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Is there a need for significant change in Philanthropy?

This is the question that kicked off of the first panel of the 2015 Philanthropreneurship Forum in Versailles, France.

“Cross-sector collaboration is essential. Governments can no longer do it on their own, nor philanthropy nor the civil society”, affirmed Professor Sonal Shah. Leaders from civil society, business, academia and philanthropy came together to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of traditional models and how entrepreneurial approaches to philanthropy can fill existing gaps. Furthermore, the importance of working with other sectors was also emphasized. Mr. Rockefeller underlined this last aspect as one of the main changes embraced by the Rockefeller Foundation.

“We have collaborations with governments and business that we never thought of before”, he said. According to Sir Malcolm Grant, philanthropreneurs can play a key role in catalyzing change through a risk-taking approach.“I don’t think traditional philanthropy is dead. It has an enormous future ahead as a mass social movement. We are on the verge of profound change”, he added.

But how can philanthropreneurs bring added value for greater impact?

On this, Professor Paul Brest stressed the complementarity of traditional philanthropy with more risk-taking practices. “Philanthropreneurship plays a special role where markets aren’t working (…) Markets don’t have the patience or are not willing to take some risks that philanthropreneurship can take”, he affirmed.To guarantee added value, Ms Fay Twersky highlighted the importance of listening to beneficiaries and developing a user-centered approach as part of a multi-stakeholder collaboration.“We should go to the people. We should make sure that we are systematically listening”, she said. Identification and support of organizations in close relationships with local communities came out as the first step to take.

The panel also touched upon one of the main aspects of philanthropy’s changing environment: technology. “If we don’t follow technology’s disruptive pace, we might be thinking about the problems of yesterday instead of those of tomorrow”, Professor Shah said. From creating new wealth and resources to allowing better connectivity and collaboration between partners, technology is changing the way actors engage in philanthropy.

But how can technology offer detailed and regular feedback, allowing better impact measurement?

The priority must be kept on the desired outcomes, panelists agreed. As Prof. Paul Brest noted, the complex nature of social change calls for tailored measurement criteria in each sector – whilst making sure to not lose sight of the issues we want to shed a light on. “It’s necessary to ask why we are measuring impact before focusing on how (…) We need both traditional philanthropy and new forms, including philanthropreneurship”.