Apr 28, 2020 12:50 PM

Additional comments by Elizabeth Knup

At the Caixin Global Webinar – Coronavirus Series V – Building a Global Safety Net Against Covid-19, Elizabeth Knup, Director and Representative, Ford Foundation Beijing Office, answered additional questions raised by the audience.

Q: Will foundations consider cooperation and collectively take some common cross-cutting issues in their programs or funding policies?

Knup : Most foundations I am aware of are open to collaboration. Most foundations know that they are less powerful alone than they would be working with others to leverage resources to solve any problem. Some foundations are required, by their founding charters, to only work in their home country, but for those that can work internationally I expect international collaboration would be of interest.

That said, foundations are very diverse and work on specific things. Therefore, when it comes to collaboration it can sometimes be challenging to align the interests, goals and missions of foundations. The Ford Foundation is a member of several successful donor collaboratives in which each foundation maintains its own grant making mission, schedule, and criteria but all the donors seek to achieve one common, shared goal. This takes a lot of work; it is not as easy as it appears to be from the outside.


Q: I’m working at Adream Foundation, we are a charity dedicated in children education, as you said we need to look into the future and not only the immediate needs, and we do actually help them walk out from rural area, help them visit the countries globally , not only sit and read. We are also already partner with a lot of local governments, we now have about 4000 schools around China.

I want to ask, how can we respond to this covid19? I’m pretty sure this virus will make a change but we are now unsure what change will come and how can we respond to it, what is the next step.

Knup:  Hi. I am well aware of the Adream Foundation and your excellent work! Congratulations on your ongoing success. To your question about what change is coming and what we can do next, this is a very important question with no clear answer at present. Today, many countries in the world are still in the middle of the pandemic meaning that the world is still responding to the public health crisis.

Next, governments will need to figure out how to open economies while protecting people. There is no clear pathway forward for this as there is still a great deal we do not know about this virus. And, when we get back to “normal” what will have changed? Will people work from home more? Will we rely on technology more for education? For health surveillance? Will governments realize the inequality that is in each society and do something dramatic to address inequality? There are many more questions than answers now.

I think we all need to keep asking these questions over the next months and we should see how things begin to develop. It is my deep hope that this crisis will provide all governments with the opportunity to address underlying inequalities in their societies. And, governments will need good research and information and innovative ideas – and foundations and NGOs can help provide these things to help governments make good policy.


Q: What are some aspects foundations are looking into when it comes to evaluating their effort for the Covid-19 relief? And what adjustment do NGOs need to make to evaluate their regular programs given the impact of Covid-19?

Knup : Every foundation will have its own criteria to evaluate their COVID-19 relief efforts. In some cases, it may be the amount of medical equipment delivered. Or it could be the number of vulnerable people who received assistance. Or, a foundation could evaluate the degree to which it collaborated with others. Foundations are diverse, and their missions are diverse. Each foundation will need to assess their efforts in terms of their own mission.

NGOs are going to have to make big adjustments primarily because fundraising will become very difficult in the next few years as the global economy suffers from COVID-19. Most NGOs in the world rely on financial support from individuals, companies, and foundations and all of these sources will be hurt by a shrinking economy. I agree that right now, in the midst of the crisis, people are donating a huge amount of money and time and this is truly inspiring. But, over the long haul of the next few years NGOs will face fundraising challenges and these challenges might cause NGOs to adjust their business models and their work.


Q: It looks that China and US relationship is in tension first because of the trade war and then for the Covid-19, what is your opinion about the role that NGOs can play towards a more collaborated approach?

Knup : I believe that NGOs are even more important when governments are having difficulty communicating. NGOs do not represent governments, they grow up from the people. In this way, NGOs can continue to build bridges and to work collaboratively, and in some cases may even be able to play a role in helping governments find areas of common interest.

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