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Welcome to the Giving Thought Podcast, a bi-weekly exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society from the Charities Aid Foundation’s in-house think-tank, Giving Thought.

In each episode your host Rhodri Davies (formerly with co-host Adam Pickering) explores a big issue, theme or trend and analyses what it means for philanthropy and civil society around the world.

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Mar 17, 2020

In episode 68 we talk to Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB about philanthropy, inequality and power in global civil society. Including:


Philanthropy & Inequality

  • What is the core role of philanthropy within society which differentiates it from either state or market provision?
  • What should we make of arguments that philanthropy is a distraction from the need to focus on ensuring that the world’s elites are taxed appropriately, and may therefore be holding back efforts to address global inequality?
  • Is there a danger that models of philanthropy are paternalistic, and too often about decisions being made about communities rather than by them?
  • Are some philanthropist willing to challenge & seek change to the systems that made them wealthy in the first place?


Power & Structure

  • There is a lot of focus in global philanthropy and civil society at the moment on “shifting power” ─ from funders to recipients, from the global north to the global south etc. –  by supporting grassroots orgs or using participatory approaches. How is this informing Oxfam’s work?
  • Are there practical challenges when it comes to shifting power? E.g. in the relationship between formal organisations and movements, and the dangers of “movement capture”?
  • We are seeing more focus on the idea of decentralised or non-hierarchical governance models for social change movements - do you think this will filter into wider civil society? What opportunities and challenges might this bring?
  • Is declining trust is an issue for civil society? If so, is this merely part of a wider decline in trust in traditional institutions, or do charities and CSOs face particular challenges? And how can they reverse this trend?


The Climate Emergency

  • Does Oxfam view the global climate emergency as primarily an environmental issue or a social justice issue? What bearing, if any, does that have on the approach you take to addressing it?
  • Is there sometimes a tension between taking the action necessary to address environmental challenges (climate change, biodiversity loss etc.) and respecting the rights and freedoms of local communities around the world? How does a major funder like Oxfam navigate that tension?



  • Do you generally take an optimistic or pessimistic view of the impact of technology on civil society?
  • Do you worry that CSOs and funders are not getting to grips with either the challenges or opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution?



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