Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is there a hierarchy of goodness in public policy?

Melissa Berman of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors makes clear the challenges of using philanthropy for large social change.

But specifically because philanthropy is personal and voluntary, it may supplement - but cannot replace - the rigorous, messy public debate we need in a democracy to decide how we as citizens want to choose between museums and fighting blindness.

Too often, private philanthropy is used to drive the allocation of public resources.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Peter Singer's Critique of Philanthropy

Peter Singer, who has shed light on a wide range of ethical issues, has now turned his sights on philanthropy.

Calling for a shift in resources from cultural funding to humanitarian projects, he applies cost-benefit analysis to explain why we should fund disease prevention instead of museum capital campaigns.

Philanthropy is voluntary and as such donor intent will continue to drive funding decisions rather than quantifiable cost-benefit analysis.  Whether I want to support my church, local museum or disease prevention for the world's poorest is a personal decision.

Perhaps he should also focus on public sector aid funding and how it can be made more effective or ask the question why we allow charitable contributions to be tax-deductible in the first place rather than trying to reform philanthropy.


Peter Buffett and the Charitable Industrial Complex

While Mr. Buffett makes points which have been made elsewhere about the unintended consequences of philanthropy, charity as penance for the affluent, and the need for systems change rather than one-off projects, it is refreshing to see someone in his position step outside of the philanthropic echo chamber and ask some larger questions.   

As he states, philanthropic leaders, heads of state and corporate leaders are "all searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left."   We are all dealing with the contradictions and dissonance created by a networked global market that our existing systems such as government, corporations and philanthropy do not begin to solve. 

What he does not state is how we can begin to address these contradictions beyond a vague call for multi-stakeholder partners and listening. 

I applaud his piece but want to dig deeper.