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Diiscuss about the Philanthropy as an Actor to Shape Education Policy: Analysing of the Sabanci Foundation's Works.

Historical Development of Philanthropy

The concept of philanthropy is considered as the subject of studies conducted in different disciplines such as economics, neurology, anthropology and evolutionary psychology (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). The impact of philanthropic involvement in the field of education has become more apparent and bolder in the last ten years, especially in the United States. (Reckhow & Snyder, 2014). Along with re-emerging philanthropist movements around the world, a wealth of businessmen and companies have started to donate in large quantities. Bishop and Green (2015) argue that the main goal of these donations is to minimize the inequalities in society.

Moreover, they point out that the state alone will be inadequate to respond problems and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and philanthropists are playing a vital role in solving problems. Unemployment, inequality and continuing deep levels of poverty are the main reasons of failure of the state. In the recent years the business owners support the philanthropists. Such philanthropists are skilled and wealthy individuals who can solve the problem easily.  At present inequality is a big social problem that needs to reduce. Therefore, social discrimination is another big issue that affects the development of the country. Funding is taken from the philanthropists, which helps to improve the public service delivery process is the state fails to deliver it properly (Edwards, 2010).  On the other hand, philanthropists can improve the policy making by providing new ideas and tackling the complex problem in the society.

Hac? Ömer Sabanc? Foundation, known as Sabanc? Foundation (SF) in Turkey, which is founded by the Sabanc? Group companies, had continued its philanthropic activities since 1974. Today, Sabanc? Foundation is one of Turkey's largest family foundations. While the SF is keeping traditional philanthropy understanding, they have changed their attitude towards philanthropy in the light of new developments in philanthropy. In this study, I have attempted to emphasize the activities that the SF has made especially about education. The limits of philanthropy concept and its development in the historical process will help us to understand the work of the Sabanc? Foundation.

Güler Sabanc?, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sabanc? Foundation,  thinks that the SF and other NGOs are the only solutions to the social problems in the society, but this situation will create a top-down capitalist approach as Edwards (2010), calls it. She recommends a philanthropy system in which the government, business community and non-governmental organizations collaborate, similar to Bill Gates' ‘creative capitalism approach’. As a consequence, it can be said that similar developments in changing trends of philanthropy at the global level is experienced in Turkey. However, it seems that the SF is continuing to work in the light of the philanthrocapitalism thought. The high budget that SF dedicated to educational philanthropy is an essential part of philanthrocapitalism (Bishop & Green, 2015). Undoubtedly, the SF has undertaken some responsibilities of the state and has done extensive activities to overcome the inequality in the society.

Concept of Philanthrocapitalism

The overall structure of the study includes two chapters.  In the first section of this paper I will examine the concept of philanthropy and give a brief overview of the historical process of it. In addition, I will try to give a general framework about the concept of philanthrocapitalism and the debates surrounding it. Chapter two introduces Sabanc? Foundation and its activities.

According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning of the philanthropy shows the “love of mankind; the disposition or active effort to promote the happiness and well-being of others; practical benevolence, now esp. as expressed by the generous donation of money to good causes.” and the origin of the word came from partly from French and partly Latin (Ball & Olmedo, 2011).  The word philanthropy is derived from Greek phrase from philanthropia. Philanthropy is usually seen as a charitable activity (Reckhow & Snyder, 2014). Lester Salamon, (1992), describes that philanthropy is considered as the “the private giving of time or valuables (money, security, property) for public purposes” then continues to characterize it as “one form of income of private non-profit organizations” (as cited in Sulek, 2010 p. 201). From this definition, philanthropy as a concept in the contemporary social sciences might be considered “as the application of private means to public ends.” (Sulek, 2010). According to Ball and Olmedo, (2011), today, philanthropy is very popular concept. Moreover, they claim that rich people or companies would like to solve the problems facing the society by voluntarily giving money and the flow of new money; new ideas and new forms of service delivery have attracted the governments because of the constant criticism of the failures of public sector organizations. Industrialization and modern philanthropy has close relation. At the end of 19th century various charities in USA took initiatives to improve the social condition.

