The Shuttleworth Foundation: Field Notes From the Frontier of Philanthropy

Ask any grantee about their experience of philanthropy and prepare yourself to wince. Most will have a horror story or three about a funding world awash with egos, elitism, unaccountability and power imbalances. And when you compare the many billions of dollars spent by foundations every year with news of rising levels of inequality, distressed social systems, and growing threats to global democracy, much of philanthropy looks ineffectual at best. Some might consider it a contributor to the chaos.
Yet the act of redistributing wealth - and, more importantly, power - to people with a desire to improve the world can make a significant difference. We just need to do it better. That has been our consistent aim since 2007 when we set a new course for the Shuttleworth Foundation and began our ongoing, iterative experiment to re-imagine philanthropy.
We are writing this document in June 2021, almost fifteen years later, and exactly twenty since the Shuttleworth Foundation was born. It is part reflection on where we were, part snapshot of where we are, and part resource for those who could use some building blocks for their own journeys. We hope that potential fellows, funders, writers, thinkers, doers, movers, shakers and people everywhere will learn something new and find it in some way inspirational, useful or adaptable.
  • Helen, Jason & Karien/The Shuttleworth Foundation
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