As the world’s first and only school of philanthropy, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy acts as a hub not only for philanthropy in the United States, but for global philanthropy as well.
As part of its commitment to global philanthropy research and practice, the school has acted as a host for philanthropic and nonprofit global leaders. As part of that role, the school recently hosted two fellows from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
The Richard Rockefeller Fellowship commemorates the life of Dr. Richard Rockefeller, who was an advocate for the growth and development of strategic Chinese philanthropy. The fellows stay at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund office in New York, but they made a visit to Indiana to engage with faculty, students, and staff at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
While coming from different backgrounds and perspectives, Danxi Shen and Oma Lee both found value in their visits to the school and lessons to take back with them to China.
Shen has a background in education and philanthropy, and has been working at the intersection of both for most of her career. As the deputy secretary general at Sany Foundation, she oversees the foundation’s grantmaking and education research.
“I came to the fellowship to explore how we can improve the effectiveness of private philanthropy, while also thinking about broader questions related to philanthropy education,” Shen said. “How do we nurture talent for the third sector?”
Lee comes at philanthropy from a different angle. With a background in law and public policy, she analyzes how philanthropy catalyzes the development of civil society and public policy, and how a more conducive legal environment encourages more thoughtful philanthropic giving and participation.
“Philanthropy is very interdisciplinary. It pulls actors from the government sector, the corporate sector, and individual citizens and philanthropists to come together,” Lee said.
Only a month into their six-month fellowships, both Lee and Shen shared the importance of coming to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy early on.
“The school is a hub of intellectual and academic discussion that synthesizes practical solutions about philanthropy. It has created a theoretical framework that helps us better understand what it means to do philanthropy, how do we do better philanthropy, and how we look at philanthropy from a macro level and interdisciplinary framework,” Lee said.
She also emphasized the importance of the school acting as the focal point for both American and global philanthropy.
“The school is able to research and synthesize commonalities between philanthropic circles all around the world,” Lee said. “This international framework will to a large extent affect our work and our understanding of how we can push for better philanthropy in China.”
Shen also enjoyed her experience at the school, starting with the conversations she had.
“The school promotes and supports open and diverse lenses of thinking about philanthropy. One can approach the same broad topic of philanthropy from very different aspects,” she said. “Putting those ideas into a bigger picture of philanthropy is integral to the fellowship.”
“There are multiple different programs here tailored for different kinds of learning,” she said. “You can learn about philanthropy in Indiana and the local environment but also see how the school acts as an integral part of the bigger picture.”
Both women believe that the fellowship will impact their work in China.
“We’d like to establish more bilateral conversations and think in depth about promoting the exchange of ideas, experiences, and lessons in our respective work,” Shen said. “In addition to that aspect, I’m imagining a broader picture of globalized philanthropy. How do we educate and foster the next generation of talent, of nonprofit professionals who will engage in global dialogue?”
Bridging cultural and political gaps is also the center of Lee’s thinking.
“One of my missions is to better translate China to the world through the lens of public policy and philanthropy,” she said.
Both enjoyed their experiences at the school and in Indiana.
Lee: “It’s set the bar very high. I’ve never been in a place where I have been able to immerse myself in such deep thinking about the philosophy behind philanthropy.”
Shen: “It’s important to show how diverse and complex a sector can be within a country. One may think of the East Coast or West Coast of the U.S. first, but that’s only a part of the whole philanthropic picture. China is the same way. Having that kind of parallel framework of thinking is important to both of our careers.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.