Saturday, June 27, 2009

Philanthrocapitalism and revolution: a controversial start to international fundraising conference

The opening session at the IWRM Conference got us off to an interesting start.

The session was a discussion entitled 'Can Philanthrocapitalism Save the World?', with four people representing Philanthrocapitalism (new word for big capitalists giving money, eg Bill Gates).

Chaired by the CEO of Resource Alliance, Lyndall Stein the four each made a short speech, pretty much agreeing with each other that the answer was no, not alone. But all agreed 'Philanthrocapitalism' (PC) was good.

Rory Tolentino, previous chair of the Ayala Foundation in the Philippines, was the last speaker who kind of agreed with the others.

But after a discussion about PCs needing to work and help create societal change, rather than just throwing money at the problem Rory piped up again.

She starting by talking about 'the elephant in the room' and went on to say '...but when it comes to transforming society it requires steps uncomfortable to Philanthrocapitalists... for example, looking at the distribution of wealth...what we need is a revolution...without bloodshed but we do need revolution.'

I gotta say, I was bowled over. A call for revolution - a member of the board of the Resource Alliance pointing out that philanthropy was pretty much wallpapering over the cracks.

Personally, I will still continue to wallpaper but I did feel pretty challenged - it is hard to argue against her point!

As well as Rory, the panel consisted of:
  • Rohini Nilekani, an Indian woman representing Infosys - which brands itself as an ethical capitalist company and had donated the venue.
  • Elizabeth Edwards, from Australia and CEO of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund.
  • Pesh Framjee, head of the non profit unit at accountants Horwarth Clark Whitehill in the UK.


Rajshri said...

about Rohini Nilekani, apart from being the co-founders wife, she is a journalist and a writer and is actively involved with several non-profit organisations in Bangalore.

She has set up an endowment fund called Arghyam, (which means 'offering' in Sanskrit) that supports endeavours in health, education, and equity in access to water for all. She is also Chairperson for Akshara Foundation, the goal of which is 'Every child in Bangalore in school and learning well and Co-founder of Pratham Books, a non-profit publishing enterprise to produce high quality, low cost books for children in several Indian languages as well as on the board of directors of Pratham India Education Initiative
and on the board of Sanghamithra Rural Financial Services and has funded its first microcredit program for the urban poor.

Gene said...

All this pap and twaddle about Philanthro-Capitalism. Interesting. Interesting.

When I came down to the IWRM, I didn't think I'd learn anything. After all, I'm not a fund-raiser, I'm an activist. What could I possibly learn from a fund-raising workshop?

But I learned something on Day One.

At the keynote address on "philanthro-capitalism", I learned that everything I know and have studied about predatory corporate capitalism was WRONG!

I learned that Capitalism is GOOD for us!

I learned that Capitalism is RIGHT!

I learned that Capitalism is the WAY!

I learned that Capitalism is BENIGN and BENEVOLENT!

But I also had to unlearn something.

I had to unlearn that the very reason the world's in this terrible mess -- is capitalism.

I had to unlearn that the very reason every single human has over 700 man-made chemicals in her body -- is capitalism.

I had to unlearn that the very reason we have poisons in the water we drink, the soil we live off, the very air we breathe -- is capiltalism.

I had to unlearn that the very reason we have deforestation and overfishing and climate change and nuclear energy and war -- is capitalism.

I had a lot to unlearn.

Not surprisingly, everything I said (and Rory withdrew) over the next two days was at odds with the Resource Alliance’s stated vision of the “voluntary sector taking its place alongside government and the private sector.”

Oh well, what the hell...

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