Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rethinking Philanthropy

How do you think about social impact?

Source: Google
Towards the tail end of last year, I thought deeply about philanthropy and social impact. I had volunteered heavily all year long: at my local food pantry on the weekends, mentoring high school girls locally, internationally, and online on weekdays, and teaching teens and preteens on Sundays. When it came to making financial contributions, I donated to charitable organizations whose causes sounded good enough to give to. It did not require much thought, was my thinking, just basic empathy to help other humans. I would later find thoughtful conversations on the Gates' Foundation publication on medium, where people discussed ideas and enlightening perspectives about the work to reduce the burden of poverty and poor health for all people. Somewhere along the line, mindfulness would spur me to cross-examine my own values, motives and resource investment - be it time, mind, skills or money, and I realized I could be more intentional or thorough about (charitable) giving. And then I saw Poverty Inc, a mind-blowing documentary that aired on Netflix. The film examined the rise of charity as a multibillion dollar poverty industry, and showcased some of the negative impact of social entrepreneurship foreign aid. If you haven't seen it, this is a personal recommendation.

Putting your money where your heart is.
There's quite a handful of causes that I am passionate about and involved with, which I plan to support on a broader scale. Recent exposure had me wondering about achieving meaningful social impact and financial returns, and if these concepts were mutually exclusive. In the past I hadn't considered philanthropic funding coexisting effectively, if at all, with commercial investment. I did some research and found a field of "social finance" with investors and organizations. Good to know there are intelligently thought out models and options. Not wanting to endorse any players just yet, I'll explore some more in the near future.

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