Philanthropy is about generosity, not self-redemption at taxpayers’ expense

Florencia Roitstein

A major fire has engulfed the medieval cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, one of France's most famous landmarks. The French President Emmanuel Macron called for donations for reconstruction and a number of French billionaires and big companies have very quickly responded.

It is quite normal nowadays that when we talk about philanthropy, we refer to the ‘industry’: billionaires, dollars, infrastructure, human resources, strategies, targets, best cases, evaluations, impact, etc. More and more, philanthropy is the ‘talk of the town’ among elites, whether in Paris, Davos, New York, Sao Paulo or New Delhi.

People are looking at what the ‘powers’ - governments, global corporations, billionaires, foundations, international agencies - are doing to provide solutions to the complex challenges of our planet. At the top of the philanthropic pyramid, promises are made that, despite the ills afflicting our planet, inclusive prosperity will flourish if we follow a certain path and invest resources in a certain way. At the bottom of the pyramid, people struggle to survive but while doing so, they also create collective community initiatives to cope with adversity and address burning social issues. Depending on where you are, both the world and the solutions to its problems look quite different.

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