Philanthropic individuals and organizations from around the globe, along with civil society representatives and members of the academe, are meeting this week for an annual conference organized by the Rockfeller Foundation and its partners. Oxfam GB’s head of research says two buzzwords emerged at the end of the first day of talks: innovation and advocacy.
The summit, dubbed “The Future of Philanthropy and Development in the Pursuit of Human Wellbeing,” hinted at innovation and advocacy as the top two directions the philanthropy sector appears to be heading to, Duncan Green says in a blog post summarizing his observations and thoughts of the summit being held in Italy.
Green observes that foundations and philanthropists appear to have an appetite for risk and are looking to pursue innovative solutions, even those with high chances of failing.
He quotes James Chen of the Hong Kong-based Chen Yet-sen Family Foundation: “Governments find it hard to pilot and fail — there’s career risk for them — but we can be an incubator at the pointy end of the stick, and then take our successes and persuade government to adopt them and scale them up.”
Green, however, notes that the sector’s appetite for risk does not extend to issues of social change and power.
On the second direction, Green observes that philanthropists and foundations do have the potential to exert influence on global issues should they decide to make a more concerted entry into the realm of advocacy. Take the case of Bill Gates and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, he says.
Given these two likely directions, Green says the questions is on whether the philanthropy sector will “come to the same conclusion as [non-governmental organizations], who realized some time ago that it was necessary to tackle the structural causes of poverty with advocacy as well as programming?”
Green says there are indications such a realization is dawning on the sector, but that it would require “confronting the deep ambivalence to the state shown by some philanthropists.”
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