The Meaning of Critical Philanthropy Before and After the Forum

By Carolina Langan

After attending Wings Forum I realized that our field, as talking about social issues, has an enormous opportunity cost and several “entries”. It definitely has to be with cost –effect resource allocation and impact measurement but, and even more important, with human values.

The role of those who work in philanthropy has a huge responsibility, not only on knowing but understanding the context of the project we are working on, in a comprehensive and changing perspective. In fact, and this may be one of ours more frequent mistakes: we are not just talking about projects, but about lives, about opportunities, about communities… this leads us to look again back in values, in human rights, to frame our work in a wider perspective and not only focused on metrics and figures as we are used to…or, why not, compelled to some times.

The global world context changes so fast that interpreting it and adapting to it, making the right and timely adjustments, is a nowadays a philanthropist competence requirement. If not, all the efforts made on having fabulous tools to measure, to show and to prove our work, will not be enough to make a real change. We need to take some risks, not always support what is proven. Social Innovation needs that. And donors have to agree with this and we, as philanthropy support organizations, have to make it clear even with our own projects, understanding that we serve a cause rather than undertake “money driven projects”. This leads us to make a permanent balance between addressing our member’s priorities and having a wider and cross understanding, not only of the philanthropic sector, but the global context as mentioned before.

In my opinion, there is a trend that represents both a challenge and a risk …to somehow tend to force our work in business models only, losing what is the most fabulous part of our labor, to deal with people, to deal with life and how we can contribute (and never attribute) to a better world.


Carolina Langan is the Executive Director of GDFE – Grupo de Fundaciones y Empresas







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