Is philanthropy rational?

16 January 2018

In this episode Rhodri will be asking whether philanthropy is rational, and what lessons we should take from our answer to this question. Topics covered include:

  • The micro/macro philanthropy paradox: Philanthropy is both about individual voluntary acts of generosity and about the large scale redsitribution of private assets for public good. But while the former is largely irrational, the latter needs to be rational. What can policymakers and philanthropists do about this?
  • Rationalising philanthropy: There have been efforts to rationalise philanthropy in the past, such as the "scientific philanthropy" movement of the Victorian era. There is also a growing focus on the role data can play in helping donors make more informed decisions. Bringing these together, the Effective Altruism proposes a scientific approach to philanthropy based on data- but is it truly objective?
  • Social Impact prediction markets: could new technologies like blockchain make it easier to measure and record social impact data accurately? And could token incentives be used to create prediction markets for social impact in the future.

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society.  Since launching in May 2017, the podcast has become recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate. 

In each episode Rhodri Davies, Director of our Giving Thought Think Tank, and guests, take a contemporary issue in philanthropy and civil society and break it down into three manageable chunks, giving an overview of the extensive work they have done on the subject.  Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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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



Speaker profile: Rhodri Davies

Rhodri's specialist areas include philanthropy, history of philanthropy, the future of giving, Blockchain/Bitcoin and charity, artificial intelligence and giving, augmented/virtual reality and charity and the science of charitable giving.


Our project to create a world where new technologies and social trends have a positive impact on the future of civil society.

Giving Thought think-tank

Giving Thought is where we consider the key challenges facing civil society globally, explore how and why people give, and test radical new ideas that could shape the future of charity.