June 2024

Philanthropy and the common good

Volume 29 , Number 2

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June 2024

Philanthropy and the common good

Volume 29 , Number 2

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The atomisation of society, an economy based on competition and growing distrust of politics and of institutions in general: these are some of the factors that have led to a diminished commitment to the common good. What role does philanthropy have in revivifying the notion and helping to secure its various elements, especially where philanthropy itself is one of the institutions facing scepticism? Could philanthropy’s commitment to this issue help to restore its own legitimacy and make it a trusted voice in the future shape of societies?

But what is the common good? In our latest issue, guest edited by Bruce Sievers and Judith Symonds, representatives of civil society and philanthropy talk about how the common good is viewed in their country or region and how philanthropy is helping to shape it. We learn how an initiative in Mexico is helping to preserve a vital watershed in the ecosystem of Central America. Articles describe the role of culture and education in fostering the idea of a common good and how philanthropy can support these. Our guest editors talk to Hafsat Abiola of Women in Africa about her work in the Nigerian democracy movement. Abiola argues that, to create collective good, we first have to create trust across difference.

This issue is free to download without a paywall, thanks to a generous grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. As with all Hewlett media grants, this grant maintains editorial independence for the publication. Download here.

Special feature

Pursuing the common good: The bureau of world weather control

4 June 2024
Bruce Sievers

The pursuit of the ‘common good’ may seem a straightforward human aspiration. However, it doesn’t take much digging down to realise it is anything but… Imagine a future (presumably not too distant) when a Bureau of World Weather Control would be created. Aided by AI and supercomputers, the bureau would have the capacity to set patterns of rain and snow, speed and amount of wind, heat and cold waves, avoidance of droughts, floods, and hurricanes, …


Welcome to the June 2024 issue of Alliance

Like motherhood and apple pie, who would not be in favour of pursuing the common good? But what exactly is the common good? And do those of us working in philanthropy have a special responsibility to define and pursue it?  Against the backdrop of authoritarian populism, technological disruption to public interest media, the onset of climate change and a host of other challenges, addressing these questions seems more critical than at any other point in my lifetime.  It is therefore timely that these are the questions animating our latest special feature on the common good. Guest edited by Judith Symonds …

Critical Friend: Social justice and philanthropy – still an uneasy relationship

Is there really such a thing as social justice philanthropy?  That’s one of the big philosophical questions facing our field. It’s one which those of us working in philanthropy will have reflected on, at least periodically. For me, it’s been a defining tension during my career first working for a billionaire committing resources to the public good and now as executive editor of Alliance.  I reconsidered these questions through a new lens while reading a powerful call to arms from British philanthropy practitioner, Fozia Irfan*, titled Transformative Philanthropy: a new manual for social change. The work and an accompanying workbook …

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