Give a Man the Means to Fish

Give a Man the Means to Fish:

From Paternalistic Charity to Venture Philanthropy

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 3 of 13 in the Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Teach a man to fish and he will eat tomorrow – or until his nets break. Invest in a man’s fishing business and he will feed himself and others for a long time to come. This is what it means to shift from paternalistic charity to venture philanthropy. It is an evolution that is important to root in a long and varied cultural tradition of philanthropy.

Confucius (551-479 BC) said: ‘When wealth is centralized, the people are dispersed. When wealth is distributed, the people are brought together.’ Hence, ‘a man of humanity is one who, in seeking to establish himself, finds a foothold for others and who, desiring attainment for himself, helps others to attain.’ When asked, ‘Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?’ he replied, ‘Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’.

This so-called Golden Rule, which we find in all the world’s major religions, has come to represent the very essence of charity. In fact, the word charity derives from Latin caritas, which meant preciousness, dearness, or high price. However, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agapē, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others. Hence, in St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, we read, in the King James Version of the Bible, of ‘faith, hope and charity’. Of course, it is not only giving that is important, but also the nature of giving. There is a Jewish proverb that says: What you give for the cause of charity in health is gold; what you give in sickness is silver; what you give after death is lead.

Islam also has a strong tradition of charity. Zakāt, or alms-giving for the purposes of alleviating poverty and helping those less fortunate, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The practice is generally in the form of an annual tithe or tax of 2.5% of an individual’s wealth, including money made through business, savings and income. The zakāt must also be above an agreed minimum (called nisab), which is said to be around $2,640 or the equivalent in any other currency. As important as the collection of zakāt in a community is its fair distribution among the needy. Another form of charitable action is sadaqah, which literally means ‘righteousness’ and refers to the voluntary giving of alms or charity. These ancient traditions are considered to be a personal responsibility for all Muslims, practiced out of love for humanity, to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality.

There are numerous other religious and cultural variations on the theme. Philanthropy in Latin America typically revolves around asistencialismo, which is charitable giving for poverty alleviation. Out of dedication to their religion, education and culture, Bulgarian communities raised donations to build churches, schools and cultural centres called chitalishta. In India, Gandhi’s trusteeship concept was adapted and applied to welfare acts. In Mexico, the Raramori, who still live in the mountains of the state of Chihuahua, use the expression korima, which means ‘to share’ resources in times of stress. In Southern Africa, ubuntu is the practice of humanism based on the collectivist notion that ‘I am a person through other people’.

So much for the roots and cultural traditions of philanthropy. Upon these foundations, the great philanthropists, ancient and modern, built their charities – from Rockefeller and Carnegie to Gates and Turner. The more interesting question, I think, is whether there is anything new and transformative about charitable giving? …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org/”]Website[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

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Visser, W. (2012) Give a Man the Means to Fish: From Paternalistic Charity to Venture Philanthropy, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 21 February 2012.

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Fat Cats versus Alley Cats

Fat Cats versus Alley Cats:

Why the Occupy Movement is Right

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 2 of 13 in Wayne Visser’s Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

The most common explanation for the global financial crisis is to point a finger at the banks. And rightly so. But I believe we also need to shine a spotlight on the greed and irresponsibility of executives, fat-cats like Lehman Brothers’ former CEO Richard Fuld. These are the enriched 1% that suck the lifeblood out of the fleeced 99% and which the Occupy Movement is justifiably targeting. Naming and shaming is important, but we need to realise that this is a systemic cancer in our economic and financial system.

It is also not a new phenomenon, but worrying it is showing signs of getting worse, not better. In 2000, Enron was the 7th largest company in America, with revenues of $111 billion and over 20,000 staff. When the company collapsed in 2001, due to various fraudulent activities fuelled by a culture of greed, the average severance payment was $45,000, while executives received bonuses of $55 million in the company’s last year. Employees lost $1.2 billion in pensions; retirees lost $2 billion, but executives cashed in $116 million in stocks.

At the end of 2007, just before the crisis went public, Lehmans’ CEO Fuld and president Joseph Gregory paid themselves stock bonuses of $35 million and $29 million respectively. At the time, Fuld lived in an enormous Greenwich mansion, over 9,000 square feet, valued at $10 million. He had four other homes and an art collection valued at $200 million. Hardly a picture of responsible restraint.

