Strategic Philanthropy the Buzz at Davos

According to Ariana Huffington, the big buzz at Davos has been on softer themes: contrition, and the embrace of faith and philanthropy. “The widespread contrition permeating Davos is matched by an unnerving feeling of paralysis,” she reported. Panels on “Philanthrocapitalism,” and “From Philanthrocapitalism to Philanthrocrisis,” attracted overflow crowds. The makeup of the latter panel included: Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Nobel Prize winning microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus, and Jet Li. Not a bad little group to have lunch with.

Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation will help eradicate the million deaths a year resulting from malaria. Blair spoke about philanthropy filling, with innovation and vitality, the gap “between state action and individuals acting on their own.” Which is a laudable goal for anyone pursuing philanthropy.

As business looks to re-establish trust among consumers and shareholders, converting some of its sponsorship marketing into more cause-related investments could prove to have a revitalizing affect not only on their brands, but the on non-profits in which they invest. The biggest, most established causes have also begun to suffer the same symptoms as behemoths in the corporate sector. They are sluggish, inefficient and slow to adopt necessary change. There is a critical need for the non-profit sector, including the philanthropies that support it, to create an innovation agenda. Time will tell if discussions at Davos result in action. Or is it just talk?