The Technium

Tipping Asia

Japan is hurting and needs our help. But actually it needs Asia’s help the most. Like anyone in the world, our best is brought out when we help without expectation –  what is called charity.  Asia would grow in many dimensions if it grew in philanthropy.

There is an ocean of wealth — in China, India, the Tigers and Japan itself – that is still rising. For instance Merrill Lynch reports that China has half a million millionaires, and those numbers are growing at 31% per year, the fastest in the world. (The US has 2.87 million millionaires.) India is not far behind, with a 50% expansion in one year, 2009. It is fifth in total millionaires.

But the tools and expectation of creative sharing are scarce in Asia for historical reasons. In 2010 Bain and Company estimated philanthropic donations as a percent of GDP:


What is the most effective non-emergency philanthropy one could do today in the world?

I have come to the conclusion that the highest leverage point in philanthropy right now would be to cultivate a culture of giving in Asia. That is to educate, reform, nurture, and expand philanthropy in Asian cultures.

A few tens millions spent now in seeding reform in current legal and tax regimes in order to encourage philanthropy, or millions spent educating and equipping the newly wealthy and soon-to-be wealthy, elevating role models, developing appropriate persuasions, and making giving in Asia cool for the average citizen — all these would “pay off” a million fold in a decade or two. This type of meta-giving — giving to increase the degree of giving — is long term investing of a different type.

In 2010 two of the richest people in the world, who had publicaly pledged to give away more than 50% of their wealth – went to visit some of the richest people in India and China to nudge them to do the same. Primarily to serve as role models and peer pressure for the other million millionaires not giving yet.

Several organizations have been set up to promote philanthropy from and within in Asia, not just to Asia. APPC based in the Philippines. Asian Philanthropy Forum, based in San Francisco.

  • eddie

    Hi KK,
    Generally agree with you – giving is a great way to continue to the Game.

    Though a couple of points of disagreements:
    1) There exist philanthropic/charity giving in Asia. Just not as “高调”(public-eye – in-media and trackable etc) as what some Western/Eastern observers would like.
    2) Private giving is alive and well in Asia. Where a “word” (or spit-and-handshake) is enough to secure the funding needed.
    3) What is needed is better “cross-situational communication” of needs/wants.

    The last point above is always a key challenge in any “giving” activities. Especially where the “giver” is not able to experience the full affects of gift outside the giver’s sense of awareness. Giving to empower is great. Giving for entitlement is generally not so great (or bad even) for a social system.

    Check out the various microblogs in North East Asia or look at a few key publicly obvious charity (e.g. Lee (Rubber) Foundation, RenCi etc.). I am sure the South Asia readers here can chime in with more examples.

    I am also unaware of how “charity” (philanthropy) is done in South America, Africa etc. Perhaps you can do a follow up article?

    cheers + respects.

    • Kevin_Kelly


      I am glad to here your point #1. How can we help make it grow?

      Is there any way to track #2?

      Yes on #3.

      • Dien

        #2 – this is very difficult to track for Asia but each country has some research in the area. Depending on which country, many organizations are not registered (or are not allowed to register) and thus, reporting is not required (unlike the US).

        #3 – a new book, titled Global Philanthropy, was recently released. It’s a great start to learn about philanthropy in other countries.

        WINGS – Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support is also a great place to start:

        Thank you for calling attention to the global philanthropy sector!

        • Kevin_Kelly

          Thank you for the tips.

      • eddie

        Not sure of ways to track or even should track. My thoughts are more towards this article’s ending:

        Keep the articles coming. :-)

  • Dien

    Thank you for mentioning Asian Philanthropy Forum, KK. I have been trying to curate and share the Asian philanthropy movement – at the most exciting time in its history! There are many needs in Asia but there are also many opportunities for those in Asia (and outside Asia that love Asia) to create positive changes. Philanthropy is inherently individual and influenced by culture, social structure, language, history and the enabling environment in which it is practiced. One possible goal is to nurture and provide the tools for others to adapt so that collectively, our impact is greater than for each village, town, city, country – and globally!