Taken on their own, these executive pay packages are outrageous enough. But the extent of creeping executive greed comes into even sharper focus when we look at trends in relative pay. In 1965, U.S. CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than a typical worker, a ratio that grew to 35 in 1978 and to 71 in 1989. By 2000, it had hit 298, and despite falling to 143 in 2002 (after the post-Enron stock market slump), it bounced back again and has continued rising through the noughties (2000s).

The Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess report reveals that the 2010 ratio between average worker and average CEO compensation leaped to 325-to-1, up from in 263-to-1 in 2009. Among the nation’s top firms, the S&P 500, CEO pay last year averaged $10,762,304, up 27.8 percent over 2009. Average worker pay in 2010? That finished up at $33,121, up just 3.3 percent over the year before.

According to Fair Economy, the average U.S. worker’s salary could pay for 10 months of health insurance, 5 months of college tuition, and buy 10 percent of an average home. On the other hand, the average Fortune 500 CEO’s salary could pay for 300 years of health insurance, 200 years of college tuition and buy 34.5 new homes.

But at least these CEOs are contributing through taxes, right? Wrong. In fact, corporate  …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/blog_fat_cats_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Fat Cats versus Alley Cats (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org/”]Website[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

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Visser, W. (2012) Fat-Cats versus Alley-Cats: Why the Occupy Movement is Right, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 14 February 2012.

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The Meaning of Responsibility

The Meaning of Responsibility

Blog by Wayne Visser

Part 1 of 13 in Wayne Visser’s Age of Responsibility Blog Series for 3BL Media.

Do you sigh when you hear the word responsibility? Perhaps responsibility is even a dirty word in your vocabulary. Perhaps you associate it with burdens and restrictions; the opposite of being carefree and without obligations. But responsibility doesn’t have to be a chore, or a cage. It all depends how you think about it.

Responsibility is literally what it says – our ability to respond. It is a choice we make – whether to be attentive to our children’s needs, whether to be mindful of the plight of those less fortunate, whether to be considerate of the impact we have on the earth and others. To be responsible is to be proactive in the world, to be sensitive to the interconnections, and to be willing to do something constructive, as a way of giving back.

Responsibility is the counterbalance to rights. If we enjoy the right to freedom, it is because we accept our responsibility not to harm or harass others. If we expect the right to fair treatment, we have a responsibility to respect the rule of law and honour the principle of reciprocity. If we believe in the right to have our basic needs met, we have the responsibility to respond when poverty denies those rights to others.

Taking responsibility, at home or in the workplace, is an expression of confidence in our own abilities, a chance to test our own limits, to challenge ourselves and to see how far we can go. Responsibility is the gateway to achievement. And achievement is the path to growth. Being responsible for something means that we are entrusted with realising its potential, turning its promise into reality. We are the magicians of manifestation, ready to prove to ourselves and to others what can happen when we put our minds to it, if we focus our energies and concentrate our efforts.

Being responsible for someone – another person – is an even greater privilege, for it means that we are embracing our role as caregivers, helping others to develop and flourish. This is an awesome responsibility, in the truest sense, one which should be embraced with gratitude, not reluctantly accepted with trepidation. Responsibility asks no more of us than that we try our best, that we act in the highest and truest way we know. Responsibility is not a guarantee of success, but a commitment to trying.

So why is responsibility seen by many as such an onerous burden? Responsibility becomes onerous when choice is removed from the equation, when we do not realise our freedom to act differently, when we forget that we are allowed to say no. Responsibility becomes pernicious when we take on too much, when we mistakenly think that more is always better, when we take on the guilt and expectations of others. Accepting too many responsibilities is, in fact, irresponsible – for it compromises our ability to respond. Do few things but do them well is the maxim of responsibility.

Being responsible also does not mean doing it all ourselves. Responsibility is a form of sharing, a way of recognising that we’re all in this together. Sole responsibility is an oxymoron …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/blog_meaning_responsibility_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] The Meaning of Responsibility (blog)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org/”]Website[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

Cite this blog

Visser, W. (2012) The Meaning of Responsibility, Wayne Visser Blog Briefing, 7 February 2012.

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