Past Program

Dec 04 - Dec 05, 2015

Philanthropy in the Global Age


This will be the inaugural convening of The Global Friends, a consortium of global philanthropists leading values-driven social innovation. It will also set the context for the official launch of the H2O Prizes which will support the transition to a low-carbon economy by promoting game-changing innovation in the corporate, social enterprise, and non-profit sectors.

This event is by invitation only.


Against the backdrop of an ever more connected and interdependent world, where the prioritization of rapid economic development has led to an increasingly fragile environment, and continued emphasis on cut-throat competition too often trumps collaboration, the symposium, Philanthropy in the Global Age, will explore options to help transform these dynamics in ways that support human-centered development and robust sustainability. Scientists, and our own observations, tell us that time is of the essence. We are squarely in the "Anthropocene" - the age in which humans are the most important drivers of change on/of the planet. We can visibly see that alongside the beauty and wonder of human innovation, the unintended negative consequences are beginning to overwhelm the ability of the earth to stay in balance. So what can be done?

Creativity, optimism and the ability to cooperate in the face of deep adversity are three vitally important attributes of the human race. They are, arguably, also hallmarks of the emerging global philanthropic ecosystem. Currently, there is no shortage of 'gloom and doom' prognoses for the planet and its ability to continue to sustain human life - or, at least, life as we have come to expect it. Faced with diminishing options on our current path, people across the globe are applying creative energy to identifying and forging new paths, seeking options and opportunities not only to ensure survival, but to model new ways for us to understand and interact with our world, our neighbors and ourselves. Systems are not static. People continue to innovate, invent, create, and apply their best intuition to finding ways to create a more sustainable and equitable world. Good ideas and good intentions, however, are not enough. How do we harness the best "philanthropic impulses", leverage them to release the most creative ideas and most compassionate visions, and effectively apply resources to (re)shape a more balanced and liveable world?

This year has shepherded in the Sustainable Development Goals, specific goals and targets to markedly improve social, economic and environmental development by 2030. There will also be the 21st session of the UN climate change conference (COP 21), a framework through which governments agree on limitations to keep global warming below 2C and seek to avert the worst effects of climate change. Even as governments negotiate grand deals, people across borders and professions are finding ways to not only support government agendas for change, but are actively identifying ways they - individually and collectively - can hurry transformation. This symposium will convene some of those very people, philanthropists, practitioners and leading thinkers, to explore what mechanisms and systems might best support renewal.

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Key Themes and Questions

The symposium will explore three distinct but interrelated themes. The three themes are:

  • The power of global philanthropy in action;
  • Shaping our transnational world in a global age; and,
  • Striking a global balance - US and China modeling collaborative competition.

The symposium will begin with an exploration of the unique power of philanthropy to transcend borders and boundaries to support and stimulatechange. The resources available through philanthropy, while increasing, remain relatively limited. But the ability of philanthropy to aggregate and apply private capital - as well as skills, innovation, and non-financial resources - to the public good is significant, and still not fully realized. The philanthropic impulse can help to release greater ingenuity, collaboration, resources, motivation, and more.

As the field of global philanthropy continues to evolve and develop, in what ways can even more be done to release greater flows of resources, ideas and a push for global values-based systems changes that support more just and balanced outcomes as part of transformative processes? How can systems that seem to thrive on a moray of "more is more" be fundamentally changed based on concepts of smart growth and more equitable outcomes?

This exploration will lead to the second major theme and consideration of shaping a new global commons. Globalization, as described by Joseph Stiglitz, has many "discontents", and with good reason. Simultaneously, however, the drive and ingenuity that has brought globalization to this point can be applied to retaining and extending the most important benefits that come from an interconnected world, while ameliorating the deepest sins of unchecked unsustainable "growth".

The symposium will consider, how in this global age, the international community can ensure that universal values, international norms, and rule of law drive and shape our common global space. How do we stimulate a freer flow of ideas, capital and people in ways that do not increase insecurity, whether perceived or real? How do we harness and apply collective intelligence and knowledge to our shared - although differently experienced - global challenges? How do we support, encourage and enhance systemic social, economic, and environmental transformation, bringing the most important innovations more rapidly to scale?

The third segment of the symposium will consider possible models of collaboration between two of the most significant global powers - China and the USA - to help forge a path toward vibrant sustainability. They are both striking, albeit distinct, examples of rapid growth and innovation, and are increasingly making bold pledges to reduce climate change. China has an incredibly long and rich history and is re-emerging as a key leader in the 21st Century. The USA has a much shorter history, but has had an unparalleled role in shaping current international systems and will continue to be one of the most important points in a multipolar world. Theleadership of these two nations will set the course for coming generations.

Recent decades have witnessed an incredible shift in China's fortunes and, related, its influence and role in the global community. Some analysts warn of the danger of conflict as the ascendant China and, relatively speaking, waning USA continue to renegotiate their relationship.Considerable tensions remain and distrust often colors relations between them. While not ignoring global power relations that have sway, and without being naïvely optimistic, the symposium will combine hard-headed analysis of the individual and joint roles of these two countries and seek to identify mechanisms to allow a more collaborative model of relations between them to grow and deepen, especially in moving to a low-carbon economy. What more can be done to share and stimulate greater innovations in carbon-reducing technologies and practices? What might ensure that the next "re-set" between China and the USA sees an embrace of shared responsibility to build mutual respect, discarding misperceptions and misconceptions and moving from conflict-driven competition to creatively-rewarding collaboration? What role might philanthropy play in supporting those scenarios?

The symposium does not purport to present solutions, but seeks to open up consideration of new possibilities and diverse strategies for change. Participants will explore new frontiers in transformation, especially through freer flows of ideas, resources, creative energy and collaborative action.


Global Friends and Salzburg Global Seminar are inviting approximately 40 leading philanthropists and global thinkers. In general, the participants gathering together are a community of philanthropists that share visions for a better, healthier and more just world. They believe in the power of compassionately and strategically directed resources to help achieve that vision. And, collectively, this community of "Global Friends" can influence policies and international systems to align with philanthropic values - values that require resources be directed for the good of the global human community.


This event is being held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong. For more information click here.

Salzburg Global Seminar’s strategic convening is designed to challenge established mindsets, inspire collaborative solutions and build lasting networks. There simply is no substitute for the power of bringing people together. For this reason – even as we seek to limit our carbon outputs when and where we can – we consider in-person convening, and all that that entails, an essential investment for a more just, imaginative and sustainable future.  

Outcomes and Follow-up

December's symposium launches the next phase of Salzburg Global's longstanding program on philanthropic innovation. It is also the context for TSE Foundation's launch of Global Friends, a new initiative exploring pragmatic, holistic models of global social transformation. Together our aim is to provide an opportunity to consider global philanthropy's unique ability to lead cross-sector transnational collaboration on a range of 21st Century challenges at this pivotal moment for the international community.

The symposium discussions will lead into a more narrowly focused discussion on December 5 about the transition to a low carbon economy. Many of the participants will remain to take up questions about China's role at the leading edge of developing green energy solutions. The meetingwill showcase recent clean energy innovations and consider what can be learned from the Chinese model and consider how to speed the uptake of new approaches and practices.

December 5 will also mark the formal launch of the H2O Prizes. Awarded annually from 2016 by The Global Friends (a consortium of donors representing the vanguard of global philanthropy), the H2O Prizes will recognize and promote game-changing innovation in the corporate, social enterprise, and non-profit sectors.