Ideas and Impact

Promoting the Public Welfare: Reassessing the Role of Philanthropy and Government

During the second virtual convening in our Future of the Social Sector series, Arabella Advisors’ former CEO Sampriti Ganguli explored crucial questions about the relationships between philanthropy, government, and the social sector with two leaders in the space: Xavier de Souza Briggs and Cecilia Muñoz. Together, they explored questions about the proper roles of government and philanthropy, and how each can—and should—bolster the capacity of the other to provide for the public good.

While the pandemic has pointed up shortcomings in our governmental institutions, it has also highlighted their critical importance. Meanwhile, increasing political polarization has undermined public trust in government, hindering its capacity and effectiveness and undermining the stability of our democracy. How can philanthropy not only serve as a stopgap for governmental failures, but help restore public trust in government and its capacity to address society’s most important challenges and problems?

Their conversation took place against the backdrop of the large-scale social, economic, and environmental challenges currently confronting our society. With its scale, organizing power, authority, and public accountability, government is essential for addressing these challenges—as is apparent from the ongoing vaccine rollout. Unfortunately, a concerted effort to curtail government and delegitimatize its role has led to distrust of governmental institutions among large segments of the American public, undermined government’s capacity to improve the public welfare, and threatened the foundations of our democracy.