Open seminar at Score with Noomi Weinryb
Those who are very wealthy may also be extremely free. Independently wealthy philanthropists epitomize this type of freedom. They seem to be able to act in whichever way they please, as long as they respect the limits of the law. Their freedom also implies that they do not experience as much accountability as other funders. Considering philanthropists’ ambitions as policymakers, and given their imposition of performance demands on their grantees, their accountability is relevant to investigate. However, there are no comprehensive comparative studies of philanthropists’ accountability, and there is mainly anecdotal evidence of a lack of accountability being derived from their independent wealth.
This lecture will chronicle my dissertation work on philanthropists’ accountability. I compare their experienced and exhibited accountability to that of other funders within societies, and I also compare philanthropists’ accountability across societies. The study indicates that philanthropists experience and exhibit less accountability than other funders in some ways, in some contexts. By developing and using a framework to analyze their accountability, I show that philanthropists’ accountability is patterned within the societies in which they fund, and it differs greatly across societies. My results point to the contextual limits of philanthropists’ accountability. By enacting their moral identity in a way that conforms to local norms, philanthropists simultaneously retain and enable their continued freedom. In terms of their accountability, philanthropists are free to conform, and they become free by conforming.
Noomi Weinryb is a postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University and Södertörn University. Within the broad framework of organization theory, her work deals with questions of audit and accountability in civil society, comparing the third sector to public and corporate efforts at organizing.