The Art of Giving | Connecting wealth for philanthropy

Lurdes de Sousa*

When we think about philanthropy as “the love of humankind” and explore what great philanthropists have done for public good, we can certainly identify landmark institutions and individuals that have positively impacted their societies.

Yet, global inequality remains as it has always existed over the centuries, to the extent that one may even ask: Does global inequality matter?

The Credit Suisse Research Institute in its “Global Wealth Report 2019”, offers some disturbing findings:

First, the top 1% of wealth holders alone own 45% of global wealth.

Second, for the past decade, global wealth creation has centered around China and the United States.

Third, for the first time, this year China has overtaken the United States to become the country with the largest number of people in the top 10% of global wealth distribution.

If philanthropy is about giving back wealth, then we might be entitled to conclude that philanthropic practices (in that particular perception) will slowly shift from a western mindset to be more and more shaped by an oriental one.

But what does philanthropy exactly mean for an Asian mind? Is philanthropy, in an Asian mindset, an action of giving money, goods, time for public good? Or all of this combined with some other elements?

In Chinese, the verb shi (giving) can be associated with innumerous nouns, like giving goods (shi shan), or giving medicine (shi-yi) for instance. But what is interesting is that most often shi is associated with “giving teaching” (shi jiao). In Confucian philosophy, giving by the way of teaching is certainly not just a matter of helping the other, teaching is an act by which one helps others to stand on their own feet.  It is the story of not giving the man a fish, but teaching him to fish…

If we see philanthropy as the redistribution of wealth for public good in a structured, institutionalized and long term commitment to make a contribution to social change, is it still reasonable to point out cultural values and traditions to draw a line between western and oriental practice of philanthropy? I believe not. While cultural differences and different values do (undoubtedly) exist, what is really relevant is to analyze not only how much people donate, but to what causes, through which channels and in which way.

We come back to our previous question: Does global inequality matter? It should not be a question. The real question is how modern philanthropy can be a major player in reducing inequalities.

In this context, strategic intelligence is needed more than ever. In an increasingly connected and complex world, intelligence will be required to respond to major challenges deepening global inequalities, from plastics and the environment to artificial intelligence, the blockchain, circular economies, digital identity, ageing populations, gender parity, sea-levels rising, leadership in the fourth industrial revolution, migration, global health, inclusive design, future of energy, future of food, forests, blended finance, family businesses and so on…

Connectivity between the two major philanthropist blocks is therefore the answer.

*President, Associação Internacional de Filantropia (Macau)

國際꺽愛協會 (걜門)

Macau Daily Times is the official media partner of the Associação Internacional de Filantropia (Macau).

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