A hot debate has raged between Cambridge’s charitable student societies for years over this exact question – how much should we give, and how should we best achieve lasting change? According to an extensive national survey in 2016 by the Charities Aid Foundation, only 50% of the British population believed charities were trustworthy.

I would add that people’s lack of trust does not just stem from a suspicion of overheads and administrative costs, but also from questioning the legitimate role which charity plays in our society. Charity is often presented as a sticking plaster over the wounds that our governments and global economic system create. Charities fill the holes that governments can’t fill, and sometimes create.” We can see this in our backyards – as Parliament’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee found in 2016 that national increases in homelessness were a side effect of the Tory government’s austerity policies. While charity often provides short-term aid to those in need, it responds to, and in turn influences, the political establishment.

This is the heart of the debate between student societies here at Cambridge. Giving What We Can, part of the Effective Altruism umbrella, encourages people to take The Pledge, a commitment to donate at least 10% of their income to effective charities over their lifetime.  This sort of giving can have a huge impact, especially as Effective Altruism’s research shows that the best charities in the world can be over 1000 times more effective as others.

Louis suggests that the “two-pronged approach” – including both traditional charity groups and activist organizations – works best for achieving social change. This two-pronged battle plan against social evils applies not just to the charity sector then, but to the whole spectrum of our careers: we need people to donate, and people to campaign.

Read the full article about the charitable debate by Nina Jeffs at Varsity.