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A bit more on Philanthrocapitalism

December 18, 2008

I’m glad Venu tackled the debate on philanthrocapitalism in her post below.  I have been following the debate about the concept in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and I really loved Michael Edwards’ essay (summarizing his book, Just Another Emperor?) about the “myths and realities” of philanthrocapitalism.  (The debate between Mike and others in the comments is super-interesting as well.)

I find myself sharing Mike’s skepticism about the concept.  While I do think there is room for greater integration of business solutions in the social sector, and a need for more training and professionalization, I think it is a bit arrogant for the self-proclaimed philanthrocapitalists to act as if they are introducing the concept of outcome-based philanthropy to nonprofits now.  Every nonprofit I’ve worked with is extremely conscious of the bottom line, of outcomes and goals, and of innovation.   I also think that there are many socially-driven organizations whose very missions would run counter to the lessons taught by capitalism.  Social change and transformation cannot always be driven by profits, and thus my doubts match those raised by Mike.

I thought some of the examples in Mike’s essay were fantastic and really shed light on the problems that arise when theorizing philanthropy.  In anecdotal conversations with young South Asian philanthropists, I have noticed that many gravitate to the ideas set out by philanthrocapitalism – do you share those ideas too?  What do you make of some of the examples raised in Mike’s essay (including some from South Asia)?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. asridhar permalink*
    December 29, 2008 9:01 pm

    Sendhil pointed out this great article by Nick Kristof about using capitalism or profit-seeking strategies to do good: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/25/opinion/25kristof.html?em

    I am still torn about what we should call “philanthropy,” but it strikes me that there is plenty of room for all kinds of strategies, including philanthrocapitalism, when it comes to doing good and helping people.

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  1. SAPP Blog Forum: Q&A with Michael Edwards « The South Asian Philanthropy Project

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