First, a thank you to the many readers who engaged with me on the Philanthropy Compass concept. Your feedback helped to greatly refine the intellectual underpinnings of the idea.
Now I’m going to take a first stab at what a Philanthropy Compass might look like. We can keep hashing this out and then I’d like to take a shot at building a questionnaire meant to locate donors on the compass.
The left-right axis is built around the idea that philanthropy’s role in relation to the economy is either:
- Giving Back: The belief that either 1) the economic system distributes resources unfairly and so beneficiaries of excess resources have a moral obligation to “give back” to those people who receive less than they deserve or 2) while the economic system may distribute resources fairly, those people who reap great rewards have benefited from the social infrastructure and have a moral obligation to give back in ways that strengthen that infrastructure.
- Value Creation: The belief that philanthropy runs parallel to the economic system and is meant to focus on the creation of social value rather than as a corrective or reinforcing mechanism for the economic system.
The up-down axis is built around the idea that philanthropy’s role in relation to the social system is either:
- Responsive: The belief that philanthropy should be deployed to help improve the existing social system.
- Transformational: The belief that philanthropy should focus on changing the existing social system in fundamental ways.
The Political Compass takes the traditional Left-Right spectrum and splits it into one axis based on government’s role in the economy and another on its role in regards to social behavior. The Philanthropy Compass takes a Corrective-Creative spectrum and splits it into one axis based on philanthropy’s relationship with the economic system and another on its relationship to the social system.
I’ll offer a narrative description of the quadrants A-D, but first I’d like to hear any push back from readers, refinements or suggestions.