2018 Global Philanthropy Forum

No Bystanders

• Redwood City, CA USA

Last year, the GPF focused on trust, and argued that without it we cannot manage the dangers we face nor steward the resources we share. Without it we cannot address large problems together. Yet according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, we face a global trust deficit, one that could rob of us of our ability to solve.

This year we will focus on the antithesis of the trust deficit, and its cure. This year we will focus on social capital: the product of overlapping and reciprocal relationships of cooperation that allow societies to function. We will explore the ways in which leaders in all sectors are modelling collaborative problem-solving, addressing real world dangers, and building social capital in the process.


Hard Cases

By facing up to hard problems and working together toward their solution, public, private and social sector leaders will not only get stuff done, but build social capital – the capacity to solve – in the process. Working groups will take on the hard cases of mass atrocities, violent conflict, climate change, resource scarcity, famine and disease. They’ll treat these dangers as symptoms of a syndrome, requiring a system-wide response, and they will explore specific solutions that can be introduced, sustained, even scaled. Throughout they will ask what role philanthropy, business and governments can each play whether their focus is on immediate crises, long term economic development, or both.


Information technologies are used to connect the poor to services, education, capital, health care, and one another. Gene editing will allow us to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers and interrupt the transmission of genetic diseases. Remote sensing and geo-spatial imagery are used for monitoring resource degradation. Virtual reality gives us insight and allows for empathy. Robots can take on the hazardous duties, taking humans, whether in a factory or on a battlefield, out of harm’s way. And, blockchain provides a secure ledger of all transactions, and is being used to establish eligibility for government services, which might otherwise be unfairly denied. These and other technologies empower us to do enormous good. However, if misused, they can do damage. Panelists will consider ways to capture the good while anticipating and mitigating the harm. While technologist provide extraordinary tools, it is up to society to establish the norms for their ethical use, and the values that guide. There are no bystanders.


Philanthropy and civil society have long been both a source of and an expression of citizen agency and social capital. Non-profits and voluntary organizations have long been recognized vehicles for knowledge-sharing, consensus-building, and collective action. Most Americans regularly interact with civil society organizations; one third of Americans volunteer. In the process of solving problems together they build trust and the ongoing capacity to solve. While it continuously renews society, the charitable sector is itself in a constant state of renewal. These working groups will explore the ways in which the next generation of philanthropists is achieving its social goals. Among the participants will be innovators who have tested ingenious solutions, found what works and begun to think about ways to bring those solutions to scale. And of course, they will be armed with data, empathy and agency, for none is a bystander.

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The Hotel Pullman
223 Twin Dolphin Drive
Redwood City, CA 94065 USA
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