18 February 2020

In episode 66, we talk to Fozia Irfan, CEO of the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation and trustee of the Association of Charitable Foundations. We discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in the foundation and charity world; the challenges of power dynamics in philanthropy and the role of place. Including:

Diversity, equity and inclusion

  • What is the DEI Coalition?
  • What is the difference between equality and equity, and what does this mean for funders and charities?
  • Does the philanthropy/charity world in the UK have a diversity problem? What are the main existing barriers to greater diversity within the sector workforce, and how can we overcome them?
  • Are funders more effective when they reflect more closely the people and communities they serve? In what ways can they achieve this?       

Power and participation

  • What are we to make of criticisms that since philanthropy is to some extent a product of structural inequality, it can never truly be part of the solution?
  • Is philanthropy paternalistic, and too often about decisions being made about communities rather than by them?
  • What about approaches such as participatory grantmaking, which seek to shift power as well as money towards recipients? Will we see more of this in coming years?
  • Are there practical challenges when it comes to shifting power?
  • Should more funders support grassroots organisations and movements?
  • Some argue that a key part of the role of philanthropy is to drive society forward by taking risks and funding things that the state and market cannot - how much current philanthropy meets this criterion?

Place and community

  • What role can philanthropy and voluntary action play in building bridging social capital, bringing diverse communities together or fostering wider civic engagement? Does this value of charitable giving and volunteering as an activity rather than simply the outcomes it produces need to be a more prominent part of the narrative about its importance to society?
  • Does taking a place-based, rather than cause-based approach make it easier to address the multiple, cross-cutting needs of people and communities?
  • Is “place” more complex than it is sometimes presented? I.e. at what geographic level do we feel a sense of belonging or identity?

Philanthropy: the big picture

  • What is the core role of philanthropy within society which differentiates it from either state or market provision?
  • What should we make of the current wave of criticisms of philanthropy coming from the US? Do these resonate in the UK context? Which are most acute or difficult to answer?
  • Does philanthropy (and the foundation sector in particular) need to be more transparent? If so, why and about what? Who does it benefit (the foundations themselves, their donors, grantees, taxpayers etc)?

Related content

Follow Fozia on Twitter

Information on The DEI Coalition

Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation
December 2019 issue of ACF's Trust and Foundation News, with a special focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

Ford Foundation’s DEI tools for grantmakers

Our Giving Thought podcast episode on Philanthropy, Diversity & Inclusion

Our Giving Thought podcast interview with Megan Ming Francis, on Philanthropy, Civil Rights & Movement Capture

Our Giving Thought podcast interview with Paul Ramsbottom on Foundations & Endowed Philanthropy

zofia irfan
Zofia Irfan, CEO Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation

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.

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