24 February 2021

PEXforum 2021 – Philanthropy needs to fight the root causes of today’s inequalities and threats to democracy or it will become obsolete tomorrow.

When the PEXforum 2021 was approaching, I pondered whether we would be ready to go outside of our comfort zone and revise our own priorities. Sure enough, in our daily work as the philanthropy sector, we focus on solving numerous social problems, but aren’t we a way too conservative (for example often focusing on the same groups such as children in need) for the moment? Are we eager to join the debate on the root causes of the problems we are trying to heal?  And more importantly, to make available our resources to those who work not only to eliminate the symptoms?

Will we be courageous enough to address today’s challenges such as global warming, threats to democracy and growing inequalities, (all of which are more clearly visible amidst the COVID-19 pandemic)?

All of these heavyweight questions were on my mind as we gathered on Zoom and started our discussion.

Illustration by Marina Roa, SenseTribe

To my relief, it became clear that at least some of us are deeply immersed in thinking about the current pressing challenges. That we realize that, only if we are ready to use our resources towards  working jointly with civil society, with the grassroot organisations, with academia, and… you name it, we can believe our resources reach the places where there is the greatest need for them (for the public good, as we like to think).

We have to realize that we as philanthropy are seen (and we indeed are) to be part of the world of those who “have it”, and not of the “have nots”.

For us to be relevant, to contribute to the world that we want for our children and grandchildren, we will need not only to continue to pool our resources for the benefit of those less fortunate, who have been left behind for structural reasons, for those the social and political systems have left behind, and to join those how cry out loud that the system itself is broken.

It’s clear to me that if today we miss the opportunity to become more active players in the efforts to fight the root causes of today’s inequalities and threats to democracy, we will become obsolete tomorrow.  No matter how robust our resources are, and how well-organized we are.

Justyna Duriasz-Bułhak

Board Member of the Polish Donors’ Forum and the Rural Development Foundation