Individual philanthropy in post-apartheid South Africa : a study of attitudes and approaches

Wescott, Holly Rodgers (2009-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


The objective of this thesis was to investigate the state of individual philanthropy in South Africa in the post–apartheid, post–1994 transformative period of this country, and to explore and try to understand this practice within the wider context of trends in contemporary global philanthropy. The germ for this thesis came from a recognition that individual philanthropy on a global level is a burgeoning phenomenon with an increasingly important impact, and that this type of giving could also be a powerful resource for South Africa as this new democracy begins to tackle its social and economic problems. This study was informed by primary and secondary data. I used a research strategy and methodology that entailed in-depth interviews with six prominent South African businesspeople who have each given generously from their own resources to address the country‘s major problems: poverty and inequality, capacity-building and jobs creation, education, the HIV-AIDs pandemic, and other poverty-related ills. The results of my research furnished new insights into the practice of individual philanthropy and confirmed that this practice happens in a unique context: the cultural and historical environment within which people‘s lives unfold is the key influence and impetus that informs their giving. While learning about global strategies is important for understanding how the development discourse is developing, these external strategies do not provide the template for South African philanthropy. In South Africa, individuals from diverse backgrounds are independently practicing philanthropy by developing their own unique set of strategies based on their life experience, rather than pursuing strategies that were reached through collaborative dialogue and a mutually agreed-upon approach. Each context is unique and these individuals have developed their own strategies for giving that make sense and work for them. This research is important as South Africa searches for solutions to its pressing problems because it adds to the body of knowledge that could be used to formulate policy and strategic choices for the future of this country. The development discourse increasingly includes individual philanthropy as an integral part of the ―mix‖ of solutions being pursued to eradicate poverty and other social ills; the further development of individual philanthropy in South Africa to become more strategic and transformative is critical. This development is the next step in future research.

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