Saturday, September 27, 2008

Clinton Global Initiative - Philanthropy's Faults - The Chronicle of Philanthropy - 26th September 2008

A panel at the Clinton Global Initiative on philanthropy in rural areas sparked a broader discussion — and complaints — about charitable giving.

The discussion’s moderator, Steve Gunderson, president of the Council on Foundations, struggled to keep the speakers focused on the main topic when one of them, Wangari Muta Maathai, said that not enough is done to help Africans lift themselves out of poverty.

“You have to help these people rise up and walk,” said Ms. Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, a charity in Kenya.

Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, which does antipoverty work in Rwanda and elsewhere, agreed. “So much of what we do in philanthropic development robs people of dignity, removes initiative, destroys their own economy. It’s actually counterproductive,” he said.

Good giving works like an injection of yeast into dough — a relatively small amount can have expansive results with the right ingredients, he said.

“There’s a way to give that sustains and there’s a way to give that makes people dependent,” he said.

For Native Americans, however, that type of positive contribution has been hard to come by from the government and philanthropy, said Elsie Meeks, president of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a charity in Rapid City, S.D.

“Native American tribes are really under the radar for most folks. There’s poor in the United States, if we can’t solve that issue in the United States, how are we going to do it in any other country?” she asked.

“One of the largest foundations in this world has a new CEO and was getting educated by some of his program officers about some of the poorest people in the United States — Native American women — [and] he said, So what? His point was there’s not enough of us,” she said.

Concerned that the session was getting too negative, Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize-winning founder of the Grameen Bank, said, “The message I think we don’t want to give as a panel is, Don’t give money for philanthropy. That’s not the message. The message is, Please do give, but it could be used much more powerfully.”

“Let’s not confuse things,” he said to the business executives and philanthropists in the crowd, “we need to share the wealth.”

— Ian Wilhelm

Greg Tingle comment

Wise words from Muhammad Yunus. As the old Chinese proverb goes, Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. It also sounds like he was getting at giving a hand up, not a hand out. If a hand out is required to help get someone to the stage of a hand up, I think its generally the way to go. It's the old crawl, walk, run scenario.

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