25 years of philanthropy

Barry Knight

From the flourishing of civil society to the fall of philanthrocapitalism and shift to a more trust-based philanthropy, our field has changed considerably in the last 25 years

Alliance was born into an age of optimism. In 1996, a new Washington Consensus[1] added civil society to the mix of free markets and small states. The world was seeing ever-growing prosperity, reduced poverty, and the spread of liberal democracy. The expectation was that we were headed for open societies based on cooperation and unity leading to what Francis Fukuyama called ‘the end of history’.

Serious pessimism

Three events – 9/11, the 2008 crash and the global pandemic – changed all that. We now live with climate catastrophe, volatile economies, and failed labour markets. Trust has broken across the world, creating a vacuum in which unscrupulous leaders encourage xenophobia and hate. Instead of the idea of ‘open society’ we now face a reckoning with ‘closing civic space’.

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Watchwords and catchwords

Andrew Milner