Giving Compass’ Take:
• Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses David Callahan’s book The Givers, specifically how it approaches the power dynamics between philanthropies and communities.
• This post reminds us that communities have the power to take away philanthropy’s social license to operate, citing the Newark school reform from earlier this decade as an example.
Philanthropy amongst the mega-rich in the United States is booming, and — beyond “traditional charity” — much of it involves engaging in public policy debates on everything from education to climate change. The opportunity to make a real difference on these issues is tangible. But there’s also a problem: Philanthropy isn’t accountable to voters as governments are, and the sheer scale of this trend in the United States can hinder democracy by tipping the scales of power further towards the super-wealthy and away from the ordinary people and communities.
That’s the core argument of David Callahan in his new book The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.
Well written and researched, The Givers is a detailed and balanced examination of modern philanthropy and its influence in the United States. Informed by one-on-one interviews with many leading philanthropists, including Priscilla Chan and Eli Broad, it’s an accessible and interesting read.
However, one problem with Callahan’s argument is that it assumes communities and “ordinary people” are (and will continue to be) rather passive in the face of power. We’ve seen significant examples where, despite the power of philanthropy working in tandem with governments, communities have pushed back to resist reforms imposed without consultation and support.
Read the full article about cultivating legitimacy in philanthropy by Krystian Seibert at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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