Tackling Inequality through Diverse and Inclusive Philanthropy




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Nov 29, 2019
by Claire Kidwell
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Tackling Inequality through Diverse and Inclusive Philanthropy

Answering the questions on how philanthropies can address social, economic, and historic inequality by becoming more diverse, equitable and inclusive organizations Photo by Doran Erickson on Unsplash

The world is becoming richer, and wealth – in the hands of individuals, philanthropic institutions, and investors – is growing to new heights, yet the challenge of inequality continues. Salzburg Global Seminar hopes to face this challenge at its upcoming program, Toward a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Philanthropy: Strategies to Address Social, Economic and Historic Inequality.

Throughout four days at historic Schloss Leopoldskron, the program seeks to facilitate dialogue and collaboration between foundations and social investors working around the world, exploring different philanthropic approaches to challenge inequality, and freely exchanging experiences and ideas from different sectors.

Andy Ho, Salzburg Global’s US Development Director and program director for the program, says this is pivotal, given the amount of influence philanthropies hold: “Philanthropic foundations and their donors have the freedom to direct their donations and social investments in any way they see fit. There is tremendous power in this freedom: it gives them the ability to take risks and support projects, issues, and organizations that others cannot or will not.”

The globally representative and diverse group of participants will bring a unique, international perspectives to Salzburg. Ho says it’s important for these experts to network and convene to work on this matter.

“Through my experience working with Salzburg Global Seminar and other nonprofits and foundations globally, I have witnessed firsthand the value of convening. Convening creates connections, sometimes in new or unexpected ways, when participants are focused on a specific topic or goal. It also provides opportunities to meeting others in unplanned ways, and often those unintended connections add greater value than many of our planned one-on-one meetings.”

The 29 participants include senior staff of foundations and social investment vehicles, professionals involved in human resource functions and talent management, and individuals invested in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices.

Over the past decade, wealth has risen among the richest to new levels. According to Inequality.org, “The world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 45 percent of the world’s wealth” and the 10 ten billionaires in the world own $745bn in combined wealth – more than the annual GDP of Switzerland.

These new levels of wealth contribute to growing inequality worldwide, inequality that destabilizes many societies. However, assets in endowments of foundations, philanthropies, and with social investors are also higher than ever, and research suggests that increasing diversity in philanthropic teams leads to improved financial performance and better innovation, transforming philanthropies into institutions that close the gaps – rather than perpetuating inequality.

This program thus seeks to understand how through improving their DEI practices internally, philanthropies can address growing social, economic, and historic inequality externally.

Combining theory, policy, and practice, the program, in partnership with the Hewlett Foundation and Capital Group Companies, hopes to open up new perspectives and bridge opportunities for growth and explorations across sector and geographic divides.

Some of the key questions participants will discuss:

  •  In what ways do philanthropic organizations address different kinds of social, economic, and historic inequalities?
  •  In places where there is not any (or not enough) discussion about addressing inequality, what would it take from foundations and other organizations to take the lead with NGOs and partners to begin the conversation?
  •  How can the inequality conversation be linked to the needs already being addressed by philanthropies around poverty, unemployment, education, and social and environmental justice?
  •  How can philanthropists help change the root legal and cultural structures that have led to societal and economic inequalities?
  •  What can be learned from organizations that directly work on the ground on inequality and inclusion issues?      
  •  What are the best ways to create and implement DEI strategies, and achieve goals in this area? 
  •  How can inequality be addressed by philanthropists through challenging cultural and societal norms that consciously weaken standards of fairness, tolerance, and inclusion?  

The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Toward a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Philanthropy: Strategies to Address Social, Economic and Historic Inequality, is part of The Philanthropy and Social Investment series. The program is held in partnership with the Hewlett Foundation and Capital Group Companies.