On the other hand, in 20th century the unfolding community is involved in improving the society. However, a combination of rising forces grants making foundation, national foundation and community foundation plays an important role is social improvement. From past to present it has been received that philanthropy aims to improve the quality of life. There is a wrong concept that all charities are philanthropy. However, this idea is not appropriate as the charity only provides relieve to the people while philanthropy carries out the root cause analysis of the problem (Ball & Olmedo, 2011).  The concept of philanthropy has been developed over the time. There is a big debate regarding the concept of the philanthropy and the charity as both protect the community. The philanthropy is exhibited to the people in the form of community foundation.

Role of Philanthropy in Addressing Social Problems

It is obvious that the changing practice of philanthropy from past to the contemporary world is remarkable. According to Rodin, in Brilliant, (2007), the history of modern American philanthropy has three stages. The first phase of philanthropy was to invest in scientific research, it is called scientific philanthropy. This term refers to ‘Philanthropy 1.0’. John D. Rockefeller and his advisors supported the world-class research. They demonstrated early examples of global philanthropy and succeed to some significant works that have improved the lives of millions of people, such as the spread of Western medicine around the world, the professionalization of public health and a vaccine for yellow fever. After the Second World War, the Rockefeller Foundation focused to support civil society and non-governmental organizations, which is yclept ‘Philanthropy 2.0’. Rodin, (2007), commented that that globalisation leaves huge positive impact on the most field and millions of people have increased their economic opportunities. As argued by Rodin, in Brilliant (2007), some people do not get enough of the benefits of globalisations.  As a result, inequality takes place in the society during the globalization. Philanthropy is developed with the globalization. The globalization has a great impact on the philanthropy. Globalization enlarges the community. The history of human progress shows the way through which the concept of community has been grown.  

As argued by Drezner, (2017), in an interconnected globalized world all social problems become the individual’s problem and they need to solve it collaboratively. On the contrary a new phase would be ‘Philanthropy 3.0’ “in response to the effects of globalisation” (Brooks et al. 2009). Rodin, (2007), maintains that the novel ‘new philanthropy ‘interdisciplinary’, ‘problem-focused’ and concerned with ‘seeking innovation, influence and impact’ in overcoming global issues. New actors are involved in field of social and educational policy through the instrument of new philanthropy that recreate and reprocess current policy networks (Ball, 2012).

Thus, the school system becomes an area where old and new actors are striving to improve its quality (Thümler, Bill Gates, for instance, would like to transform the whole state-funded school system through philanthropy (Bishop & Green, 2010 p. 3). As a result of globalisation and neoliberal policies, many countries are trying to reduce their education expenditure in the public sector and want their students to meet the cost of education (Stromquist & Monkman, 2014).  For this reason, educational philanthropy is rising around the globe, and there is an increase in the number of studies that is conducted in this field too. In order to decrease the educational cost educational philanthropy is developing in various countries. In terms of United Kingdom context, Higher Education Funding Council for England predicts that each year by 2022, philanthropic revenues will get at £2 billion ($3.32 billion) (Drezner, 2017). Briefly, this three-stage move can be summarized as follows: first refers to ‘traditional philanthropy’, then second is ‘to developmental giving’ and finally ‘profitable giving’ (Ball & Olmedo, 2011).

Activities and Goals of Sabanc? Foundation

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in 2010 declared that 40 American billionaires had promised to donate at least half of their fortune to charity in their life, which is known as the Giving Pledge. Approximately one year prior to the introduction of the Giving Pledge, a group of wealthy people such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, and George Soros met in New York “to decide which of the world’s problems were most pressing and should be the target of high-power philanthropic giving” (Rogers, 2011), and she argues that the meeting was arguably the most important moment in the emergence of philanthrocapitalism.

The notion of "philanthrocapitalism" was used by Matthew Bishop for the first time in The Economist in 2006.  According to Bishop and Green, (2010), the new philanthropists believe that they are developing philanthropy by equipping it to overcome the new issues in today’s changing world. Moreover, they claim that philanthropy has not been used effectively for centuries. Therefore, it needs to be improved. New philanthropists in the modern society are trying to apply the method that is successful in money making against the investment. For this reason, they call them as philanthrocapitalists (Bishop & Green, 2010 p. 2-3). The great donations, which are made by the rich, are indispensable part of the philanthrocapitalism and the concept refers to the increasing role of private sector actors in addressing the biggest social and environmental issues countered the world (Bishop & Green, 2015).  

