Giving Compass' Take:

• Gurpreet Singh reflects on the Skoll Foundation Forum, where panelists identified philanthropy's shortcomings that are preventing the necessary progress on the world's biggest problems.

• How can philanthropy change unhelpful behavior? Where is true progress being made?

• Learn why unrestricted funding is essential.

What will it take to attain the Skoll Foundation’s vision to live in a sustainable world of peace and prosperity, or to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, or cross any of the other local and global goal posts that we’ve set for ourselves? I firmly believe that this sector is perhaps the only one capable of sparking the change needed—due to its independence, power, intention, and more.

So, what more should we do? Can we collectively shift the underlying systems of philanthropy, to become more capable of shifting the barriers that keep us from reaching those goal posts? These questions were top-of-mind for me at the Forum, and as I watched the “Proximate Philanthropy: Exploring Power and Privilege in the Funding Landscape” session.

As you’ll see in the recording above, this was a feisty conversation between moderator Pia Infante, Co-Executive Director of The Whitman Institute; panelist Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Executive Director of the Peery Foundation; panelist Parminder Vir, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; panelist Vu Le, Executive Director of the Rainier Valley Corps and writer of the inimitable Nonprofit AF blog; and a candid audience. Pia had the panelists share examples of spectacular failures in philanthropy. The panelists didn’t hold back.

Vu observed that some foundations are 'askholes,' i.e. grantmakers who invite input from grantees and communities, costing them time, and yet don’t act on it. He compared foundations’ lack of trust in their current and potential grantees to the way that society treats poor people

Parminder bemoaned that while she has been to many “talk shops” in just the four years she’s been in the sector, she can’t meaningfully collaborate after initial conversations. Despite her efforts, the necessary follow-through doesn’t happen, and the conversation is bound to start all over again at the same venue the following year.

Jessamyn pointed out what she called the “homogeneity of decision makers”, and added, “we’re all here to solve social problems and right now we sit on different sides of the table. It’s incredibly frustrating that we’re trying to address intractable problems while we don’t trust each other, we don’t communicate with each other, we don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt, [and] we don’t work together virtually at all.”

Read the full article about privilege in funding by Gurpreet Singh at Skoll Foundation.