Pragmatic Philanthropy: Asian Charity Explained

Palgrave Macmillan, January 2018

“We must create a civilization where we can realize the best of human potential. This book helps us to understand how this vision is being realized in Asia today.” (Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate and Founder, the Grameen Bank)

“In today’s world, leaders must rely on partnerships that connect across business, government and civil society. In Asia, partnerships are in evident display. Ruth Shapiro tells us how they help address our shared problems in ways that create win-win solutions.” (Dominic Barton, Managing Director, McKinsey & Company)

“Charity has had a long and noble history in Asia.  It has not however, been the study of much research or documentation.  Pragmatic Philanthropy makes an important contribution to understanding the way in which social investment in Asia takes place.” (Victor K. Fung, Group Chairman of the Fung Group)

“Kiva is working in 80 countries.  While some aspects of our work are consistent throughout the world, we have learned that it is essential to have on the ground knowledge in each of the localities where we make loans available.  We must have trustworthy local partners and be familiar with local laws and practices. Dr. Ruth Shapiro’s insights come from decades of work in Asia. This book provides a very helpful view into the way philanthropy and other types of social investment gets done in the region.” (Premal Shah, Co-Founder & President, Kiva)

“As every great social entrepreneur knows, and as the Skoll Foundation has learned from our work with them, context matters. What works in Bangladesh may not translate to Indonesia, and vice versa. Successful social investment depends upon local knowledge and uptake, as Ruth Shapiro demonstrates in this valuable volume. Here she shares insights gained from her work in Asia together with some of the world’s most promising philanthropists. Pragmatic Philanthropy: Asian Charity Explained is essential reading for change-agents working across the Asian continent, and for those seeking to support them.” (Sally Osberg, President and CEO, Skoll Foundation)

“We are beginning to see dramatic increases in interest and activity in philanthropy in China and throughout Asia.  We also need to see a commensurate degree of research and understanding of the sector.  This book is a worthwhile effort to help close the gap between interest and impact.” (Xiulan Zhang, Professor and Former Founding Dean, School of Social Development and Public Policy, Beijing Normal University, China)

“Although non-profit corporations have been in existence in legal sense since 1898, the Kobe earthquake of 1995, followed by other natural disasters have been a wake-up call for Japan. We see the need for citizens to be active in addressing our shared concerns whether they are helping vulnerable people or reconstructing a devastated area.   Studies like the one carried out by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society help us to learn valuable lessons about what works in taking on these roles.” (Tatsuo Ohta, Chairman, The Japan Association of Charitable Organizations)

“This book exemplifies the reason that I agreed to go on the board of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society – it provides world-class analysis to a field that is understudied and misunderstood.  For too long, philanthropists have worked from the premise that the rigor and analysis they use in their businesses are not applicable to their charitable investments.   The opposite is the case as these types of investments are more difficult to measure and can touch the lives of many.  Dr. Ruth Shapiro’s book helps us to understand the dynamic nature of the Asian philanthropic sector and make more informed choices about how we invest our time and our resources.” (Elizabeth Eder Zobel de Ayala, Chairman, Teach for the Philippines)

“More and more people are thinking about philanthropy in a more methodical, intelligent way.  It is important to understand deeply the issues you are dealing with and support solutions that make the most impact.  Grounded in  research and evidence, this book helps us to see how this trend is accelerating across Asia.” (Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman, Godrej and Boyce)

“Our own Trust Barometer shows that trust is in crisis around the world.  Non-profit organizations tend to be more trusted than governments and companies but even their numbers are going down.  In Asia, this lack of trust has significant ramifications for philanthropy and the charitable sector.  This book helps us to understand why trust is in such short supply, why this matters and what we can do about it.” (Richard Edelman, Chief Executive Officer, Edelman)

“The Djarum Foundation’s work is grounded in community help, tolerance and mutual assistance.  These are values that are integral to who we are and are shared by many in Indonesia and throughout out Asia.   Pragmatic Philanthropy explains how these values underpin programs and practices of helping each other in Asia.” (Victor Hartono, Chairman, The Djarum Foundation)

Civil Society Briefs

Asian Development Bank

Introduction: Civil society is a very important stakeholder in the operations of the Asian Development Bank and its borrowers and clients. It is distinct from the government and private sector and consists of a diverse range of individuals, groups, and nonprofit organizations. They operate around shared interests, purposes, and values with a varying degree of formality and encompass a diverse range—from informal unorganized community groups to large international labor union organizations. These Briefs provide an overview of civil society organizations (CSOs), with a particular focus on nongovernment organizations (NGOs). These Briefs were first published by the Asian Development Bank (

Click here to read the Briefs.

