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Guest Profile

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Clare Woodcraft

Executive Director

Centre for Strategic Philanthropy

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Clare Woodcraft

Clare Woodcraft has over 25 years of experience working in the field of socio-economic development and philanthropy in emerging markets. She is the former CEO of Emirates Foundation, the national foundation of the UAE, where she led the organisation’s transition from traditional grant-making to the model of Venture Philanthropy. During her time as CEO, she was elected as the Chair of the Arab Foundations Forum, a regional network of foundations where she helped to promote the model of strategic philanthropy.


Earlier she served as the Deputy Director of Shell Foundation, a leader in the philanthropic sector whose business model entails building scalable social enterprises to address global development challenges, otherwise known as enterprise-based philanthropy. 


Prior to this she was the Regional Director of Communications for Royal Dutch Shell in the Middle East and North Africa overseeing the company’s social investment and its transition into a more strategic focused portfolio in 14 countries. Earlier, Clare headed Visa International’s public affairs arm in emerging markets working closely with governments in over 90 markets, to deploy social investment for public good with a focus on financial systems and electronic payments. Previously she worked as the Finance Editor of Middle East Economic Survey, a specialised energy journal reporting on socio-economic development related to oil economies.


Clare writes and speaks extensively on the paradigm shift in the philanthropic sector and is a vocal champion of venture philanthropy. A fluent Arabic and French speaker, she has a BA in Modern Languages and a MSc in Development from LSE.

Episode Overview

Executive Director of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, Clare Woodcraft, discusses philanthropy in emerging markets, the Global South / Global North power imbalance and the need for collaboration.


The Centre for Strategic Philanthropy was founded by Badr Jafar and is based at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.  It was launched in June 2020 and is focused on emerging markets, with particular concern for the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Its geographic focus is something that sets the Centre apart from other academic outfits in the field of philanthropy.


They have three core pillars of activity: (1) they are a research centre, (2) will provide executive education commencing in early 2021, and (3) are a convening platform bringing together diverse voices, especially from the Global South.  


Clare provides insight into philanthropy in emerging markets and delves into some of the findings from their recently-published report Philanthropy and COVID-19: Is the North-South Power Balance Finally Shifting? 


There is tremendous growth of philanthropy in the Global South and Clare explains how young philanthropists are increasingly moving away from establishing a straight forward foundation and, instead, are starting to consider alternative routes to doing good, such as creating an impact fund or starting a social enterprise.  


The Centre wants to help new, up-and-coming philanthropists to deliver more impact at scale, and to do so collaboratively.  They convene, attract new voices from diverse countries and encourage collaboration. 


Part of the rationale for Badr Jafar’s founding of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy was the lack of existing research into philanthropy in the Global South.  When asked what success for the next 10 years looks like, Clare replies that she’d like to see the Centre fill research gaps as much as possible, develop a better understanding of the landscape and have more robust data. Moreover, there is also a need to determine and showcase what best practice looks like.


Clare’s key takeaway: It’s about insuring that good intentions translate into impact. We really need to look at the evidence around what works and what doesn’t work. She cautions that before rushing in to create a programme or an intervention, one should really try to look at who’s already working in the space in question and aim to collaborate if possible. Yes, bring your passion, but be aware that intentions need to be matched by evidence.

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Additional Resources

Centre for Strategic Philanthropy - Website

Clare Woodcraft - LinkedIn

Philanthropy and COVID-19: Is the North-South Power Balance Finally Shifting? - Report

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