Familiar accounts of philanthropy in education focus on fundraising campaigns and impressively large gifts that mostly go to already well-resourced institutions. But philanthropy and education are also connected at their very foundations in a more subtle way: the promise that higher education should be open to all, and that such participation and knowledge sharing would in turn advance the frontiers of human knowledge more rapidly.
Those of us who work in philanthropy and study it love to celebrate its power and significance. But decisions like the United States Supreme Court’s repeal of affirmative action remind us of the utter dependence of philanthropy and the independent sector on the government, even a government that is constitutionally committed to protecting our rights. We need government to preserve the independent sector itself as the foundation for whatever we seek to accomplish with philanthropy.
The notion of an open society is prized precisely because it opens up space for the contest of ideas to lead to new insight. As we battle nefarious efforts to stifle the open flow of ideas, we should invite, anticipate, and welcome the discoveries to come.
The moral imagination of philanthropic traditions is being called on to comprehend and manage the transformational changes of AI for philanthropy—and of philanthropy for AI.
Our ability to share beliefs in things we cannot see, whether they are spiritual or aspirational, is a terrific power that gives purpose to the work we do. It is the power of shared belief in philanthropy as a potential source of dignified possibilities that we have only begun to imagine.
How should we characterize our current era of philanthropy? It’s not obvious which of the contradictory trends should be given pride of place. We have great concentrations of wealth at the same time as issues of equity have become ever more prominent in the discourse around philanthropy.