Without entering into the interesting debate in Alliance between Helmut Anheier and Diana Leat on the one hand and Rodney Hedley on the other, I want to make an observation that affirms Anheier and Leat by way of exception.
Anheier and Leat argue that the last fundamental innovation in philanthropy occurred nearly a century ago with the emergence of grantmaking foundations. While I agree that there is a notable lack of innovation in organized philanthropy – and I applaud Anheier and Leat for drawing attention to this in From Charity to Creativity – I believe that there is an exceptional recent innovation. Since 1980, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public has identified and provided modest-but-catalytic ‘venture support’ for what it terms ‘social entrepreneurs’. It was indeed Ashoka’s founder, William Drayton, who coined that now familiar term and it is Ashoka’s wholly original approach to the field of supporting innovation that has both popularized the term and spawned scores of imitations. I confess that I have not read their book and it may be that it looks at Ashoka. If it does, I would hazard a guess that it does so approvingly as one of the few current exemplars of their preferred new ‘creative foundation’ model.
David Bonbright is Director, NGO Enhancement Programmes, at the Aga Khan Foundation. He can be contacted at David.bonbright@Akdn.ch