12 January 2021

In this episode we unpick the complex relationship between philanthropy and democracy. Does philanthropy undermine democracy, or strengthen it? Do we need to make philanthropy itself more democratic? And if so, how?  Including:

  • Does philanthropy automatically introduce a “plutocratic bias” into public discourse and policy?
  • Is lack of transparency a particular issue? Does the trend towards using structures like LLCs exacerbate this problem?
  • Does the ability of individuals at any level of wealth to associate within civil society lead to the dangers of “faction” - with minority groups able to exert an undue negative influence on the democratic system? How does this relate to digitally-enabled conspiracy groups like QAnon?
  • Does perpetuity in philanthropy result in intergenerational injustice as a result of the “dead hand of the donor”?
  • What role does philanthropy play in giving voice and power to marginalised groups and thus overcoming “the tyranny of the majority” in a democracy?
  • How does civil society campaigning and advocacy strengthen democracy?
  • What role can philanthropy play in the countering disinformation and online extremism that has tarnished the public sphere?
  • Can philanthropic support for public interest journalism bolster democracy?
  • Can big money philanthropy be justified on the grounds of its ability to drive innovation & “discovery”?
  • What role does philanthropy play in enabling a “battle of Ideas”, and is to the benefit or detriment of democracy?
  • Is voluntary action a “nursery school of democracy”, as many have argued?
  • Do we need to democratise philanthropy itself? Does this need to be with respect to donors or recipients, or both? What models are there for doing so?


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