Key takeaways from Rethinking Philanthropy
Doug Hamilton-Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator, SFU Public Square
The views and opinions expressed in SFU Public Square's blogs are those of the authors, and they do not necessarily reflect the official position of Simon Fraser University or SFU Public Square, or any other affiliated institutions in any way.
Taking place on November 14, the eve of National Philanthropy Day, the event Rethinking Philanthropy: Building a Just Society was designed to question the very notion of philanthropy itself and how it can (and can’t) adapt to meet society’s increasingly complex challenges.
We wanted to discuss the possibilities of social justice philanthropy which seeks to address problems at the source, rather than treating their symptoms. We wanted to think about whether we needed to adjust the definition of who a philanthropist is, and to address the call for better inclusion of people with lived experience into the decision making processes behind philanthropic organizations.
We asked: how can philanthropy be more accessible, equitable, inclusive and accountable?
The conversations between our panelists and the audience were lively, animated, honest and inspiring. We did our best to capture it in a twitter thread, but we wanted to expand on it here, linking to important resources that were referenced along the way and bringing in other’s observations from the night.
This will not be an exhaustive review of the event. Rather, it will give a rough summary of it, linking to the conversations both within the room and on social media. We hope it inspires further reading and conversation. Because given the enthusiasm, passion and open questions from the evening, this will not be the last time we tackle this complex and vital topic.
Elder Syexwaliya weclomes us
We were honoured that Elder Syexwaliya (Squamish Nation) could begin our evening with a land acknowledgement and words of welcome.
Grounding welcome @SFUPublicSquare #rethinkingphilanthropy: reminding us to send energy to the unborn and the old, and to remember the names & history that underlie this unceded territory in #Vancouver— Mark Friesen (@markalanfriesen) November 15, 2019
Our Panel and Our Moderator
We were privileged to have four incredible panelists with diverse perspectives on philanthropy and social change:
Kris Archie, executive director for The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, an open network to promote giving, sharing, and philanthropy in Aboriginal communities across the country.
Seth Klein, the founding British Columbia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and currently a freelance researcher, writer, and an adjunct professor with SFU’s Urban Studies program.
Manny Padda, an entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and founder of New Avenue Capital, which brings together financial, human and impact capital for high-growth companies
Dara Parker, vice-president of Grants and Community Initiatives at the Vancouver Foundation, where she leads a team of 17 and is responsible for deploying $15-$20 million annually in grants.
We were also incredibly fortunate to have Gloria Macarenko as our moderator for the evening. Not only an award-winning journalist and host of On The Coast on CBC Radio, she is also an active volunteer in the community and an appointee to the Order of Canada.
And just a few hours before the event began, Gloria Macarenko had already interviewed panelists Seth Klein and Manny Padda on their divergent perspectives on philanthropy and social change on On The Coast. Listen here.
The panelists each had a few moments to make introductory remarks to kick off the conversation.
Kris Archie found the need to ‘rethink’ philanthropy interesting when Indigenous communities have been doing philanthropy – and doing it well – for a very long time. She suggested that Indigenous knowledge, generosity and stewardship offer a lot to the settler-created philanthropic sector – which she defined as organizations whose endowments come from colonial practices of exploitation of land and resources at the expense of Indigenous people.
Interesting to rethink philanthrophy when indigenous communities have been doing philanthropy for a very long time and have been doing it pretty well. Really what we need to rethink is settler created philanthropy. ~@WeyktKris #rethinkingphilanthropy— shaguftapasta (@shaguftapasta) November 15, 2019
Always a gift to learn from @WeyktKris Consistently reminding us that generosity of Indigenous communities has existed for much longer than settler-created philanthropy and it requires being in right relation with ourselves, our families and our community #RethinkingPhilanthropy— Trilby Smith (@TrilbySmith) November 15, 2019
Kris noted that almost every Indigenous program has an origin story, often connected to who was in need and how the community came together to respond. She encouraged other organizations to think of – and be honest about – their origin stories, to address where their wealth came from, and who it was taken from, suggesting that they act to redress historical injustices through wealth redistribution.
