DUBAI: Private giving can help the wider economy — if it’s planned well. That’s what three philanthropy experts told delegates to the third of a series of Dubai Economy Talks, this one entitled Blending Social and Financial Value, at the Armani Hotel, Downtown Dubai, on Wednesday.


And while the idea of charitable donations was mentioned, speakers’ presentations were dusted with a different kind of language: impact investment, venture philanthropy. social investment, strategic philanthropy.

At one stage, Paul O’Dea, Senior Adviser to Private Offices at Floreat Group, which handles the Duke of Westminster’s philanthropic funds among other accounts, posted a glossary of terms to the big-screen display.

In his opening remarks, Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of Dubai Economy, pointed out that philanthropic investments are deeply ingrained into the heritage and culture of the UAE.

The purpose of the talk, he said, was to look at international best practices to see how Dubai and the UAE could develop a strategy supporting philanthropic projects.

Event moderator Raed Safadi, Chief Economic Adviser to Dubai Economy, said people were often confused about what philanthropy meant.

“Traditionally you would think of philanthropy as, ‘Let’s make more money so we can give more money,’ giving the idea that making money and giving money are two separate activities” he said. “Venture philanthropy is flipping that. ‘Let us give more so we can earn more.’ That’s the thrust of this whole conversation.”

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Tony Bury, founder and chairman of Mowgli Mentors, a philanthropic organization devoted to developing entrepreneurs’ skills, addressed the interface between private philanthropy and public policy when he suggested philanthropy could concentrate on investing in high-risk projects that governments could not, assuming the burden of potential failure. That, he said, was how penicillin was developed.

Furthermore, he believed philanthropy could work alongside government to fulfil social agendas.

“In 2005, living in the region, I became aware that Mena [the Middle East and North Africa] was on the verge of having a significant challenge of creating up to 100 million new jobs over a 10-year period,” he said. “Let’s put that in perspective — the region would have to deliver a compound growth rate in excess of 8 per cent per annum over the 10-year period. The region has struggled to achieve greater than 4 per cent in any one year.

“This challenge is daunting. What’s the best way, in the region, to create these jobs? Governments in the region can no longer absorb this number of employees, we therefore need to achieve employment through the corporate sector, multinationals as well as local companies.

“We need family-owned businesses to become entrepreneurial, we need to create entrepreneurs and SMEs, and we should not forget that the not-for-profit sector is a great sector for employing people.”

A philanthropy glossary

VENTURE PHILANTHROPY: Using concepts and techniques of venture capital to achieve philanthropic goals.

STRATEGIC PHILANTHROPY: Aligning charitable activities with a social issue or cause supporting business objectives.

IMPACT INVESTMENT: Investments intended to generate a measurable and beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.

SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT: An investment strategy that considers both financial return and social good.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: An organization employing commercial strategies to improve social and environmental well-being.

LAYERED FUNDING: Employing different sources of capital to fund social outcomes.


Petros Stathis