02 December 2020
Good way of looking at behaviour
Former Alliance editor Caroline Hartnell first interviewed Gerry Salole 15 years ago, when he had just taken on the role of CEO at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). This interview comes at the end of those 15 years, following his stepping down from the EFC. It also marks the twilight of a long career in philanthropy. Starting in 1993 with Bernard van Leer Foundation, from 1999 to 2005 he was representative of the Ford Foundation in South Africa. This interview focuses on the key lessons learned, and the major challenges now facing the philanthropy sector.
Caroline Hartnell: In a recent blog called ‘The writing is on the wall’, written for the 30th anniversary of the EFC, you talked about reciprocity as being central to philanthropic relationships. Can you say a bit about this?
Gerry Salole: I think reciprocity is a good way of looking at behaviour. One of the more central parts of human reality is that there is an expectation of fairness, of tit-for-tat, of ‘I do this, somebody else does that’. This is intrinsic to human relationships – in marriages, work relationships, friendships. People sometimes have unstated expectations about what the other does. If you apply this lens to philanthropy, it takes you away from the necessity of seeing one set of players as benevolent or do-gooders and another as the recipients. Instead, you ask yourself, ‘what’s being exchanged here?’.