âThink about your own origin stories. Where was this wealth created?â @WeyktKris shares how Indigenous-led organizations know their origin story and are passionate to tell you about it. We need to recognize how this wealth was created. #RethinkingPhilanthropy @SFUPublicSquare— Julia Chiu (@juliamchiu) November 15, 2019
If philanthropic organizations really want to be radical, she says, give up power and money to Indigenous-led organizations, women-led organization, racialized organizations. They have the lived experience and the knowledge to affect solutions.
âIt is easy to talk about business, governments, foundations, but how willing are we to ask ourselves: what am I willing to let go of? What am I willing to sacrifice? When am I going to listen longer and harder to people with lived experience? @WeyktKris #rethinkingphilanthropy— shaguftapasta (@shaguftapasta) November 15, 2019
As always deep wisdom, inspiration & truth from @WeyktKris at #rethinkingphilanthropy âSo called âmarginalizedâ communities are not waiting for a seat at the table but for ppl to get out of the way.â— Shannon Rohan (@ShannonRohan) November 15, 2019
Rather than discuss the potential for philanthropy, Seth Klein chose to discuss the limits of philanthropy. The biggest challenges we face are inequality and the climate emergency, he says, and there isn’t a philanthropic solution to them. They can only be solved at the democratic level. And solving inequality, for example, isn’t rocket science. Some of us are going to have to pay more taxes, he says. And some are going to have to pay a lot more, he emphasized.
To address the climate emergency, we will need to mobilize society on a wartime footing like during the Second World War. Seth also happens to be writing a book on this very topic.
Interesting perspective on the climate change emergency. @SethDKlein shares that we need to approach climate change like WW2. Countries mobilized and worked together to solve the crisis. Solving this will not be up to one individual. @SFUPublicSquare #RethinkingPhilanthropy— Julia Chiu (@juliamchiu) November 15, 2019
@SethDKlein shares interesting research on wealth & the private sector post WWII - profits were limited & corporate taxes were dramatically higher than today. Our current system is not going to avert the climate crisis and philanthropy cannot turn the tide #RethinkingPhilanthropy— Trilby Smith (@TrilbySmith) November 15, 2019
Not only voluntary goodwill & philanthropy that will solve our greatest threats-inequality & climate change, but must be coupled with policy-says @SethDKlein. This will enable a mass movement at scale of our response to WW2, and new ð coming on the topic! #RethinkingPhilanthropy— Caroline Dobuzinskis (@CarolineDinBC) November 15, 2019
As an investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Manny Padda says he is witnessing a shift happening in individuals and companies. It’s no longer all about capital and profits, rather stakeholder value is becoming more important than shareholder value. People are investing in their values and companies are increasingly measuring the triple bottom line (social, environmental and financial).
Manny says that philanthropy provides a key function in society as it bridges gaps. But he also recognizes that this asks a lot of individuals. He believes that big change can be made on the social impact business side versus Seth Klein’s call for massive government investments in social change.
. @SFU alum @MannyPadda knows that investing in people yields great impact. How does he reconcile philanthropy and capitalism? By teaching young entrepreneurs about human capital and the joy of giving. #rethinkingphilanthropy #milliondollargoals @SFUPublicSquare— Karen Dar Woon (@YourSecretChef) November 14, 2019
Dara Parker quickly realized that the world is an unfair place, growing up as a girl and experiencing sexism at a young age. The fight against injustice and inequality continues to drives her work in the philanthropic sector.
Dara says that the charitable sector is important, and that it attracts a lot of people trying to do good. While it’s not the only vehicle for change, it is one we need to pay attention to…..because it needs to change.
Dara wants to see a shift from charity to justice.
Using her power to shift power; shifting the philanthropic sector from charity to justice; doing it WITH and not for - laudable guiding principles from the bold leader @DaraNParker #rethinkingphilanthropy #NationalPhilanthropyDay— Rachel S Forbes (@rachelsqf) November 15, 2019
Rather than ‘downstream’ solutions that address the symptoms of the problem, she advocates for more funding into ‘upstream’ solutions that address problems at the sources.
And she challenged the framing of the evening that suggests that we have moved on to a paradigm of social justice philanthropy. “We are early in moving to social justice philanthropy,” she says. We have just gotten started and there is much work to be done.
