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PhD Research

Habitus, Capitals, and Strategies: The Engagement of High-Net-Worth-Individuals in the UK Philanthrocapitalism Sub-Field

Background:

I examine philanthrocapitalism - the application of business- and market-based actors, methods, and motives to philanthropy. Offered as a more effective and efficient form of philanthropy, and a more conscious form of capitalism, philanthrocapitalism is hailed by proponents as the new 'new' philanthropy, capable of solving the world's most pressing issues whilst potentially turning a profit. Critics argue it reinforces capitalist doctrines and accentuates power and wealth inequalities. Given the growing policy- and agenda-setting abilities of philanthrocapitalists, attention on their perspectives, experiences, and approaches is urgently needed. However, reflecting methodological difficulties of accessing high-net-worth individuals, relevant research remains methodologically, thematically, and geographically limited with a disproportionate focus on the US. Addressing this gap, I investigate what influences whether and how individuals engage in philanthrocapitalism in the UK.

Theoretical framework:

This project is informed by a multi-theoretical framework, constructed by integrating Bourdieu's three primary concepts - field, habitus, and capital - and a social relations theory of philanthropy. The resulting framework provides insight into the different philanthropic strategies philanthropists may pursue, and what influences their choice and selection of each strategy.

Methods:

This is a qualitative, inductive study. From January-June 2019, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 42 UK-based high-net-worth philanthropists. Insights were analysed using a thematic approach, in line with the interpretive, social constructionist methodology supporting this research.

Findings and contributions:

Key findings from this project enhance current understanding of high-net-worth philanthropy in the UK, and why some philanthropists adopt business- or market-based methods whilst others do not. These findings are therefore of interest and relevance to a range of stakeholders including: philanthropists, wealth and philanthropy advisors, policy-makers, fundraisers, and social purpose organisations. 

Key findings are currently being adapted for publication. 

Supervisors:

Professor Tobias Jung & Dr Shona Russell

With sincere thanks to my funders:

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Get in touch:

If you are interested in my research and findings, please get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you.

Email: sh204@st-andrews.ac.uk