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Slate on Philanthrocapitalism

Georgia Levenson Keohane reviewed Philanthrocapitalism for Slate magazine, hailing it as “exceptional” and saying that it “should be required reading in any MBA or public policy program”.

Georgia thinks we should have given more attention to the question: “Is the “new” philanthropy really even “new”?”  She thinks this is an important issue because, in her opinion, we underplay the past achievements of foundations. We have never argued that we are at some kind of ‘year zero’ in philanthropy.  Indeed, by looking at the history of modern philanthropy, going back to the Renaissance, we have been keen to empasise the innovations of the past, including the achievements of American foundations like Rockefeller and Ford in the 20th century.  But there is still a reluctance among today’s established foundations to acknowledge the effectiveness problem, which is eloquently spelled out in Joel Fleishman’s outstanding book The Foundation: a great American secret (we make no apologies for plugging this again).  By saying that traditional foundations need to raise their game and that a bit of competition can’t hurt, we seem to have upset the philanthocracy establishment.

Georgia makes the excellent point towards the end of her article that “there are things that foundations do that would be very interesting to businesses—taking a long-term approach, taking a more holistic approach, attacking problems from multiple angles, learning about qualitative measurement.”  This absolutely right and, as we discuss in the chapter on ‘The Good Company’, this is what smart companies are starting to do, moving away from PR-driven corporate philanthropy to really seeing CSR as a strategic part of business success. For us, that is a key part of philanthrocapitalism.

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