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For all the movers and shakers, leaders, philanthropists and storytellers dedicated to making a social impact (And those hovering somewhere in between) - This one is for you.

#socialjustice #socialcapital #grantmaking #philanthropy #moralphilosophy #giving #communitydevelopment #leadership #communities #charity #nonprofit


Philanthropy - It's easy for you to say!

Literally and figuratively speaking, I feel confident enough to convey that the above statement is based on a false premise. The word itself is cumbersome and in the last few weeks of using this word repeatedly, I thank my lucky stars for good secure teeth.

It's not an easy task to critically analyse its meaning either. For decades I have been thinking of how philanthropic philosophies (another mouthful of cumbersomeness) have been shaped in our societies, what this means, how it is delivered and by whom.

Does it really matter?

That may appear to offer a very obvious answer, but that really does depend on what your perception of philanthropy is.

I remember a few years back when I wrote a slapstick murder mystery, themed around Greek Mythology. (This is relevant to the discussion, so do not give up on me just yet) One of the characters was Prometheus - a champion for the mortals. He stole fire from his fellow Gods and presented it to the mortals to aid the development of mankind and humanity.

Zeus was furious with Prometheus and his betrayal and had him bound to a rock, where an eagle would be sent every day to eat his liver. And because that wasn't enough for Zeus, he would make Prometheus live the same event over and over again.















A bit harsh in my humble opinion.

Anyway, the point I am making here is that this is a simple metaphor in relation to the timeline of philanthropy.

Over the centuries we have seen philanthropy develop from a more reactive action to a more combined reactive/proactive action. Not only do we not need to rely on the wealth of individuals and church-funded hospitals, but we now have such resources as an NHS, technology, Gift Aid infrastructure of grant-making and community organisations (Examples) in campaigns such as women's rights movements, we have been more able to create more leadership over the centuries, in more diverse grassroots activities. We have learned that strong leadership with a strong moral philosophy is key to change in policy making.

So, let's put this into some kind of context with the what, where, who and how of philanthropy by using Prometheus and his ‘giving’ as a metaphor.

Individual Goal: Prometheus wanted to help others less privileged than himself.

Social Capital: His network had a common purpose of creating luxury for Olympus ONLY.

Inherent Value: Is inherent values were to help those less fortunate

Resources: These were stripped away from him until he could do no more

Outcome – Prometheus can not make any progress in his quest

Now, let's relate this to an activist seeking philanthropic support. I will call this person Fred.

Individual Goal: Fred wants to create an enterprise that keeps people warm

Social Capital: Part of his Social Capital has a strong common person of the above – They have a team of peer support but no infrastructure support

Inherent Value: Is inherent values are to help those less fortunate

Resources: Their resources are limited

Outcome: Fred cannot make any progress in their quest

This is just a generic example, but you can see that if you break down each area, these four areas need to be met to reach a breakthrough in reaching a higher sustainable philanthropic goal.

It may seem a little odd to use a myth to describe what is happening here, but this is storytelling which is a useful tool to add to our inherent morals and values, especially in younger generations. I'm not suggesting you use this as a robust example, but you can apply this kind of fable to any cultural diversities.

This is where I can conclude in my thoughts that we have come a long way in philanthropy but we still need to support strong leaders on a grass roots level, and increase their social capital because this is where the emotive side of philanthropy develops. Inherent values need to be recognised so we understand why wealthy people and organisations may not get the right funding to the right people at the right time. Finally, we need to be more clever about how we deliver services and funding to be more collaborative.

The process of grant giving is still too rigid and time-consuming, and we need to act more quickly when the need is there. If you are a donor, grant-making organisation, governmental body or community development organisation, PLEASE continue to link up and work out how this can be done more effectively together, working as a collaboration with the leaders who are changing the world. We have come so far and made so much change, but it needs to be more collaborative.

If you have come to the end of this post and have something to add, please make a comment, connect, or get in touch.


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