Good Drones, Rising Inequality and Beyond: Ten Predictions for Philanthrocapitalism in 2015




This article originally appeared on Philanthrocapitalism, on 3 January 2015. The original article can be found here>

This is going to be a big year for philanthrocapitalism, not least because of the need to agree new goals for the world to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals. It is there that we start our annual crystal ball gazing:

Battle of the Goals Expect a mighty struggle over what should be included in the so-called “Sustainable Development Goals” that will be adopted by the United Nations in September. In The Economist, Matthew predicted that some politicians will want lots of goals covering every possible need, whilst representatives of the business community and impact-focused philanthropy will argue for a narrower set of the most meaningful and achievable goals, around which the world’s doers can coalesce. Our guess? The SDGs will be broader than the MDGs, and more politically correct (decrying widening income inequality, for example), but a real, shorter shadow list of goals will be determined at a meeting of finance ministers in July in Addis Ababa, where money will be made available to achieve some, but not all, of the SDGs and the many more sub-targets associated with them. Philanthrocapitalists should focus their attention on that meeting in July.

Climate Heats Up There will be a deal on tackling climate change at the Paris inter-governmental meeting in December. But it will not be one that convinces many people it will do the trick. Expect green philanthrocapitalists to pursue more strategies that try to influence governments or bypass them altogether. In particular, efforts will intensify to convince institutional shareholders to either divest from carbon fuel businesses, or, arguably better, to use their ownership stakes to get firms to adopt business practices that do less harm to the planet. Despite the falling price of oil, some technological breakthroughs will encourage hopes that renewables can replace carbon fuels sooner rater than later.

Inequality and Jobs The rapid increase in the income and wealth of the super rich soared up the global agenda in 2014, thanks not least to Thomas Piketty’s best seller, “Capital in the 21st Century”. The debate over what to do about it will intensify this year. There will be more scary stories about technology destroying jobs, and calls for the sort of “inclusive capitalism” that delivers genuine social progress (as measured by the Social Progress Index). It will start to become clear if the efforts led by the OECD to crack down on tax dodging by big business and wealthy individuals have teeth. There will be growing pressure on the more enlightened members of the “1% of the 1%” who have embraced large scale philanthropy to demonstrate that their giving is not just putting lipstick on a pig, but really makes a significant difference.

Bitcoin and Drones For Good In 2015, crypto-currencies and remotely operated flying vehicles will be the height of fashion in Silicon Valley. This enthusiasm is likely to spill over into the philanthropy of the growing army of tech billionaires. Does Bitcoin offer a new way to cheaply transfer funds to needy people in far flung places? Can drones help provide storm damage insurance cheaply to subsistence farmers in Africa, or protect the peace in strife-torn countries? This year, we may start to find out.

African Philanthropy Rising Just as Mo Ibrahim did a decade ago, a new generation of home-grown African billionaires will start to scale up their philanthropy. They will include Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote of Nigeria and the East African 33-year-old billionaire Ashish Thakker, alongside signatories of the Giving Pledge such as Patrice Motsepe of South Africa. Whereas Mo Ibrahim’s cause has been better governance in Africa, these new African philanthropists may be more focused on promoting entrepreneurship across the continent, along the lines of the recently launched Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme.

Impact Investing Goes Retail and Political The idea that investment should now be evaluated along the three dimensions of risk, return and impact will increasingly become the conventional wisdom. There will be growing demand for “impact investments” explicitly designed to simultaneously deliver both a financial return and achieve a measurable social and/or environmental goal. In particular, there will be a crop of new retail impact investments from major fund management firms such as Fidelity and Prudential. Social impact bonds (known in America as pay for success bonds) will see rapid growth, not least by capturing the enthusiasm of politicians of all parties. Proposing a social impact bond will increasingly become a low-risk way for a campaigning politician to signal a commitment to innovation in government.

New Power Flexes Its Muscles The leading philanthrocapitalists will increasingly experiment with using “new power” techniques to drive change. This is so much more than viral video gimmicks such as last year’s hit, the ALS ice bucket challenge. Among the key themes are radical transparency, collaboration, providing platforms and tools, adopting a “movement mindset” and taking care not to become “the Man”. This Harvard Business Review article on “Understanding New Power” by Henry Timms (the driving force behind #givingtuesday) and Jeremy Heimans of Purpose (see Matthew’s article here) is a must read for philanthrocapitalists.

The March of the Millennials There will be the right sort of backlash by Millennials to some of the uber a-hole behaviour of some of their number in Silicon Valley. Millennials will increasingly take the lead in driving positive social change. That will include thoughtful young philanthropists such as Dustin Moscowitz and Cari Tuna or even Chelsea Clinton (who is starting to take charge at the Clinton Global Initiative, including by driving a serious impact measurement effort), B Corp entrepreneurs such as Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker and social entrepreneurs such as Jane Chen of Embrace.

Ford Versus Rockefeller Until recently, the Rockefeller Foundation was deservedly seen as the best of the old foundations at embracing the ideas and methods of 21st Century philanthrocapitalism, under the leadership of Judith Rodin. But since Darren Walker took charge, the Ford Foundation seems to have got back its lost mojo. Already it is getting involved in efforts to make capitalism work better, including backing ethical supply chains and impact investing. There may be a lot more to come in 2015. Also, keep an eye on the Carnegie Corporation and the MacArthur Foundation to see if they put a philanthrocapitalist in charge.

Two Foundations To Watch The MasterCard Foundation and Legatum both seem poised for a break-out year. No specifics to mention at this stage. Just saying.

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