Attending the recent Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford (UK), Bruno Giussani blogged a session on the future of philanthropy, the beginning of which I found interesting for its academic angle:
The last significant innovation in this field, [Helmut Anheier, director of the UCLA Center for civil society] says, happened 100years ago with the creation of the modern American foundation. We went then from charity (filling gaps in government provision) to philanthropy (a more "scientific approach" to social problem-solving, attacking root causes). In the late part of the XX century, this evolved into strategic philanthropy, process-oriented, with evaluations and impact measurement, borrowing models from businesses; but this is not really a model of philanthropy, it just made it more efficient. What's next? Anheier suggests "creative philanthropy", the "unique capacity of foundations to spot innovative solutions to problems, to jump-start them and disseminate them" (bold in the original).
Bruno goes on to list some examples and characteristics of creative philanthropy. Video from the session as well as the other Skoll sessions (you'll need Real Player) may be found here.
I'm really very curious about "philanthro-capitalists" as the person introducing the future of philanthropy panel suggests we call them, because they narrow the intention deficit. And whether from enormous success of capital networks, which have raised the financial resources that might address unmet needs, or from Yochai Benkler's notion of network wealth, from which important information about those needs is made available, I do think an interesting new form that lives somewhere between the capital markets and institutionalized government is stepping out of the shadows.
Understanding just how these social enterprises might work - discovering their structures as it were - is the subject of academic research and part of the mission of the Skoll Foundation.
Good on them.