What do we need to be paying attention to?
How can we create a world in which all nine billion human beings are happy
and well this century?
Most people, most of the time, are focused on their own purposes: raising families, working, or enjoying friends and family. At the same time, an increasing percentage of the population has more than enough resources to take care of their own needs. Each year, there will be more people with more money, talent, and time to contribute to creating a world in which all of humanity is happy and well.
Not all will contribute to this project. Many who do will do so in ways that are ineffective or counter-productive. How can we increase the extent to which people contribute voluntarily to making the world a better place, and how can we increase the extent to which their efforts are effective?
We need to develop institutions and sub-cultures within which uplifting activities are increasingly meaningful, fun, and effective. Voluntourism, social entrepreneurship, and values-based consumption and investing are the tiniest beginning. We need to re-create entire ways of life based on the lifelong, unabashedly joyful, pursuit of the good.
Our habits, attitudes, and appetites are formed by the culture and institutions in which we live. How can we create new institutions that more effectively develop positive habits, attitudes, and appetites? [For one example, see The Creation of Conscious Culture Through Educational Innovation,] What role can philanthropy play in the development of innovative subcultures and institutions?
Economists economize on love. A wise philanthropic investment strategy will be one in which the most ultimate good is achieved for the smallest initial investment. Investments that multiply the extent to which people are engaged in good, and minimize harms and flailing about, would yield a remarkable rate of return, with dividends of peace, prosperity, happiness and well-being for all.
The 21st century brings significant new threats -- climate change, peak oil, corruption of democracy, overpopulation, amoral technological development, economic meltdown, rampant extinction, and more. Can these be adequately addressed by amelioration, technological innovation, problem-solving, etc.? Or do these threats arise from dysfunctional systems doing what they do naturally?
I think we need to question social interventions that don't focus on transforming our social, economic, and political systems and the worldviews that underlie them. I suggest that dysfunctional systems and worldviews generate most of the problems we are trying to solve, the crises we are trying to avoid, the devastating catastrophes we fear.
The more we expend resources on approaches that won't end these problems -- no matter how much good we do and how much suffering we ameliorate -- the less resources we will have to invest in systemic transformation. I suggest the highest transformational investment will enhance the capacity of social, economic, and political systems not only for resilience, but for wise self-organization and self-evolution.
I suggest this is not only necessary for our survival. It constitutes an evolutionary leap into conscious collective evolution.
To begin, I suggest we attend to things like feedback dynamics, paradigm systems (values, assumptions, stories), the relationships between consciousness and social structure, the sources of breakdown and breakthrough, and other topics that seem far from the world of charity and the urgent issues of the day. But I suggest that is where the leverage is. That is where we will make it or break it.
Philanthropy means love of humanity. In the face of limited resources and the real possibility of greater suffering in a downward spiral, how do we hold our desire to address today's suffering and injustice with our desire to co-create a life-affirming civilization for the seventh generation after us?