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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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Feb 18, 2020

In episode 66, we talk to Fozia Irfan- CEO of the Bedfordshire & Luton Community Foundation (and trustee of the Association of Charitable Foundations). We discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in the foundation and charity world; the challenges of power dynamics in philanthropy and the role of place. Including:


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

  • What is the DEI Coalition?
  • What is the difference between equality and equity, and what does this mean for funders and charities?
  • Does the philanthropy/charity world in the UK have a diversity problem? What are the main existing barriers to greater diversity within the sector workforce, and how can we overcome them?
  • Are funders more effective when they reflect more closely the people and communities they serve? In what ways can they achieve this?


Power & Participation

  • What are we to make of criticisms that since philanthropy is to some extent a product of structural inequality, it can never truly be part of the solution?
  • Is philanthropy paternalistic, and too often about decisions being made about communities rather than by them?
  • What about approaches such as participatory grantmaking, which seek to shift power as well as money towards recipients? Will we see more of this in coming years?
  • Are there practical challenges when it comes to shifting power?
  • Should more funders support grassroots organisations and movements?
  • Some argue that a key part of the role of philanthropy is to drive society forward by taking risks and funding things that the state and market cannot - how much current philanthropy meets this criterion?


Place & Community

  • What role can philanthropy and voluntary action play in building bridging social capital, bringing diverse communities together or fostering wider civic engagement? Does this value of charitable giving and volunteering as an activity rather than simply the outcomes it produces need to be a more prominent part of the narrative about its importance to society?
  • Does taking a place-based, rather than cause-based approach make it easier to address the multiple, cross-cutting needs of people and communities?
  • Is “place” more complex than it is sometimes presented? I.e. at what geographic level do we feel a sense of belonging or identity?


Philanthropy- the big picture

  • What is the core role of philanthropy within society which differentiates it from either state or market provision?
  • What should we make of the current wave of criticisms of philanthropy coming from the US? Do these resonate in the UK context? Which are most acute or difficult to answer?
  • Does philanthropy (and the foundation sector in particular) need to be more transparent? If so, why and about what? Who does it benefit (the foundations themselves, their donors, grantees, taxpayers etc)?


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