Philanthropy is changing. Some of the changes are reactive: adapting to a changing world. And some are proactive: recognizing that conventional giving is often ineffective at best, and harmful at worst.
I am borrowing the term “ecosystem” to refer to philanthropic approaches that attend to the ecosystem of giving (downstream, midstream, and upstream) of which they are a single part. An institution of this kind not only views their beneficiaries as an interdependent network (downstream from the donor organization), but also sees their own institution as one of a whole network of philanthropic organizations (midstream cohorts) working together, and questions conventional models that tell them what charity is, and seeks out new models to inform how to engage holistically (upstream from the donor organization).
Perhaps most importantly, this new approach to philanthropy requires a systems thinking perspective: the ability to look at an issue area and discern symptoms from causes, and conscientiously choose at which point in the complex system to intervene. This is philanthropy as a continuous experiment carried out by a learning organization that has come to terms with the role of uncertainty in complex systems, rather than philanthropy as an intervention to “fix” problems.