Giving Back: How to Do Good, Better

Reviewed by Asif Afridi, deputy CEO of brap

Derek Bardowell offers a fascinating, all-access, behind-the-scenes insight into how funding bodies and charities work with each other and some of the reasons why the social sector and ‘giving’ has struggled to make a lasting impact on injustice and inequality in our society. He challenges us to think about whether charitable giving is really benefiting and involving those who most need it. He calls for radical ways of distributing philanthropic resources – be they financial resources from big charitable foundations, or time and money that ordinary people ‘give back’ to good causes – so that they will benefit us all.

Those reading this book who work in the social sector may smile knowingly at some of the examples he shares about missed opportunities of the funding world to make a lasting impact on structural inequalities. This is a very personal book which reflects bravely and with great clarity on the realities of giving, including systemic oppression and the limitations of practices that maintain the status quo.

His description of ‘sticking plasters’ applied through short-term grant-giving to temporarily limit the effects of much deeper problems in society really resonated with me. He shows how access to that ‘secret’ and mysterious world of funding is often limited for those most affected by discrimination and injustice. He shows us how philanthropy, as an institution, can appropriate and institutionalise the knowledge, wisdom and practice of those that are racialised and marginalised. He also shows us how acts of giving and philanthropy can sometimes make us feel warm and fuzzy, while simultaneously maintaining the underlying structures responsible for society’s problems.

Next Book review to read

Towards Action: Islamic philanthropy for social justice in Indonesia

Ingrid Srinath