Systems change

The March 2019 issue of Alliance is out.

Philanthropy and systems approaches are an obvious coupling but the future of their relationship remains far from clear. Our latest special feature explores a growing aspiration to achieve system-level change, taking a more self-critical look than is usually found within the sector.

Guest edited by Julian Corner, CEO of the Lankelly Chase Foundation, we note the potential and pitfalls while sympathetically profiling various approaches and examples from across the foundation world. The feature includes a peer dialogue with Canada’s McConnell Foundation, a look inside Switzerland based Jacobs Foundation’s approach to changing systems and collaborative efforts to combat gun violence in Chicago.

Everywhere, we survey the state of French philanthropy and I talk to Stanford philanthropy scholar and critic Rob Reich who outlines some bold proposals to reform the sector.


Royal philanthropy worldwide

Our in-depth feature on royal philanthropy and December 2018 issue of Alliance magazine is out.
It’s the product of a four-way non-profit media collaboration providing news, insight and opinion to philanthropy practitioners around the world.
Philanthropy Age magazine brought coverage of royal philanthropy in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar while our partners at De Dikke Blauwe and Danmarks Fonde contributed viewpoints from The Netherlands and Denmark. I pulled the seams together by commissioning pieces on royal philanthropy in the UK, Australia and Thailand.
The issue takes a more critical look at a topic ripe for investigation. Royal philanthropy is arguably the most opaque and elite form of high philanthropy. While most contributors were keen to stress its positive role, a few were willing to draw attention to its shortcomings, lack of transparency and dynastic privilege.
Enjoy the new issue and join the Alliance conversation online @alliancemag

Muslim philanthropy comes of age

The latest issue of Alliance magazine is out

It includes an exclusive interview with pioneering philanthropist Ise Bosch, winner of this year’s German Philanthropy prize; DAFNE’s Max von Abendroth on what philanthropy wants from European law-makers; Andrew Milner on impact investing in Asia; Marcos Kisil on the PtP (Philanthropication thru Privatisation) program in Brazil; and an in-depth special feature guest edited by Tariq Cheema and Dr Yunus Sola on the rise of Muslim philanthropy with viewpoints from South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey with, Egypt, the UK and US among others. I hope you enjoy our news and views of philanthropy worldwide. Please share your comments on @Alliancemag

Diaspora philanthropy issue is out

The latest issue (March 2018) of Alliance magazine is out with a special feature on diaspora philanthropy and perspectives from India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Ireland, Israel and Canada among others.

I interview Palestinian diaspora philanthropist Omar Al-Qattan who was instrumental in the establishing the Palestinian Museum and talk to 29 year old Antonis Schwarz, who benefitted from the sale of Schwarz Pharma in 2006, about why his Guerrilla Foundation is backing social movements rather than social entrepreneurs. Elsewhere there are pieces from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors on systems change, Rob John on giving circles in Asia and global news, views and updates from philanthropy worldwide.



Philanthropy and the media feature is out

The December 2017 issue of Alliance is out. It’s been completely re-designed (for the first time in over a decade) and includes an in-depth feature on philanthropy and the media. Guest edited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Miguel Castro, we profile philanthropists who own or back media, showcases existing foundation programmes on investigative journalism and combating fake news and offer perspectives on philanthropy from leading media titles such as Spiegel Online, The Guardian and the BBC. In addition, I also write about why enlightened foundations should fund us – the philanthropy media. The new issue also contains the first ever interview – anywhere – with the founder of the Netherlands-based Adessium Foundation, Gerard van Vliet.

All of this content is free to view thanks to sponsorship from the Democracy and Media Foundation.

You might also have seen in recent weeks some powerful and profound critiques of current philanthropy practice penned by members of the Alliance editorial board, Halima Mahomed and Timothy Ogden.

Halima’s piece highlights the tensions between often lauded corporate philanthropy programs and the tax avoidance practices of their parent corporations. Against the backdrop of the Panama and Paradise papers, Halima writes about the ‘tax elephant in the philanthropy room’

Tim’s piece (co-authored with Laura Starita) looks at foundation investments in arms and tobacco. The piece explains why foundations invest in arms and tobacco companies, calls for greater transparency about these investments and sets out conditions under which such investments might be

Both pieces seek to take on difficult issues in a constructive, nuanced and thoughtful way. As a ‘critical friend’ to the sector, my job as editor of Alliance is to raise issues for discussion and open up debate. Please feel free to comment at the foot of both pieces or send me your reaction and we’ll consider it for publication on the Alliance blog

Happy reading!

Philanthropy’s diversity challenge

Our new issue is out this week on 5 September 2017. In it, we discuss philanthropy’s diversity predicament. Here’s my editorial:

Philanthropy reflects the elites not the streets

‘Nothing about us without us’ was a slogan coined by disability rights activists to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected.

Many working in philanthropy would be sympathetic to this principle. Being in touch with the people you aim to serve is not just a sound moral imperative but also likely to make an effective philanthropic strategy. A lack of diversity on boards and at staff level ‘probably limits their intelligence about what is happening on the ground’ notes European Foundation Centre chief executive, Gerry Salole, who suggests that foundations would be well advised to ‘reflect the streets’.

Yet, judging by the contributions to this issue, philanthropy’s own workforce remains dogged by a lack of diversity, representation and inclusion. Gaps between richer/whiter people (the foundations) and poorer/darker people (the beneficiaries) emerge strongly in the issue.

Some will shrug their shoulders and say: ‘so what?’ After all, society gives philanthropy freedom to decide how to allocate resources without telling it who should be employed to do the job. Moreover, institutional philanthropy is a product of the privately accumulated wealth of elites – it’s an ‘elitist sport’, as Salole put it in an Alliance interview last year.

A central question, then, is how to reconcile philanthropy’s elitism and relative freedom on the one hand with a case for democratizing it on the other?

This is the challenge examined in our special feature. Our guest editors and contributors offer perspectives from India, Indonesia, South East Asia, Europe and the US. They document the lack of diversity in foundations, why they see this as problematic, and what they think should be done. There are some bold and provocative proposals.

Their challenge to philanthropy is: if you want to do the most good, you need to reflect the make-up of wider society. To an alarming number of its own practitioners, philanthropy simply appears out of touch.

While our guest editors and some contributors are optimistic that progress can be made, I’m more sceptical. Rather than trying to make philanthropy something it’s not, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that philanthropy’s make-up might be a symptom of society’s most pressing challenges as much as a solution to them.

I invite you to join the debate.

For the full issue see