Edwards, (2010), claims that philanthrocapitalism is just another top-down capitalist approach that gives effort to deploy business methods in the social sector and “philanthrocapitalism is a new wave of elitist philanthropy that pledges to commit ‘very large sums of money’ mostly amassed by ‘small number of individuals. They believe that ‘methods drawn from business can solve social problems’ that the state and civil society alone simply can’t fix, and of which (according to its proponents) will eventually ‘achieve the transformation of society’” (Katerji, O)

Bishop and Green, (2010), asked that if the philanthrocapitalists have achieved great success on the grand scale in the business world, why wouldn't this method work in the process of making donations. On the other hand, Edward, (2010), answered this question as follows. According to him, the philanthropapitalists are successful people who have benefited from economic changes in their own times, and therefore are not superheroes who will succeed by applying similar methods in the field of philanthropy.

Reducing Inequality in Society

Bishop and Green, (2010), consider the philanthrocapitalists as the “hyper-agents” who are capable of doing some necessary things much better than anyone else. They maintain that the philanthrocapitalists do not have to face the reality of election as politicians or work under the pressure of shareholders like CEOs and, however, they do not have to devote a lot of time and resources to raising money as the non-governmental organizations do. Therefore, they argue that these realities are the means by which many factors have emerged, such as trying something new, thinking long-term, and discussing traditional knowledge. According to Bishop and Green, (2010), main question in this context is that “will they be able to achieve their potential?” In response to this question, Edward, (2010), concluded that nobody will “save the World” because no idea, approach, or actor possesses word alone on wisdom, power, and authority.

How should societies finance an accomplished social change if the philanthrocapitalism does not work? Edward, (2010), answered this question by offering five significant principles:

  1. In order to determine what problems are to be addressed and how to make them, as many people as possible should be involved, which is the basis of a just and democratic society.
  2. Put people at the centre of social issues rather than on the periphery, where they remain now. Those who face poverty and dispossession should be the major movers in stating that extra resources can be useful in detecting and implementing solutions
  • The system should be non-bureaucratic to provide the security of resources.
  1. More resources are needed for social problems which the government and the business world usually fearto take a step.
  2. The pressure of peer and public may reveal innovation without the need for state intervention along with empowerment of transparency, accountability and learners.

Indeed, Edward, (2010), proposes a roadmap, which aimed at replacing noblesse oblige with citizen-centered philanthropy with these five principles and they are “strongly linked to the revival of broad-based civil society activism as the wellspring of social transformation”

Bill Gates, who is the third richest man in the world, summarised his approach to philanthropy as "creative capitalism”. He described this as ‘an approach where governments, businesses, and non-profits work together to stretch the reach of market forces. As a result, that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities’. According to Ball and Olmedo, (2011), his message was obvious because the market can be successful, where states, multilateral organizations and traditional NGOs had failed. The difference from the ineffective traditional philanthropy is that neither “giving away small sums of money typically to generate positive publicity rather than change the world nor is it like old-fashioned corporate social responsibility, which is too often nothing more than a cynical exercise in public relations.” (Bishop & Green, 2010 p.7).

A Philanthropist Or Philanthrocapitalist: Sabanci Foundation

  1. Sabanci Foundation’s History: Vision And Mission

Sabanc? Foundation was established in 1974 by the founders of Sabanc? Holding. Sabanc?group companies, one of Turkey's largest holdings. This is considered as the major contributor of Turkish Economy since its establishment in 1967. The Board of Trustees is the top decision-making unity of SF and consists of 7 members elected by the Board of Directors of Sabanc? Holding. The basic philosophy of the Sabanc? Foundation is "sharing what we have obtained from these lands with its people”. The introductory booklet of the foundation underlines the importance of human love for their works as follows: “Love for humanity, which is the most important value in these lands of ours, has guided all our work and the responsibilities that we take on.” SF has continued their philanthropic working for over 40 years.

