“Philanthropy. It is 360 degrees of right. I do it because I want to. Because I feel it’s the right thing. Because I can. It is a liberating form of self expression…there is freedom because there is no one to answer to.” Alex Scott
Adessy Associates convened a fascinating social change discussion in April 2015. The theme investigated two divergent approaches – philanthropic giving and social investment. During this two-hour engaging conversation, we examined the how, what and why; the differences, pros, cons and emerging trends; and how decisions are shaped by values, ethics, strategy and family philanthropy.
Contributors to the conversation were Alexander Scott of SandAire and Richard Tyrie of Good People, facilitated by Cath Tillotson of Scorpio Partnership. What emerged from exploration of these approaches – philanthropic giving and social investment – was richly interweaved by experiences from passionate individuals who are making a difference in society, and primarily by investing in people in local communities.
As catalysts for meaningful social change, these individuals were motivated and took action based on shared motives and drivers - a deep sense of moral values; responsibility to community and humanity; personal exposure to issues or individuals who profoundly influenced and touched lives with the injustice of circumstance; and an immense sense of humility and energy.
In a fast changing world, the contemporary social investment model provides an attractive mechanism to leverage a new generation where an acute sense of awareness, hyper-connectedness and active rebellion to inequalities and social injustices, is considered the cultural norm.
However, throughout history, there have been extraordinary acts of philanthropy. Successful businesses - which have formed the bedrock of society – naturally fulfilled a role of investing in healthy, vibrant and happy communities. This was considered an essential ingredient to the success of their business. The focus was not on building trust, reputation or a license to operate, but rather, motivated by common sense and a moral duty of care.
Perhaps modern society is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, and social investment is the engagement model to affect the radical re-thinking and shift in conscience being experienced?
Traditional wealth created societal opportunity as well as the foundation fabric of modern society. As government and policy were fuelled by wealth creation and growth, the shared sense of social responsibility shifted from the collective - individuals and business - to state.
Fast-forward to the 21C, and with governments crippled, a new-generation is embracing a sophisticated language and fast evolving technology. With a burgeoning social agenda, coupled with a demand for transparency and accountability, clearly the sum of parts is greater than the whole.
The opportunity to effect social change could be supported by the ability to measure and access data and could prove a tipping point to be leveraged. In some circumstances, measurement can play a critical role in motivating and engaging previously untapped capital – from individuals and businesses – to create more momentum for social change.
Although, one size does not fit all, and while me asuring impact is right for some, it could kill motivation for others.
Language can be inclusive or alienating. The journey of a change-maker can be initiated from different reference points, yet the ultimate objective of making a positive difference is the same.
Fundamentally, there is there is no right or wrong approach to using wealth as a force for good. The point is to act and contribute to social change.
It would seem the bigger questions to be explored, focus on what role individuals and business can play in society.
In the age of hyper-communication, and increased scrutiny, has the time come for philanthropists to be a wise and discerning voice in an ocean of disparity? To be at the heart of re-inventing an understanding of a system that doesn’t serve everyone? Through shared experiences, unaccountable risks and advocating a heart-led freedom that comes with undeniable privilege, one can make a truly positive and enduring difference.
And what of the role for business? In a rapidly changing world, innovation is undoubtedly critical to competitiveness. By blending social entrepreneurship with intrapreneurship, could this create the significant shift to develop tomorrow’s leaders? Individuals capable of affecting impact at a systems level; who master the art of a harnessing a holistic and uniting view of value creation and impact, into a framework that is also commercial and viable.
The ‘force for good’ tensions evaporate when actively exploring philanthropy versus social investment versus responsible business and the compatibilities, rather than the differences.
The scope to blend expertise, build bridges and utilise networks, provides insight into a potentially exciting era of collective goodwill, innovative approaches and infinite possibilities to effect enduring and meaningful social change.
Exploring these links and celebrating these efforts, brings an enlightening new dimension to the social change agenda.
Business motivated. Heart motivated. Can these two worlds collide? We think so.
The Conversation Series 2015 was a series of intimate meetings of individuals - philanthropists, social impact investors, wealth holders and inheritors, entrepreneurs – who came together to share ideas, explore challenges, problem solve, learn from experiences and collaborate in a confidential and independent environment.
Alexander Scott, Chairman, SandAire
Richard Tyrie, Founder, GoodPeople
Facilitated by: Catherine Tillotson, Managing Partner, Scorpio Partnership