Reclaiming democracy


Paula Jancso Fabiani


The theme of the 2019 Global Philanthropy Forum focused on how philanthropy can play an important role in strengthening confidence in democracy in such turbulent times. Democracy is fragile and can be replaced as we can see in many different parts of the world. Democracy is even being used to weaken democracy.

Pluralism is at stake, respecting differences and opening a dialogue are key to a positive environment. In fact, ideological distances have decreased over time, however, we have lost the capability of listening to different views leading to polarization and labelling in societies. We are living in times of prevalent hate and exclusion, with migration intensifying. As pointed by one panellist ‘unfortunately hate spreads much faster than love’. And with social media spreading hate and false messages has become much easier and cheaper.

How can we cope with these trends? How can philanthropy contribute to reinforcing democracy?

Free press and strong institutions are vital, but the participation of all is mandatory if we want to defend democracy. Philanthropy has the freedom to use resources to bring us together to strengthen democratic environments.

Interesting new and not so new initiatives were presented at the Forum such as Luminate Group and K-Monitor on the use of technology for good. The Latin American Leadership Academy, Wave and Mobdium shared the importance of developing a new generation of leaders. Giving Tuesday spoke of the possibilities of using the new power that emerges in the digital era.

With such innovative and positive endeavours and thoughts the feeling was that we can have hope. Relationships can heal hate. Common stories can create movements, and can rebuild trust. More than ever than ever individuals have the power to change realities in a positive way. More than ever, organisations are partnering to develop community solutions and increase the volume of the voices of the excluded. There is a lot to be done but there are many to do it!

Paula Fabiani is chief executive at the Institute for the Development of Social Investment (IDIS)

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