GrantCraft: Bridge Building

The China Foundation Center in Beijing recently translated 31 GrantCraft publications into Chinese. These translations are the latest collaboration in an extensive partnership between the Foundation Center and the China Foundation Center. We’re pleased that Richard Woo, a thoughtful funder who has provided leadership to the field of philanthropy through Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations, and Philanthropy Northwest, has penned this guest blog commentary.

In anticipation of launching translated guides of GrantCraft in China, Lisa Philp at the Foundation Center invited my comments about this milestone of multi-lateral relations—a collaboration among the Foundation Center, the European Foundation Centre, and the China Foundation Center. Excited by the invitation, I soon realized it had been 20 years since I’d last made a grant in Asia. In the mid-1990s, serving as regional manager for corporate contributions for Levi Strauss & Co. in Asia Pacific, I practiced grantmaking in 12 countries including Hong Kong (later repatriated to the People’s Republic of China). It would be a stretch for me to credibly comment on the relevancy of GrantCraft in China when I myself might be irrelevant given my dated professional experience. To compensate, I asked Lisa to introduce me to a Chinese colleague with whom I could correspond and begin rebuilding my “philanthropic cultural literacy.” She introduced me to Tao Ze, Vice President of the China Foundation Center, and we became internet “pen pals” between Beijing, China and Gig Harbor, Washington. By way of credentials, Tao Ze is impressive with degrees in electronics, business, and technology from respected universities in China and Sweden, as well as certificates in social entrepreneurship and philanthropy from Stanford and Harvard. 

More importantly, Tao is an impressive human being having committed his career to philanthropy after a life-changing experience volunteering in the favelas (shantytowns) of Brazil. Our correspondences bounced to and fro in a global Q & A session. We set about building a virtual bridge of professional curiosity, understanding, and respect. What I admire most about Tao Ze is his plain speaking.

He responded to my questions topic by topic:

  • On his career choice: “Everyone must care about society otherwise you will never arrive at happiness.”
  • On disparities in wealth, class, and neighborhoods in Brazil: “The government can never cut the connections between people by walls and distance.”
  • On professional skills: “I don’t need to give up my professionalism but can make the most use of it to contribute to the world.”

No doubt, GrantCraft will bring value to Tao Ze and his colleagues as they explore the frontiers of philanthropy in China. More important still, “How will Tao Ze and others improvise and innovate on the GrantCraft platform in response to the “on-the-ground” conditions encountered?” Whether here or there, GrantCraft has and always will be about the art of philanthropy—perfecting human-centered practice rather than technical solutions. I look forward to the day when GrantCraft China 2.0 returns to the U.S. and the West as an English edition translated from the original Mandarin and continues our journey of building a virtual bridge of professional curiosity, understanding, and respect.  

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