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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.

Be sure to check the show notes for each podcast and find blogs, reports and videos from Giving Thought and do get in touch if you have questions or suggestions at

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Mar 27, 2018

In episode 22, we explore whether philanthropy is progressive: i.e. is it a means for moving society forwards or a tool for defending the status quo? Including:


The case for: On what grounds can we claim that philanthropy is progressive? We look at cause areas associated with progressive ideals, and the rich history of philanthropic support for campaigning. And could the very process of philanthropy also be seen as a tool for social progress?


The case against: We ask whether conservation and heritage causes are, by definition, not progressive. We also consider the long traditional of opposition to progressive causes being supported by philanthropy; and highlight evidence that wealthier people are more likely to hold conservative political views. We also ask whether philanthropy itself undermines progress by adding to inequality and power imbalance in our society.


Remedies: What can we do to ensure philanthropy is progressive? Should this actually be a goal, or should we simply accept that philanthropy reflects the balance of views of donors? Are there ways in which we can change the mechanics of philanthropy in order to make it more democratic and thus more reflective of the views of wider society?


Related Material


-HistPhil series on philanthropy and conservatism


-“Suffragettes & Campaigning” (Extract from Public Good by Private Means: How philanthropy shapes Britain)


-PGPM Cass MSc course lecture SLIDES and NOTES


-Philanthropy: anti-democratic and proud of it?


-Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans