From Prosperity to Purpose. Philanthropy among Latin America´s very rich

Latin America is the region best known for enormous inequality and the world´s fastest growth rate for billionaires.  How much do they give back to their societies?  A new report on this has just been published by Harvard University.  Entitled From Prosperity to Purpose: Perspectives on Philanthropy and Strategic Investment Among Wealthy Individuals in Latin America, the work was funded by UBS and produced by the Hauser Institute at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.   As authors Paula Johnson, Christine Letts and Colleen Kelly explain, “The study explores private giving and social investment among high net worth individuals and families in six Latin American countries, and includes an overview and individual reports on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.  Each report analyzes donors’ motivations and aspirations; philanthropic practices and operations; challenges and obstacles to giving; and the types of support, resources, and policy reforms that might increase giving and strengthen its impact.”

Available on-line is an overview report in English and Spanish, and six country reports, including Peru.  I had the honor of being interviewed for this study (not because I am very rich, alas, but because I have studied this topic in the past), as did another Peruvian, Tony Custer, founder of the Fundación Custer and one of this country´s few high profile philanthropists.  Tony writes:  “We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the philanthropic potential in our countries. This study illuminates a path forward to far greater impact. My sincerest wish is that it will be widely read and that its extensive and groundbreaking research and analysis will spur us in the region to engage in, advocate for, and commit to responsible and effective philanthropy for many years to come.”

As an example, last year the Custer Family Endowment sponsored the first visiting fellowship for scholars and/or practitioners from Peru at Harvard.  The inaugural scholar was Maritza Paredes of the Catholic University, conducting research on  ” Shaping State Capacity A Comparative Historical Analysis of Mining Dependence in the Andes 1840s – 1920s”. Touché.

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