Mike spoke today at the Royal Society of Arts in London (a podcast of the event will appear shortly), which itself was a product of one of the past golden ages of philanthropy in England during the 18th Century. Indeed, the RSA was one of the pioneers of ‘incentive prizes’, which have been rediscovered by today’s philanthrocapitalists such as the X Prize Foundation.
It was a pleasure that the meeting was chaired by someone we mention in the book: Peter Wheeler, former investment banker and co-founder of New Philanthropy Capital, one of the leading philanthropic intermediary organisations to emerge in recent years.
There was a lot of interest in the role of philanthropy in responding to the economic downturn. The RSA’s chief executive, Matthew Taylor, talks in his blog about tapping into the “unexploited potential of civil society” in meeting social needs and calls on policymakers to think about how to mobilise that potential.
Veteran London philanthropist John Studzinski told us in an interview for the book: “There are about forty homelessness projects in London; only eight are any good”. With funding from private and public sources drying up and demand for their services rising, there needs to be a step change in the efficiency and effectiveness of the voluntary sector to rise to the challenge. Philanthrocapitalists will have an important role to play in the process if they can drive restructuring and merger of charities to produce greater public benefit. It wouldn’t necessarily be popular but it would be high impact, high leverage philanthropy.