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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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Aug 2, 2017

Episode 6 of the Giving Thought podcast looks at the issue of transparency of civil society organisations and philanthropy. Rhod and Adam take a tour through the following topics:

  • The case for transparency: it has long been said that philanthropy needs to become more transparent in order to identify gaps, duplications drive efficiency, identify trends and increase accountability. Furthermore, advances in technology mean that philanthropy ‘Big Data’ could present powerful new opportunities for strategic giving. In addition, it has been recognised that when the powerful and the wealthy use their philanthropy to exert influence anonymously it can lead to a democratic deficit.
  • In defence of anonymity: philanthropy is often a very personal and emotional act and in some cultures and religions, donors are expected to give without taking credit. In other words, to give transparently may undermine the emotional rewards of giving. There are also situations where transparency could put philanthropy - and beneficiaries in particular - at risk. A trend for restricting foreign funding to advocacy and human rights groups could mean that calls for transparency by some governments are being used to flush out and silence critical voices in society. Finally, some wealthy philanthropists believe that the only way to fund grass roots movements which are challenging the current system is to do so anonymously in order to break the link between donor (necessarily a beneficiary of the system) and charity.
  • Blockchain and radical transparency: By ensuring that all transactions of cryptocurrencies or other non-fungible assets are recorded on a public ledger which is distributed across a shared global network, blockchain technology could create a transparency so total that it revolutionises the very concept. Such could be the impact of blockchain on philanthropy, it might mean an end to regulation, intermediary organisations or even the notion of charities themselves as we currently understand them.


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