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Implications of the Giving Pledge: More Technocratic Solutions?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

This article on the cons of the "Giving Pledge" approach to philanthropy is thought-provoking, particularly for those interested in non-technocratic - or rather, not-solely-technocratic - approaches to governance and development issues. The author argues, among other things, that the current trend of billionaire philanthropy tends to emphasize technocratic fixes, derived partly from the business approach to problem-solving. "Thorny social problems require investments in civil society and social justice, not technocratic business-driven solutions," he writes.

Apart from the fact that as a rule I tend not to argue when billionaires want to give away money, I do agree that social problems require investments in civil society and a thorough understanding of the politics of the situation - not mere execution according to technocratic blueprint. But why should a business approach to problem-solving automatically discount issues such as political realities, involvement of civil society, and effective communication/dialogue? If anything, smart businesses and investors have realized that addressing such elements are crucial to success - and they've adapted much more nimbly than have large bureaucratic development organizations.

Surely there must be a way to combine the most innovative and effective practices of the private sector with the best thinking in development and philanthropy to arrive at an approach that maximizes effectiveness (and thus outcomes) while also prioritizing non-technocratic thinking. That's on my holiday wish list.


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