How Visionary Philanthropy Can Lead in the Digital-First Age

Illustration by Joanne Gouaux | Now Showing: Your Future to Flourish

Margarette Mead’s infamous words have long served as a guidepost and inspiration to creators and philanthropists.

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ — Margarette Mead

Steering the future of humanity

Today, groups with a passion for humanity and the greater good are equipped with powerful tools: imagination and science. Philanthropists, social innovators, and artists can lead cross-sector collaboration for better outcomes than what was possible in the past. They can tackle ambitious goals that previous generations could only have dreamt of achieving. Working together, artists and social innovators will accomplish what once may have required a legion of volunteers and a coalition from within a big, slow-moving organization.

People are what make technology “great” and “powerful. ” Technology’s exponential growth is driven by human ingenuity and powered by social connections. Let that sink in. Humans are in control of the future.

Mixed media art depicting a light switch in the AI cloud
Social media could use a tune-up | Illustration by Joanne Gouaux

Restoring trust in people and institutions

Sadly, many of society’s cultural norms and (mis)understandings are not apparent until they break. It is never too late to turn things around.

Cracks allow sunlight to shine through the shadows.

Social media is designed to be fertile ground for scaling advertising dollars, making it ripe for growing distrust and distortion. It is time to turn-it-over and let people see what is inside. Human connection and emotion — not cultural norms and values are the backbone of social media success.

Catching a glimpse of catastrophic futures offers a chance to reflect on the present and design a way forward.

Trust is a critical component of inspiring people to work together for any cause. New tools create a chance to experiment and streamline operations. Smaller organizations can quickly adapt and test pilot program activities, generating incentives, and aligning resources.

The waves and the ocean are one

Philanthropy is action-focused, and sometimes the anticipation of back-to-back breaking waves of adversity creates fuzzy foresight. People respond by pulling away from adversity instead of looking closer with curiosity. Philanthropy, in its purest sense, lives for the moment to provide for people.

When so many feel unprepared or unable to cope with rising tides of tension, philanthropy must move with urgency toward invigorating the human spirit with the tremendous possibility that we can change for the better.

Adversity is like the ocean. It can bring people together, and — it can be the very source threatening to tear them apart. Philanthropy can help society heal. It has the ability to delight, inspire hope, and help people tolerate the unknown as part of a wondrous journey “on the way” to something better.

Illustration by Joanne Gouaux

Visionaries recognize patterns

Artists are visionaries. They can paint the vision of our path forward — as they have for centuries. We can deliver ourselves from an alternate reality of a dark dystopia filled with despair.

Practicing philanthropy is a gesture of love toward humanity. It is not a “fix” to a systemic problem, but it can contribute to cultural change and connect people with causes that generate abundance for everyone.

Stretch the imagination of what is possible, preferable, and probable — aim upward

Human connections are the superpower of technology and big data; networks of friends, family networks, and networks of former colleagues. Social networks are tightly bonded. These bonds are often stronger than values alone.

To catalyze change, artists can help people stretch expectations and unlock constraints on what is currently possible. Artists and philanthropists can combine forces with communities to sharpen strategies and crystalize a shared vision for a brighter tomorrow.



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