Olga Alexeeva is correct that philanthropy is sometimes ‘an accessory to a wealthy lifestyle’ rather than ‘an act that requires a complete moral worldview’. She is correct that across a range of traditions, philanthropy helps to maintain a status quo rather than change it. She is correct that much philanthropy is treated as a virtue in itself rather than a means to achieving clear and honest ends.
So, given this state of affairs, what’s to be done?
First, there is a need to rethink philanthropy and its role in the social world. This requires far greater academic research into the nature of philanthropy, which in turn requires the development of a field of philanthropy studies – both pure and applied. How to create such an environment is a subject of investment at our foundation and I would encourage others to join this endeavour.
Second, Olga provokes us to think more deeply about the role of motivation in philanthropy and the relationship between motivation and effect.
Could we follow Irina Prokhorova into the ‘chamber of wishes’, the dangerous place where one’s true wishes are made known? I am not sure that philanthropy would emerge from this visit in great shape but it seems incumbent upon those who care about how private resources can be used to improve society to be able and willing to embark on such a trip.
Executive Director, The Pears Foundation