develop the pool of next generation scholars and to link them
with social activists, donors, and philanthropy professionals.
In this panel discussion, philanthropy is defined as “the institutionalized pooling and distribution
of private resources with the goal of building capacity, sustainable financing and expertise for
long-term societal benefit.” Individual giving is thus excluded from our analysis but not informal
emerging efforts at collective mobilization of assets (through social media, for example) even if
not formally registered. The papers will critically examine whether existing theory adequately
encompasses the magnitude of changes of recent months and then offer new empirical data for
three countries experiencing profound socio-political change. The papers will build on a
typology developed by Wings/TPI that includes six broad categories of institutional philanthropy
in the Arab Region : independent foundation, corporate foundation, community foundation, host-
controlled fund, government-linked foundation, and multi-purpose fundraising institution. In
addition, there will be special emphasis on youth initiatives because of the unique role that
generation is playing in recent political changes in the country. The papers will also shed light on
informal and time bound philanthropic initiatives, although these initiatives may not be
institutionalized; in recent years they have grown tremendously and warrant documentation.
Revisiting Resource Mobilization Theory (RMT) and New Social Movement (NSM) Theory: A
Comparative Scan of Philanthropy in Egypt and Libya in the Arab Spring
Sherine El Taraboulsi, firstname.lastname@example.org; John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and
Resource Mobilization Theory (RMT) explains social movements using a cost/benefit analysis
of resources by viewing individuals as rational actors engaged in targeted actions that use
organizations and institutions to secure resources and foster mobilization (McCarthy and Zald,
1987). It focuses on strategies and outcomes, leaving out cultural and social influences on social
mobilization. New Social Movement Theory (NSM) departs from RMT and traditional Marxism
in that it espouses social constructionism in analyzing social movements thereby bringing in
culture and identity as central factors to mobilization. Alberto Melucci argues that the modern
world has brought new forms of social control and information processing to which social
movements respond. Recent movements in the Arab Spring have, however, proven the
inadequacy of both approaches for a comprehensive understanding of social mobilization, and
the need for a new conceptual frame that would incorporate both institutional and cultural
influences in driving change. Movements for change within the Region were sparked by a cadre
of young changemakers who used collective grievances and modes of communication like social
media to ignite a call for change and depose oppressive regimes. The interface between
philanthropic institutions and social movements remains untrodden territory in analysis.
Furthermore, this paper attempts to weave the above elements into a comprehensive framework
and then apply it to the dramatic developments in Libya, one of the least accessible, least studied
The paper will present a comparative scan of philanthropic practices in Libya and Egypt as
related to social mobilization in the Arab Spring in order to gain a better understanding of how
indigenous funding has responded and contributed to a new trajectory of social activity in those
two countries. Were foundations agents of change or were they reactive? Two main stakeholders
will be interviewed for the study, those active in the social movement, and those leading
foundations and other philanthropic institutions.
In light of this, the paper will seek to respond to the following questions in both countries as is
• How autonomous were practices of philanthropy in the previous regime (Qaddafi and
• How did the channeling process of funds happen? And what was their major foci [capacity
building, raising awareness, democratization and human rights …etc.]?
• What was the selection process for grants or contributions? Did they support moderate or
• How far were young people involved in established and newer foundations in both countries?
• Was the impact of those funds perceptible on the ground? Or merely cosmetic?
• What role can philanthropy play in building each nation as it moves towards democracy?
The research methodology will include a literature review on the socio-political environment of
the two countries, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with youth activists and staff
at philanthropic institutions in both countries, and where possible, with beneficiaries. The
researcher will travel to Libya to oversee the field research process and identify a local research
Philanthropic Foundations in Post-Revolution Egypt: Impacts on Democratic Transition and
Catherine Herrold, email@example.com; Duke University (Presenter)
Today, Egyptian philanthropic foundations have a unique opportunity to actively contribute to
the re-development of their country’s civil society. The revolution created an opportunity for
NGOs and community groups to expand the space in which civil society operates and the
repertoire of tactics that civil society uses as it acts as a counterweight to government authority.
Egyptian civil society now has the chance to play a meaningful role in building the country’s
democracy from the ground up, encouraging the institutionalization of the type of civic
engagement and political participation that was on display in Tahrir Square throughout the
This paper will examine how Egyptian philanthropic foundations are responding to what many
are calling Egypt’s “ongoing revolution” as they seek to support the country’s civil society and
economic growth. It will present results from fieldwork that explores how local foundations see
their role in post-Mubarak Egypt as well as the strategies and tactics that they are employing as
they tailor their grantmaking to constantly evolving political, economic, and social realities.
Ultimately the research will seek to understand how foundations envision the future of Egypt’s
civil society and how they plan to contribute to its development.
The research will fill gaps in a variety of literatures. Most existing research on the roles of
philanthropic foundations focuses on institutions in Western democracies. Anheier and Daly
(2008) and Anheier and Toepler (1999), for example, have established conceptual frameworks
for understanding the roles of philanthropic foundations in North America and Western and
Central Europe, however scholars have not yet tested these frameworks within, or established
new frameworks more relevant to, non-democratic or transitioning states. Researchers at the
Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University Cairo have
laid important groundwork for the study of Arab foundations, mapping foundations throughout
the region and conducting preliminary analyses of these organizations’ roles in their respective
states. This research seeks to build upon, and contribute to, the Gerhart Center’s data.
