Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

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

Finally, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or your podcast provider of choice.

Jan 12, 2021

In this episode we unpick the complex relationship between philanthropy and democracy. Does philanthropy undermine democracy, or strengthen it? Do we need to make philanthropy itself more democratic? And if so, how?


  • Does philanthropy automatically introduce a “plutocratic bias” into public discourse and policy?
  • Is lack of transparency a particular issue? Does the trend towards using structures like LLCs exacerbate this problem?
  • Does the ability of individuals at any level of wealth to associate within civil society lead to the dangers of “faction” - with minority groups able to exert an undue negative influence on the democratic system? How does this relate to digitally-enabled conspiracy groups like QAnon?
  • Does perpetuity in philanthropy result in intergenerational injustice as a result of the “dead hand of the donor”?
  • What role does philanthropy play in giving voice and power to marginalised groups and thus overcoming “the tyranny of the majority” in a democracy?
  • How does civil society campaigning and advocacy strengthen democracy?
  • What role can philanthropy play in the countering disinformation and online extremism that has tarnished the public sphere?
  • Can philanthropic support for public interest journalism bolster democracy?
  • Can big money philanthropy be justified on the grounds of its ability to drive innovation & “discovery”?
  • What role does philanthropy play in enabling a “battle of Ideas”, and is this to the benefit or detriment of democracy?
  • Is voluntary action a “nursery school of democracy”, as many have argued?
  • Do we need to democratise philanthropy itself? Does this need to be with respect to donors or recipients, or both? What models are there for doing so?


Related Links: