The Year of Philanthrowoman

Melinda French Gates in India (Photo: Barbara Kinney / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Melinda French Gates in India (Photo: Barbara Kinney / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

The start of the New Year means that it is time, yet again, to gaze into our philanthrocrystal ball and make our annual predictions. We did OK last year but are hoping to do even better in 2013. Our top theme among our 20 predictions is that 2013 will be a breakthrough year for women in philanthrocapitalism.

1. Pope on the Ropes. The battle over women’s bodies will reach a crucial stage as Melinda Gates takes on the Vatican over reproductive health, contraception etc. The first salvoes were fired in 2012, with the Vatican turning on the (Catholic) philanthrocapitalist for daring to suggest that the men who run the church have got it wrong on the rights of women. We think that Ms Gates will be building a powerful posse this year to take on these vested male interests. Will she be excommunicated in return?

2. Grassroots Versus Male Violence. The awful attacks on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who wanted nothing more than an education, and the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a young Indian woman, in December, will prove to be turning points, marking the birth of domestic grassroots movements in both countries to end the oppression of women and to educate and empower young girls. This is the moment for Indian and Pakistani philanthrocapitalists to step up, hopefully with support from their peers abroad.

3. The Clintons Global Initiative. As Hillary steps down as US Secretary of State, the Clinton Global Initiative will become a sort of holy family trinity, with Mrs Clinton joining Bill and Chelsea in the main leadership roles. She will certainly want the CGI to play a key part in bringing our first two predictions to fruition. One thing is for sure, the CGI will revive its plan to become a global marketplace for philanthrocapitalism, which had to be put on ice as part of the deal that took Hillary into government. A CGI Latin America is in the works for Rio de Janeiro later this year, with similar events in Asia, the Middle East and even Europe possibly to follow. Meanwhile, whilst staying just the right side of non-partisan, CGI America may become the springboard for Mrs Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.

4. Big Impact. 2013 will be the year when impact investing moves from mostly talk to real money. One crucial factor will be the leadership likely from the billionaires who have signed the Giving Pledge, who have made it a top priority to figure out how to move impact investing forward. They are being led in doing this by Pierre Omidyar and Steve and Jean Case. There is a big opportunity for our old friend Sonal Shah, the former head of the White House Office for Social Innovation, who is working on impact investing for the Case Foundation. And as the Rockefeller Foundation marks its 100th anniversary, perhaps its president Judith Rodin will celebrate by building on the foundation’s pioneering work with the Global Impact Investing Network by actually investing a decent chunk of the Rockefeller endowment in impact. We also expect the innovative impact investing by Clara Miller at the FB Heron Foundation to get the attention it deserves.

5. Komen After You. Last year’s humiliation of the leadership of the Susan G Komen For the Cure foundation, over its shortlived decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, will be dwarfed by explosions of online crowd power in 2013. No longer will a charity (or any other organisation dependent on the good opinion of the crowd) be able to make controversial policy changes without first securing the consent of the people whose support it relies on. The twist in 2013? It will be those who charities say they are trying to help who will discover their crowd power for the first time, a long overdue feedback loop which should help ensure philanthropy really is helping, not harming.

6. Political Philanthropy. In America, the debate about whether philanthropy is getting too involved in politics, which has been rumbling for a while, will move to the heart of the political agenda. We will hear a lot more about what Diane Ravitch calls the “billionaire boys club”, and attacking them will go hand-in-hand with renewed efforts at campaign finance reform. The philanthropy sector will need to respond with more intelligence and candour than has often been the case if it is to avoid becoming something of a political pinata.

7. BigSoc Rises From the Ashes. British Prime Minister David Cameron is half way through his (likely) term of office. To celebrate this event one of Britain’s nonprofit leaders, Sir Stephen Bubb, the head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, has declared Mr Cameron’s big political idea, the Big Society, a dead duck. We think this is premature. The Big Society got off on the wrong foot, but the idea that society’s ills can be more effectively tackled through partnerships between the public, private and nonprofit sectors remains a compelling one. Our hope is that Mr Cameron can now drop his vain hope that BigSoc is a way to make the charity sector happy and, instead, launch a bolder vision of the Big Society as a revolution in social innovation.

8. The Right Kind of Celanthropy Scandal. 2012’s scandals over celebrity philanthropy – from Lance Armstrong to Jimmy Savile to Jerry Sandusky – were largely about famous people apparently using charity in part as a figleaf to cover up personal wrongdoing. How about in 2013 we instead see public outrage over a celebrity who is doing a bad job at philanthropy?

9. U2 to Split? No, not as a band, but over whether to do a big act of public philanthropy. So far, the band members seem to have been united in keeping the details of their personal giving as private as possible, whilst campaigning publicly for a better deal in terms of aid, debt and trade for the developing world. But pressure is growing on Bono, in particular, to show he is putting his increasingly large pile of money where his mouth is. How about launching a European version of the Giving Pledge, your Bono-ship?

10. B is for Business. Business is going to have to talk much more about its total contribution to society in 2013, not just CSR. We have high hopes for Richard Branson’s B-Team of corporate titans, which will be formally launched soon, in setting a new agenda for ‘good’ business, and think that this could be a great year for shareholder activism as the face of a new kind of engaged ‘citizen capitalism‘. 2013 will also be the year when the social mission-driven B Corp goes big – perhaps through the first IPO of a B Corp, or the conversion of an existing well-known public company to B Corp status.

11. Gunfight at the Philanthrocapitalism Corrall. With Michael Bloomberg ready to throw his fortune behind getting serious gun control in America, and various right wing tycoons ready to oppose him, who will be the last billionaire standing? We hope, and believe, that Mayor Bloomberg’s experience of governing and philanthrocapitalising inside the political process will give him a crucial edge over his opponents.

12. Taxing Times. In 2012, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer tried and failed to cap charitable deducations. In 2013, the debate will shift to America, and perhaps go global. For the first time, charities and wealthy donors may find themselves struggling to win the argument in the court of public opinion.

13. Only Perform. 2013 will be a big year for the debate about measuring countries’ success, as the UN Panel working on what comes after the Millennium Development Goals reports in May. With British Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the panel’s co-chairs, holding the G8 Presidency as well this should be a top of the agenda debate. This will lead to growing calls for a bigger role for philanthrocapitalism in development policy.

14. Pakistan Polio Push Finds a New Friend. The international effort to eradicate polio has had a severe setback in recent weeks with the murders of health workers administering the vaccine by militant groups in Pakistan. Polio is not a big killer but if this eradication effort stalls or fails, there is a global risk of the polio virus coming back stronger and with resistance to existing vaccines. Yet in Pakistan polio eradication has become associated with the West and the war on terror, at least in the eyes of the militants. So someone needs to step up to lead the fight against polio who is trusted by the likes of the Taliban not to be part of any western conspiracy. Some of our Pakistan expert friends at The Samosa have suggested that this looks like a great opportunity for the House of Saud, which is already giving a lot of money to Pakistan and has the credibility to persuade the militants to back off. Time for Bill Gates, or one of the other leaders of the global polio eradication drive, to take a trip to Saudi Arabia?

15. Philanthrocapitalism, Chinese Style. As the new leadership of China beds in, it will encourage growing experimentation with social entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Inevitably there will still be a government partner in most civil society activities, but efforts will be made to make the process of philanthrocapitalism a lot less bureaucratic, and to encourage all sorts of innovation in solving social problems by business, the rich and non-profits.

16. Buzzword of the Year. Big Data Philanthropy will be in the air, as the latest internet trend makes its way to the non-profit sector, promising a flood of information to a sector traditionally starved of it.

17. Du Contrat Social. There will be a growing debate about the “social contract” underpinning the relationship between the rich and the rest of us. Nowhere will this debate be louder than in France, where Jean-Jacques Rousseau first coined the idea. As President Hollande is forced to abandon a punitive tax policy that is driving the wealthy abroad, and looks for more constructive ideas, will the French finally discover le philanthrocapitalisme?

18. Return of the Valley. There will be some high profile giving by the elite of Silicon Valley, including some faded stars rediscovering their philanthrocapitalistic mission. We are looking for some inspiring moves by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Eric Schmidt of Google, a company that was born with an idealistic heart, lost its way for a while, but will come roaring back as a social innovator in 2013.

19. Waiting for Philanthrowoman. Will 2013 be the year in which Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionairess widow of Steve Jobs, starts giving in a big way? Fingers crossed.

20. Global Giving Tuesday. This year saw the launch of the viral campaign to make the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the “opening day of the giving season” in America. It was surprisingly successful. In 2013, Giving Tuesday will not only be far bigger in America, it will go global. The idea will catch on everywhere that everyone, not just billionaires, should write their personal giving pledge, as philanthropy become increasingly cool.

Happy New Year!

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