Where we were
The Shuttleworth Foundation was established in 2001 at a transformative time for philanthropy. Fuelled by technology’s rapid growth, immense private wealth poured into charitable giving, and from digital fortunes emerged new foundations. A proliferation of living donors joined the old guard - the Carnegies, Cadburys, Rockefellers, and Fords of the world - as the third sector’s major players.
At the Foundation, we were also beneficiaries of this influx of new money. Our privilege was to redistribute wealth gained by our founder Mark Shuttleworth from an enterprise built on free and open source software (FOSS) and driven by the energy of Silicon Valley. Yet, we soon discovered a noticeable disconnect between the spirit of innovation that our funding came from and the relatively safe, traditional way we were using the money and strategizing our projects.
Our attempts to improve education in South African schools were undoubtedly nice, honest pieces of work that made a difference to some people’s lives. But these projects fell well short of true impactfulness and far from the transformative, systemic change we wanted to see in the world. It became clear that even with the best of intentions, philanthropy only alleviates the symptoms of a problem; it rarely addresses its causes.