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A Crisis of Imagination: Peter Calls for Philanthropic Systematic Change

By Lindsay    About Seeds of Africa

Peter Buffet has developed a unique perspective when it comes to philanthropy. His background in music production and advertising, as well has having Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest men in the world, as a father, have all contributed drastically to his opinion on philanthropy.

Early in his philanthropic journey, like many other wealthy philanthropists, Peter got caught up in what he calls “Philanthropic Colonialism.” This is where the donor desires a heroic reputation by somehow “saving the day” with a local solution for a particular place that they have very little knowledge about, disregarding culture, geography or any societal norms. This approach often results in unintended consequences that potentially can worsen the problem.

This is not the only flawed approach. Peter has witnessed countless examples of important players across all sectors (e.g., heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders) searching for solutions to global challenges in collaboration with those who created the problems in the first place. Philanthropy has become the go-to mechanism used to level out the playing field, but if the number of nonprofits has drastically increased over recent years, then why have statistics for inequality continued to rise?

The answer is because of “Conscience Laundering,” what Peter describes as feeling better about accumulating more money than one person could possibly need to live on by giving a little here and there as an act of charity, simply preserving the structure of inequality rather than creating any real change. While the rich feel better about themselves, someone else in the world is just further locked into a corrupt system that doesn’t allow for growth or opportunity.

Peter makes a strong case that no charitable intervention can solve any issue; the solution is in systematic change. In order to address global challenges, we need a new operating system- something built from the ground up. To put it simply, we are in a crisis of imagination. We need to put at the forefront those who are working hard at developing alternative ways to live in a functioning society that creates prosperity for all. Money should be spent on testing concepts that override pre-existing structures that have proven to be ineffective.

An organization with the right idea when it comes to systematic change is Seeds of Africa, a nonprofit with the vision of creating a self-sustaining model for education and community development that can be replicated in other African communities. Beginning in Ethiopia and founded by Atti Worku – a native to Ethiopia herself – Seeds of Africa seeks to educate and nurture gifted children, young adults and the community with support that meets basic needs through innovative curriculum and community development programs. This is not only an effective ground up approach, but also is able to be a case sensitive approach to other communities where their own societal norms can be adapted into this model.

Philanthropic success and progress is not sending a big check to an undeveloped village a few times a year, it’s giving a child an education that can offer them a lifetime of opportunity to reach their full potential. These children will then contribute back to own their communities, and Seeds of Africa understands that – setting an example we should follow.

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