Foundations of Radical Philanthropy

  • Annie HerroEmail author
  • Franklin Obeng-Odoom
Research Papers


As an institution that often seeks to redress global inequality and poverty, philanthropy is commonly dismissed as either masking structural causes, an insufficient response, or a contribution to the problem itself. Either way, philanthropy is increasingly labelled as philanthro-capitalism because it serves the interest of capital. But what about philanthropy that engages, seeks to transcend, and tries to provide alternatives to the status quo? Such philanthropies have been highlighted in the literature, but their radical foundations could be further clarified. In seeking to do so, this article (a) engages a radical theory of poverty, (b) teases out key principles of radical philanthropy, and (c) critically highlights the need to consider radical philanthropy as an alternative to philanthro-capitalism. Radical philanthropy is quite distinct and, while it can be unrealistic for individual foundations to embody all its principles, as a collective, they can be considered as one important and concrete contribution towards realising the aphorism, popularised by the World Social Forum, that ‘another world is possible’.


Radicalism Philanthropy Poverty Inequality Philanthro-capitalism 



We would like to thank the following people who reviewed and commented on previous drafts of this article: Chris Budhan, Katrina Moore, Jenik Radon, James Wadham, Bob Zuber, and the anonymous reviewers. We would also like to thank Ben Courtenay and Will McManus for their research assistance.


This study was partly funded by Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowships (RG152479).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Adarkwa, K. K., & Oppong, R. A. (2007). Poverty reduction through the creation of a liveable housing environment. A case study of Habitat for Humanity International Housing Units in rural Ghana. Property Management, 25(1), 7–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, A. B. (2016). How to spread the wealth: Practical policies for reducing inequality. Foreign Affairs, 95, 29–33.Google Scholar
  3. Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility. (n.d.). About us—What we do. Accessed May 19, 2019 from
  4. Baggett, J. P. (2002). The irony of parachurch organizations: The case of Habitat for Humanity. In D. F. Burlingame (Ed.), Taking fundraising seriously: The spirit of faith and philanthropy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  5. Bishop, M., & Green, M. (2010). Philanthrocapitalism: How giving can save the world. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Callahan, D. (2017). The givers: Wealth, power and philanthropy in a new gilded age. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  7. Carey, G. (2012). Recalling Clarence Jordan, Radical Disciple, Huffington Post, 3 June, Last Accessed December 10, 2018.
  8. Carroll, W. K. (2015). Robust radicalism. Review of Radical Political Economics, 74(4), 663–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clough, E. (2015). Effective Altruism’s political blind spot. Boston Review, 14 July.Google Scholar
  10. Cobb, C. (2015). Editor’s introduction: The hidden hand: How foundations shape the course of history. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 74(4), 631–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Downing, F. L. (2017). Clarence Jordan: A radical pilgrimage in scorn of the consequences. Macon: Mercer University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Edge Fund. (2018). About. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  14. Edwards, M. (2010). Small change: Why business won’t save the world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
  15. Eikenberry, A. M. (2006). Philanthropy and governance. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 28, 586–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eikenberry, A. M., & Mirabella, R. M. (2018). Extreme philanthropy: philanthrocapitalism, effective altruism, and the discourse of neoliberalism. PS: Political Science & Politics, 51(1), 43–47.Google Scholar
  17. Faber, D., & McCarthy, D. (Eds.). (2005). Foundations for social change: Critical perspectives on philanthropy and popular movements. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  18. Fridell, G., & Konings, M. (2013). Age of icons: Exploring philanthrocapitalism in the contemporary world. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  19. Fuller, M. (1994). The theology of the hammer. Macon: Smyth and Helwys Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  20. Fuller, M. (2000). More than houses: How habitat for humanity is transforming lives and neighborhoods. Nashville: Word Publishing.Google Scholar
  21. Gates Foundation. (2003). Investment to accelerate creation of strong charter schools. Accessed May 20, 2019 from
  22. Gibbs, N. (2018). Bill Gates: What gives me hope about the world’s future. TIME. January 4.Google Scholar
  23. Glynn, S. (2009). Where the other half lives: Lower income housing in a neoliberal world. New York: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  24. Habitat for Humanity Australia. (2018a). Annual report 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  25. Habitat for Humanity Australia (HFHA). (2014). Annual report 2014. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  26. Habitat for Humanity Australia (HFHA). (2015). Annual report 2015. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  27. Habitat for Humanity Australia (HFHA). (2016). Annual report 2016. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  28. Habitat for Humanity Australia (HFHA). (2017). Financial report 2017. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  29. Harris, R., & Arku, G. (2006). Housing and economic development: The evolution of an idea since 1945. Habitat International, 30(4), 1007–1017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hermes, N., & Lensink, R. (2007). The empirics of microfinance: What do we know? The Economic Journal, 117(517), F1–F10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Herro, A. (2017). The human rights of older persons: the politics and substance of the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 23(1), 90–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Holmes, G. (2012). Biodiversity for billionaires: Capitalism, conservation and the role of philanthropy in saving/selling nature. Development and Change, 43(1), 185–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Horvath, A., & Powell, W. (2016). Contributory or disruptive: Do new forms of philanthropy erode democracy? In R. Reich, C. Cordelli, & L. Bernholz (Eds.), Philanthropy in democratic societies: History, institutions, values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Hossein, C. S. (2016a). ‘Big Man’ politics in the social economy: A case study of microfinance in Kingston, Jamaica. Review of Social Economy, 74(2), 148–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hossein, C. S. (2016b). Money pools in the Americas: The African diaspora’s legacy in the social economy. Forum of Social Economics., XLV(4), 309–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Huddart, S. (2018). A morning with Stephen Huddart (The McConnell Foundation). Sydney: Philanthropy Australia.Google Scholar
  37. Huillery, E. (2009). History matters: The long-term impact of colonial public investments in French West Africa. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(2), 176–215.Google Scholar
  38. INCITE!. (2017). The revolution will not be funded: Beyond the non-profit industrial complex. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. London: Jonathan Cape Thirty Bedford Square.Google Scholar
  40. Johnson, C. C. (2011). The urban precariat, neoliberalization, and the soft power of humanitarian. Journal of Developing Societies, 27(3–4), 445–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kenny, T. (2018). A twenty something perspective: seven ideas on leadership in philanthropy. Melbourne: Portland House Foundation.Google Scholar
  42. Kovner Foundation. (2018a). An opportunity society. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  43. Kovner Foundation. (2018b). Our goals & approach. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  44. Kruger, C. (2018). Gina Rinehart’s wealth could fund government spending for 11 days. Sydney Morning Herald. 13 February.Google Scholar
  45. Lawrie, M., Tonts, M., & Plummer, P. (2011). Boomtowns, resource dependence and socio-economic well-being. Australian Geographer, 42(2), 139–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Leonard, P. (2006). Music of a thousand hammers: Inside habitat for humanity. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  47. Levich, J. (2015). The Gates Foundation, Ebola, and global health imperialism. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 74(4), 704–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mallaby, S. (2010). The politically incorrect guide to ending poverty. The Atlantic, July/August, 93–104.Google Scholar
  49. Martens, J. & Seitz, K. (2015). Philanthropic power and development: Who shapes the agenda? Bischöfliches Hilfswerk Misereor.Google Scholar
  50. McConnell Foundation. (n.d.a). New economies. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  51. McConnell Foundation. (n.d.b). Sustainable food systems. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  52. McGoey, L. (2012). Philanthrocapitalism and its critics. Poetics, 40(2), 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McGovern, A. (2009). Liberation theology and its critics: Toward an assessment. Eugene: Wipf and Stock.Google Scholar
  54. Minsky, H. (2013). Jobs; not welfare. New York: Levy Economics Institute.Google Scholar
  55. Moody, M. (2008). Building a culture: The construction and evolution of venture philanthropy as a new organizational field. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 37(2), 324–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Morvaridi, B. (2012). Capitalist philanthropy and the new green revolution for food security. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, 19(2), 243–256.Google Scholar
  57. Morvaridi, B. (2016). Does sub-Saharan Africa need capitalist philanthropy to reduce poverty and achieve food security? Review of African Political Economy, 43(147), 151–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Neslen, A. (2015). Dutch government ordered to cut carbon emissions in landmark ruling. The Guardian, 14 July.Google Scholar
  59. Nickel, P. M., & Eikenberry, A. M. (2009). A critique of the discourse of marketized philanthropy. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(7), 974–989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. O’Connor, J. (1973). The fiscal crisis of the state. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Obeng-Odoom, F. (2008). Has the Habitat for Humanity Housing scheme achieved its goals? A Ghanaian case study. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 24(1), 67–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Obeng-Odoom, F., & Bockarie, M. M. B. (2018). The political economy of the Ebola Virus Disease. Social Change, 48(1), 18–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Obeng-Odoom, F., & Gyampo, R. E. V. (2017). Land grabbing, land rights, and the role of the courts. Geography Research Forum, 37, 127–147.Google Scholar
  64. Ostrander, S. A. (2005). Legacy and promise for social justice funding: charitable foundations and progressive social movements, past and present. In D. Faber & D. McCarthy (Eds.), Foundations for social change: Critical perspectives on philanthropy and popular movements. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  65. Ostrander, S. A., Silver, I., & McCarthy, D. (2005). Mobilizing money strategically: Opportunities for grantees to be active agents in social movement philanthropy. In D. Faber & D. McCarthy (Eds.), Foundations for social change: Critical perspectives on philanthropy and popular movements. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  66. Philanthropy Australia. (n.d.). Stories in philanthropy. Accessed May 20, 2019 from:
  67. Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the twenty-first century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Reichstein Foundation. (n.d.a). About us. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  69. Reichstein Foundation. (n.d.b). Featured projects. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  70. Roelofs, J. (2005). Liberal foundations: impediments or supports for social change? In D. Faber & D. McCarthy (Eds.), Foundations for social change: Critical perspectives on philanthropy and popular movements. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  71. Sizer, L. (2010). Hand-ups, not hand-outs: Habitat for humanity. Australia’s Paydirt, 1(178), 82.Google Scholar
  72. Skocpol, T. (2016). Why political scientists should study organized philanthropy. PS-Political Science & Politics, 49(3), 433–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Smith, C. A. (2013). The rise of Habitat for Humanity subdivisions. Focus on Geography, 56(3), 95–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Social Change Initiative. (2018). Welcome to the social change initiative. Accessed December 10, 2018 from
  75. Stilwell, F. (2012). Political economy: The contest of economic ideas (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Suárez, D. F. (2012). Grant making as advocacy: The emergence of social justice philanthropy. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 22(3), 259–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Tibaijuka, A. K. (2009). Building prosperity: Housing and economic development. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  78. United Nations General Assembly. (1966). International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  79. Wainwright, H. (2013). Reclaim the state: Experiments in popular democracy (3rd ed.). Greenford: Seagull.Google Scholar
  80. Watchel, H. W. (1971). Looking at poverty from a radical perspective. Review of Radical Political Economics, 3(3), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wilson, J. (2015). The village that turned to gold: A parable of philanthrocapitalism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 47(1), 3–28.Google Scholar
  82. World Bank. (2001). World Development Report, 2000/1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Development Studies Research Group, Faculty of Social Sciences, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability ScienceUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations