It hardly seems possible that, after 16 amazing years, my time with Alliance is almost at an end. Paula Park, my successor, takes up her post on 1 June, and we will work together to ensure a smooth transition. I wish her every success and will watch with interest to see where she takes Alliance.
As I’ve said before, I won’t miss working to perpetual deadlines – I wish Paula joy of them! As I sat up late in the evening getting the final copy ready for this issue of Alliance, I said to myself, ‘Well, I’m not going to miss this!’
But I will miss all the people I’ve worked with. Working with the guest editors on this last special feature has been typical of my time with Alliance: I have known David Bonbright, one of the guest editors, from the earliest years. He is both colleague and friend and working with him is always stimulating and fun. By contrast, until recently I didn’t know either of the other two guest editors, Elizabeth Christopherson and Fadel Ndiame, and it has been a pleasure getting to know them.
This is what I will miss most about Alliance, all the wonderful people I work with, the ones I’ve known for years and the new ones I’m always meeting. The list of people I’d like to mention personally and thank for being so unfailingly supportive and so willing to help when called upon is too long to attempt to include here – members of our board and editorial board, all those who write for Alliance, our longstanding freelancers, our great staff team. I can only say that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with all of you.
Now I’m about to leave Alliance, a few people have asked me: how has philanthropy changed since you started? This is a hard question to answer: it’s a bit like looking in the mirror every day and not noticing you’re getting older. If I try to answer, my first response is ‘not in a good way’. Owing to the withdrawal of the state everywhere, it is now much more widely accepted that philanthropy has a big role to play in public service provision, helping governments to do their job. But how compatible is this with the role of innovator, supporter of the marginalized, of civil society as advocates and watchdogs?
The upside is that people are more demanding of philanthropy, and it is perhaps a bit more demanding of itself. This has led to a greater focus on impact, professionalization, measurement and so on in order to meet the greater demands. The special feature in this issue of Alliance looks at efforts to transform philanthropy by bringing feedback from constituents into the equation. But the fact that philanthropy may be doing a better job leaves open the question about what job it should be doing.
Looking at the years ahead, inequality and climate change seem like the biggest challenges facing the world, and I’m sure philanthropists and foundations will have a role to play in tackling them. Alliance’s coverage of philanthropy and the post-2015 agenda aims to explore what this role should be. I hope that Alliance will continue to play its part in exploring issues like this for many years to come.