Two things struck me at a panel session of a recent gathering of foundations in Europe. First, the lack of visible diversity in the room, and second, the advice being given to foundations: have more open dialogue with grantees, be more responsive in your grantmaking, with more flexible, longer-term, and core grants, avoiding silos. The scene left me wondering why philanthropy had not moved forward.
Certainly the world has changed. The global financial crisis of 2007-8 precipitated measures of austerity that still hold us in their grip, and has fostered the rise of populism and the decline of trust in institutions and in politicians, traditional political parties and processes.
New social movements are challenging both the institutions of the establishment and those that philanthropy might traditionally have invested in.
Yet philanthropy is responding neither quickly nor effectively to these movements, nor can it, because it is ill-equipped to support new forms of organizing for social change.