b&b209: Why Philanthropy doesn’t work with Pierre Joseph of the Solidago Foundation
Philanthropy sounds good: someone giving money to improve the world out of the goodness of their heart. The problem is that then those wealthy individuals get to dictate exactly how their money is used, and get corresponding tax breaks which take money away from what the larger public has decided it actually needs. Philanthropy as a power structure and shaper of society according to the few can be a dangerous thing. When the people with the money listen to the needs of those without and use their money to realistically instead of theoretically help, philanthropy can be a great thing. However, discretionary philanthropy should never be expected to replace government social welfare programs.
Joining us today is Pierre Joseph, Program Officer at the Solidago Foundation, a philanthropic organization which works with communities to create change according to their needs. solidago.org/
Pierre: That’s traditional philanthropy: you give money to build parks, build libraries, build universities, build hospitals, and all of that shit sounds great, but if folks don’t have the resources of wealth in order to enjoy a library ‘cause they’re working two jobs, it’s not really serving the public good.
Pierre: The reason why society exists is to do the stuff folks can’t do on their own, and given all the rhetoric and the narrative around cutting government services, or government doesn’t work as efficiently, as a result we’re now forced to rely on the private sector, particularly private wealthy folks in order to provide good services, in order to make society better, but at its core we know that doesn’t work.
Pierre: I think, when you go back to this idea of power and relationships with power, when you’re using philanthropic resources as an individual of wealth in order to influence civic engagement, to influence political spaces, to influence how cores operate and work, to influence research and development around economic regulations, that type of stuff really gets at the core of issues in our democracy and that’s the type of stuff that we should all be deciding together. It shouldn’t be left up to the rich, and in most cases wealthy white folks.
Pierre: We don’t come in with any pre-concieved notion of how social change happens. We’re really looking to work with folks in the field.