According to the introductory booklet, the vision of SF is to serve the construction of a society in which all individuals can equally benefit from social rights.  SF argues that many segments of society, especially women, the youth and the disabled people, face inequalities to participate in economic and social life and to access the services. Although the law tries to protect their rights, they are not able to have them equally in the real life. Therefore, SF endeavours to create a society where the people can use their rights in an equal manner. Moreover, the mission of SF in the same booklet is to improve the social, cultural and educational system of Turkey and to make a difference in the traditional lifestyles of the individuals. Two main goals of SF are that raising awareness about the problems of getting access to education, the arts and culture and solving social issues. It seems that “Love of mankind” and “Love for Humanity” are two parallel perspectives and it is hard to know whether this preference was made intentionally but it is an important indicator of the fact that they are working in accordance with the basic meaning of philanthropy. However, it can be said that SF are managed like a company by high-level employees who work in the Sabanci Holding and, therefore, as the Sabanc? Holding have accomplished in the business world, the foundation achieved many successes in the field of philanthropy as well. It is also worth mentioning that SF renewed its strategy as “Making a Lasting Impact” in order to make better and more effective projects. However, they are developing collaborations with NGOs and support them in order to find solutions to deal with the complex issues of the modern world and make a lasting impact

When private foundations have the right to establish universities, Turkish higher education reached a milestone. The Sabanc? Group decided to establish a university under the leadership of Sabanc? Foundation in July 1994. Additionally, the aim of the foundation was to create a world university that would serve as a model for higher education at the global level. In August 1995, over 50 scientists, researchers, students and business people from 22 countries, working in different disciplines, gathered at a conference, which was organized in Istanbul, with the vision of establishing a world university. The theme of the conference was "How should the ideal university of the 21st century be? Sabanc? University began its first academic year on October 20, 1999. This conference is a significant milestone in the establishment process of Sabanc? University. At the end of the conference, the main frame of this world university was defined as "creating and developing together". The results of conference were supported by researches about the tendency of students. In addition to these, 13 commissions were constituted to study on curriculum and course.  As a result, of the conferences and researches, it was decided to establish a new and unique university model. The Sabanci Foundation's website explaines properly why Sabanci Universit different is:

During the process of searching for excellence, neither international nor national universities were taken as a model. The different features of a number of universities overseas and in Turkey were examined, discussed, and studied in order to create finally a synthesis, a world university.” When we look at well-known global university ranking systems such as Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Sabanc? University is between 351 and 400 among the top 500 universities in THE, while it is between 461 and 470 in QS. This current result can be regarded as an indicator of the academic success of Sabanc? University. According to Sabanci University website, the strategic objectives for 2017-2022 are that resuming SU’s pioneer role in education, enhancing volume of quality research, attracting and retaining high quality human resources, providing financial sustainability of the university, maintaining leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation and developing internationalization.

  1. Educational Investments

Since the day of the establishment of SF, the Foundation has built more than 120 institutions in 78 different provinces of Turkey. They built a total of 37 educational institutions, including preschool, elementary school and high school and sponsored the construction of a conservatory at Selcuk University in Konya. However, 19 student residences and 16 teacher centres also were built by SF and their usage rights were transferred to the Ministry of Education in Turkey. In addition to these, they have sponsored the construction of 8 social facilities, 16 cultural centres, 5 sports facilities, 5 health care centres and 4 libraries. The map below shows the institutions built by SF. On the one hand, SF grants approximately 1,500 student scholarships every year and have provided more than 44,000 students to scholarship opportunities since its foundation. There are three types of scholarships programme, which are organized by SF. These are “University Admission Scholarship”, “Graduates of High Schools in Provinces with a Priority in Development” and “Disabled Students.  

Map 1. The institutions built by SF in Turkey

  1. Philanthroy Seminars

Sabanc? Foundation as a philanthropist has organised philanthropy seminars and brought civil society, foundation, private, public and academic sector representatives together with international experts in order to learn and share new insights and methods in the field of philanthropy since 2007. The seminars started in 2007 with the name "Global Perspectives on the Changing Role of Foundations" continue to be organized every year with a new theme. The subject of all seminars organised until this year are as follows:

  • Making a Difference Through Gran Programs (2008)
  • Creating Accessible Societies (2009)
  • Can Philanthropy Change the World (2010)
  • Philanthropy from Generation to Generation (2011)
  • Philanthropy for Education: Innovations and Opportunities (2012)
  • Challenging the Impossible (2013)
  • Featuring Award Winning Women (2014)
  • Love for Humanity Despite All (2016)
  • Innovative Approaches to Education: Curiosity, Imagination, Discovery (2017)

I would like to give some information about the contents of some of these seminars. At the seminar held last year, Güler Sabanc? said that “We need to design education accordingly, and to develop self-confidence and creativity of children first in the family, and then in school without discouraging them. We should be open to novelty in education and develop new applicable models to equip children with 21st century skills” The guest speaker of the seminar.

