Broadening Horizons: Comparative Research on Big Philanthropy

Nov 27, 2012 | Category: CGAP News

Spoke 1 researchers based at the universities of Newcastle, Exeter and Strathclyde have been extending their understanding of entrepreneurial philanthropy through comparative research across both space and time. The basic idea, as in all comparative research, is to analyze scale, context and primary drivers by systematically comparing and contrasting similar developments in different countries and at different times.

Following a pioneering article on ‘Andrew Carnegie and the Foundations of Contemporary Entrepreneurial Philanthropy’ published in Business History in 2011, the team has researched a series of in-depth historical case studies of leading entrepreneurial philanthropists on both sides of the Atlantic, including luminaries such as JD Rockefeller, Conrad Hilton, Henry Wellcome and William Hesketh Lever.

Charles Harvey and Mairi Maclean have also been active on the international front in researching entrepreneurial philanthropy in India based mainly on life-history interviews with philanthropists and philanthropy professionals. Their research on the Bharti Foundation, which is responsible for the education of more than 100,000 children in rural areas, has led to the visit of Rakesh Mittal, co-founder of Bharti Enterprises, the telecommunications giant, to Britain in December 2012. Mr Mittal will be awarded an honorary doctorate at Newcastle University for his contribution to social renewal in India and in other countries around the world, and will speak on the role of philanthropy in economic and social regeneration.

The research on India, conducted in two extended fieldwork visits (November 2011 and February 2013), follows that of Jillian Gordon on Australia, and presages further research in the United States by Eleanor Shaw. Through these and other studies of entrepreneurial philanthropy in France and China Spoke 1 aims to enrich our understanding (empirical and theoretical) of the involvement and impact of wealthy business people, as orchestrators and funders, in large scale, socially transformative philanthropic projects, in the past, present and future.

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