Interview with Ratan Tata

Dr. Shapiro of CAPS interviews Ratan Tata about the Tata Trusts' philanthropy in India.

Ratan Tata was the Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, from 1991 until his retirement on December 28, 2012. Effective December 29, 2012, Mr. Tata has been conferred the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Tata Industries, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, and Tata Chemicals.

He is currently the Chairman of the Tata Trusts, which are among India’s oldest, nonsectarian philanthropic organizations that work in several areas of community development. He is the Chairman of the Council of Management of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He also serves on the board of trustees of Cornell University and the University of Southern California. He is an advisory board member of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society.

Click on the video below to watch this interview with Ratan Tata, who shares with us his experience and knowledge in philanthropy.

Japan’s Civil Society from Kobe to Tohoku

Rachel Leng (Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies)

Shared by Harvard University

Abstract: Although the development of civil society organisations in Japan occurred relatively late compared to Western and some developing countries, a growing number of scholarly works have documented modern Japan’s rapid growth of citizen activism and social action. However, discourse on civil society in Japan has emphasised a pattern of numerous small local groups with limited budgets and staff, and few large professionalized organisations. Nonetheless, Japan has witnessed a recent surge in civil society activism, where the number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working on international development and foreign aid issues is on the rise. As NGOs are a key source of citizens’ power, the expansion of such organisations in Japan has important implications for the shifting relationship between civil society and the state.

This paper explores the development of Japan’s civil society by focusing on patterns of citizen volunteerism and the role of NGOs in the country’s natural disaster relief and restoration efforts. By comparing the post-disaster landscape for citizen volunteering, advocacy, and NGO performance in response to the 1995 Kobe and 2011 Tohoku earthquakes, this paper aims to trace how civil society leadership in Japan has evolved. In particular, this paper examines how the disaster management infrastructure established after Kobe influenced NGO performance in volunteer training and coordination, liaison with officials, and relief efforts for Tohoku’s disaster areas. A better understanding of citizen involvement with NGOs will provide an important indicator for the future trajectory of civil society and disaster resilience in Japan in an international context.

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Private Philanthropy in Multiethnic Malaysia

Elizabeth Agee Cogswell (Macalester International)

As with most other social and economic activities in Malaysia, private philanthropy in multiethnic Malaysia also remains to be determined by the division between ethnic groups of Malays, Chinese, and Indians. By interviewing philanthropists, private foundation staff members, charity fund raisers, non-governmental organization executives, professional fundraising staff of international NGOs, and employees in charge of corporate foundation and direct giving programs. Cogswell teases out the status quo, the intricacies, and issues that private philanthropy in multiethnic Malaysia as it further develops.

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Popular Mobilization and Democratization: A Comparative Study of South Korea and Taiwan

Jai Kwan Jung (Korea Observer)

Abstract: What is the role of popular mobilization in the process of democratization? Based on a thorough critique of the elite-centric perspective in the literature of democratic transitions, this paper proposes an alternative view. If popular mobilization played a significant role in the initial phase of regime transition, it is likely to have an enduring effect on the development of democracy in the period that follows, because the collective memory of advancing democracy from below shapes citizens’ favorable attitudes toward direct civic action and increases their commitment to democracy. A comparison between South Korea and Taiwan’s paths toward democracy effectively shows how this dynamic operates. While the Korean democratization movement successfully mobilized a massive wave of protests in response to the opening of political space, such a large scale of popular mobilization was absent in Taiwan. The difference in this distinct feature of the early phase of transition appears to be reflected in the degree of public confidence in democracy in the two countries.

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The Legacy of the British Administration of Hong Kong: A View from Hong Kong

Ming K. Chan (The China Quarterly)

Abstract: As the one and a half centuries of British colonial rule draw to a close on 30 June 1997, it is timely to review the true legacy of British administration in Hong Kong. It would be naive to resort to any simplistic blanket judgment or to issue any sweeping endorsement or condemnation on the mixed record of the British administration. It would also be dangerous to look only at the attainments in the final days of the British regime and use them to reconstruct, or even to substitute for, the full span of British rule. Even given a charitable view of this sunset era of the British regime as its finest hour in Hong Kong, a more informed and balanced assessment of its past deeds must be appreciated in the fuller context of the actual inputs and outputs of British officialdom in shaping developments in the territory and the life of Hong Kong people during the entire course of British rule.

Hong Kong today is globally recognized as a remarkable example of a liberal society with a vibrant economy where its population of more than six million enjoy their freedom and opportunity. For this, the British can indeed claim considerable credit. As portrayed by the last British Governor Christopher Patten, four of the major British contributions to Hong Kong’s success – the rule of law, the civil service, economic freedom and democratization – can be a useful starting point to articulate the true British legacy from a Hong Kong perspective.

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