Chaired by Professor John Quelch of Harvard Business School, the panel on “Philanthropreneurs On The Frontline Of Achieving Global Goals“ at The 2015 Philanthropreneurship Forum explored opportunities to leverage philanthropreneurs’ strengths address global issues such as education, health and climate change.
Despite the scale and influence of mega-funds, more private-public, international and cross-industry, the panelists agreed that collaborations are the only way to respond to global challenges. Businesses have to engage with governments and constantly challenge their own perspectives and priorities.
According to Susan Rockefeller, Founder and CEO of Protect What Is Precious, there is need for trans-philanthropreneurs, to combine various disciplines that are needed to tackle complex challenges. Sharing her own experience from the COP 21 meeting in Paris, she said: “At COP 21, there were a lot of discussions around trans-disciplinary fields. Perhaps we are on our way to have trans-philanthropreneurs, looking at the various disciplines that are needed.”
Increasing cross-border activities also require better understanding and collaboration between different regions and cultures
“Entrepreneurs need to include local integration in their business objectives, not only profit-making,” said Mr. Ming-Po Cai, Founder and President of Cathay Capital Private Equity. He added that entrepreneurs need to help local communities where they are based, so they can make a positive social impact and not just an economic footprint on where they operate.
In regards to the criticisms directed towards philanthropreneurs on allowing governments disengage with what should be their responsibilities, Dr. John Kao, CEO of EdgeMakers, talked about the mutations in today’s society and the entrance of new players to participate in what used to be seen as public-only services such as education and healthcare. It’s not that philanthropreneurs are allowing governments to slack off, but that it is asking them to work together by proposing new ideas and solutions to provide a better service for beneficiaries, he said.
“The opposite of meddling isn’t being passive; it’s thoughtful engagement, to get involved in a more efficient manner. For this, we need to get the best people, to be curious and open-minded, ask for feedback,” added Mr. Rakesh Rajani, Director of Democratic Participation and Governance at the Ford Foundation.
Dr. Kao also emphasized the need for a democratization of actions around global goals, through the involvement of a critical mass, acting from the grassroots, enabling the shift in behaviors at all levels.
Following up on this, the discussion focused on the particular elements that entrepreneurs can bring to philanthropy, and to global challenges overall.
Firstly, the panel agreed that these actors are more than mere financial partners. “Entrepreneurs bring much more than money. They bring energy, speed, expertise and passion,” Mr. Saeb Eigner, Chairman of the Lonworld Group. “This speed is translated in different ways: they identify needs quickly, solve problems efficiently and raise funds through new means.”
Speed allows the efficient adaptation to technological changes and the use of the new tools it provides. In this sense, philanthropreneurs could contribute greatly to data analysis and evaluation – key parts of making a lasting impact that are unfortunately too often overlooked.
But, “sometimes growing slowly can be an achievement too,” noted Mr. Ming-Po Cai. He pointed towards how responsibility is his real motivation as an entrepreneur. Indeed, philanthropreneurs could become key change makers in helping to solve global challenges as they are risk-takers with a mission.
Finally, he emphasized that philanthropy shouldn’t have to be a reaction to systemic pitfalls, it should be a core value at all levels: corporate and individual. “Philanthropy should be part of our education, not only a response to a problem.”