Rising wealth in Asia is one of the biggest economic stories of the 21st century. We are witnessing enormous societal change as hundreds of millions leave behind a life of poverty.
As prominent Asian philanthropists Ratan Tata and Ronnie Chan have written, these changes raise some fundamental questions: What does it mean to be part of a community? What are the responsibilities of those who have toward those who have not? And how do ancient ways of interacting with one another meld with modernity, technology and a cosmopolitan world view?
All of these questions are embedded in an evolving notion of philanthropy and other kinds of private giving.
A culture of giving is already deeply rooted in Asia, which has a distinguished history of organized philanthropy for community welfare. What is relatively new and exciting is a growing interest in the professionalization of the sector and the emergence of SDOs (standards developing organisation) that deliver services and products to meet a societal need. All signals point to an increased number of registered SDOs across Asia, with a clear focus on improving lives.
The types of SDOs are also evolving to range from traditional non-profits, to non-profits with income streams, to social enterprises that seek to be successful businesses which also provide a social good.
The potential of philanthropy to contribute to meaningful change has never been higher according to the report titled ‘Doing Good Index 2018’ by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society. However, there is much that governments and SDOs can do to encourage more philanthropic giving among the 637 or so Asia-based billionaires, the thousands of 100-millionaires and other holders of private wealth.
This means that there is an unprecedented opportunity for philanthropic giving in Asia to leap ahead. Asia can even meet, and surpass, the charitable giving level in the United States. Philanthropic giving could also contribute toward the US $1.4 trillion annual global price tag for achieving the United Nation’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) by 2030, to deliver the improvements in quality of life that they promise.
There is great socioeconomic diversity across the 15 prominent economies: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. They range from high-income to low-income, indicating varied success in directing resources and providing infrastructure support to drive economic development. They also sit at either ends of the Human Development Index, which the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) uses to measure life expectancy, education, literacy, and standards of living.