Philanthropy’s diversity challenge
‘Nothing about us without us’ was a slogan coined by disability rights activists to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected.
Many working in philanthropy would be sympathetic to this principle. Being in touch with the people you aim to serve is not just a sound moral imperative but also likely to make an effective philanthropic strategy.
A lack of diversity on boards and at staff level ‘probably limits their intelligence about what is happening on the ground’ notes European Foundation Centre Chief Executive, Gerry Salole, who suggests that foundations would be well advised to ‘reflect the streets.’
Yet, judging by the contributions to this issue, philanthropy’s own workforce remains dogged by a lack of diversity, representation and inclusion. Gaps between richer/whiter people (the foundations) and poorer/darker people (the beneficiaries) emerge strongly.
In this issue, our guest editor’s and contributors offer perspectives from India, Indonesia, South East Asia, Europe and the US. They document the lack of diversity in foundations, why they see this as problematic and what they think should be done. There are some bold and provocative proposals. Their challenge to philanthropy is: if you want to do the most good, you need to reflect the make-up of wider society. To an alarming number of its own practitioners, philanthropy simply appears out of touch.
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