Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

From one Cornhusker to another: Peter Buffett, philanthropy, and how we can frame the dialogue

Dear Mr. Buffett,

The charitable industrial-complex, philanthropic colonialism, conscience laundering and inequality – these are topics a fellow Nebraskan like me wants to have more conversations about. So that’s why I was glad to read your New York Times op-ed this weekend, the reaction it garnered, and Wayan Vota’s call to you, “Time for a Moonshot.” The ensuing dialogue on Wayan’s page, including your participation, has been rich and engaging and much more useful to us in the social change business than some of the other responses to your piece from such folks as Howard Husock (can we say 19th century notions of philanthropy?), Ruth McCambridgePhil Buchanan, or the guys at Philanthrocapitalism.

Since I left Nebraska at age 21, when I describe my childhood to my fellow US citizens, I’ve been met with reactions such as, “I can’t even imagine that,” or “It’s like you grew up in the 50s.” I’ve lived on the East and West coasts, as well as in southern Africa. And though I left Nebraska for its limitations, the older I get, the more grateful I am for that solid foundation it provided. That solid foundation as I see it now is a very deep sense of the “common good.” It permeated my upbringing and when I get discouraged about the state of world (which is easy to do – I live in Washington DC now), my hope comes from the notion that when I left my small town in Nebraska to be an aid worker, I found this: the common good still exists elsewhere in the world. In fact, now more than ever, it is the necessary, though neglected counter balance to economic growth, and to the conversations about “innovation” and “going to scale” in philanthropy that are a direct result of such ways of thinking...

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