These are the slides from a presentation I gave at the Yorkshire Grantmakers Forum 25th Anniversary, looking at what the next 25 years might hold in terms of technological, social and political change.
Why should grantmakers care about
New ways of achieving mission1)
Change the way organisations operate2)
Create new problems to address3)
Example Disruptive Technologies
Virtual & Augmented
Internet of Things
Data: Big, Open & Everywhere
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”
The Economist (2017)
AI requires vast quantities of data
Growing pressure on data ownership in future
Charities and grantmakers will need to
embrace Open Data, and get away from
“private by default” mindset
Potential benefit: 3rd party innovation
Could make it possible to have 100%
transparency around finance, impact etc.
Blockchain: a distributed public ledger
i.e. way of recording transactions &
ownership without trusted 3rd party.
GOOD: - More openness could bring greater trust, and thus more giving?
BAD: - Could make spending on core costs even harder
- What about justifiable donor/beneficiary anonymity?
NB: Not necessarily a choice: even if you don’t embrace it, it’ll probably happen to you so
you need to prepare and adapt.
(i.e. getting rid of middlemen)
Long-term trend in philanthropy: towards
BUT: Are we now seeing that come full
Blockchain could enable even greater
Benefit: Charities/Grantmakers could save money on e.g. bank costs, legal fees
Risk: Could charitable orgs themselves be disintermediated?
Decentralisation, Networks & Platforms
Tech enables decentralisation
• Blockchain can be used to create
entirely decentralised governance
• Platforms (Uber, Airbnb etc.) have
disrupted and disintermediated
Society wants it
New models for social purpose
Social change campaign platforms
In the future, charities will face
competition for doing good from
Already over 1500 cryptocurrencies, e.g:
Can use crypto tokens to represent value of all kinds: financial, non-financial,
physical, intangible (e.g. IP or social value).
PLUS: unique digital objects for the first time:
SO: Range of assets for
philanthropy could be massively
AI & Algorithms
AI is big news - number of key factors in recent growth:
Specific AI, not Artificial
Opinions vary on when latter might happen, or if it is even possible, but former is here now.
Chatbots & Conversational AI
• Chatbots will power 85% of all customer service
interactions by the year 2020
• By 2020, the average person will have more
conversations with bots than with their spouse. 30% of
web browsing will be done by voice. (Gartner)
• Already having an impact on charities…
“If you liked Cancer
Research UK, you’ll
Facebook/Amazon model: charity
recommendations based on past
preferences or peer group
Philgorithm: Wholly automated
process of matching needs and
Challenge 1: Algorithmic Bias
When machine learning algorithms are taught using data sets that contain statistical biases
for e.g. race, gender, they exhibit and strengthen those biases over time
Challenge 2: Filter Bubbles
• Technology such as social media
allows us to build ‘filter bubbles’
around our experience
• Likely to get worse as increasing
reliance on AI-based interfaces
tailors our experience of the world
to fit existing preferences and
The slow death of public discourse?
Filter bubble problem symptomatic of wider social and political division
Rise of ‘fake news’ and targeted
propaganda/misinformation has eroded
notions of truth and fact
Things might be about to get worse…
• Challenges in terms of using facts and evidence for advocacy
• Role to play in combatting erosion of truth (e.g. philanthropic
support for journalism).
Closing Space or Open Season?
Closing Space for Civil
Global trend of
freedom of civil society,
advocacy and campaigning.
Politicisation of charity:
In US, concerns over moves to
relax rules on political
campaigning by 501(c)3s -
many worry it will lead to flood
of “dark money” and
undermine trust in charities
We need to be aware of both these dangers in the UK:
1) Government attitude toward charity campaigning already quite negative (Lobbying
Act, Advocacy Clause etc.
2) Already concerns about think tanks etc. being used for quasi-political donations.
The Attention Economy
“The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention.”
Need to compete in this “attention economy” has led
to new problems:
How do charities compete for our attention without adopting techniques that
cause long-term harm?
The Sharing Economy
Rise of platforms +
Internet of Things +
Major shift from ownership to
Big implications for
- Charitable giving
The Real Economy
Many experts believe another financial crisis is inevitable:
But there are other long-term challenges too…* According to Deutsche Bank
End of QE
Automation & The Future of Work
Advances in AI and robotics have led to
speculation that many jobs may be under
threat from automation.
One solution proposed is Universal Basic Income
If feasible, has big implications for charities:
1) Role in managing transition to post-work world
2) Voluntary action as a new sense of purpose
3) Would charitable giving decline in the context of UBI?
Inequality already a massive economic problem
Key question for development of tech: does it reduce or increase
An Ageing Population
Average life expectancies continue to rise
Life extension technology could
enable those who can afford it to live
Our relationship with mortality could change radically over next 25 years
Impact for charities:
• New health & social problems
• Delayed wealth transfer?
• More volunteers…?
Urbanisation & The Rise of Cities
More people now live in urban than rural areas worldwide (54%)
UK has highest proportion of urban population in the OECD (82%)
Global urban population 1960-2016 (World Bank)
Already seeing political power shift in UK
through devolution, elected mayors etc.
New opportunities for place-based
philanthropy and influencing at a local level.
“In this century, it will be the city—not the state—
that becomes the nexus of economic and political
Key Cross-Cutting Themes Recap
Disintermediation Networks & Platforms
Algorithms Data, data, data
New models for social good
Automation of work
What should I take away from this?
Going to see massive technological, social and political
changes in coming years
Impossible to guess exactly what these are, but can identify
trends that are likely to play out
Charities and funders need to start engaging with them now, to:
1) Find new
“We probably need something in our strategy about this…”
Where to find us
CAF Giving Thought think tank and Future:Good project
CAF Giving Thought Podcast
Head of Policy & Programme Director, Giving Thought
Charities Aid Foundation