In this episode we talk to Nanjira Sambuli about technology, philanthropy and civil society. Nanjira is a researcher, policy analyst and advocacy strategist based in Nairobi, Kenya and in a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion we touched on:

Digital civil society

  • Is there any meaningful distinction between “civil society” and “digital civil society” now? I.e. is technology no longer something that should be seen as a cause area or a tool, but a cross-cutting factor that affects all CSOs?
  • What dangers are there for CSOs in assuming that platforms are objective or neutral public spaces? Are these problems likely to be made worse by the enforced pivot to digital for so many orgs as a result of COVID?
  • How do we link existing work by digital activists etc. to more traditional actors within civil society (e.g. foundations) that might be interested in engaging on technology issues?

Power Dynamics

  • What challenges do the inherent power imbalances between CSOs and tech companies create?
  • Do power imbalances within civil society also pose challenges? (E.g. between funders and recipients, or between CSOs in the global north and those in the global south?)
  • Do we need to make philanthropy more democratic, or accountable to the people and communities it is supposed to serve? If so, how?

The Future Role of Philanthropy in Society

  • What should we make of criticisms that since philanthropy is to some extent a product of existing structural inequality, it can never truly be part of the solution? Are the donors and funders who recognise these challenges and are genuinely pursuing structural change?
  • Does the fact that a growing proportion of philanthropic wealth comes from donors who have made their money in tech present challenges when it comes to getting philanthropy to focus on the societal impacts of technology? E.g. Are these tech donors particularly prone to “tech solutionism” or more likely to assume the inevitability of technological development?

Read the full article about philanthropy and civil society at GivingThought.