17 March 2020

In episode 68 we talk to Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB about philanthropy, inequality and power in global civil society. Including:

Philanthropy & Inequality

  • What is the core role of philanthropy within society which differentiates it from either state or market provision?
  • What should we make of arguments that philanthropy is a distraction from the need to focus on ensuring that the world’s elites are taxed appropriately, and may therefore be holding back efforts to address global inequality?
  • Is there a danger that models of philanthropy are paternalistic, and too often about decisions being made about communities rather than by them?
  • Are some philanthropists willing to challenge & seek change to the systems that made them wealthy in the first place?

Power & Structure

  • There is a lot of focus in global philanthropy and civil society at the moment on “shifting power” ─ from funders to recipients, from the global north to the global south etc. –  by supporting grassroots orgs or using participatory approaches. How is this informing Oxfam’s work?
  • Are there practical challenges when it comes to shifting power? E.g. in the relationship between formal organisations and movements, and the dangers of “movement capture”?
  • We are seeing more focus on the idea of decentralised or non-hierarchical governance models for social change movements - do you think this will filter into wider civil society? What opportunities and challenges might this bring?
  • Is declining trust is an issue for civil society? If so, is this merely part of a wider decline in trust in traditional institutions, or do charities and CSOs face particular challenges? And how can they reverse this trend?

The Climate Emergency

  • Does Oxfam view the global climate emergency as primarily an environmental issue or a social justice issue? What bearing, if any, does that have on the approach the organisation takes to addressing it?
  • Is there sometimes a tension between taking the action necessary to address environmental challenges (climate change, biodiversity loss etc.) and respecting the rights and freedoms of local communities around the world? How does a major funder like Oxfam navigate that tension?


  • Should we generally take an optimistic or pessimistic view of the impact of technology on civil society?
  • Are CSOs and funders getting to grips with the challenges and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution? If not, what more needs to be done?

Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive (CEO) - Oxfam GB 400 on the Giving Thought podcastRelated Links:


Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of Oxfam GB

Follow Danny on Twitter
Danny's Oxfam profile

Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society. Launched in 2017 it is recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate.  Rhodri Davies director of our Giving Thought Think Tank hosts the podcast, discussing contemporary issues and interviewing sector experts. Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

Visit the Giving Thought podcast library