By S. Nauman Syed
Participants of the first World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists returned to their respective homes from Istanbul last week, armed with new ideas as well as new contacts. The focus of the two-day forum of philanthropists, NGOs, and government representatives, was to be about â€œFacing Challenges and Finding Solutions,â€ and while the challenges were clearly outlined, the delegates must now coordinate to develop appropriate solutions going forward.
By the grace of Allah, the event was planned and organized largely out of the United States, and incredible support from the Turkish host committee allowed the event to take place relatively smoothly. A few communication and logistical lapses can be overlooked in any inaugural event, and the organizers are aware of how the event can be improved, as most participants submitted feedback in the form of surveys. More formalized networking time and greater adherence to the program schedule are a couple of areas where organizers can improve in the future, if Allah wills it. Conveners can also focus on generating more representation from Muslim communities in Africa, Central Asia, and the Far East.
Over the course of the Congress, various speakers outlined a few key challenges facing Muslim philanthropists. One area where improvement is needed is in the transparency and communication of many Islamic NGOs. A rating system would be ideal to help identify which NGOs are most transparent and efficient and would give other NGOs benchmarks to strive for. Another area for concern is capacity building, in terms of both human and financial resources. Several speakers mentioned the â€œwaqf,â€ or Islamic foundation, as one way to build financial capabilities over time. Many delegates also highlighted the need for more research into both the problems and potential solutions.
While participants did not walk away with any ready-made solutions for these and other challenges, the conveners did outline a way forward to finding such solutions. The organizers plan on developing a rating system, research capabilities, and even offering consulting and advisory services as part of the strategic framework of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists. Delegates can contribute expertise and experience to develop solutions in conjunction with the conveners. Even adopting the proposed rating system and participating in any forthcoming surveys or studies would be simple ways for participants and other NGOs to help develop solutions. Furthermore, participants can tap into the new network of Muslim philanthropists to potentially meet challenges that arise in one part of the world with proven solutions from another part.
The first World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists has the potential to be a platform to solve many of the challenges facing Muslim NGOs and charities. However, both the organizers and participants must spend considerable time and effort over the next year on developing solutions to avoid turning the event into an annual â€œdog and pony show.â€