How We Work
Our values are fundamental to how we work and shared values are the foundation to all long-term relationships and partnerships that we build.
Our Partnership Funding Approach:
The principles of trust-based philanthropy have always been central to Firetree’s philanthropic approach. These apply whether we are funding external partner organisations or incubating collaborative initiatives.
Each partnership is based upon the needs and context of that organisation partner. We see our role as supporting the achievement of shared outcomes in communities, rather than contracting specific services.
Our approach is always evolving as we learn and get feedback from our partners. You can read about our approach in much more detail and better understand what we look for and how we work in this blog. We source new partners through networks and referrals from our current partners.
Firetree Philanthropy exists to support systemic work that addresses some of the most pressing social challenges facing communities in South and Southeast Asia.
We can achieve this mission in two ways; running collaborative initiatives directly or finding and flexibly funding partners and networks that work toward goals we share with them.
We are often asked about how we measure our success in achieving this mission or, in other words, our impact.
From our perspective this is straightforward. When we provide funding to a partner, our impact is wholly dependent upon the impact this specific organization achieves.
It honestly could not be any other way: we can only succeed when our partners do. And when this happens, the merit is always theirs – who do all the critical work.
For this reason, part of what we look for in partners is a deeply ingrained learning culture and systems to know what is working, what is not and where they need to pivot / adapt (you can read more about what we look for in partners here. While the existence of strong impact measurement systems is essential, so is the fact that such systems be designed by our partner rather than “imposed” by funders.
These systems become our own, for each individual partnership because we believe it would make no sense for us to develop alternative ones. Our partners are the experts in their own areas of work – an integral reason of why we work with them. We can, when requested and when we believe we have adequate knowledge of a specific problem, help strengthening such systems but would never “impose” our own.
So, we are much more interested in what the partner is learning and for them to share the data, insights and frameworks that they collect and use for themselves. Part of our role to support that learning is then to provide unrestricted funding to translate that learning into the action or pivots that are needed.
Our Role in The Philanthropic System Itself:
At its best, philanthropy can support innovative approaches, foster collaboration and play a catalytic role in shifting outcomes in communities.
However, we also know that in many ways the philanthropic funding system itself is problematic. Ironically it can lead to practices and outcomes that run counter to the stated social impact philanthropy is looking to achieve.
So we are looking carefully at what our role can be in contributing to shifting philanthropic practice to become more flexible, open, equitable and effective at supporting just and inclusive change.
We definitely don’t have all the answers to this and we can’t do it alone. We’re committed to looking at this critically though, by asking tough questions of ourselves, connecting with and learning from funder networks (such as the EDGE Funders Alliance) and through open discussions with our partners.
We aim to contribute to building a coalition of collaborative funders in Asia. This coalition could become one of the collaborative initiatives that is incubated within Firetree.