IMG - Giving conference

Giving: Caring for the Needs of Strangers
Conference Program

Thursday, December 6, 2012

6:00–7:30 p.m.
I. Keynote: Caring for the Needs of Strangers

Deogratias Niyizonkiza, founder and director of Village Health Works in Burundi

Moderator: Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of a New Machine, Mountains Beyond Mountains, and Strength in What Remains (about Deogratias Niyizonkiza)

Friday, December 7, 2012

10:00 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
II. Religious and Philosophical Grounds for Giving

The Judeo-Christian Tradition
J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life, Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

This presentation will provide a sympathetic statement from the Hebrew Prophets and New Testament, examples of contemporary theological statements of responding to need, and comments on the capacity for Jud-Christian ethics to engage contemporary debates on responding to human needs.

Charity in Islamic Societies
Amy Singer, Professor of Ottoman History, Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University; author of Charity in Islamic Societies (CUP, 2008)

Charity is an integral part of Muslim life at every level of society, in every era, and across the entire lifespan of individuals. Obligatory alms and voluntary donations are acts that touch all Muslims, and many non-Muslims as well. Charitable endowments have sustained and promoted Muslim cultural and social welfare institutions alike. Since September 11, 2001, Muslim charity has received some very bad press, with analysts and observers frequently emphasizing the links between charity and extremist violence. Few have stopped to consider seriously why it is that the discourse and practice of charity are so prominent in Muslim communities, historically and today. Yet to understand charitable giving is to understand how attitudes toward entitlement and obligation evolved in societies, creating the networks of responsibility and dependence in which we live today.

The Gift: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Perspectives
Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School

This talk examines our understandings of wealth and charity in the context of a traditional cultures that value renunciation as a religious ideal.

The Ethics of Giving to Strangers
Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University; Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne

What is the ethical obligation of the affluent to give to people who live in extreme poverty? I shall argue that these obligations are much more demanding than we commonly think and make the case for this strong obligation to help the poor, discuss some objections, and end by considering how we should respond to the conclusion that most affluent people are failing to meet their ethical obligations.

Moderator: Richard Bernstein, Vera List Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research

1:45–4:00 p.m.
III. The Development and Psychology of Altruism 

The Evolution of Generosity
Michael McCullough, Director, Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory and professor of Psychology, University of Miami; author of Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct (Jossey-Bass, 2008) and coauthor of Research on Altruism and Love (Templeton Press, 2003)

Darwin’s great scientific contribution was to reveal how a blind, mindless, purposeless, purely physical process can build complex functional design in the natural world. By introducing the concept of natural selection, Darwin showed us how evolution builds devices. Genes really are, as Dawkins claimed, deeply and throroughly selfish, but the devices they create need not be. In this talk, I will illustrate how natural selection can build devices whose function is to cause organisms to take actions that boost the welfare of other organisms. I’ll call them generosity devices. Generosity devices come in two broad types: Those that evolve because the genes that assemble them boost the direct reproductive success of the organism in whom those genes reside (we can call these mutual-benefit devices, because by boosting the welfare of another organism, the genes that build the device that does the boosting actually increase their own replication rate), and those that evolve because the genes that assemble them during development boost the reproductive success of exact replicas of those genes that are residing in other organisms (most recognizably, in the organism’s genetic relatives). Let’s call them altruism devices. In my talk, I will catalogue some of the mutual-benefit devices and altruism devices with which natural selection has very likely outfitted human beings and illustrate how they seem to work.

The Altruistic Brain
James R. Doty, MD, Director and Founder, Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neuroscience; clinical professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine

At the root of altruism lie empathy and compassion. While some may think that we are mostly driven by selfishness, more and more research is showing that social connection is a fundamental human need and that we are wired to experience empathy and compassion. We thrive with greater social connection, resonate deeply with others emotions and experiences at the level of our physiology and brain, and experience pleasure and transcendence helping others and observing others being helped.

Psychological Development of Altruism in Children
Felix Warneken, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; co-author of "Altruistic helping in human infants and young chimpanzees," Science, (311, 2006)

It is often assumed that humans are inherently selfish, and cultural norms and practices have to override these tendencies to enable altruistic behavior. Specifically, young children are thought to be driven mainly by immediate selfish motivations, acquiring altruistic behaviors through the internalization of social norms or being rewarded for socially desired behavior. Moreover, it has been argued that our closest evolutionary relatives are motivated by selfish interests alone, not caring about the needs of others. This comparative evidence would lend further support for the notion that human-unique cultural factors are foundational. However, I present recent work with young children and chimpanzees that indicates that human altruism might have deeper roots in ontogeny and phylogeny. I will summarize these studies to entertain the possibility that human altruism is not due to cultural practices alone, but reflects a biological predisposition that we might share with our closest evolutionary relatives.

