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In the past few months, there have been some critical feedback for philanthropy. The criticisms are not new. Over the years have been many articles, often written by former program officers, with the same heavy criticisms pointed out by Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth and Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All. The difference this time is that it seems philanthropy, to its credit, is taking things more seriously. The issues are brought to plenary level at philanthropic summits, whereas in the past they may have been a poorly-attended workshop at best.
Hi everyone, this post is going to be very serious. The last few weeks have been difficult. The images of women and kids being tear-gassed at the border haunt me. It makes me think about how effective we nonprofits and foundations are, and what’s keeping us from being able to stop these horrible things from happening.
I know many of us are having similar thoughts. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Edgar Villanueva, the brilliant author of Decolonizing Wealth, a critical book that highlights something we actively avoid talking about: the history of philanthropic dollars, which is rooted in the genocide of Native peoples, slavery, and other abuse of and extraction from marginalized communities. I highly recommend the book. And it is an encouraging sign that foundations have been at least willing to engage with the topics that Decolonizing Wealth, along with Anand Giridharada’s Winners Take All, have been courageously bringing up.
But there is a potential challenge that I can see: The public embrace by foundations of these two books—and other forms of criticisms—is at danger of being another form of intellectualizing, with the reflection generated by these important books serving as a self-congratulatory proxy for actions, as has happened over and over. How many more books need to be written? When will we see fundamental changes to how philanthropy operates?Continue reading →