The Art of Giving | Modern philanthropy and the great disruption

Lurdes de Sousa

We are living in the times of great disruption. Yesterday the world was identifying a set of pressing global challenges such as climate change, reskilling, blockchain, A.I., and reducing inequalities. None would disagree with the addition of “pandemic” to this list in present times. Some might dispute the list by adding their own priorities and spreading controversy on social media and international platforms, but one word everyone would probably use is disruption.
With no international coordination, international organizations being ignored, and absence of a common response, a great disruption is occurring.
Covid-19, coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, HCoV-19 … Such is the disruption that the world cannot even agree on the name of the disease the WHO declared a “pandemic” days ago. The most frequent words that are being used in the media and on social networks these days are most likely to be “war,” “Spanish flu,” “quarantine” and “armed forces,” All of this to the sounds of (the most enchanting) Turandot aria “Nessun Dorma,” “notte Tramontate, stelle Tramontate, stelle All’alba Vincerò Vincerà Vincerò.” We shall overcome.
It’s World War 3, some say. The Great Depression is far behind us and it’s now the time of the Great Disruption. The times ahead will be difficult for governments that will lack financial, political and social responses, as well as institutions, businesses and individuals that will lack leadership. Leadership, solidarity, and a sense of community will dictate success in overcoming this tragic moment.
Amidst the seriousness of the situation, extraordinary signals have been sent to society as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, announced on March 13 that he would be stepping down from the company board of directors and relinquishing his post on the board of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company to devote himself to philanthropy.
Six months earlier, in this part of the world, China’s richest man, Jack Ma, stepped down as chairman of Alibaba for the same reason. On March 15, the president of leading luxury group LVMH, Bernard Arnault, announced that the group was prepping its perfume and cosmetics production sites (Christian Dior and Givenchy) to manufacture hydroalcoholic gel. The gel will be used to produce hand sanitizer and the company will deliver the free disinfectant to French authorities and the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, the largest hospital system in France. An extraordinary marketing operation, some will say. Well, what matters is that millions of bottles of hand sanitizer are going to be produced and delivered for free where it is most needed, possibly saving lives.
Everywhere across the world we are witnessing a resurgence of solidarity, from the Chinese medical team that first went to Italy with tons of medical equipment and precious advice, to anonymous people putting post-it notes in building elevators offering (and putting their lives at risk) to shop for groceries or go to pharmacies on behalf of the elderly who are advised not to go out.
In these difficult times, each one of us, from billionaires to corporations to neighbors, reveal our inner philanthropist spirit. It’s the true Art of Giving.
Covid-19, more than ever before on a global scale, has brought philanthropy to the top of the agenda for years to come.

*President, Associação Internacional
de Filantropia (Macau)
國際博愛協會 (澳門)

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

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