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Little Phil

Changing the Relationship between Philanthropy and Democracy?

Joshua Murchie and Jean-Paul Gagnon

This Practitioner’s Note considers the disruptive function of Little Phil, a mobile app that seeks to democratize philanthropic giving. Although many of the cultural aspects of philanthropy – such as increased control over donation, tracking the impact of one’s giving, and building interpersonal relationships with receivers – can be opened to any person with an app-hosting device and internet access, it cannot supplant the role of big philanthropy and solve Rob Reich’s problem: how to domesticate private wealth so that it serves democratic purposes? Little Phil’s disruption has in concept gotten us halfway to legitimizing philanthropy. Perhaps the uptake of citizens’ panels by large philanthropic foundations will cover the remaining distance.