Moderator: Emanuele Castano, Associate Professor of Psychology, The New School for Social Research

4:30-6:45 p.m.
IV. Solving Public Problems Through Private Means

Private Foundations
Helmut Anheier, Dean, Berlin Professor of Sociology, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany

The presentation is based on Helmut K. Anheier’s and David Hammack’s forthcoming book “A Versatile American Institution” which examines the history and contemporary role of American foundations. What stands out is that America’s foundations have not changed greatly in what they can do, but that they have evolved to operate in varying and changing contexts—contexts that vary widely from field to field and from place to place; contexts that have changed sharply from each of four quite distinct periods to the next. The periods can be described as the largely sectarian, particular-purpose era of the nineteenth century; the classic, institution-building era of the first half of the twentieth century; the postwar period of struggle for strategy and relevance that lasted into the 1990s; and a new period characterized by acceptance of variety and focus on results. The presentation discusses the comparative advantages and disadvantages of foundations and provides comparison of American and European experiences.”

Matthew Bishop, U.S. Business Editor and New York bureau chief, The Economist 

Philanthrocapitalism describes a new approach to solving public problems that has spread around the world over the past decade or so. It involves entrepreneurial philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, large companies such as Nike and Walmart, social entrepreneurs, celebrities and traditional charities working together with governments in ad hoc "coalitions of the positive". Matthew Bishop will discuss the lessons learned so far about how to make philantrocapitalism work, and the challenges that lie ahead.

Individuals Helping Strangers
Tina Rosenberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, editorial writer, New York Times; author of Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World(W.W. Norton and Co, 2011)

All over the world, people help each other in unexpected ways. Illiterate Dalit women in rural India spend hours each day working, for no pay, as their village doctors. Students in Serbia volunteered for a perilous and seemingly futile task as cannon fodder in the struggle to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic. Young Muslim men in London renounce terrorism and undertake the dangerous work of convincing others to do the same. These people have all made great sacrifices and taken great risks to help individuals, or to fight for what they believe serves the common good. All these acts of selflessness have something in common: they are born from the desire for the respect of our peers and our need to belong to a group. These stories show us a path to creating altruism on a large scale: by employing humanity’s most powerful and abundant resource———our connections to each other.

Moderator: Michele Kahane, professor of Professional Practice, Management Programs, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, The New School for Public Engagement

6:45-7:30 p.m.
RECEPTION: conference attendees and speakers are invited to network over refreshments

Saturday, December 8, 2012

10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. 
  V. Giving and the State: Legal, Political, and Economic Perspectives

Philanthropy and Democracy
Rob Reich, Associate Professor of Political Science, Stanford University; author of Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in Education (UCP, 2002)

People have been giving away their money, property, and time to others for millennia. What’s novel about the contemporary practice of philanthropy is the availability of tax incentives to give money away. Such incentives are built into tax systems in nearly all developed and many developing democracies. More generally, laws govern the creation of foundations and nonprofit organizations, and they spell out the rules under which these organizations may operate. Laws set up special tax exemptions for philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, and they frequently permit tax concessions for individual and corporate donations of money and property to qualifying non-governmental organizations. In this sense, philanthropy is not an invention of the state but ought to be viewed today as an artifact of the state; we can be certain that philanthropy would not have the form it currently does in the absence of the various laws that structure it and tax incentives that encourage it. This paper specifies and assesses three possible justifications for the existence of tax incentives for charitable giving, identifies a distinctive role for philanthropy in democracies, and argues for a fundamental re- design of the current legal framework governing philanthropy.

Religion and the Welfare State: Rivals or Partners
Lew Daly, Director and Senior Fellow, Demos; author of God's Economy: Faith-Based Initiatives and the Caring State (Chicago 2009),Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance (New Press, 2008), and God and the Welfare State (MIT Press, 2006)

In the era of welfare reform since the mid-1990s, social policy has become increasingly intertwined with developments in church-state law that seem to encourage more cooperation between government programs and faith-based organizations. George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative—his signature domestic policy initiative—was an important effort to advance this trend in a structural way, but the Obama administration, despite initial signals of support, has reverted to a liberal-secularist approach that is not only constitutionally obsolete, but politically damaging for the future of the social safety net.

