Five books about philanthropy that have people talking

publication date: Mar 14, 2019
author/source: Gail Picco

Several thought-provoking titles presenting alternative views of charity and examining some of the troubling trends in philanthropy were published in 2018. Charity strategist and author, Gail Picco, gives us a list of five books on her radar. Gail herself explored the Canadian context of many of the same themes in her 2017 book Cap in Hand: How Charities are Failing the People of Canada and the World.

If you are interested in what some journalists, academics and people working in charity are saying about philanthropy these says, maybe one of these titles will interest you: 

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas, Knopf 2018 The New York Times says of this best current best seller, "Like the dieter who would rather do anything to lose weight than actually eat less, this business elite would save the world through social impact investing, entrepreneurship, sustainable capitalism, philanthro-capitalism, artificial intelligence, market-driven solutions … rather than alter their own behavior to reduce the harm of the existing distorted, inefficient and unfair rules." (New York Times)




Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018 "In Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, Edgar Villanueva, vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education <> member of the Lumbee Tribe, asserts that colonialism is not a thing of the past, but lives on, like a virus, in existing systems and structures, including philanthropy and social finance. (Philanthropy News Digest)




Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better by Rob Reich, Princeton University Press, 2018 "Stanford professor Rob Reich, director of the Center for Ethics in Society, explores an argument against philanthropy that can be summarized in a sentence: “Big Philanthropy is definitionally a plutocratic voice in our democracy … an exercise of power by the wealthy that is unaccountable, non-transparent, donor-directed, perpetual, and tax-subsidized.” (The Atlantic magazine)




CEO Society: The Corporate Takeover of Everyday Life by Peter Bloom and Carl Rhodes, Zed Books, 2018 "More and more wealthy CEOs are pledging to give away parts of their fortunes – often to help fix problems their companies caused. Some call this ‘philanthrocapitalism’, but is it just corporate hypocrisy?" (The Guardian)





Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups by Andrew Fisher (Author), Saru Jayaraman (Foreword), MIT Press, 2018 Fisher lays out a vision that encompasses a broader definition of hunger characterized by a focus on public health, economic justice, and economic democracy. He points to the work of numerous grassroots organizations that are leading the way in these fields as models for the rest of the anti-hunger sector. It is only through approaches like these that we can hope to end hunger, not just manage it. (Publishers description)




Gail Picco, a strategist who has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years, is one of Canada’s foremost experts on the increasingly complex dynamics at play in the charitable sector. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a novel set in the nonprofit sector and  Cap in Hand: How Charities Are Failing the People of Canada and the World published in January 2017. To learn more visit her website.




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