Supporting Countries in Transition

A Framework Guide for Foundation Engagement

This guide, published by the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT) and the Gerhart Center, offers a tailored framework for private foundations to support the work that goes into rebuilding polarized societies when conflict ends or a dictator falls. The framework is premised on the evident fact that the strategic considerations a donor faces in such contexts are fundamentally different from those faced in contexts of ongoing conflict or dictatorship, or of mature and stable democracies.

The guide contains three main sections. The first section offers an overview and conceptual frame for understanding contemporary national transitions that face familiar challenges but also new global complications. As used here, the term ‘transition’ refers to the opening created by the for- mal end of an authoritarian regime or armed conflict in which new possibilities for transformative political, economic and socio-cultural change become possible. The focus is particularly on the ear- liest period of such a transition, when events unfold most quickly, and multiple paths are open to achieve important structural advances in democratic participation, economic reform, rule of law and human security.

The second section explores the comparative advantages and limitations of private foundations in relation to the larger aid sector operating in transitional contexts. Lessons learned from private foundations involved over many years in cross-border grantmaking receive special attention. Because local philanthropy also plays an important role during transitions – and helps sustain support over the long run – consideration is given to how international and local foundations can work effectively together in transitional environments.

The third section presents informed risk-taking as a logical and practical framework to help foundations achieve disproportionate positive outcomes through the programmes they undertake in particular transitions. Drawing on the sector’s collective wisdom following decades of global experience in transitional settings, as well as aspects of the broader aid industry experience, it gives actionable guidance on the strategic questions and considerations that can help foundations to put the principle of informed risk-taking into practice.