Friday, March 03, 2006

Corporate Philanthropy

Capital social ventures? Dubious as it may sound, that's how I deconstruct Corporate Philanthropy. The combination of terms could not be more paradoxical. How can the likes of free market and Marx co-exist even if only in spirit?? So right...Yes.... No. I was a non-believer until recently. But, with the Gates couple being among the times persons of the year for their work with Gates foundation and names such as Michael Dell, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg doing their own contributions and the 'do no evil' internet search giant Google joining the foray with their own has definitely made me sit back and think.

I have been talking to quite a few people about it and this process has lead to a reevaluation of my viewpoint. I had a problem with the way most of these organizations work, especially the gates foundation and I maintained that corporate philanthropy was done merely as a tax benefit or for an entry into the Slate 60 (which was started as quite a noble cause). But then after the aforementioned discussions, I have begun to believe that this route could be the only workable solution for today's world and one definitely cannot ignore all that money being pumped into the society for welfare purposes.

Let me talk a little about the way these organizations work (or the little I can fathom about such things). They work closely with the local regional groups, to come up with workable solutions for the regional problems and fund it. They do not embrace the utopian 'one solution fits all' ideology; instead they clinically dissect the problem at hand, the solution given its regional/global constraints, and then decide the course of action. It is very much like how a capital investment is made.

One of my main problems with this approach was that it does reach all. The workable solution could benefit a subset of the affected people and because it is workable, it is funded. I think I was still being an idealist to not to see that this could actually work, not in a bottom up approach, but rather in a top down fashion. Once a particular section of the society is vindicated of its problems, the society would inevitably pull in other sections (possibly in the lower strata) too. This, of course, is not tangible as in one immediately sees it or something that could happen overnight. But now, I truly believe that this would happen and the collective shall triumph and this 'social venture' would serve as a catalyst.

Moreover, such a clinical evaluation of the social programmes for their workability ensures that the money is going to actually make a difference (even if it is for a subset of the affected parties), rather than try and implement a idealist solutions for all, that may or may not have an impact. Each region is different and each has its own limitations, sensitivities and other constraints. No one solution, even if it is for dealing with the same problem such as HIV would work uniformly in all regions. This is where the workability factor would make a world of difference.

Each of these organizations has strict and stringent preconditions for the local groups they coordinate with. For example, the local group must have been established for N years, must have a proven track record in dealing with the 'problem' at hand and must have produced tangible results, even if in a microcosm. The eligibility overview for the Gates foundation grant seekers can be found here.

Some of these ventures that are actually in place and making a difference now are
Acumen Fund
Planet Read
PATH – Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health
Population Council

The above are just the tip of the iceberg, the list is numerous and growing by the day.

One can also find some related information at Chronicle of philanthropy

I sincerely hope that I have made sense with the above and that the collective indeed triumphs.


Trust in God but tie your camel to a tree --Arab proverb


Anonymous tarram said...

Nice one da. I agree that the process looks benefical even though I feel the intentions of the "Corporates" may not be the same. I feel they are aiming at marketing, popularity and lasting psychological impressions.

The end result is that the needy get what they badly need. Thats what counts.

PS: Gates' foundation is a family initiative and has nothing to do with microsoft(except that he earns from it)

3:16 PM  
Blogger Laks said...

>> Gates' foundation is a family initiative and has nothing to do with microsoft(except that he earns from it)

Did I metion anything about this??

>> The end result is that the needy get what they badly need. Thats what counts.

Yes of course. That's what I am talking about. Which is why I am convinced that it might actually work.


11:46 AM  
Anonymous tarram said...

>> Did I mention anything about this??

Yes you did. You mentioned Gates Foundation as an example for CORPORATE philanthropy.My point is that the foundation has nothing to do with word "corporate"

>> Which is why I am convinced that it might actually work.

I didnt refute either. I just nodded in agreement with your views;)

12:02 PM  

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