How to legitimise philanthropy in an era of inequality

Liz McKeon

Stark exposure of social injustice worldwide has prompted the philanthropy sector to increasingly address its own internal contradictions

‘Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the economic injustice that makes philanthropy necessary.’ Martin Luther King Jr, 1963

Nearly 60 years after Dr King’s words, it feels as though we are just cresting towards meaningful action to address the dilemma he laid bare.

This is partly due to outside pressure. Social movements demanding equality, transparency and equity – notably Black Lives Matter – are seeking to rebalance the asymmetry of power within our societies. Such movements are calling out governments, public institutions and corporations. And they have prompted philanthropy, a sector that wields power through accumulated wealth, to start addressing its own internal contradictions.

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