Contrarians of Philanthrocapitalism

A few months ago I drafted a technology for international development proposal for the Obama Administration. This was one piece in a broader effort to get the official foreign assistance community to embrace the values of the Africa tech community: experimentation, low cost innovation, local solutions and flexibility.

This largely tracks with Matthew Bishop's notion of Philanthrocapitalism:

While hopefully some of the world's problems will be solved using for-profit business models, many will not. But that does not mean they can not be addressed in a businesslike way, in the sense of serious focus on results; understanding where to use scarce resources to have the greatest impact through leverage; a determination to quickly scale up solutions that work and a toughness in shutting down those that do not; backing entrepreneurial, innovative approaches to problems; forming partnerships with whoever will get the job done soonest and best and taking big risks in the hope of achieving outsize impact.
In the latest issue of Dissent, Alix Rule offers one critique of philanthrocapitalism from the Left that can not be ignored:

The 'sensibility of giving a damn' isn't really much to commit to; conveniently, most everyone's already committed. But mere possession of a moral pulse doesn't provide much of a basis for decision-making. Yet, when good is like money, individuals do not need coherent approaches to it any more than institutions do; there are no trade-offs or hierarchies or conflicting loyalties here, either. In place of a critical moral framework, we're furnished with a sort of cabinet of curiosities, the decontextualized contexts of which are presumably to be enjoyed as peculiarly shaped artifacts of good...Absent the semblance of context- we're ill equipped to judge.
Any marketplace for good risks being overtaken by possible oligarchs (Gates, Soros), falling prey to glossy marketing at the expense of accuracy and context (Save Darfur) or simply continuing to exclude the recipients of aid. Overcoming these dilemmas is the challenge of foreign assistance community in our time.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home