The field of political science has largely ignored the role of philanthropic foundations as actors
in the political sphere. This research aims to bring foundations into the literature on democratic
transitions as it explores how foundations that for decades existed as semi-autonomous
organizations within a liberalized autocracy adapt and respond to their country’s transition to
democracy. While existing research documents the contributions of foundations to consolidating
democracy in post-Communist states, scholars have never before had the opportunity to study in
real time the impact foundations have in transitions to democracy. In exploring Egyptian
foundations’ role in their country’s democratic transition, this research will address the question
of how philanthropic organizations that operated for over a decade under autocratic rule respond
when suddenly given the opportunity to support an autonomous and empowered civil society that
is considered crucial to the functioning of modern democracies.
The results of this research will be based upon semi-structured interviews with executives of
Egyptian foundations, leaders of international foundations operating in Egypt, staff of Egyptian
NGOs, and journalists and academics who are experts on civil society in Egypt. The researcher
will request interviews from all known foundations operating in Egypt and will construct a
stratified random sample of NGO grantees working across program areas. Interviews are
ongoing and will continue through June 2012.
Because this research is in early stages and because the situation in Egypt continues to evolve
rapidly, the researcher does not have strong arguments or conclusions at the writing of this
proposal. Early results indicate that most foundations are taking a cautionary approach as they
operate in an environment of extreme uncertainty. Egypt’s community foundations may be better
positioned to take a more proactive response, while corporate foundations seem to have less
flexibility based on their ties to the old regime as well as the challenging economic situation.
International donors face challenges of a xenophobic military ruler that is placing obstacles in
front of NGOs seeking or receiving foreign funding. Much more conclusive and detailed results
will be available for the ISTR conference in July.
Egypt in Transition: A Scan of Philanthropic Practices Post January 25, 2011
Mahi Khallaf, firstname.lastname@example.org; CIVICUS (Non-Presenter)
This study builds on the Gerhart Center’s previous mapping of Arab philanthropy that took
place in 2007 in eight Arab countries including Egypt. The study was published in a book titled:
From Charity to Social Change: Trends in Arab Philanthropy. It will look at changes in the
philanthropic realm from 2007 until the present with specific focus on new informal forms of
philanthropic practices in the post-January 25 Revolution period.
The paper explores the range of philanthropic practices in Egypt today and how those practices
may have shifted in light of the January 25 revolution and the transitional period the country is
now experiencing. The research will address two spheres: the first is the external environment in
which philanthropic organizations operate within which is now in much flux as a results of the
political, social and economic uncertainties changes the Revolution has created. The second
sphere is the actual structure and emerging forms of philanthropic organizations and initiatives.
Illustrative examples of identified philanthropic trends will be highlighted in the analysis. The
conclusion will put forward policy and operational recommendations to assist Egypt’s
philanthropic sector have a greater contribution during the country’s transition to democracy.
With regards to the External Environment, the scan will attempt to respond to the following
• What are the socio-economic and political circumstances in the country that Egyptian
philanthropy operates within? (Keeping in mind the 25th January Revolution and its
• How enabling or disenabling are these circumstances?
• What is the role played by international funding and how is that evolving in recent months?
With regards to modes of work, the scan will attempt to respond to the following questions:
• Short update on the types of organizations making up the Egyptian philanthropic sub-sector?
• What is the relationship between the philanthropic sub-sector and its stakeholders, including
the government, media, civil society and the private sector? What is the nature of this
• What if any are the codes of conduct upheld by Egypt’s philanthropic sub-sector?
• What is the nature of the monetary flows within the Egyptian philanthropic sub-sector? Has it
been affected in any way since the January 25th revolution?
• What are the new initiatives that have emerged in the wake of the 25th January revolution?
How prevalent are issue based non-formalized philanthropic initiatives and what are some of its
unique innovations? To what degree are informal arrangements leading to more sustainable
• What are some of the innovative methods and practices utilized by the philanthropic sub-sector
to utilize funds? Special focus on social media and internet applications.
The research methodology includes a secondary data review, a short organizational assessment
survey that gathers information about each organization as well as poses qualitative questions
about the state of Egyptian philanthropy. Based on the results of the interviews identify best
practices and potential short case studies
Tunisia in Transition: A Scan of Philanthropic Practices in Tunisia after January 14
Monji Zidi, email@example.com; University of Tunis (Non-Presenter)
This paper explores the different forms of philanthropic practices in Tunisia during and after the
January 14, 2011 Revolution. It will examine whether or not the philanthropic realm created a
space for civic engagement to take root in Tunisia, one that later manifested itself in the mass
social movements that led to the Revolution.
Philanthropy has always existed in Tunisia; nevertheless, very little research has been conducted
on it, and even less addressed philanthropy within the context of sociopolitical and cultural
changes. Moreover, there is a gap between quantitative data provided by the Tunisian
government on civil society and the facts on the ground. Statistics provided by the government
point out that until January 2011, there were 6005 non-profit organizations; the majority of
which was related to sports and arts; 602 were focused on development, 485 were charity
organizations. At the same time, statistics also pointed out lack of participation of youth in those
organizations (only 8.4% in 2010). The January 14 Revolution, however, has been ignited by
Tunisian youth which calls for further research to better understand reasons behind this shift.
The paper will include an introduction on the sociopolitical environment in Tunisia leading up
and after the Revolution and how changes in the environment impacted changes in the practice
of philanthropy. It will also look at indigenous and foreign philanthropic funding and how it
translates into change on the ground. Case studies will be included as illustrations.
This is part of an ongoing research effort led by the Gerhart Center in the period between
October 2011 and January 2012. The research methodology will include a literature review on
the socio-political environment of Tunisia, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with
youth activists and staff at philanthropic institutions. Results will be analyzed in the paper and
disseminated at the conference.