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

Solidarity – more in common

Our new issue is out. Read it here

‘We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’

These were the words of Jo Cox in her maiden speech to the UK Parliament on 3 June 2015. On 16 June 2016, just over one year later, Cox was murdered on her way to a meeting in her constituency.

This issue’s special feature, guest edited by King Baudouin Foundation’s Stefan Schäfers, explores the complex and sensitive relationship between philanthropy and solidarity. Schäfers argues that to maintain our shared humanity and common bonds we must acknowledge that solidarity ‘is used in different contexts, by different people and for different reasons’ and our language of solidarity must adapt to these realities. 

In a powerful joint statement, foundation associations in the US, Canada, Brazil and the UK come together to write about what they have in common and how they are creating space for their members to navigate the issues of the day. 

This issue is dedicated to the family and friends of Jo Cox, and to all those who aspire to live up to philanthropy’s ideals – to love humanity – who continue to show that we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

Philanthropy scholarship and practice – bridging the divide

The spring 2017 edition of Alliance is out with a special feature on the links – and gaps – between philanthropy scholars and practitioners.

Here’s the text of my editorial introducing the new issue:

Philanthropy is now achieving global academic visibility. The world’s first school of philanthropy opened in the US in 2013 and new philanthropy centres and chairs have emerged in recent years in Africa, India and Europe. Such interest is likely to intensify as philanthropists assume growing influence over public policy and practice. Yet the study of philanthropy remains relatively small compared to scholarship and teaching on politics, government and business. To date, there is limited awareness of why it might be important to study philanthropy, what we need to know about philanthropy and how much priority should be given to informing policy and practice.

This edition of Alliance seeks to offer readers an introduction to these questions and to open a bridge between academics and practitioners. We begin with an outline of current provision. This survey, while not definitive, documents the remarkable growth in philanthropy studies in the last five years and highlights the range of disciplines, topics and levels in which the academic world engages philanthropy.

A series of articles highlight why scholarship on philanthropy is important and what it can offer. Paul Ramsbottom and Patricia Rosenfield describe the largely untapped potential of history and historical archives to foundation practitioners, while René Bekkers emphasizes the need for and uses of reliable giving data.

We also look at the remarkable growth in teaching about philanthropy. Here we offer viewpoints from student-led courses on effective altruism and experiential philanthropy to executive education for existing foundation professionals.

We then go on to consider what practitioners say they need from academia, especially in regions and countries in which institutional philanthropy is emerging. We hear from Bheki Moyo about plans for Africa’s first chair in philanthropy, as well as from pioneering figures in India, Chile, Mexico and Canada. These perspectives show how academic interest in philanthropy is developing in response to the particular context that each country or region faces.

As academic interest in philanthropy heats up worldwide, we also seek to draw out some of the challenges and difficult issues along the way: from balancing academic rigour and practitioner relevance to the spectre of conflicts of interest as philanthropy essentially funds research into itself.

Finally, this edition continues the controversial debate on whether foundations should be compelled to make mandatory payouts. In our last issue Cathy Pharaoh argued that mandatory payouts make little sense and lead to the worst of both worlds – no long-term increase in resources and a reduction in the freedom of foundations to decide on their own spending levels. Jake Hayman and Angela Kail continue the debate on these pages and we invite you to join them by contributing your views.

The rise of community philanthropy

The December 2016 issue of Alliance is here

#ShiftThePower: The rise of community philanthropy

According to Jennifer Buffett and Peter Buffett, ‘the most radical way to advance meaningful change is to shift economic, social and cultural power to those who don’t have it.’  This edition of Alliance looks at the rise of community philanthropy – the idea that development should be owned by local people and not imposed from the outside.

Community philanthropy’s advocates argue that, in addition to being socially just, this approach is the key to sustainable development. Others argue that community philanthropy needs to go further in tackling some difficult issues if it is to fulfil its promise. This edition coincides with and features participants from the first ever Global Summit on Community Philanthropy taking place in Johannesburg on 1-2 December 2016.