Philanthropy & Non-Profit Organizations

Scientific Philanthropy: A Necessary Adoption for the Future

Photo: Robert Bassam (CC)

Crook Fellow Amara Uyanna makes the case for bolstering philanthropy with scientific principles, backing up her argument with experiences gleaned during her time working with Sustainability International:

I’ve always thought of philanthropy as an art: the art of giving. While I still believe there’s an artistic component to it, I am now of the opinion that to secure our future, we need to incorporate science into philanthropy. Decades ago, John D. Rockefeller Sr. coined the term “scientific philanthropy,” which he described as “the application of frontiers of science, technology and engineering to improving the state of humanity.”

In today’s world of technological advancement, philanthropy needs science to ensure maximum impact.

One Friday morning this a summer, during my internship with Sustainability International, I had the opportunity to attend a NEXUS Global event themed “Philanthropy’s New Frontier: Social Impact Investing.” In her talk as the keynote speaker, Ndidi Nwuneli highlighted the difference between charity and philanthropy, and stated that philanthropy is giving with a purpose which is often structured, measurable and sustainable. She went on to expatiate on social entrepreneurship and impact investing, providing stellar examples of success across West Africa.

Shortly after the NEXUS event, I was a panelist at a Global Grand Challenges Summit in Washington D.C. The summit was hosted by the US National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and brought together experts from fields of medicine, artificial intelligence, policy, STEM Education and many more. Rajiv Shah, current president of the Rockefeller Foundation and former USAID administrator was one of the keynote speakers. In his speech, Raj urged the audience to consider using their skills and knowledge to advance the public good, and I urge you dear readers, to do the same.

Listening to experts discuss the potentials and accomplishments of technological advancement in areas relating to biomaterials for human health, making solar energy more economical and improving personalized learning, I was thrilled at how far science has come. Hearing stories of scientifically-engineered treatments for diseases that were once terminal gave me hope for a brighter future. Unfortunately however, the speed with which science is advancing exponentially increases the risk that more people will be left behind. Inclusion, diversity and legislation were recurring concerns throughout the summit, and these concerns are extremely valid in the world we know today.

Amara Uyanna Sustainability Intl

As an engineer, I understand that in order to ensure optimization, innovation is inevitable.
As a future policymaker, I have learnt that our policies and regulations will be most effective when we have a diverse pool of policymakers from various academic backgrounds, races and genders. Regardless of your background, I hope you can agree that innovation and economic profit cannot continue to prevail over social good and public interest.

To sustainably engineer development, philanthropy is a crucial component. In today’s world of declining foreign aid, the onus is on individuals to contribute towards development and philanthropy is a trusted means to significantly impact the lives of many.

Now more than ever, we need to be moral leaders not mere bystanders. First Global’s Not A Robot video clip adequately captures my thoughts on philanthropy. Scientific philanthropy is a rope that can pull generations out of poverty and simultaneously serve as the compass that points the way to peace.

Like many other science projects, the new philanthropy will require teamwork. I will do my part, and I hope that you’ll do yours too.

This blog post was first published by The Robert Strauss Center at The University of Texas at Austin on 21 August 2017.

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