Lord Dahrendorf famously referred to a key strength of the voluntary sector as the ‘creative chaos’ nonprofits were able to generate. In a democracy people passionate about bringing about societal change can come together and form voluntary associations focused on the subject of that passion. The creative energy that then ensues can frequently come up with innovative new solutions to society’s ills. And when exciting new ideas do begin to emerge they can be quickly brought to scale by more powerful and often state actors. The voluntary sector thus plays an important role because it can be accepting of risk that others cannot tolerate.

Indeed, one of the advantages that philanthropy conveys in a democratic society is its ability to able to absorb higher levels of risk than say government or business. Governments can’t take substantive risks with public funds, because of concerns that they might subsequently be held to account in the ballot box. Similarly businesses can’t absorb higher levels of risk because of the need to deliver a return…

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