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USC Price dean charts growth of philanthropy in Asia

Cristy Lytalby Cristy Lytal
USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott assesses the social impact of philanthropy. (USC Photo/Ginger Li)
USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott assesses the social impact of philanthropy. (USC Photo/Ginger Li)

Jack H. Knott, dean of the USC Price School of Public Policy, called philanthropy one of the “major trends in public affairs in Asia” during a keynote address at the 2013 Lien Conference on Public Administration in Singapore.

“Philanthropy is not only a government public policy issue, but also a societal issue in which volunteers and the private sector contribute to the public good and building more of a civil society infrastructure in Asian countries,” Knott said.

Scholars and senior government officials gathered to hear Knott share his expertise on the issue. Conference attendees included the former president of the Republic of Singapore and the president of the American Society for Public Administration.

In his presentation, Knott showed graphs on the growth in philanthropy and tax and policy support for charitable giving in Singapore and South Korea. He also compared the sources of philanthropy and the recipients in Asia and North America. He emphasized the different roles of government and corporations, which are dominant in Asia, versus the role of religious organizations and individuals in North America.

He then addressed the ways that private foundations and philanthropy can improve public service delivery in both Asia and North America. He explained that the first way is through demonstration projects, which allow experiments with new, different and innovative approaches to public service delivery and produce actual results.

Policy and political advocacy “gives the possibility of bringing demonstration projects to scale and allows the expansion of social services to communities that didn’t have them before,” Knott noted.

Another way that philanthropy can improve public service delivery is through community foundations or public charities that provide grants to specific organizations serving a defined geographical region, such as a local community.

Knott also mentioned strategic partnerships, which combine the scale and funding of government with the innovation and community base of philanthropy.

Knott also described a rapidly growing form of philanthropy known as social impact investment — investment in a private firm, investment fund or nonprofit organization with the goal of getting a financial return and also trying to have a positive social impact. Currently, $36 billion U.S. dollars are invested in social impact funds around the globe — a figure that may grow dramatically in the next five years.

“As a positive, philanthropy and foundations can serve as a catalyst for new and innovative social service delivery models, and I’ve been involved in some of them myself,” Knott concluded.

He also participated in a panel on “The Drivers of Public Service Performance” and spent a day exploring Singapore and Malaysia.

Also in attendance was Professor Eric Heikkila, USC Price director of international initiatives, who presented a paper and chaired a panel discussion.

“The paper that I presented is based on a new course I introduced a couple of years ago called ‘China From a U.S. Policy Perspective,’ ” Heikkila said. “The key point is that there’s not one monolithic view within U.S. policy circles about the rise of China.”

Ginger Li MPA ’11, who works in USC Price’s Office of International Initiatives, also took part in the trip.

With support from the Lien Foundation in Singapore, the Nanyang Centre for Public Administration at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the School of International and Public Affairs at Shanghai Jiao Tong University hosted the international conference.

Each year since 2012, USC Price has hosted a delegation from the Nanyang Centre as part of a training program for officials to learn about public administration and public policy in the United States. The training program will continue in 2014.

“Singapore and Southeast Asia are a crossroads for many countries,” Knott said. “Being able to speak in front of officials from different nations in that part of the world is a way for the Price School to be of service to decision-makers across the Pacific Rim, while also raising awareness of our scholarship at USC.”

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