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Philanthropy needs audacious thinking

posted on 24/07/2013: 1659 views



Philanthropists should tackle some of the world's most pressing challenges such as poverty, endemic diseases and illiteracy through audacious and innovative thinking without fear of failure, a leading global expert on philanthropy has said. "What we need to do more in philanthropy is think and talk about failure,” Michael Green, London-based economist and writer, said in a lecture attended by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, here on Monday.

"Failure has a very potent part in our lives, in our learning processes, but it seems to be an alien concept in the world of philanthropy. Failure is a chance to learn things. You learn more from failure than from success.”

Green made it clear that failure was a result of putting new ideas into action as well as a product of taking bold and innovative decisions. "Fail often, but move on and learn from the failure,” Green, who is the executive director of the Social Progress Imperative (SPI), said.

The SPI runs the Social Progress Index, which ranks a group of 50 countries by their social and environmental performance. The UAE topped the list in the Middle East and North Africa states that have been ranked in this year's index.

Green's lecture was part of a series of lectures organised by Gen. Sheikh Mohammed's Majlis at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi. The lecture series is held every year during the holy month of Ramadan and speakers include renowned scholars, scientists, experts and decision-makers in different areas of interest.

Green has written a number of books, including ‘The Economist of Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World', which he co-authored with Matthew Bishop. He has also written ‘The Road from Ruin: A new capitalism for the big society'.

In his lecture, the philanthropy expert gave a number of examples of world-renowned philanthropists, including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and British-Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim.

He said ambition and leadership were key traits of Gates' philanthropic work, which includes a drive to eliminate death from Malaria in Africa.

"Bill Gates stuck his head out and took a leadership role in eradicating malaria. He's pushing for ending deaths from malaria by the end of this decade perhaps,” Green said.

"Ambitious leadership, taking a risk, standing out and saying let's go for it, let's do it. He's doing this not only on malaria but also in school reforms in America,” said Green.

He argued that philanthropists, unlike major corporations or governments, have more freedom to take risks and test new ideas. "If governments are having to do the conventional things, then shouldn't philanthropy be trying the crazy things? Trying things that no one can try?” he asked.

Green ended his lecture by striking a note on the importance of educating the public about the values of philanthropy and the government's role in this process. "Governments should define the role of philanthropy in society and explain to people why they should give,” he said.

The lecture was attended by a number of Sheikhs and senior officials, including Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in the Western Region; Sheikh Tahnoon bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region; Sheikh Saif bin Mohammed Al Nahyan; Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation; Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister. - Emirates News Agency, WAM

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