APC’s CEO Laurence Lien Responds to “Winner Takes All”

APC’s CEO Laurence Lien Responds to “Winner Takes All”

Dear readers,

This week, I head to London for a retreat for foundation leaders from around the world.  The foundation world has been abuzz about the 2018 book, “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas.  In it, Giridharadas renounces the hubris and hypocrisy of the super-rich who claim they are helping the world.   

He writes about out how market-based social solutions favoured by philanthropists today promote a win-win narrative that instead perpetuates and preserves the existing social order and obscures the elite’s role in causing the problems they later seek to solve.

What is my response?

Visiting ReachOut Foundation

One, I do not recognise the people that Giridharadas describes in his book.  He covers only a segment of individuals who clearly do exist.  But to paint all other serious philanthropists with one broad stroke does a great disservice to many who are growing their giving and who care about genuine impact. 

Many of these, of course, include APC Members.  Over the past half a year we welcome nine new ones!  And we also welcome two new team members to serve our expanding community and work.   

Two, philanthropy can indeed be more effective, accountable and inclusive, in order to be a greater force of good.  It should be the innovation capital of the social sector – taking risks and experimenting with new solutions, using a long time horizon. It should empower communities more and pursue holistic approaches to systems change.  And it should put the spotlight on large, neglected issues.

Hence, I am glad that our members are actively working together to create new meaningful projects on the ground – from ones you already know about like school leadership, to entirely new areas like waste management in Singapore and Indonesia.  The ‘cross-infection’ that I spoke about previously is happening, one of our member’s passion in tackling stunting in Indonesia, has now sparked interest to work on malnutrition in Malaysia and the Philippines!

Finally, we need a more comprehensive approach through joined up efforts. Each of our philanthropic contributions is too small to move the SDG indicators significantly. 

So APC itself is starting to collaborate.  We have been, in the past six months, actively interacting at the highest levels with the likes of the Gates Foundation and UNICEF, concretely exploring joint programmes.  We have also worked with Effective Altruism movement to co-host a seminar for our members to explore new ideas jointly. 

All these initiatives make for what would be a very busy year ahead! But meanwhile what we hope to welcome most of you to our annual summit, venn2019, in a month’s time.

See you and all the best,