Key Points

This article proposes that foundations committed to community-led development must be prepared to invest in efforts that empower the community. In particular, there is potential for funders willing to challenge the top-down nature of the current aid and development system through use of critical conscious-raising to claim a transformative role in shifting from a “recipient” to a “citizen” approach to community development.

For foundations to assist communities in criticizing this power imbalance and using the insights that result to challenge the system requires the “three-legged stool” of community philanthropy — strengthening capacities, developing assets, and building trust — to become a “chair” by adding a fourth leg — growing community power.

This article explores community giving, a norm in communalist societies, as a viable entry point for helping communities explore and understand their own experiences, and presents a tool that calculates the financial value of a community’s contribution to its own development, defining it as equity that can be brought to the development table.

Open Access