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Democratizing philanthropic giving in Latin America

“The Inter-American Development Bank, Foreign Policy magazine, FEMSA (A leading beverage company in the LAC region) and the Corporación Andina de Formento (CAF) organized the Latin Social Forum entitled ‘The Democratization of philanthropy’ in June 2010. The main purpose of the event was to recognize the profound changes in philanthropic and charitable donating in Latin America. As is happening around the world, the regional trend in philanthropy is toward decentralization, with a growing number of individuals and companies donating through private foundations to social causes.

“Encouraged by the example of their partners in Europe and America, several successful CEOs and wealthy individuals are using their personal wealth to help solving social problems in the LAC region. Like Carlos Slim and Alfred Harp in Mexico, Maria Alice Setúbal and Joseph Safra in Brazil, and Alejandro Santo in Colombia, and others, other wealthy individuals are allocating funds through their foundations to social development projects and activities.”

Implications from FORO:

“As private philanthropic initiatives multiply and emerging actors join a myriad of others attempting to improve the welfare of local citizens—including NGOs, bilateral cooperation agencies, multilateral development banks, international organizations, private foundations and national and subnational governments—, a reasonable degree of coordination and harmonization of their activities will become necessary. Otherwise, these new actors and their initiatives could worsen the existing fragmentation of development initiatives and lead to inefficiencies. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that the private sector and emerging actors can be an important driver of change in the development cooperation field, primarily by introducing new ideas and approaches.”

Implications from IFTF:

Reports of wealthy American’s philanthropic endeavors being tax havens or more of method to create goodwill rather than actually a place for action are very wide spread. While we need to recognize individual giving, a more systematic approach to ensuring that promised funds are dispersed needs to be created.

An important philosophical debate should also take shape, if wealthy people give in order to maintain popularity as opposed out of a desire to give back and help end economic inequalities, does it hold the same amount of esteem? Are the long-term benefits the same? The case can be made that when philanthropic efforts do not come from a sincere place, programs will not be as well designed and will lack effectiveness.

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