The Role of Philanthropy in Sustainable Development

Recording of the debate

Presentation McGoey

Tuesday 5 November 2019 , from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
University of Antwerp - Stadscampus
Rodestraat 14 - R.004 - 2000 Antwerpen (how to reach the city campus?)

In this debate, the speaker starts by revisiting the longstanding criticism of depending on voluntary philanthropy to improve societal wellbeing. These criticisms rotate around transparency and accountability concerns were unlike governments, philanthropic foundations lack ‘disciplining’ checks. Second is ‘dark money’ concerns as philanthropists profiteer from corporate activities that exacerbate social and economic inequalities they claim to remedy. Third is effectiveness and sustainability concerns as channeling private funds towards public services erodes support for governmental spending on service delivery.

Whereas the speaker agrees with these longstanding concerns, she points out other things that are unique to philanthrocapitalism but ignored by other scholars. These are; the increased level of non-repayable grants disbursed to for-profit entities such as Mastercard and Vodafone. Also not fully discussed is the labelling of certain activities as ‘philanthropic’ when they are self-serving and enriching private business interests. Also deserving more scrutiny is the role of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). I will show how the difficulty in obtaining empirical evidence of private sector efficacy and cost-effectiveness works to the benefit of private philanthropy.

Linsey McGoey (keynote speaker) is professor of sociology at the University of Essex. She is well known for her book – No Such Thing as a Free Gift. The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy published in 2015. Professor McGoey is internationally recognized for her pioneering role in establishing ignorance studies, an interdisciplinary field that focuses on exploring how strategic ignorance and the will to ignore have underpinned economic exchange and political domination throughout history.

Her main areas of research are social theories of knowledge and ignorance, economic sociology, global health governance, human rights based approaches to health and development. More information here

Sara Kinsbergen (discussant) is an assistant professor at the department of Anthropology and Development studies and program director of the Advanced Master in International Development at the Radboud University, Nijmegen (the Netherlands). As a researcher, she is fascinated by the ‘being, relating and doings’ of ordinary citizens in the global north that organise themselves in small-scale voluntary development organisations to contribute to global fight against poverty, exclusion and inequality. Over the years she collected longitudinal data offering a unique insight in the coming-of-age of these Private Development Initiatives and the sustainability of their development interventions.

Prof. dr. Gert Van Hecken (moderator) is assistant professor in international cooperation and development at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp. During the past ten to fifteen years he has spent most of his time in Nicaragua, working as a (post)doctoral researcher on social-environmental change and rural development, and previously as the country representative for the Belgian development NGO Broederlijk Delen. His main research interests lie in the global and local nexus between the environment and processes of social change, and more specifically in the socio-political dynamics triggered by (international) conditional climate change/development finance instruments, such as carbon and biodiversity markets, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), and green microfinance.