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From Prosperity to Purpose – philanthropy and social investment in Latin America

Zurich/Basel Media Global Corporate Responsibility


Zurich/Basel, 13 July 2015 – Today, UBS and the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University launched an exploratory study on philanthropy and social investment in Latin America, entitled From Prosperity to Purpose. The study combined in-depth interviews and a targeted online survey with over one hundred and fifty experts and philanthropists across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru and provides new insights into the changing face of philanthropy in a continent rich in culture and history that is rapidly growing to become a world powerhouse.

The report reveals that although the region’s wealthy citizens have long exhibited a deeply-rooted charitable impulse to help others; recent years have witnessed a marked change in their charitable giving. Wealthy individuals and families are increasingly looking to give more, to give more strategically, and to have a greater impact with their social investments. Many aim to move from “charity to change,” from “economic success to social significance,” and from “prosperity to purpose.”

According to the study, philanthropic giving is seen as a social and moral responsibility, intrinsically linked to family values and tenets of faith. Personal passions and experience often influence philanthropic priorities, and at the same time individuals are strongly motivated by a desire to contribute to the positive advancement of their respective countries. The drive to ensure that essential needs and services are met – such as education, health care and child development is a prevalent motivator, but so too is the wish to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of their countries.

Philanthropists on the continent typically give in a low profile or anonymous manner; however institutional platforms for social investment are increasing with individuals, families and corporations seeking a more strategic approach, higher visibility, easier potential for collaboration and greater impact in their social investments. Also, due to complex attitudes towards civil society and a still generally nascent legal and tax framework around philanthropic giving, many are fostering a more innovative approach to their philanthropy. Social entrepreneurship and impact investing are on the rise, as many philanthropists take an outcomes focused approach to their giving and social investments.

Silvia Bastante de Unverhau, Head of Philanthropy Advisory, explains the rationale behind this report: "In pre-Hispanic communities across Latin America the sense of family and community was an essential component to the success of society. From Prosperity to Purpose demonstrates that this culture is still alive today, providing an illuminating insight into what Latin American philanthropists and social investors are doing, how they are doing it and crucially what they believe the future holds for philanthropy across the continent."

Tony Custer, Advisory Committee Chair of the David Rockefeller Centre for Latin American Studies at Harvard University and Founder of the Custer Foundation in Peru commented: "This is a timely and seminal study. Traditionally, Latin American countries, especially those with customs that emerged from Mediterranean cultures, have a “charity begins and ends at home” focus. This study shows that philanthropic philosophy, purpose, and practice are broadening and evolving throughout the region and that many of the region’s wealthy individuals and families are generous, engaged, innovative, and committed to creating a future with opportunity for all."

Over the past decade, economic growth in the region has led to a significant accumulation of private wealth, with the regional UHNW population increasing more than 2.5 times faster than the global average. However as a region Latin America is home to some of the highest levels of inequality in the world, with 10 of the 15 most unequal societies.

With this exceptional growth coupled with stark social discrepancies, wealthy individuals are looking to become ever more important actors in addressing the social development needs of their respective countries. With growing collaboration, transparency, stability and economic development, many philanthropists are optimistic about the future of social investment in their countries, and in turn its impact in addressing some of the region's most challenging questions.

The Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University is a university-wide center for the study of civil society, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic institutions. Housed within the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Hauser Institute seeks to expand understanding and accelerate critical thinking about civil society, its leaders and institutions among scholars, practitioners, policy makers and the general public by encouraging scholarship, developing curriculum, fostering mutual learning between academics and practitioners, and shaping policies that enhance the sector and its role in society.

UBS Group AG


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