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The Evolution of Silicon Valley Philanthropy: “Disruption” and the Implications for Educational Development

Tue, April 16, 3:15 to 4:45pm, Hyatt Regency, Pacific Concourse (Level -1), Pacific F


Tracing the contours of evolving philanthropic engagement among technology philanthropists in Silicon Valley, this paper will address two central questions: how has the relationship between philanthropy and business changed among Silicon Valley donors over time? And, what are the potential implications of emerging philanthropic practices among Silicon Valley technology donors for educational development?

As discussed in the panel abstract, a new style of philanthropy is emerging from Silicon Valley with new actors, new funding mechanisms and new approaches to philanthropic giving. With technological innovation as the core influence that created much of the wealth driving the new philanthropy; it is no surprise that disruption, innovation, and impact are at the center of what Culwell and Grant (2016) have termed an emerging “giving code.”

With the central theme of analyzing the changing relationship between philanthropy and business over time, the opening section presents the Silicon Valley giving code and the context within which the giving code emerged. The historical analysis of Silicon Valley philanthropy covers three distinct eras of regional value creation. The discussion of each era includes how the new philanthropic giving trends compare and contrast with traditional philanthropy as well as how the era of giving typically responds to issues of educational development. The next section, drawing upon stakeholder interviews, the researcher’s personal experience, artifact collection and document analysis, presents case studies to analyze the changing relationship between philanthropy and business over time and theorize about its implications for educational development. The collection of cases forms an initial framework illustrating multiple rationales for new technology philanthropic engagement across time and organizational division.

The paper concludes with a discussion of why a definition of a giving code is now necessary and reasons to advance the giving code in order to understand issues of power and institutional isomorphism, social justice and equity, civil society and democracy and the changing relationship between philanthropy and the state. It is the hope that the findings of this investigation will help the international development community better understand how new technology philanthropists develop their strategies and how their evolving engagement potentially affects international development.


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