In 2010, SF held a seminar about "Can Philanthropy Change the World". One of the participants of the conference was Matthew Bishop who is the creator of the philanthrocapitalism concept. Bishop talked about the new generation of philanthropists who are looking for strategic solutions to deal with the global problems with "the Giving Pledge". On the other hand, Ms. Sabanci, stated in the same conference that “today we need to take action together. From the days when Sad?ka Sabanc?, one of the founders of the foundation, pursued philanthropic work in her own right to this day in the 21st century, philanthropy requires us to act in concert and leverage on the power of our coalescence. The globalized world order signals that global problems facing us can only be solved through our concerted efforts with non-government organisations.” She maintains that “In addition to NGO?s striving to bring social justice, combating against global poverty, education, health and other social issues, we need to affect decision-making mechanisms and assume responsibility around those issues as well.”

In 2012, SF organized a conference within the scope of philanthropy seminars entitled "Philanthropy for Education: Innovations and Opportunities". Güler Sabanc? pointed out that in the past, philanthropy was aimed at contributing to society by building schools, giving scholarships and rewards butthis situation is still to maintain its validity and such philanthropy is certainly necessary. However, new approaches are also developing today, therefore, we have to deal with education from different angles and create new examples of philanthropy. She remarked that as Sabanc? foundation we do not only build buildings, we are also interested in their content and process. She admitted that “we are generally queried about the sum of money we have spent as we carry out our initiatives. At Sabanc?, we don’t like to talk about this very much. We want the focus to be on the outcomes of our work and we want to see the lives we touch and how we make a difference. We want to measure the outcomes of Sabanc?, against the objectives. However, roughly speaking, our total investment in the field of education so far totes up to some 2 billion TL”


Even though the origin meaning of philanthropy is "love of mankind", philanthropy is often perceived as giving money to needy people in the contemporary world. Now, however, philanthropists are trying to achieve the maximum result at the end of their charity rather than merely giving for it and completing missions. Moreover, philanthropist foundations, companies and people would like to be involved in political decision-making processes. These philanthropists claim that it is not right for the state to take responsibility alone to solve problems and that they are the important persons in the solving of the problems. They also attach great importance to cooperation with NGOs. Sabanc? Foundation is one of leading philanthropic organizations in Turkey, which is known for many successful philanthropy projects in the different fields. SF continues its activities in the field of philanthropy with the same mission. It can be said that SF is the representative of philanthrocapitalism in Turkey.


Ball, S. J. (2012). Voting with dollars: Philanthropy, money and education policy. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(3), 485-491.

Ball, S. J., & Olmedo, A. (2011). Global Social Capitalism: using enterprise to solve the problems of the world. Citizenship, Social and Economic Education, 10(2-3), 83-90.

Bekkers, R., & Wiepking, P. (2011). A literature review of empirical studies of philanthropy: Eight mechanisms that drive charitable giving. Non-profit and voluntary sector quarterly, 40(5), 924-973

Bishop, M., & Green, M. (2010). Philanthrocapitalism: How giving can save the world. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Bishop, M., & Green, M. (2015). Philanthrocapitalism rising. Society, 52(6), 541-548.

Brilliant, L., Wales, J. and Rodin, J. (2007) ‘The Changing Face of Philanthropy’, Global Philanthropy Forum, 6th Annual Conference, Financing Social Change: Leveraging markets and entrepreneurship. Mountain View, CA

Drezner, N. D. (2017). Philanthropy & Education: Setting the Mission and Vision for a New Journal within the Landscape of Our Field. Philanthropy & Education, 1(1), v-xii.

Edwards, M. (2010). Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Katerji, O. Why Capital philanthropy won’t though can save the world, and why Social philanthropy want but can’t save it!

Reckhow, S., & Snyder, J. W. (2014). The expanding role of philanthropy in education politics. Educational Researcher, 43(4), 186-195.

Rogers, R. (2011). Why philanthro-policymaking matters. Society, 48(5), 376.

Stromquist, N. P., & Monkman, K. (Eds.). (2014). Globalization and education: Integration and contesta- tion across cultures. R&L Education.

Sulek, M. (2010). On the modern meaning of philanthropy. Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly, 39(2), 193-212.

Thümler, E., Bögelein, N., & Beller, A. (2014). Education philanthropy in Germany and the United States. In Philanthropy and Education (pp. 3-28). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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