If you have an Internet connection and a few dollars to spare, saving the world is literally at your fingertips these days as more organizations look for ways to crowdsource global advancement. That's part of the impetus for #GivingTuesday, an annual event launched last year by Matthew Bishop and other like-minded souls as a way to harness the best intentions of everyday Americans. Bishop, a journalist for The Economist and coauthor of the book Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, talked to TakePart on giving's big day to fill us in on how the world's dreamers can help build a better reality.
TakePart: What is philanthrocapitalism, and what inspired the term's creation?
It’s really about the increasing coming together of the business entrepreneurial world with solving some of the big social problems and environmental problems that the world faces. The best known philanthrocapitalists are people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and Jeff Skoll—the founder and CEO of eBay, obviously [Editor’s note: Perhaps less obviously, full disclosure, Skoll is also the owner of Participant Media, TakePart's parent company]—and Richard Branson is another notable example. But also lots of younger entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, who don’t have a fortune who are also getting really entrepreneurial things to solve big social problems, so it’s a movement that everyone is increasingly able to be part of. I think it’s going to produce much better solutions to some of the big problems the world faces than some of the more traditional approaches, where business tends to focus on making profits and government is left to solve the problems.
TakePart: Speaking of government, former president Bill Clinton’s quote about your book impressed me—he called today’s world “unequal, unstable and unsustainable.” What inspires you to believe that there are enough selfless people in the world to start reversing that terrible reality?
It’s harder and harder to kid yourself that the system is working as it is.… So if you talk to Bill Clinton, he’ll talk about it and say, “When I was in government I wish I thought much harder about how to actually solve problems.…”
I think when we look at the “how,” it’s about being entrepreneurial and the sorts of things that people who are entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, do; it’s just a different way of doing things than the way government has done it in the past. You’ve got the realization that government doesn’t have all the answers and at the same time a growing recognition that entrepreneurship is maybe the most powerful force for change in our times that we have. So why not bring those two together?
TakePart: Right, as you did very successfully on the inaugural GivingTuesday last year. Did it surprise you how successful that was?
I think GivingTuesday taps into one thing that is obviously big about America, in that it is a country that if they want to get involved with their community in solving problems they can use social media.… It really went virally; a lot of people on Twitter and Instagram and so forth started sharing the idea. And then a whole lot of the nonprofits and companies that wanted to make a difference jumped on the movement as well.… Within about two months we had about 2,000 organizations in all 50 states, from mayors in small towns to Microsoft and big charities, all got involved.
This year we’ve got 8,000 partners, so it’s much bigger, and there are cities like Baltimore that are coming together and saying, let’s try to be the most generous city in America.…
So all of a sudden you have some answers going on; it’s just sort of really taking off. It’s also now spreading to other countries: Australia has GivingTuesday; Canada has GivingTuesday this year; Israel, Mexico have their own. It’s an idea that really appeals to people that celebrates what we care about and encourages other people by sharing a passion for giving and giving back.
TakePart: Why is it important to organize charitable donations into an annual event? Is once a year enough?
Actually, we’re trying to make it the opening day for giving season. In America you have Black Friday that is the opening day of shopping season; we’re hoping to make this the opening day of the giving season. We’re also reminding people this is also about volunteering—we want people to know this isn’t just about the money; it’s also about giving time.