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Insights from the AVPN Conference 2024: Leveraging Faith-Aligned Giving for Transformative Social Investment

By

Jahnavi Iyer

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3 minutes read

Values and beliefs are often silent propellers in motivating giving and philanthropy. AVPN is committed to building communities and narratives on the role of values-aligned giving in addressing Asia’s most pressing social issues. To mark the launch of AVPN’s preliminary insights How Values and Beliefs Shape Giving in Asia, the network hosted a panel discussion at the AVPN Global Conference 2024 in Abu Dhabi, which further emphasised the relevance of faith as a guiding factor in aligning values for social investment.

The panel comprised His Excellency Dr Ali Rashid AlNuaimi, Chair of Defense Affairs, Interior, and Foreign Affairs Committee, Federal National Council (UAE), Veronica Colondam Founder and CEO of YCAB Foundation, and was moderated by Tom Hall, Global Head of Social Impact and Philanthropy at UBS.  

These were some of the key insights that emerged from the plenary session: 

1. Faith-aligned giving as an investment in the ecosystem 

A shift in perspective is needed for impact investing in Asia. Instead of seeing giving solely as charity, His Excellency shared that it should be viewed as an investment in “ourselves, our families, communities, and nations”. This resonates particularly in Asia, where faith and tradition are already deeply intertwined with philanthropy and investing. Rural areas, where a significant proportion of South Asians and East Asians reside present a unique opportunity, in this regard. Hall emphasised this point, noting that, “Religious communities are some of the most trusted communities, especially in rural areas”. By acknowledging the influence of faith-aligned communities, social investing strategies can tap into a vast and potent source of funding and support to drive deep meaningful impact in underserved communities. 

2. Social investment community to collaborate with faith leaders in a strategic manner

Collaborating with faith leaders in operationalising social impact strategies can deepen impact. Hall explained that according to research into the global religious landscape “84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious faith group[1]. If we are not talking about the role of faith and working with faith communities, we are not going to see the impact we want to have in the world.” This sentiment was echoed by His Excellency, who emphasised the influence and reach that faith leaders have in the communities where they operate. 

There are already examples of such collaboration in action. For instance, organisations such as the International Justice Mission (IJM) host summits to gather faith-driven leaders and channel purposeful action towards eradicating modern-day slavery. FaithInvest collaborates with faith communities, like the Cabrini Sisters, helping them establish an impact investing portfolio to align their mission values with investments in public equities and fixed-income funds to fund their initiatives to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable members of society. 

3. Faith communities are essential in breaking the cycle of generational poverty

Microfinancing is often seen as the golden ticket out of generational poverty. However, Colondam highlighted that contrary to popular belief, it might not be liberating people from generational poverty but instead perpetuating this. With high interest rates, overemphasis on individual responsibility and its limited impact on broader structural issues that perpetuate poverty and inequality, microfinance might in fact hinder economic empowerment. Faith communities might have a role to play here, given their efficiency in delivering tangible impact within local communities. Social investors can collaborate with faith communities to design and develop innovative and comprehensive solutions that combine microfinancing with other interventions needed, such as capacity building for entrepreneurs, for example, to empower marginalised communities and foster economic growth.

“Harmony for all and harmony in all”

The panellists unanimously emphasised the critical role of incorporating faith motivations when designing impact strategies and approaches. In the context of Asia, where diverse faiths coexist and are heavily influential in shaping the values of many, it is crucial to incorporate faith-aligned giving in discussions about strategic philanthropy and impact  investing. AVPN is keen to facilitate this. By taking a practice-led, neutral and inclusive lens, we look forward to fostering knowledge sharing through learning circles, as a first step, with a long-term goal to drive collective action for impact in Asia.  To join the conversation, please visit Faith & Giving in Asia.

 


 

[1] Pew Research Centre. (2012). The Global Religious Landscape. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Jahnavi Iyer

Junior Associate, Insights team at AVPN

As part of the insights team, Jahnavi focuses on research, data collection and learning engagements for the Faith And Giving in Asia initiative. She also supports managing projects such as the Global Leadership Academy, Google AI Opportunity Fund and Social Investment in Action in Asia dashboard. Additionally, she contributed to the delivery of the AVPN Global Conference 2024. Jahnavi holds a BSc in Economics and a second major in Data science and Analytics from Singapore Management University. She is passionate about working in impact ecosystems and contributing her efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for a more equitable society.

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