âThe majority of charitable organizations are still focused on pulling babies out of the water.â - @DaraNParker We typically look at short-term solutions instead of questioning why the problem is happens in the first place. #RethinkingPhilanthropy @SFUPublicSquare pic.twitter.com/VkzGqxvXW2— Julia Chiu (@juliamchiu) November 15, 2019
To begin the wider conversation with the audience, Gloria Macarenko asked the panelists to provide specific examples of philanthropy that has led to social change.
Kris Archie asked if anyone had heard of the Great Bear Rainforest and the Clayoquot biosphere. Everyone had. She says that both continue to exist, and will continue to exist, due to the actions of Indigenous peoples – just two examples of how Indigenous communities fight for both social justice and real change.
Seth Klein made the distinction between ‘wins and innovation’ and true social change, which is when these shifts become the norm. He says the most significant social change in recent B.C. history is in childcare, which wasn’t the result of philanthropy, but from a decades-long, women-led movement (funded by the Vancouver Foundation, he mentions).
Someone in the audience brought up a story of great project he had been working on that had its funding pulled at the last minute before a major touchstone event. How can organizations and funders develop relationships so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen?
As a funder – and someone who has applied for funding – Dara Parker says that we work in real scarcity. There will always be more requests than there is funding and that it is crushing to say no to important work. While not a solution, it’s a piece of empathy, she offers.
Manny Padda suggests that organizations should work to diversify their funding away from single grants and funders, and to be more entrepreneurial in their efforts to become self sustainable.
Seth Klein celebrates the work, but notes that is downstream, and that the money trying to be raised would be a rounding error in the provincial budget. It will take all of us to take democratic action to make social change; no philanthropist can do this, he says.
From the audience, Jennifer Johnstone, president and CEO of the Central City Foundation said that the philanthropic community must rethink the way it redistributes funds, as philanthropists are not the experts. She echoes Kris Archie’s call for funders to give up power to those with lived experience and solutions to lead the way.
âInvest in research and policy that is lead by those who have solutions, not by philanthropists.â - @WeyktKris also recommends taking a look at reports by Indigenous researchers at @Yellowhead_ @SFUPublicSquare #RethinkingPhilanthropy— Julia Chiu (@juliamchiu) November 15, 2019
With the last word from the panel, Kris Archie said that we are still alive due to Indigenous giving and ideas of reciprocity. She reiterated that if philanthropists really want to be radical, they should give up power in their donation and endowment strategies to Indigenous-led, queer-led, women-led organizations.
If you want to do something radical with your philanthropy, why not fund Indigenous land organizations, fund Indigenous-led solutions to #ClimateChange, fund women-led and racialized organizations, says @WeyktKris. #RethinkingPhilanthropy— Caroline Dobuzinskis (@CarolineDinBC) November 15, 2019
And on National Philanthropy Day, she amplified some of the Indigenous led charitable and non-charitable grassroots organizations across Canada that we can support and learn from in a Twitter thread.
On #NationalPhilanthropyDay I want to spend some time amplifying the awesome Indigenous led charitable and non charitable grassroots organizations through out this awesome country so that @TheCircleCanada members can learn more and increase their support.— Kris Archie (@WeyktKris) November 15, 2019
The formal event concluded with a thoughtful summary from SFU Chancellor Anne Giardini, but the conversation carried on at a reception in the lobby of the Segal building and on social media. Check the hashtag #RethinkingPhilanthropy to add your own thoughts and questions.
And stay tuned for future events on and around this topic. We have a feeling this isn’t the last time we discuss philanthropy and social change. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about such events.
This conversation between the panelists at #rethinkingphilanthropy is ð£ð£ð¥ð¥ð¥ð¥ððð§¨ð§¨ð³ð³ð¯ð³ð— vi nguyen (@digmydiaspora) November 15, 2019
I loved that these panelists didnât always agree and got a little feisty, AND so much gratitude for @DaraNParker& @WeyktKris for bringing authentic and bold comments, questions, challenges and solutions. #rethinkingphilanthropy #NationalPhilanthropyDay— Rachel S Forbes (@rachelsqf) November 15, 2019
With many thanks to our partners on this event at SFU Alumni and Advancement, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and SFU Library.