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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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Apr 9, 2019

In episode 47 we talk to Paul Ramsbottom, CEO of the Wolfson Foundation, about foundations and endowed philanthropy. Including:

  • What is the core role of philanthropy within society which differentiates it from either state or market provision?
  • What is the particular role of foundations/endowed philanthropy in that mix?
  • Is the ability to take a long-term view that comes with endowment better than the sense of urgency that comes with taking a spend-down approach, or are they just different? If there is room for both approaches, what criteria might determine the choice of approach?
  • Do foundations need to be more transparent? If so, why and about what? Who does it benefit (the foundations themselves, their donors, grantees, taxpayers etc)
  • Are there arguments against transparency?
  • What tensions or power dynamics can there be when a foundation has been established by an individual or single family (and they are still involved), between those founders and the staff of the organisation?
  • Does the way in which money has been made present obstacles in terms of doing good through giving it away? Does this only apply to money made in ways that are universally agreed to be “bad” (e.g. slavery), or more broadly to ways of making wealth that are legal but which many criticise for their social or environmental impact?
  • What should we make of the growing focus on place-based approaches to funding?
  • What value does a historical perspective bring?
  • What do you make of the current wave of criticisms of philanthropy coming from the US? Do these resonate in the UK context? Which do you feel is most acute or difficult to answer?


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