Published on Open Democracy, by Colin Greer, April 21, 2008.
Michael Edwards is right to be critical of entrepreneur philanthropy – both in his openDemocracy essay, “Philanthrocapitalism: after the goldrush” (19 March 2008) and in the book on which it draws, Just Another Emperor: the Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism (Demos/Young Foundation, 2008). This form of philanthropy – “philanthrocapitalism” – is indeed full of misconceptions, overblown expectations, and inexperienced (mis)application of market conventions to social-justice activism. Gara LaMarche, in his response – “Philanthropy for social change” (9 April 2008) – is also right to argue that the critique of philanthrocapitalism should not allow conventional philanthropy by default to be portrayed as “the” effective and pristine social-justice partner.
Yet these two positions – and others in openDemocracy’s ongoing debate – leave untouched the fact that the acquisitive agenda of business success is a dangerous substrate for funding social-justice organisations …
… This does not mean that we are never high-handed, nor always make decisions our grantee allies cheer. But it does mean that we, and a few solid colleague foundations, have begun to establish an order of criteria and practice, which recognises the need for foundations supporting social-justice work themselves to grow into social-justice organisations – just like their grantees.
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