Philanthropy is Embedded in a Paradox of Capitalism

Host Organization: Neighborhood Funders Group



Philanthropy is embedded in the paradox of capitalism — benefitting from the economic system, while attempting to mitigate and ameliorate its damaging effects. In recent years, prominent thinkers like Edgar Villanueva, Rob Reich, David Callahan, and Anand Giridharadas are challenging the systems that support philanthropy. At the same time, there are larger societal trends and pressures demanding transparency and accountability across sectors, including within philanthropy.

Community-based or participatory grantmaking challenges traditional power structures by centering marginalized, often excluded, voices in grantmaking decisions. This approach centers the lived experiences and expertise of those most impacted by grant decisions. A growing number of foundations nationally have have adopted this powerful approach, which is strongly aligned to the goal of supporting community-based efforts. The practice of participatory grantmaking asserts that those with lived experience have critical expertise. This approach is gaining traction in philanthropy; Inside Philanthropy named is as the most promising sector reform in 2018.

The interactive session will begin by gauging participants’ understanding of the topic while they explore their values in philanthropy. Panelists will examine why it is critical to break down traditional funder barriers in favor of participation, transparency, accountability, and collaboration. The panel will also speak extensively about the “how” of participatory grantmaking and share several specifics and resources to equip funders to make similar changes in their own institutions. By the end of this engaging session, participants will have a strong awareness and understanding of why this approach matters, as well as how they might lead these transformations themselves.


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