Philanthropy 2.0

In International Development, Philanthropy on November 13, 2006 at 11:35 pm

I’ve been following venture philanthropy stories like these for a while now. I must admit my selfishness – the billions of dollars of Gates foundation money that will have to be spent every year make me feel comfortable devoting myself to the non-profit project management field. So it’s nice to know that many of the people of my generation that struck it rich in Silicon Valley instead of heading off to the Peace Corps like me, are being responsible about their wealth.

This is a very unique time – back in the days of Carnegie, Rockefeller, et al, the über-billionaires were so concentrated. Today there is still gross inequality between the richest .1% and the rest, but there are many, many more run-of-the-mill multi-millionaires who realize the responsibility that comes with immense wealth.

Comb through this blog and you’ll come across my development philosophy – but my MO is basically that we are all one community and should be acutely aware of how lucky we are, those of us who are lucky enough to even be born into a society like America’s, let alone billionaires.

To put it in perspective – in 2005 USAID only spent about $16 million or so on Niger, the poorest country in the world. Americans have already spent like 5 times that watching the Borat movie in the last 3 weeks. We spend more on iPods in a month.

Jeffrey Sachs put some numbers together for his great book, The End of Poverty, regarding exactly how much is needed to eradicate poverty. It is absolutely affordable. It’s not as if we need to transfer cash to the poorest of the poor. What is needed is at least a fair investment in alleviating the suffering of the poorest of the poor – those that have no chance of extricating themselves out of poverty (aids orphans and widow-mothers/fathers in Africa, poor subsistence farming families without land rights, etc). This entails not only effectively channeling the immense wealth we seem to be able to create, but also alleviating some of the systemic issues which affect the poor, like access to our markets.

But that’s a whole other issue.


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