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Philanthropic book and media review series — Ryan Ginard, Future Philanthropy

These reviews of philanthropic books and media were written by Lani Evans for Philanthropy New Zealand | Tōpūtanga Tuku Aroha o Aotearoa members.

Ryan Ginard, Future Philanthropy 3.5/5

Published in 2022, and written during the height of the pandemic, Future Philanthropy is an enjoyable, approachable read with some useful provocations for the development and improvement of our sector.

Ginard, a self described “student of the future” starts with the premise that philanthropy is slow and reactionary, a sector ripe for innovation and the need to evolve in order to remain impactful and relevant. The book explores these ideas through the lens of talent, trends, reimagining institutions and disruption.

Ginard clearly holds wide ranging knowledge and interests, and this is reflected in the pacing of the book. Bouncing rapidly from idea to idea, Ginard offers provocations, challenges and lists of possible solutions, such as six ways to make Giving Tuesday more effective, fourteen ways to get a job in philanthropy, and five ways to improve grant application user experience. Interspersed between these lists are profiles of exceptional civic and philanthropic (primarily North American) leaders, people like Adriana Loson Ceballos, Fred Blackwell, Sara Vaz and, of course, the much loved recent visitor to Aotearoa, Vu Le.

The book raised some interesting questions for me: Could we obligate funders to contribute financially to philanthropic research and scrutiny? Is it possible, or ethical, to influence public sector workstreams by making direct grants to government entities? Should funders be using AI in our processes and decision-making?

These questions are fantastic, but unfortunately, Ginard rarely takes the time to delve into systems, structures or the historic and cultural context that sits behind them. His exploration lacks meaningful engagement with the more complex parts of our technological future – data ethics and sovereignty for example. Also notably absent are discussions of indigenous models of practice, participatory approaches and some of the slower and more systematic philanthropic fixes. As a result, the book lacks depth, providing a series of actionable, rather than transformational ideas, that have the potential to push us forward, but perhaps not at the revolutionary pace promised.

Overall, this is a worthwhile read, full of interesting and digestible, if not groundbreaking, ideas. As Ginard says ‘"innovation doesn’t have to be new, just new to you.” 3.5/5


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