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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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Dec 11, 2018

In episode 39 we look at the relationship between philanthropy and empathy. Including:

-What does neuroscience tell us about the link between empathy and altruism?

-The importance of physical proximity

-Does empathy lead us to prioritise giving to those who are sufficiently “like us”, at the expense of others?

-How do our unconscious biases affect our empathy? The identifiable victim bias and victim blaming.

-Is empathy in tension with rationality when it comes to philanthropy?

-Historical examples of approaches to philanthropy that lacked empathy: home visitations, voting charities and “telescopic philanthropy”

-Rationality vs empathy throughout history: from the Charity Organization Societies to Effective Altruism?

-What impact will technology have on our ability to be empathetic in future?

-How can Virtual Reality be used to drive empathetic responses from donors and supporters?

-Will tech-enabled ‘filter bubbles’ negatively affect our ability to empathise?

-Rationality vs Empathy 2.0? Will philanthropy in the future be shaped by VR and experiential technologies, or by AI and data-driven decision making?


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