Bharat Mehta, in this thoughtful reflection on Sonia Sodha’s Future of Doing Good report, reminds us that terms like ‘developing resilience’ or ‘doing good’ do not mean that we are helping people cope with disadvantage, inequality and austerity, but rather we are giving them a voice and means to enact their own changes to society. In particular, Bharat talks about the role that funders such as Trust for London, a independent trust established to exist in perpetuity, play in empowering communities:
“Endowed trusts and foundations have the precious commodities of time, independence and lack of vested interests and we must use them judiciously and with responsibility. To do that, we must be underpinned by strong values and a commitment to transparency, given the generally weak accountability structure we tend to have. I would also argue that it is the duty of independent, endowed trusts and foundations to seek out causes and methods of intervention that other types of funders (statutory, non-departmental, corporate and public), for whatever good reasons, can’t or won’t support.”
Bharat believes that ultimately, foundations, trusts and funders should be a means to an end, or a catalyst for change and transformation. They should be flexible and willing to adapt to suit a political or economic climate that is in flux. He suggests that certain large charities have failed to appreciate this properly, and gives the example of recent accusations of bad fundraising practices. Could these practices have been the result of charities losing site of their original function, willing to cut ethical corners in order to compete in a shrinking market?