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To give here or over there? The debate that started it all…

November 21, 2008

In thinking about what to post as my first entry on our new South Asian Philanthropy blog, I recalled a fascinating conversation on Sepia Mutiny last year about desis and philanthropy – mainly about whether first- and second-generation South Asians should give here in the United States or “over there” in the Motherland. I reread the CulturalConnect piece that gave rise to the debate and pulled out some questions that I hope we will all answer together through this new web forum:

– WHY does so much giving in our community focus on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.?

– Do we owe some kind of allegiance to our “new home” in the States?

– Is giving in America a proxy for our assimilation? What about giving to charities specifically for South Asians in the U.S.?

– Does philanthropy equal power?

– Is charitable giving the only metric that counts? What about volunteering or doing public interest work?

– Does it matter how much you have to give away?

– How do you really measure who has the greatest need?

– Is NEED the main factor that should drive philanthropic choices?

The debate at Sepia echoes the conversations that Venu and I have had over the past few years, which eventually became the catalyst for our starting this blog, and hopefully launching some research projects and in-person initiatives around philanthropy, volunteering, and civic engagement by South Asians.

As for me, I am sure we’ll get more into my personal opinions on this debate soon enough. Suffice it to say that I’m certainly torn over the ‘need’ question, having worked for a wonderful international humanitarian organization that does work with children in India (Interplast), and also working with various nonprofits here that provide services in the U.S. and struggle to appeal to South Asian donors, who are often very successful members of our communities. All I know is South Asians are a talented bunch and so more of our representation on charity boards and as public philanthropists can only be a good thing…

Please chime in with comments and e-mails – we can’t wait to hear from you!

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