Foreign Policy Blogs

What will philanthropy look like in 2048?

Returning from two weeks in India – with my mind full of thoughts, I came across Hans Rosling’s video from Ted India.  I adore how excited Rosling is about statistics (b/c I’m not), and think GapMinder is quite clever (b/c helps people like me to “get it”).

Since my mind tends probe the non-Western experience, I was interested to hear him speak about the future of China and India.  Watching his graph show the economic growth and life expectancy of these countries in the next 40 years had me asking the question – with new wealth, how does philanthropy evolve?

History and culture affect how philanthropy is done and conceived of in different countries.  What is interesting is watching the rise of social enterprise in areas where western philanthropy isn’t already entrenched.  Like the leapfrog of mobile phone technology over dial-up, we are starting to see how new social innovation practices leapfrog over traditional philanthropy in developing countries.

One perspective is that the lack of regulation in developing countries actually gives an advantage to starting social good enterprises.  Whereas in the West existing structures and entrenched interests make it difficult to change the way we envision delivering social good.  That’s a broad stroke – of course, there are nuances that challenge that perspective.

Rosling’s presentation asked a question that I enjoy mulling over – will the West let Asia rise?  I would apply that same question to philanthropy and social innovation.  I can imagine that between now and 2048, we’ll have plenty of conversations around tradition vs. innovation.