Richard Graves

Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

Resolving the Great Contradiction

In Articles, Innovation, Philanthropy on June 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm

At the heart of philanthropy is a great contradiction, one that our generation is struggling to resolve. Many philanthropists accumulated their wealth through disruptive innovations, ruthless business practice, or as Balzac said “great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten crime, forgotten because it was done neatly.”

Many of the great industrialists, whose names are now synonymous with philanthropy, Rockefeller, MacArthur, and Vanderbilt, in life were rapacious men who struggled against labor, environmental, and social reforms, and lived in opposition to many of the causes that their legacies now support.

The reality that many of the leading climate change campaigners meet in John D. Rockeller’s mansion, Pocantico, to strategize how to implement climate legislation in the face of the hostility of Exxon-Mobil, the reunited children companies of Standard Oil, has an intrinsic irony that should be lost on no one.
Yet, this is the reality of philanthropy, where the fortunes from oil, railroads, aviation, and agribusiness fund civil society groups that take up the tools of petitions, boycotts, and organizing against latter-day robber barons.

This may be part of the reason why many foundations struggle with their split identities, working within the IRS defined mission of serving a charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purpose, but finding that many challenges have a root cause that implicates not only where their money came from but how it is currently used. Read the rest of this entry »