The end of condescension: the central issues around decolonising philanthropy

Andrew Milner

Features editor Andrew Milner outlines some of the central issues that need addressing for ‘decolonising philanthropy’ to have real meaning

The word ‘decolonisation’ was apparently first coined by German economist Moritz Julius Bonn in the 1930s to describe the process of withdrawal by colonial powers from territories they had previously occupied. However, as the following pages demonstrate, colonisation is also cultural and psychological, determining what forms of knowledge and attitudes are given preference in the former colonies, once independent. Hence, a legacy of colonialism is created which has an enduring effect on the post-colonial country and its people. The term decolonisation, too, has taken on a wider meaning of freeing of minds from colonial ideology.

The term ‘decolonising philanthropy’ is credited to writer and activist Edgar Villanueva, who discusses the issue in this special feature. In 2018, Villanueva said in an interview, ‘colonisation has a lot to do with philanthropy. Organisations and individuals who invest money need to understand the trauma that exists because of how wealth has been accumulated. We must own our part in perpetuating colonising dynamics in order to really practise grantmaking and investing with a lens of racial equality.’

In some parts of the world, the colonists have not gone away. They have stayed and shaped the countries in question. What are the implications of decolonisation for this ‘settler colonialism’?

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Growing decolonisation

Jane Maland Cady