What is a democratic right, and what is a philanthropic gift?

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Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6GG
Open to the public
This event is free - register below to attend
06
September 2019
Discussion

In conversation with Tom Hall, Global Head of Philanthropy Services, UBS and Jo Wolff, Blavatnik Professor of Public Policy, University of Oxford

There are 2,153 billionaires in the world - collectively worth $8.7 trillion, according to the latest Forbes estimates. More and more of them are committing significant amounts of their wealth to philanthropy or investments that seek a positive social impact as well as a financial return. 

When Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2015 that they will give 99% of their Facebook shares during their lifetimes to ‘advance human potential and promote equality for all children’, the total amount pledged of $45 billion exceeded the endowments of the Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie foundations combined and adjusted for inflation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alone has awarded since its inception grants worth $50.1 billion, and through the Giving Pledge set up in 2010, 204 of the world’s wealthiest individuals have made a public commitment to give away to philanthropic causes the majority of their wealth. Beyond philanthropic giving, wealthy individuals and financial institutions are increasingly interested in investing their money in initiatives that promise to generate positive social and environmental impact, alongside a financial result. The size of the global impact investing market is estimated to be $502 billion as of the end of 2018, and likely to continue to grow

While some see private money as indispensable to bridging the funding gap of around $5 to $7 trillion required annually to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, others worry about the deeper implications that this approach has for the way we think about the role and responsibility of the state in providing public services in a fair and just society. Others yet go even further, arguing that tax-subsidised philanthropy is actually a subversion of government–for example, in 2014 tax expenditures for charitable giving cost the U.S. Treasury more than $50 billion, funding that could have been directed by government according to the democratic wishes of citizens. 

Is philanthropy on this scale diminishing or undermining the role of government when it comes to addressing entrenched social problems? Is large scale giving by wealthy elites stopping deeper questions about structural inequality in society and legitimising a system that favours disproportionately the super-rich? Can more transparency around philanthropic giving and more effective frameworks for cross-sector collaboration help strengthen public accountability? 

The GO Lab is hosting a conversation with Tom Hall, Global Head of Philanthropy Services at UBS and Jonathan Wolff, Professor of Philosophy and Blavatnik Chair in Public Policy, on the practical and ethical implications of these emerging trends in philanthropy and impact investing, and how government can work with philanthropists and businesses to tackle the most pressing challenges in society. The discussion will be moderated by Mara Airoldi, Director of the Government Outcomes Lab. 

This event is hosted by the Government Outcomes Lab, as part of the fourth edition of the Social Outcomes Conference.

About the speakers

Jonathan Wolff is the Blavatnik Chair in Public Policy and Governing Body Fellow at Wolfson College. He was formerly Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Humanities at UCL. His recent work has largely concerned equality, disadvantage, social justice and poverty, as well as applied topics such as public safety, disability, gambling, and the regulation of recreational drugs, which he has discussed in his books Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge 2011) and The Human Right to Health (Norton 2012). His most recent book is An Introduction to Moral Philosophy (Norton 2018).
 
Earlier works include Disadvantage (OUP 2007), with Avner de-Shalit; An Introduction to Political Philosophy (OUP, 1996, third edition 2016); Why Read Marx Today? (OUP 2002); and Robert Nozick (Polity 1991). He has had a long-standing interest in health and health promotion, including questions of justice in health care resource allocation, the social determinants of health, and incentives and health behaviour. He has been a member of the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, the Academy of Medical Science working party on Drug Futures, the Gambling Review Body, the Homicide Review Group, an external member of the Board of Science of the British Medical Association, and a Trustee of GambleAware. He writes a regular column on higher education for the Guardian. 

Tom Hall has over 15 years’ experience working with and advising private clients. Tom is Global Head of Philanthropy Services to help clients identify and achieve their philanthropic and impact investing strategies. Prior to joining UBS in 2013, Tom spent his career in the non-profit sector working with wealthy individuals and companies to deliver award winning, sustainable philanthropic and social investment solutions.

As Director of Philanthropy and Social Investment at the disability charity Scope, he pioneered the use of social investment structures, including the Scope Bond which was the first listed bond issued by an operational charity in the UK. Tom also worked with the cabinet office on the development of the new Social Investment Tax Relief. Earlier in his career, Tom was the first UK employee of the Microloan Foundation securing the investment for the charity to expand into sustainable microfinance business reaching over 20,000 clients a year in Malawi and Zambia.

Tom is a Politics graduate from Exeter University and has professional qualifications in marketing (CIM), fundraising management and financial planning.