Tax Laws and Philanthropy
Jon Bakija, Professor of Economics, Williams College; co-author of "How Does Charitable Giving Respond to Incentives and Income? New Estimates from Panel Data," National Tax Journal, 2011, 64:2

Federal and state tax laws create substantial financial incentives for donating to charity. I will first discuss how economists conceptualize the rationale for such policies, and why the optimal subsidy for voluntary charitable donations is likely to be larger when peoples' decisions about how much to donate to charity are more responsive to tax incentives. I'll then discuss the challenges involved in identifying the causal effects of tax incentives on charitable donations, and will summarize existing empirical evidence and its strengths and weaknesses. Finally, I'll summarize the findings of my own recent research with Brad Heim, which exploits the fact that tax incentives for charitable giving have changed in very different ways over time for people with similar income levels living in different states, and looks at the degree to which charitable giving behavior responded to those changed incentives.

Moderator:  James Allen Smith, vice president and director of Research and Education, Rockefeller Archive Center; author of The Idea Brokers: Think Tanks and the Rise of the New Policy Elite (Free Press, 1991)

1:30–3:30 p.m.
VI. The Impact of Giving on the Recipient

Giving to Developing States
Michael Cohen, Professor and Director of the Julian J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs Program, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy The New School for Public Engagement; former director of World Bank's urban policy program

The Impact of Aid on its Recipients in Times of Disasters: Some Reflections from an "Aid Provider"
Nicolas de Torrente, program manager of the Deepening Democracy Program in Uganda; former U.S. executive director of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)

How relevant and effective is humanitarian aid for people affected by armed conflict, natural disaster, or protracted crisis? Reaching those in need is the first requirement, and for aid organizations this means negotiating, from a position of weakness, with the very political and military forces involved in creating the crises to which they are responding. As a recent MSF book on ‘humanitarian negotiations’ reveals, it is a process with uncertain and fragile outcomes, with the parameters of acceptable compromise subject to difficult judgment calls.

In their relationship with those affected by crisis however, aid providers have the upper hand, as they fundamentally decide who to help and how. Predictability and equity of the global aid response remains unattainable, in part due to characteristics of the public and private funding on which it mainly relies. And while expected standards are rising and accountability to beneficiaries is taken more seriously in recent years, enforcement is inherently lacking. More than a legal or moral requirement, involving the ‘target population’ is however a pragmatic necessity, contributing to the effectiveness as well as the acceptance of the aid provided. For while attempting to assist people affected by disaster is replete with limitations and dilemmas, it is aid’s tangible benefit for those in need that is not only its best asset to navigate these constraints, but also the yardstick against which its impact should be measured.

The Impact of Private Giving on Public Institutions: Public Schools as an Example
Joanne Barkan, contributor, editorial board member, Dissent; author of "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools," Dissent (Winter, 2011)

Is it possible for private philanthropy to grow so powerful that it weakens both civil society and political democracy? The answer is yes for the large foundations that have shaped, financed, and promoted the current movement to remake K-12 public education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (working with the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and a dozen or so smaller philanthropies) has sustained a decade-long crusade for a series of mostly ill-conceived reforms. It has used its resources—the largest ever assembled by a private “charity” in the United States—to define the national debate and enable a political coalition to set policy at the federal, state, and local levels. By subsidizing mass media, think tanks, advocacy groups, in-school programs, and lobbying (under the guise of “educating” office holders), the foundation has overpowered public opposition. It has, in short, imposed on the demos its particular private vision of a public good.

From the founding of the United States, civil society has been seen as an essential bulwark against state power. But recognized just as early was the inherent tension between democracy and the power of private elite groups. Since their appearance more than a century ago, large-scale private foundations that apply wealth to solve social problems according to their own values have been seen as a threat to democracy. In our age of massive concentrations of wealth, inadequate public resources, dominant market ideology, and unlimited private financing of political campaigns, private philanthropy has co-opted democratic control over public education to the detriment of both democracy and education.

Moderator: Lopamudra Banerjee, assistant professor of Economics, The New School for Social Research

Sunday, December 9, 2012

12:00 noon
Metropolitan Museum of Art

This private, custom tour of the permanent collection will explore images of generosity in art and examine how art has been influenced by patronage from politicians, wealthy families, and religious figures. (Additional $24 for tour ticket and museum admission. Register at the door of the conference, now that online registration has closed. Seats remain available as of Thursday, December 6)

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