Trust-based philanthropy

Ise Bosch and Michael Alberg-Seberich

Trust should be at the heart of relationships but what happens when one party to those relationships has more power than the other?

People on the receiving end of power often don’t have a choice but to trust those exercising it. Those on the side of power do have that choice but they often opt for control rather than trust. Meanwhile, the growth and professionalisation of philanthropy during the last 25 years has often meant more bureaucracy. Both of these considerations have frequently contributed to the disequilibrium of power in philanthropy to the point where many speak of a trust crisis in philanthropy in general. As the environment deteriorates and social inequality rises, our generation needs to apply new solutions and find ways of mutual support. We need a dynamic that engenders trust among people and institutions, and greater tolerance for diversity.

At a time when the growth of inequality is one of our greatest global concerns, philanthropy needs to reinvent itself. Transforming ‘power over’ into ‘power with’ is not easy, but it is possible.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines trust as ‘the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something’ but new, yet trustful relationships require more than ‘assured reliance’ – they actually require trust in the form of leaps of faith.

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