Philanthropy: All Over the Place, All Over the Place

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The above news item caught my eye. I think it’s right. Philanthropy is all over the place (philosophically), all over the place (geographically). The people who are making big bucks (like Gates and Buffett and Zuckerman) do so because they know how to make material capital. But they know very little about making social capital. So, it is scary that the government is increasingly turning to material capital makers expecting them to make social capital. What’s that old saying about not being able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Educator friends of mine half jokingly (which means they are half serious) refer to Bill Gates as the Secretary of Education. And now Zuckerman (of Facebook fame) is in the education arena as well. If these two self-professed technology nerds see themselves as models for building social capital, then we are in a heap of trouble. I think this is one of the cautionary messages in books like Richard Florida’s book Rise of the Creative Class, and Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone.

Leave a comment (registration required) and lets us know whether you feel that philanthropy is all over the place (philosophically), all over the place (geographically). In addition, do you feel (as George Lakoff does) that progressive funders should spend more time uniting behind a comprehensive and coherent (and easily framed) philosophy of giving. (For more on this theme, see the web site for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.)