The two top issues Ariadne forecasters think will shape their work over the next 12 months

The two top issues Ariadne forecasters think will shape their work over the next 12 months

Expert opinion
Director, Ariadne

Migration and the Closing Space for Civil Society

There is a clear understanding by many of the 140 social change and human rights funders who took part in the 2016 Forecast that behind both of these trends lies the problem of global instability which they believe will continue to drive the conflicts unfolding around the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The ripple effect of this has been to drive migration, fear of terrorism and increased efforts by government to crack down on civil society. The UN believes that last year will break all previous records for forced migration, with over 60 million people having fled their homes, and one in every 122 people in the world on the move (UN Refugee Agency). As one funder said: “In 2016 the crisis will become the new normal for much of Europe with some difficult consequences for local communities, and profound challenges to European identity, as for example, maintaining the free movement of people across borders now seems impossible.”   

Now in its second year the 2016 Ariadne Forecast is aimed at helping funders to lift their heads from their desks, see the big picture and new trends, and plan ahead. It gives them some thinking space and a chance to check in with their colleagues and see what is dominating their thoughts. This year we have set out global and European trends, and also focused much more locally on trends developing in a number of key regions in our network; France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. For the first time it makes it possible to compare country to country and to understand something about the different cultures of philanthropy and approaches to grant-making in each nation.

One common thread coming out of this forecast on migration is that the next 12 months is likely to see independent funders focus, not on humanitarian relief, as they tend to believe that governments and large international charities are best placed to do this, but instead on work to support the integration of refugees into their new communities and to counter hatred and support tolerance in the host populations. There are also signs that funders in a number of locations are actively seeking to work together on this issue (the UK), or are happy to work in collaboration with local or central government and NGOs (the Netherlands and Italy). It is also clear that many funders expect their work to focus on children and in particular unaccompanied children, and the forecast predicts more developed practice in this field in 12 months’ time.

Funders also believe that life for their grantees is changing dramatically and that their own jobs are evolving too. For grantees this seems to be driven partly by the changing nature of funding, with more sophisticated and detailed demands being placed on NGOs in application and reporting processes. This is privileging larger and better resourced groups and there are warnings that funders need to take care not to exclude valuable grass-roots groups that may not have the capacity to engage in complex processes. Grant-makers’ jobs are also altering as some foundations adopt new instrumental models of funding where they seek to solve specific problems, rather than pursue general grant-making. This casts grant-makers in the role of ‘brokers of cooperation’, meaning that, as one forecaster told us: “Programme officers have to play nursemaid, governess, psycho-therapist, peace negotiator, data-analyst, expert in alternative finance, evaluator and grant-maker!”

The final over-arching trend dominating the landscape this year is the closing space for civil society, a phrase used to describe a host of new restrictions, largely introduced by governments and other institutional actors, that are strangling civil society. These range at their most dramatic to the vilification of activists leading to violence against them such as the recent killing of Berta Caceres, the Honduran environmental and indigenous rights activist, to extensive new regulations and bureaucracy governing the transfer of philanthropic grants across borders and the de-registration of civil society organisations. This is not confined, as a trend, to the field of human rights but is now impacting grantees and funders in the fields of development, women’s rights, LGBT funding, humanitarian and environmental funding. Our forecasters expect this to get worse in the year ahead and for it to diminish civil society both locally and internationally, but they also expect funders and NGOs to begin to find ways to contest this trend.                        

This expert opinion is tagged under:

  • Philanthropy stats & trends